Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Meeting the neighbors

The mountains in this picture form the backdrop for many photos on this blog.
I see them every time I look out a window or step outside, and I've selfishly considered them 
my mountains and part of my extended front yard for all the years I've lived here, 
though technically they belong to a 230,000-acre wildlife refuge.
The refuge held its annual open house on Saturday, and I went on a tour
to learn more about the flora and fauna of the neighborhood.

I was surprised to learn that all kinds of climate-change research is happening 
just on the other side of my mountains, along with more mundane stuff, 
like "the diet and energy allocation of the western box turtle" (a.k.a. Steve).

The refuge supports 251 species of birds, 80 species of mammals, 58 species of reptiles, 
15 species of amphibians, and more than 1,200 species of plants. 
And all that separates all of that from me is a couple of miles and a barbed-wire fence,
which I can only hope is well-respected by the refuge's black bears and mountain lions.

Anyway, the most interesting part of the tour occurred when our van came upon a dozen scientists
conducting a monthly rodent study. They had set up a web of 300 live traps the night before and
were in the process of weighing, blood testing, and tagging all the little critters.
I couldn't help but be impressed by how much the scientists seemed to be enjoying their work,
which for the most part consisted of hanging onto teeny tiny little mice
while calling out data to a colleague at a laptop.

 Exhibit A: A silk pocket mouse, with cheeks full of seeds

Exhibit B: A kangaroo rat, whose tail seems to be twice as long as its body.
(p.s. My chickens love to eat kangaroo rats ... put that in your data log, Mr. Scientist.)

Is that not the cutest earring you've ever seen?

Note to Kangaroo Rat #399:
If you know what's good for you, you'll stay on your side of the fence and away from my chickens.


  1. I can just see your girls descending on this rat and one of them spitting that tag out like a watermelon seed at a Texas barbecue!

  2. Hey Linda,
    Mighty impressive dawn sky! Great colors and cloud forms. Nice values on the mountains, trees, and your land. Beyond getting started on your daily chore list, easy to appreciate why you get up so early! : )

  3. That is awesome!

  4. Great shot of a kangaroo rat. Here in Nevada, they don't seem to have the same markings.

  5. I think of them as your mountains too. Always. Nice survey of the chicken feed :)

  6. Too precious! Although, it looks like he is a little put out from all that probing

    1. So, he is so cute, I had to find more info. He is more specifically a banner-tailed kangaroo rat :-) Fuzzy Henry may need a rodent friend!

  7. Don't let the girls eat tagged mice, I think it could cause digestive problems. I would say the same of Johnny, but I bet the hens are quicker.

  8. I always wondered what kinds of critters called your neighborhood home. Thanks

  9. Cool! Did the scientists say anything about the Hanta virus among their rodents? Maybe you don't have it in your part of NM?

  10. How cool! So close to you. Love the photos....I would like a pocket scientist

  11. My rats don't look as cute as yours.

  12. What a cool adventure you had. Did ya see any of Steve's relatives.....they like to eat mice too. The photo of "your" mountains always makes me smile. So beautiful in your neighborhood.

  13. Well that's cool. Apparently, we have cougars here too...I prefer not to think about it.

    That looks like a fun job - love the cheeks full of goodies! :o)

  14. An American in Tokyo9/30/14, 6:03 PM

    I love kangaroo rats! I think they are the cutest in the rodent family! =)

  15. Nice way to spend the weekend. I've never seen mice up close and personal like that. Thanks! BA SP

  16. Those kangaroo rats look rather large to be a meal for your chickens! The chickens have such small mouths with their beaks and all. Or maybe my size looks larger than it really is!?

  17. I love your chickens. I hate rodents. Do your chickens eat stink bugs?

  18. That tail made me giggle!!
    (What a cool field trip, Carson - I was wondering if you had gone on it yet.)