Friday, May 23, 2014

Another Mystery Solved

I mentioned in my last post that twice now on trail rides, a bird was spotted sitting in the dirt right next to the trail in the exact same location, and it didn't move a muscle when our horses nearly stepped on it.  I thought that was such odd behavior that I wondered if the bird was fake.  People leave the strangest things out in the desert.  I admit that I have a fake rattlesnake and a fake tarantula on my porch in an effort to chase off salespeople.  Some people, probably a church group, paint rocks in the desert with spiritual and inspirational messages.

I, personally, prefer to not see any evidence of mankind when I am out in natural surroundings, but I suppose this graffiti is better than looking at beer cans.

Anyway, I hiked out this morning in search of that bird to find out the mystery of its strange behavior.  One would think that a bird would fly away when horses' hooves come within inches of it.  Upon approaching the location, I spotted the bird flying away, so I knew it was the real thing.  It was gray and speckled with one thick white stripe on each wing.  I surveyed the location where it was spotted sitting in the dirt, and quickly discovered why it wouldn't budge when our horses nearly stepped on it.

It probably was smart enough to know that a large animal would not step on it, but might step on its eggs.  I'm sure if the horses got too close, the bird would have flapped its wings to let its presence be known.  I guess it has a strong enough fear of humans on two legs to move out of the way and leave its eggs exposed, though.

Since I had my camera, I wanted to take a picture of my mortal enemy when hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the desert...

The cholla cactus.  These suckers drop chain fruit or "cholla balls", as I call them, and they jump up and stick to anything that comes within a couple of inches of them.  I have to steer my horses and bicycle tires clear of them, and I have found them stuck to my shoes and pants on several occasions.  One time a spine stuck all the way up through the bottom of my shoe deep into my foot.  I found one with a bent butter knife next to it.  Expert hikers and horseback riders carry tools like this or forks or combs to detach cholla balls from themselves and their animals.

Obviously, you can't just reach down and pull these things out with your hands.  When I hike, I bring my walking stick and I play golf by swinging my stick and knocking the cholla balls off the trails.

When hikers do get them stuck to them, they often get them off with rocks and then thoughtlessly leave the cholla balls and rocks in the middle of the trails for the next person or animal to step on.  These behave like seeds and can take root on trails, growing a large cholla tree where people and animals need to walk, which in turn drops more chain fruit, which seed and quickly create a whole grove of cholla cactus on and around the trails.  This is what it looks like when one takes root...

I investigated the tunnel I rode past the other day, and it turned out to be a natural cave.  When I took a picture of the cave from a distance, it looked like there was a human skull in the middle of it, but close up shots revealed that it was just a rock and some trash.

And, yes, I did stick my head in there and look for snakes, but all I found were spiders and a crushed beer can.


fernvalley01 said...

those stickers look painful!

Dreaming said...

How interesting about the rocks being painted.
I would NEVER stick my head in that cave!

achieve1dream said...

The dessert sure is an interesting place!