Things That Howl in the Night or The Call of the Wild

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lest you think that we are sitting here in paradise, let me just remind everyone that we are smack-dab in the middle of (nowhere) the desert. This has a few good points and some not so universally desirable ones. There is a fair amount of wildlife here. And, by wildlife, I mean things that are truly WILD. Things that call this place home. 365 days a year. Their existence here is not an escape from another life. I am specifically speaking of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, etc. Sometimes this reality comes in the form of a subtle reminder, sometimes not.

We have a number of small songbirds that love the bougainvillea or the oleander, which many folks have planted in front of their “permanent” homes. They sing a soft sweet song, and pay no mind to the humans that perpetrate their natural area.

Bougainvillea.  It's full of little songbirds.

Bougainvillea. It’s full of little songbirds.


Oleander.  It's also full of little birds.

Oleander. It’s also full of little birds.







And then there are the quail. I grew up watching a flock of quail that lived around our home. They are a nervous little bird, with a great surveillance system. One or two quail sit up high, on a post or bush, and alert those pecking at the ground of an intruder. At that point, none of them wish to stay around to see what is coming their way, so the entire bunch simultaneously takes flight. If you are not anticipating this, it is a bit unnerving, as the ground lifts off before you.

But the birds that really make me feel like I haven’t left home, are the Grackles. They are a beautiful blackish bird that always has something to say. Loudly. Like a jay. They land on the streetlights and squawk. They land on the palm trees and squawk. Anywhere they go, they squawk. I get this at home from the jays…….mostly the Steller’s Jays. They are NEVER happy. The birdbath isn’t full enough to give them a suitable bath, or they are having an argument with the Scrub Jays. They can’t be pleased, and this also seems to be the case with the Grackles. But, unlike being home, I am out here, in the middle of nowhere, with no birdbath to fill, so there is no chance to make things right.  So, I take their abuse, believing that they must be talking to someone else.

Above all else, there are the doves. This park is inundated with doves. We might have more doves than humans here. If I have mentioned this before, just count it up to my long stay in a senior park. I don’t have to be responsible to remember anything, anymore. Anyway, the doves. They coo constantly. When this happens, their body does not move and their mouth does not open. Yet, somehow, sound emanates out of them. I don’t know how they do this.

Dove.  On a light pole.

Dove. On a light pole.

Most days, this seemingly gentle sound doesn’t cross my radar. It just becomes a soft background noise. Some days when other things are not so equal, it’s annoying. But then again, on those days, EVERYTHING is intrusive. It is unfortunate for these particular birds that their genetic makeup has a lot in common with the pigeon. Doves are obviously much more attractive than their city cousin, which goes in their favor. But, if this is possible, I think they are not nearly as smart as the pigeon. And, I am being kind, as neither of these birds could be thought of as having superior intellect, or any intellect, for that matter. Nonetheless, they are here. On the light poles, under certain RV’s, (which somehow, by the mere grace of God, the Hag is not one of these) in the palm trees, but NOT in the open, non-inhabited by humans, desert.

The desert is reserved for things that have a greater penchant towards the art of surprise. Lizards, for one. But to their credit, they merely scamper quickly across the path in front of you. I have seen lizards, and they are not a problem for me.

And then there are the rattlesnakes. I have not seen one of these either, but I know they are out there. The desert ground is riddled with holes, and I am pretty sure that someone lives down there, underground, and consequently, happens to be much cooler than I am. I try to walk with a heavy step when the dog and I go out for a desert stroll, and hope this alerts all living things to my presence. It’s a non-scientific plan that, to date has produced acceptable results for me. I don’t want anything surprising me and I don’t wish to do the same to someone or something else.

I know someone is down there living in these holes.

Who is down there?  Someone.

The one thing that does give me some comfort, believe it or not, would be the coyotes. The first month we were here, their yipping and howling was a nightly occurrence. The word that circulated the camp was that there were 2 females both with litters of pups, and I do believe this to be true. We would hear their distinctive voices coming from two different locations. Coyote sightings are pretty rare. We saw one cross the road in front of the car on our way home from spaghetti dinner at the American Legion in Bombay Beach. (Yes, we went back again this year, but one visit was enough.) And while bike riding, Craig and his friend saw two adults and a pup when they crossed the road in front of them. And, for the record, I do believe in the significance of the coyote in the ecological food chain of life. They are as beneficial as the doves, snakes, lizards, etc. Their skill in adapting to an ever-changing environment is absolutely to their credit and to our dysfunction as a society left cluelessly in charge of things. Maybe this is a topic for another time…….


All of this brings me to the topic that I really wanted to talk about, and that is: cats. I have seen several cats here in the campground, but they are pets and live with folks in their motor homes. Occasionally, when on a nightly campground walk-about, we will see something dart under a rig, and figure that it must be a cat. (too fast for a rat, and quite thankfully, I haven’t seen ANY rats around here, but after I finish this thought, there might be a good reason for this.)

Feral cat.  He/she is being fed by the neighbor.  Perhaps, this is one of the infamous fighters?

Feral cat. He/she is being fed by the neighbor.

The first month we were here, our sleep was often interrupted by the aforementioned coyotes having a nighttime chat. We would listen for a few minutes and drop back off to sleep. But, on one particular night, we were jolted out of an otherwise peaceful slumber by a loud and angry sounding cat fight. Apparently, RIGHT UNDER the Hag. Specifically, right under our bed. Wiley, who, I will add, NEVER wakes up to the coyote call of the wild, even when they sound as though they are running down our street, launched himself out of his bed, over our fold out sofa bed, and into the stairwell. He was ready to check out the local street fight. I, too, was up and ready to see what was happening. I held him back, opened the door, and saw nothing. I think they took their business elsewhere, as a little later, I heard them a few streets over taking up where they left off.

I asked around to see if anyone else heard the ruckus. We didn’t have neighbors on either side of us, but the neighbor behind us said that he takes his hearing aides out at night and he didn’t hear a thing. And so, there you have it. We were party to the cat fight of the century, and at this over 55 park, not a soul heard it besides Wiley, Craig, and myself. This is not unusual. There are many things that happen here and we seem to be the only ones who are privy to it.

Wiley, resting after a tough night of guard dog duty.

Wiley, resting after a tough night of guard dog duty.

Smudge, the cat, didn't get in on the action either.

Smudge, the cat, didn’t get in on the action either.



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