And so it goes at the Ranch …

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By Sigrid Settle Special to the Crier

This morning I was greeted by my horse and donkey standing by the back door waiting for their morning feed as well as a blanket of frost on the ground to remind me how low the temperatures had dropped last night.

The weather report had forecast the likelihood this would happen, but I had been well prepared for this event long before they had calculated the freeze.

Living in rural America has advantages not easily observed until you reside in this environment for a few years and you learn many migrating species begin their southward journey in advance of approaching winter and far in advance of the weather forecasts. They have saved my water pipes from freezing many a winter’s day.

I knew the weather was starting to take a turn when the vultures started gathering in a tree close to the Oracle Post Office. They arrive each year and are seen gathering there as if to let us know we should start winterizing our air conditioners and coolers as well as getting our winter clothes out of storage.

And the word gets around they’ve arrived when a friend comes to visit over a cup of coffee and talk will turn to that tree and all the vultures that are seen perched for a little while before they disappear once again.

It’s okay if you miss the vultures, because the cowbirds will arrive several weeks later starting to peck at the ground as if knowing they’ll be leaving soon with whatever flock they decide to fly away with whether it be blackbirds or other bird flocks.

The cowbirds were initially at home with the expansive herds of buffaloes found on the prairies and treeless plains. Because of this, they were a very nomadic species never establishing their own territory and using other birds and their nests to raise their young.

When the buffalo were eliminated they turned to the cowherds, but they still use other birds’ nests and migrate with them as well.

When I went out beyond the water tank this morning a whole flock of cowbirds flew away as I approached them. I wondered why they hadn’t left with the other migrating birds.

Maybe they are as confused about the weather patterns as we are this year. I’d better be sure my water pipes are securely wrapped next year before the vultures show up.

And so it goes at the Ranch…

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