Sunday, June 28, 2015

Those Little Flycatchers: Say's Phoebes

Friday June 26 2015

It's a productive year in Owyhee for Say's Phoebes. A pair nested on top of the porch light on the front porch, right by the front door - the busy front door with constant traffic from people, cats and dogs. The birds like protective ceilings for their nest more than they dislike close proximity to people.

The Phoebe babies were spilling out of their nest April 25, and not even the people-busy Tough Sucker endurance ride, nor the evening Teeterville Jam (2 banjos, 2 guitars, 1 fiddle) on the front porch interfered with all 4 babies fledging soon afterwards.

It was such a good year in Owyhee, the Phoebes double-brooded.

June 15, four new ones were piled in the same nest, fuzzy and hot in the heat.

Thursday, June 25, spilling out of their nest, at least 2 of them fledged.  I happened to see the first one fly out of the nest into the nearest tree.

I then saw a second one fledge, onto a deer antler hanging off the lattice of the front porch. Maw and Paw Phoebe hung out with him, kept an eye on him.

I sat still and quiet for an hour, watching, taking pictures. My arms and legs cramped, my hands went to sleep, but it paid off waiting and watching, when Maw or Paw brought him a bug! That's the top photo.

The remaining two babies weren't quite ready to leave the nest, and they kept hoping for one more bug to eat.

This rather drab-colored flycatcher has a distinctive and plaintive "Peeer" call. They eat insects by nabbing them in flight, or by hovering over them and snatching them off the ground. They may winter in the Southwest and as far south as central Mexico, and they migrate north in early spring, nesting as far north as northern Alaska.

The size difference between the parents and offspring isn't that great… except for the Big Mouths on the babies!

Don't they look dejected that no food is forthcoming?

I'm a Raven and Bird of Prey fanatic, but these Say's Phoebes are intriguing, and what a treat, getting to see these little birds from the second brood fledge!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Owyhee Outlaws

Wednesday June 24 2015

Call it the Pickett Crick Roost. The wily Owyhee Outlaw Bovines have been hiding out here for quite some time. Months, possibly, because it was a couple of months ago that Connie said she saw a few cows and calves up Pickett Crick. All the cows should be up near the mountains and a few drainages and several fences over by now.

I'd been up and down the canyon on horseback several times in the last month or two, and I never saw any cows. But just last week, Connie happened upon them in their hidey holes in Pickett Crick. "About 6 of them," she guessed.

We called the rancher, because it was too far for us to drive them onward, and we didn't know where they were supposed to be by now anyway. And they probably would have been a bit too wild for us.

Two of the rancher's boys arrived with a couple horses and dogs and a trailer; they'd herd the cows down to our place and into a round pen, then run them into the trailer.

It took a while for the boys to find and flush the cows and calves out of the crick, and to get them to agree to all head down the canyon. Turned out there were more like a dozen of them, with calves wilder'n snot, and some of the cows were a bit rank, too.

The boys and horses and dogs gently eased the cows down along fence lines toward the house and the round pen. A couple of wily calves tried to make a run for it, but the cow dogs took care of them. It was one of the cows that, when they got close, decided, nope, she was *not* going in that round pen, because she liked her Pickett Crick Roost just fine thankyouverymuch, and she busted loose and all hell with it, the herd scattering and stampeding back up-canyon.

Horses and dogs took off after them in a cloud of dust, and after some more wrangling (and setting up another panel that would angle the cows in the round pen gate), the boys and horses and dogs convinced the herd to squeeze into the round pen.

One cowboy rode back to fetch the trailer. He backed it up to the round pen, and got all but 4 calves on the trailer. It took 3 cowboys on foot, a couple of dogs, and a couple more fence panels to guide/squeeze those Owyhee Outlaw Calves into the trailer, and then off they headed to their new mountain hideout, to continue their wild and wily ways.

Friday, June 19, 2015

2015 A Drive in the Park: Day 1

Friday June 19 2015

Last weekend, I got to shoot "A Drive in the Park," an American Driving Society-sanctioned 2-day Horse Driving Trial and Combined Test in Nampa put on by the Treasure Valley Whips Carriage Driving Club.

This Combined Driving Event consisted of 3 competitions: Day 1's Dressage and Obstacles/Cones, and Day 2's Marathon.

Driving dressage takes place in an arena, testing the skills and obedience of the driver and horse over specific patterns and gaits. Obstacles/Cones is a timed course through course where drivers steer their horses through cones in a specific pattern. The more advanced levels have smaller gaps, and some of the steeds speed handily through this course.

Day 2's Marathon course (this one under a mile), wound in and around the horse park through different obstacles, weaving through gates in the correct sequences, up and down ramps, and at all but the training level, the water obstacle.

What I love about the driving is that people of all shapes and sizes and colors and ages drive horses of all shapes and sizes and colors and ages, in singles or doubles or teams of 4, pulling wagons, carriage, and carts of all shapes and colors and sizes. As one friend said, "In endurance you see… Arabians. And Arabians. And maybe an Arabian cross. Here, you see everything."

Everything from Arabians to Miniatures to Morgans to Fjords to Saddlebreds to Irish Draft crosses to Hackneys to Standardbreds to Thoroughbreds to Connemaras. (An amusing but apt classification is "VSE" - Very Small Equine). The Minis think they are monsters. I can time my shots to a certain stride at the trot, but when these business-like Very Small Equines cruise through the cones courses and their little legs spin like egg-beaters, it's time to just hold your finger on the shutter. Some of the ponies were proud high-steppers, the Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds ground-eating trotters, the bigger teams smart and athletic, and oh, so impressive-looking when they moved in step together.

The whole gallery can be seen here:

Following are a few shots from Day 1's Dressage and Cones/Obstacles.

A smart team!

My friends Jan and Strider. I specifically went to A Drive in the Park last year to watch them.
Today Strider was very excited to be in the spotlight. Sometimes he had a hard time trotting. He wanted to canter or gait, wiggling around all over like a wet noodle. He had fun, and so did Jan!

All business!

I loved this handsome fellow

Loved these Fjords too

A colorful duo

One of those high-steppers!

A talented matched pair

The Irish draft crosses in step (the light one is half Andalusian; the bay half Quarter Horse)

Another smart team of Connemaras

Handsome horse, big wheels!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Dude ROCKS

June 10 2015

He's a gorgeous beast. He's lazy, he's explosive, he's steady, he's naughty, he's innocent, he's always hungry… you name it, at some point, Dudley is it.

I rode Day 1 on Dudley at City of Rocks with his pals Carol and August, and Steph and Jose. 50 miles over scenic City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park trails, from 5700' to 7500'. (We missed seeing a moose and baby on trail… though that was probably a good thing!). It was Dudley's first 50 mile completion this season.

He had day 2 off, then I rode him again Day 3 with Steph and Jose. 50 miles over scenic and historic City of Rocks trails - following the old California Trail and Emigrant Trail, where hundreds of thousands had gone before him a century and a half ago.

We dodged thunderstorms (I wasn't worried this time because I was studying how the cells were moving!),

and Dudley ate our way through corridors of arrowleaf balsamroot, and down the grassy Boxtop trail.

It was Dudley's first almost back-to-back two days of 50's - and of course he carried The Raven with him.

And, yes, he was tired after his 100 miles, and my, is he looking ripped now!

The Dude Rocks!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Must Love Cows

Wednesday May 27 2015

It's not a prerequisite that a horse living in the West in Cow Country must love cows, but it helps that they at least aren't scared of them.

It's not a prerequisite that someone riding horses in the West in Cow Country must be a cowgirl, but it helps that you can competently fake it when local ranchers need help moving cows.

We don't dress the part: our horses wear endurance saddles, biothane breast collars and bridles, Easyboot gloves and brushing boots, and we wear helmets. If we wear long leather chaps, we'll probably have tights on underneath them. The ranchers are used to our funny costumes; they tolerate us if we get the job done, and know when to stay out of the way.

We joined about 20 other cowboys and cowgirls on the Owyhee front, and split up to gather and move a hundred head or so of cattle toward their next higher pasture. Dudley can get a little worked up when moving cows - not so much at the cows but at the dozens of different things going on at the same time in all directions, like when a cow shoots out of the herd and a horse takes off galloping after to head her off - but he feigned being a fairly competent cow horse.

After we'd all gathered them up, and corralled them, and the Real Cowboys and Cowgirls went to work sorting, roping and branding, and we were standing out of the way watching and holding our horses, one little cowboy told Regina, "You don't have to wear your helmet."

"That's alright," she said. "I'm not a Real Cowboy."

We do know how to turn and gather cows and keep them moving - not to push to hard or not to let up too much; we know to give bulls - particularly fighting bulls - a wide berth and leave those to the real cowboys and cow horses.

We prefer good footing and good weather: we chose to help on the day that wouldn't be so rugged and rocky and hard, and we chose the day that wouldn't be so long, since afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence right now, and I'm afraid of lightning. (And here's a good reason to be, which just happened this weekend, not all that far from here!: )

As it was, we almost got overtaken by a thunderstorm as we rode the 5 miles home from the cow corrals, while the cowboys were still at work branding.

We sped home where the footing was good, ducking off the ridge for the last mile, giving us at least a sense of more comfort and safety,

while the blue-black cloud on top of the ridge boomed and crackled. Mufasa spooked a bit at the cracking thunder, but Dudley just trucked along.

see? we really made it home just in time!

I'm not a Real Cowgirl, and Dudley's not a Real Cow Horse, and he doesn't love cows, but we had a Good Cow Day, moving cows in a little corner of God's country, Owyhee County.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer Spirit Horses

Friday May 15 2015

Oh my, new colors, new heart beads, new star beads. A new group of summer Spirit Horses joined the studio, although some of them found a new home before they even made it into the gallery.

Each Spirit Horse is one of a kind, handmade of clay, wire, beads, and yarns. Each pin is approximately 3" long by 3" tall. . . not counting the long fluffy tail, are $20 each and $3 shipping for up to 5 at a time. Contact me at TheEquestrianVagabond at gmail dot com.

Here's the gallery slideshow:

or link:

And click on the tab above, Buy Spirit Horses! for more details.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tough Sucker II: Racing the Antelope

Saturday April 25 2015

Jose saw them first. Four antelope** popping over the top of the draw 40 yards away, running parallel to the 3 of us trotting along.

He probably heard them conversing:

Antelope #1: Hey guys! Get a load of those horses and riders!

Antelope #2: Yea! Let's get closer!

Antelope #3: Yea! Let's go faster!

Antelope #4: I know, Let's run circles around them!

As we trotted along the two-track, our pace never altering, all six of us, humans and horses, stared at the antelope as the 4 fleet-footed fellows kicked into high gear, quickly raced past us, then cut a diagonal toward us, sprinted straight across our trail fifty feet ahead of us, and circled around until they were running back toward us and parallel, now 20 yards away - like cars passing on the interstate.

Best antelope encounter ever!

It was one of many treats on the second Owyhee Tough Sucker ride (including getting to ride my old pal Jose!!!!!!!), amongst many other treats of a cool spring day on the desert, a green desert due to well-timed spring rains, a riot of wildflowers, good company, and, afterwards, good music.

More story and photos here:

**Technically, they are Pronghorn, not antelope. But they're often called antelope because of their resemblance to old world antelopes.