Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meep! Meep!

I came home this afternoon from work to a very nice surprise in my front yard.  I'd actually taken a different route home, since I was low on gas.  I'd stopped at my nearby gas station and came toward from my house from the south as opposed to the north from the freeway.  I think if I'd come from the north, I might have scared the bird away.  Anyway, as I approached my house, I saw a rather large animal walking across my front yard and then saw it stop on the sidewalk in front of my house.

It was motionless as I drove by and pulled into the garage.  I got out of the car and slowly walked out on the driveway and the bird crouched down as it was getting ready to take flight.  I backed off and got a great view of a very large roadrunner.  I would guesstimate its length at around 18 inches or so from beak to the end of the tail.  It's a pretty distinctive bird, one that I've seen one other time in the Palm Springs area along a fairway of a municipal golf course.

According to the Wikipedia article, I live in its habitat, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see it running around, but I'm much more familiar with his "stereotypical" enemy, Wile E. Coyote than the roadrunner.  I probably see a coyote in the neighborhood, walking down the street probably once a month, if not more.  Raccoons are sometimes common, less so than perhaps skunks, but never a roadrunner before.

I quickly went inside, got my camera and started birdstalking.  By the time I was back outside, he was on the curb and then in the middle of the street, heading over to greener pastures.  At first I thought I was going to lose it in the neighbor's bushes, but it seemed to have a single minded purpose about it, heading over to another neighbor who has a nicely xeroscaped front yard, one that I have been thinking about creating in my own front yard.

I was able to get around in front of the bird as it meandered through the yards and watched it take a sand bath.  My neighbor had just pulled into his driveway and wasn't at all surprised by the bird.  I found out from him that he'd seen the bird numerous times in his front yard and said that it had been hanging around for the better part of five months or so.  His only negative comment about the bird was he saw it eating a lot of the lizards in and around his yard, which keep the bug population down, but other than that, he had nothing but positive things to say about the roadrunner.

I have to admit, had I known this bird had been living in the neighborhood, I know I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen it.  I get into a certain mindset because I live in an urban setting.   The mindset includes not seeing much wildlife, outside of the occasional squirrel, or the multitude of birds that inhabit the trees in the neighborhood.

As noted above, coyotes are fairly regular, but they're one of those animals that have increased their range because of human existence.  The ready supply of food that we tend to leave out in the form of garbage is tailor made for the coyotes, rats and raccoons of the world.  But to see an obviously desert creature, in a fairly urban setting is very surprising and a nice treat.  I hope to see it again in the near future.

Profile for Webfoot


Erika Jean said...

We get these guys all the time around here in Tucson... but I've never managed to get close to one. Great pictures!!!

Webfoot said...

Thanks Erika Jean. That last photo, I was about 10 feet away or so. I let my telephoto do the rest.

RDOwens said...

Very nice. We have a family of bunnies who live on our property. They are like extended family.

It's neat to see wildlife around home.

Thanks for sharing.

chaosmanor said...

That's really cool, Paul :-D I've seen many Geococcyx californianus in the wild - you and I have seen several on various trips in the Mojave - but I've never seen one in Camarillo. I don't think I ever saw one in urban Riverside, for that matter, when we lived there. Great photos! They would make wonderful hand-made Postcrossing cards.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures! I think I may have glimpsed one of those guys when Erika Jean and I were caching in the desert near Phoenix.