As I’m driving to Chico Basin Ranch in eastern El Paso County, the sun rises like an orange balloon above the horizon, hazy with smoke from wildfires farther west. I am eager to spend this July morning at one of my favorite birding destinations, which I haven’t visited since the end of May. Migration has ended, but I’m excited to watch the goings-on among the resident birds and their offspring, who noisily demand constant attention from their parents.
At one of my stops, I’m surrounded by a small herd of horses, happy to be out of the corral and wandering wherever their noses lead them. Their velveteen muzzles tickle my skin while they sniff me over, but they soon continue to meander from one verdant plant to the next, munching contentedly. Our early spring rains and precipitation from summer showers have transformed an often brown and sere landscape into a canvas of green (at least what counts as green in this arid climate). Those rains have also brought forth pockets of wildflowers and I’m delighted by blossoms of cholla, prickly poppies, sunflowers, and morning glories.
The air is redolent with the sweet perfume of the season and resounds with melodies both dulcet and harsh: the chorus of bullfrogs croaking in different keys; the hum of flies and mosquitoes; the nearly silent whir of myriad dragon- and damselfly wings as they skim the pond surface; the drone of a plane engine high in the sky; the tweets, chirps, and songs of feathered friends nearby. By the time the first tentative thrill of cicadas is supplanted by their more insistent piercing buzz, I’m ready to shed the long sleeves I donned in the cool morning hours.
When noon rolls around, the mercury has almost climbed to 80, and heat causes the land to shimmer with haze, I’m ready to say “goodbye, until next time.” Grateful to have heart and soul filled with nature’s sights, sounds, and smells, as well as other precious gifts; and with a renewed appreciation for its patient and persistent cycles in the face of numberless forces that threaten to unravel life as we know it.
To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.