Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dust Devils, Hawks, Crows and Snakes

I returned from Colorado yesterday. As I drove through the Texas panhandle just outside of Muleshoe I saw the most amazing thing. It was a dust devil so strong, so tall, that it reached up into the sky as far as I could see. At first, from a distance, I thought it was a tractor stirring up dust, but I couldn't figure out why the dust reached so high into the sky. As I grew closer, I could see that there was no tractor beneath it. It moved very slowly, almost imperceptibly, closer to the road and I could see that there was nothing beneath it that would cause the funnel. It was definitely a dust devil, and the tallest, thickest funnel cloud I have ever seen. It looked like a small, red tornado. I was on the opposite side of the road in the center lane and the lanes were full of traffic, so I couldn't pull over and take pictures. It was fascinating, powerful, and beautiful all at once. Dust devils are comparable to tornadoes, but rarely grow large enough to damage houses or harm people. I say rarely because it has happened. This particular dust devil was certainly large enough to harm any animals that might get in its way!

Once again, on my drive through New Mexico, I passed many crows along the sides of the road. They are a familiar bunch to me now. I love the way their shiny blue-black appearance contrasts with the bright New Mexico sun. They are often seen along the highway as if they are guiding traffic. They are fascinating to watch as they swoop through the air, or hop along the roadside, or simply sit on a fence post, staring at the cars. The American Crow is part of the Corvidae family, which also includes rooks and jays. Oddly enough, a group of crows is called a "murder," which seems more poetic than appropriate since many people adopt crows as pets. Crows have been known to imitate the human voice like parrots. My friend, Bernard, recently sent me a video that showed a crow using a tool to retrieve food from a bottle. Obviously these are remarkably intelligent gifts from God.

I also witnessed an event that I have only seen once before. As I left Fort Sumner, New Mexico I saw a hawk swoop across the road with a snake in its beak. It flew to the top of a tree and into a large nest where it dropped the food for its babies. I have seen this once before with a hawk, and numerous times with the bald eagle's nest that is near our home in Texas. When the baby eagles feed, onlookers can actually see their heads bobbing up and down in the nest.

Speaking of snakes, This morning I saw a large black snake with a red stripe down its back and yellow stripes down each side. I believe it is a garter. It drank from the pond outside my bedroom window. It saw me, but didn't seem too bothered by my presence. It kept drinking. It was resting on a rock beneath the cover of some branches I had set across the western end to try and shade the water. This afternoon there was a black snake with gray diamond-like patterns on its sides drinking from the same pond. I've been going nuts trying to identify this snake from internet pictures. I know I've seen it somewhere, but I can't remember it if is poisonous. It was weaving between the log fence I set up around the tree so I couldn't see if it had a triangle shaped head. Anyway, a few minutes ago I heard a rattling noise from the back porch and my husband ran out with a flashlight in time to see a large snake slither off the patio table and over the back wall. He didn't get a good enough look at it to identify it. This must be the year of the snake!

The sun left the sky as a fiery orange ball again. For the past three nights it has been a deep, tangerine orange with a magical glow that turns the clouds and sky into a citrus-flavored tapestry. I first noticed it on my drive when I realized the street signs were glowing. I looked into the rear view mirror and was stunned by the beauty of what I saw. I pulled the car over and climbed out just so I could get a clear look. Truly an amazing sight.

No comments: