Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Plains Close-Up

I always thought of the plains as being flat and wondered why anyone would want to live there. Now that I do live here on the high plains of New Mexico, I am kind of ashamed to have known so little. We spent some time yesterday at the 3700 acre Ned Houk Park a few miles north of Clovis, and have just begun to find out a few things about this prairie country. It's not flat--the country has a hilly roll to it that conceals all sorts of surprises. It smells wonderful, fresh and fragrant. And, of course, the more you look, the more you see. We came upon small watering holes and larger lakes; we saw a whole village of very healthy looking prairie dogs; we visited with a small herd of buffalo; and heard all sorts of unfamiliar birds.

This looks like a little owl (click on the photo for a bigger view). At first I thought that he was a prairie dog predator, because while he sat on this fence post the curious little prairie dogs stayed well underground. However, after a little research, I now believe that he might be a burrowing owl. These little owls apparently utilize the prairie dog burrows for nesting. What do you think?

Here is part of the herd of buffalo that we saw near the old Ned Houk Homestead. The baby saw me taking pictures and got up and started inching toward me, but the bull in charge soon moved all of his family well away from potential danger.

Although its quality is not so good, this was the best picture that I was able to get of a prairie dog. They were all over the field, running from hole to hole. Some of the little ones appeared to be playing, chasing each other and wrestling.

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