Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coyote Chorus

I love to lie back and close my eyes
when listening to beautiful music.
The subtle harmonies and
running lines intertwined,
soothe my mind and transport me
with each wafted note.

The sounds of nature feel, smell, and taste
like a distant symphony-
the reeling song of coyotes
circling around some unseen campfire,
joined in tribal pow wow.
Quiet at first, a woman’s throaty cry
rises in joyful expression
followed by men and children
not to be outdone.

One, then another voice adds
counterpoint, harmony, dissonance - each gives
vitality and sincerity to what I hear.
Their fur-covered heads, thrown skyward,
releases a heart full of sound.
Ears like feathers erect in the moonlight.
“Come join me - Gather in my circle,”
as family around a piano.
“Sing this song.” “Do you know… ?”
Sing until every familiar tune is exhausted.
Make your own harmony, descant,
and aria. Sing out of sheer pleasure!

This is the coyote chorus.
Any may listen… or none,
for they sing for themselves.
I lean back, close my eyes, and listen.

Plover Lover – October 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Success! Thanks to Community Effort

Who you goin' to call?

Well, not ghost busters. The Karval community hosted an impressive half-day for Partners for Conservation. Visitors from several states converged on the town. Ranchers, government agency representatives, and local students let the world know where Karval was.

Russell Davis' Ranch hosted these folks throughout the afternoon. Karval High School students presented the RAW (Ranching and Wildlife) youth program for these dignitaries and impressed the crowd with their abilities. Ranching skills were demonstrated by Cole on horse back; Abby and Max showed branding and ear tagging; Mr. Jones led a roping demonstration; pond ecology of the prairie was described by Taylor and David with fish, frogs, and turtles; shelters and nest building took place under the watchful eyes of Joni, Courtney, and Taylor; and a visit to the tree pasture added a bird of a different color. Fish and Wildlife and Division of Wildlife helped to catch critters and provided excellent help in putting it all together. Additional expert presentations from the conference members were given, and much was learned and experienced.

Later in the evening, a wonderful meal was prepared for these conference attendees. Local talent from the high school and community engaged the group with energy as they presented songs of many different genres. Fun and laughter were enjoyed by all, and a patriotic tribute to our unsung heroes in the military capped the evening's numbers. Those who shared were pleased to have been so warmly received.

Local art was taken home by participants, and money was earned for the school with photography auctioned to the eager audience. An event like this was only possible through the effort of the Karval Alliance members and community members who willingly put every part of this wonderful event together. To name one is too few. To name all impossible, for someone would surely be left out.

So a great big thanks for a day well worth the effort. This is why living in Karval is so much fun.


The weeks pass so quickly as fall blends into winter. The wind howls some days. The sun warm on other days. As seen in the last post the ice and storms of winter have come early. They don't last but serve as a reminder that this summer will end. As I watch the changes the serendipitous always occurs. This time it is large flocks of Sandhill Cranes. I wrote this after such a fortunate day.

The Day the Cranes Came

The golden glow of the afternoon sun
fell warm on my skin.
The frost of morning long since gone.
High overhead the ragged “V”
of cranes drifted.
Small groups sailed together
like grey flags connected by a string.
So many scattered across the sky
north, south, east, and west.
Where did they come from?

I watched them spiral ever onward
like the change of season
marked by calendar,frost,and wing.
Now nearer, just overhead-
each long neck stretched out as an arrow,
wings fletched these shafts,
feet nocked and launched.
What message did they carry?

A melancholy cry rose on the air.
Trumpeting their arrival-
one voice followed another chanting some ancient song,
all joined in intricate intervals.
The woven sound, loud,then soft, warbled,
and rang through the air.
"Winter is on the way"
as sure as the song of cranes.

Plover Lover – October 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Crystal Wonderland

Chicken wire never looked so good.

Ice glazed apple tree

Sunflowers on ice

Nine feet of crystal

Barbed wire never felt so cold and cruel

Flowers in an icy blanket

Timothy under glass

Frozen pine tree art

Delicately frosted

A perfect ice flower

Crystal Corn
Frozen where she blows

WOW! What a weekend of beauty. Nature's Ice Sculptures.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Heard the Corn Talking

My morning walk to school - so dark -
no moon to cast shadows in the dim predawn.
Only stars lit my path - so dark - little could be seen,
so quiet, no bird song, no hum of insect, no breeze felt on my bare hands, only the crunch of my feet on the dirt road gave life to the eerie expanse.

I rounded the corner-
I heard something unusual-
the corn field talking-
no I swear I heard them rattling on.

As I looked I saw only row upon row of khaki jackets and outstretched sleeves on tall slender frames. I turned away the sound intensified - did I catch motion out of the corner of my eye? I looked away, there. I looked back, it felt like a game of “Red Light, Green Light” with stalks of corn. I didn’t seem to be winning.

I heard dry parched throats hoarse, that crackled, and scratched faint soothing sounds. Calm voices whispered from row to row. They begged me to listen - to join them. The chorus continued as I paused now and then - until at last the sun made its grand appearance.

Then all fell silent - only a brown corn field remained, no games, no songs, and no whispers, only warm light bathed the tawny field and complemented the glowing red dawn spread as a blanket over them.

Every day I hope to catch the corn talking, bright stars shine above. My feet crunch a quiet warning. The corn, in hushed voices, tries to pretend they can fool me. Is it the song of the breeze on leaves or timid voices heard by sensitive ears? Come and listen.

Plover Lover
October 1, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Sometimes Think of Clouds

As I drove home from church in Limon, I saw the very kind of clouds that bring me back to times in childhood where I would lie on my back and pretend I saw mythical creatures and even some common barnyard friends. I longed for the past, or at least a present with warm sun on my face, cool grass on my back, and a gentle breeze to carry my thoughts as high as the clouds. A couple of years ago, I wrote this poem after watching the clouds. You may need to use your imagination and float into my magical world.


Opalescent ice sculptures stood massive,
a power greater than themselves, concealed,
beautified and intensified by white hot edges.
I entered

I drifted through random figures
each soft frosted surface evolved,
intricate crystallized subtleties,
hanging from the blue tiles

milk flowed like fog spilled on the floor
ever changed,
works of art shattered by a thought,
melted by inattention

I touched hard lines of castles,
soft folds of fleece,
plump cheeks, round noses,
and angular sails,

a tree, a bird, a rabbit, a lion
carved deeply in ice
I floated by them,

the cotton candy scent drew me
nearer the boiling cold collection
amid the shifting menagerie
I saw a litter of kittens
tumble in the indigo paint

shades deepened, gray, mauve, azure, cobalt
the colors of the stormy sea
white capped edges,
foam and spume erupted over each piece

lying on my back warm in the sun
time ceased
one artist after another displayed their wares
towering toward the grassy jade sky

I looked down on them all and smiled
the sky prickled my back
I jumped down, content to know
I can visit again tomorrow

Plover Lover
July 21, 2007

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Summer Photos

Color Me Blue

Sometimes You Just Have To Stand Alone
Cactus Blossom - Wow
Butter, Eggs,or Summer Sun - I love the color

I would like to share some of the summer's favorite photos. Many are the wonders of this particularly wet summer. The green held throughout and brought on billions of bugs and bushels of blooms. Some might call them weeds, but they are nevertheless beautiful. Yes, they make me sneeze, too. Hope you enjoy some of my summer fun. By the way, did you see the clouds today? Well, that is a tale for later in the week.

Burrowing Owl

Rough-Legged Hawk
Mail Run Before the Storm
Artistic Welding at the Bucklen Ranch
Silhouettes Against the Storm
Bull Snake, Blow Snake, Gopher Snake
Lord of the Pasture

A Thrasher by any other name would still be Brown.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fox News

In order to prepare for a youth trek this summer, my wife and I took time each morning to walk and get in shape. We went south of our place and followed the dirt road for 3-5 miles. It was wonderful to see the birds and flowers emerge along the side of the road.

We took our baby along in the stroller and really enjoyed the time to talk and see what we could see. Some days, we saw the local birds in their favorite hang-outs. Sometimes, the horses would come across the field to greet us. On one special occasion, we saw a swift fox.

No, when we got closer it was more than one. We had lucked into a whole family. They were out there sunning themselves. We sat and watched them for a time - so much for getting in shape. I finally climbed over the fence and slowly approached.

Every few steps, I stopped and took a couple of pictures. The foxes didn’t seem to mind me, so they let me approach. The adults disappeared into the burrow, but the kits stayed to eye me curiously - until I got about 30 feet away. I was so caught up in this that I failed to get the really great shots. It was more fun to watch them crouched low, or sprawled out, or occasionally leap into the air after a grasshopper. Their huge golden eyes were captivating to watch. Being the smallest of the fox family, they appeared more cat-like than anything. They have no flowing red coat, but are still amazing creatures to interact with.

We saw them grow up over the next few weeks and then finally came the day when none of them were seen at the den. We missed seeing them on our walks. Maybe next year.

I wrote this posting in July and forgot to get it published on line. It was such an unusual experience to get so close and see the innocence of youth. No fear existed and the behavior seen was so personal. Our families met and shared a brief moment.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Who Stretched Forth the Heavens?

How black was the night. I had looked forward to the evening planned and anticipated learning about the stars. Experts came with telescopes and enthusiasm. We had a wonderful time with the visit of members of the Astronomical Society of Colorado. They came to the Karval area for fun and some of the darkest nights anywhere. They shared with the community more than we could have dreamed.

Our eyes finally adjusted to the nighttime sky; we began our individual tours, with a sky so big we didn’t have to share our own personal view. The Milky Way stretched out before us, more like a cloud obscuring our view of stars than billions of stars blurred together.

Lines of interested people waited for a chance to see a close up view of Jupiter, or a nebula, or even Neptune. Just as amazing were the constellations pointed out by knowledgeable guides with powerful laser pointers. There are no lines in the sky to help you see Sagittarius as a teapot; or Scorpius a twin-tailed scorpion; the Big Dipper directing us to Polaris in the Little Dipper; Cassiopeia the queen, a distorted W; Draco the Dragon snaking along; Cepheus the king, a tilted house. Who can follow the Dipper’s handle and arch over to Arcturus in the constellation Bootes and spike downward to Spica in Virgo? We all got the chance to try our hands at identifying constellations.

Millennia of stars, stories, and celestial events spread before us. The longer we looked, the more stars seemed to appear. We saw several satellites slowly trace a line across the sky. No evening could be complete without a few falling stars, flaming bits of interplanetary dust flashing brilliantly toward earth. Chatter with friends made the time spent even more spectacular.

Distant Thunder

We have had quite a summer of rains. Out here on the prairie when it rains, it pours, and usually it doesn’t rain. Over the past few weeks the weather radio sounded the alarm - Severe weather warning in Southern Lincoln County - Thunder storm alert with possible tornado sightings. The bands of storms tore through the area and carried with them some impressive hail. Damage by the large hail stones marked the storms’ paths. On one such evening, we watched the storms, with nearly constant lightning, passed to the south. At the same time, another storm crashed through to the north. We wondered, “Will we have a garden in the morning?” To our delight we were spared damage all summer. Corn fields destroyed to the north are evidence of the fury.

An artist’s brush could never have captured the lightning displayed so many times this summer. The variety of colors reflected in the clouds…the intensity of light blinded us for a time..the lightning bolts like claws tearing the fabric of the sky…the distant rumble of thunder almost soothing, followed by the thunder so close it shook the earth like a passing freight train. Power this great reminded me that I am not in control. There was fear in the storm, but also beauty, wonder, and awe.

Five Mile Falcons

It has been a rare treat to see a pair of Peregrine Falcons on county road S. Over the past two weeks, one then the other has positioned itself on the power pole five miles west of Karval. I never expected to see one - let alone two. I first saw the female with her dark head and brownish back. I thought it was a Prairie Falcon, more common in the area. I stopped to see her as she looked around and slowly lifted her wings in flight.

Then last week, I saw on the same pole what I thought was the same bird. When I got the car near and stopped, I could tell it was a male Peregrine Falcon - the black medieval mask dark against the white of the breast. I watched for several minutes before he took flight over the fields. The long, pointed wings - powerful like a jet fighter. I made a return to take a photo yesterday, and as would be expected, they were not there. However, I can still see them imprinted in my mind. Another amazing bird has been added to my Karval list.

Back to School Marks the Gathering of Birds

Well, everyone it has been too long since I have posted anything. It has been an event-filled summer. I must say I spent a lot of time recapturing my garden from the weeds. I left on several short trips and no one told the weeds to wait for me to get back.

We are now back in school- and busy is the operative word. So now the weeds are trying to gain ground again. We love the fresh produce and have enjoyed the corn finally ready to be slathered with butter and devoured. The beans and beets are now taking a back seat.

Every time we enter the garden the birds leave in small flocks. As the evenings cool and the days shorten, the birds begin to gather for the migration south. Congregating Lark Buntings are crowding the fence wires. Many large groups of Robins are in the neighborhood trees. In some of the rain-filled lowlands, small groups of shore birds are arriving. Some of the early immature birds getting a head start. Families of Swainson’s Hawks have taken rows of power poles. Burrowing Owls are still overseeing their favorite haunts.

All of the rains have greened up the prairie and have given Prairie Dogs a new place to establish homes. Fields of ripening corn and sunflowers are thick with birds hiding out. The ever changing farmlands are still drawing my attention. A photo in the morning light can’t capture the mood of sunrise on a field of sunflowers or the sun creeping up greeting a new day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Of Weeds and Things

A garden seems like a simple thing - turn the soil, plant the seed, let the sun shine, and wait. Then the sun shines and warms the earth. The early risers spring into action, but where are the corn and beans? A healthy crop of weeds tangle each row. Pull the thistle, kochia, grass and armfulls of unknown citizens. Finally, in the clean spaces, the corn and beans lift their heads. Squash, carrots, beets, and chard stretch upward and touch the sun.

Now the competition has begun. In each row, like painted lanes for a race, they jump into action. Weeds take the early lead in one row, while vegetables inch forward in another. So the summer proceeds. The hares-pace weeds always outdistance the tortoise stride of the produce. So I sit and watch the race...and weed. The removal of some doesn't seem to change the race much. There always comes a replacement hopping into action. The crops now strong and tall, dwarf the speedy weeds, putting every ounce of energy into growth. It just takes time, patience, and faith that the race will go to those who wait and weed.

Watering the Garden

The cool, clean stream of water
began its course down the row.
In the early morning light
the sun painted it silver-gold.
Like molten metal it flowed.

The thirsty soil clutched
and pulled at it.
So slowly the ribbon unrolled;
edges tripped and crawled
forward over piled grains.

The gentle curl of glass
wound around clumps of rock-hard clay
and lifted a leaf and carried an ant
on its back.

The saturated earth, now black,
pushed the stream on -
reaching, stretching, soaking
it inched.

Finally, at row's end,
the burnished trail shone brightly
from splashing entry to placid pool.
Its march now complete.

Plover Lover
July 10, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Getting to Know You

Have you ever had one of those extra special personal interactions with wildlife that you never dreamed could happen? Well I have, and they keep me out looking, waiting for the next time that nature reaches out a feathered wing, a leafy branch, or a furry tail. The more time I spend outdoors, the more I love the small and simple things - so common and yet not.

As I went out this morning for a walk with my wife and new 7 month old daughter, I found the lighting perfect to capture some great images. I have been taking plant photos for another project that I am working on. There are so many new plants (weeds) that I don't know, having never lived on the plains, that I want to identify, so I take close-up pictures of plants to research later. I compose my shots carefully to show the common in unusual ways, so now I have quite a collection of Beautiful weeds. What a calendar it will make some day.

Well, that is not really the story that I wanted to tell. When climbing fences and taking my time to find something to add to my plant collection, I found myself face-to-face with one of my very vocal neighbors (Cassin's Sparrow). So why not photograph him too? He must have known he was my subject for a special photo shoot today. At close range, he permitted some great poses. Although not brightly colored, nor unusual in appearance, his flight and song make him a real treat to see so closely. I always consider this a gift and always appreciate it. After taking many pictures and having front row seats to his flight display, I wanted to get a picture. I am finding it almost impossible to do with my digital camera. The shutter and autofocus seem never to be in sync. I sometimes get a blur of wings or a blank shot of the sky. Maybe that is why I take pictures of plants. They don't seem to leap out of way.

There he sat on the barbed-wire and begged me to come closer. I failed miserably in getting a flight photo, but was then given a much better gift. As I leaned up against a power pole to steady myself and get a little cover, he popped up from the brush onto the fence wire about 15 feet away. As I was directly in line with the fence, my camera focused on the post in front of him. So I leaned out for a better view, and the bird seemed to feel my desire for a better shot. He started to hop and walk, foot-over-foot, down the wire toward me. I just stood there gawking and never even thought about getting it on film.

Before I knew it, he was only 6 feet away behind the fence post. Then, as if to play peek-a-boo, he leaned out and looked around the post at me and then leaned back. He did this several times before jumping into the air and landing on the wire agian. I could nearly reach out and touch him. He displayed several times as I tried to take some arial photos. It seems such a small thing, but the interaction was so real. I am better for having experienced it and to have taken the time to slow down and see and hear.

Is this sparrow only common like a weed, or is a weed a flower fit for framing? I only know that I will continue to collect beautiful things: weeds, flowers, sparrows, rocks, and images. My world is like a buffet with so many things to taste. I love to take some of everything, for I may find my new favorite, but will always come back to the common everyday things so familiar to me.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Personal Air Show

I have spent more time in the yard this past couple of weeks since school let out. The garden is doing well and so are the weeds. We had some good heavy rain that saved me watering the yard, however it just about washed my garden out. I have hoped the plants know how to push through the mud that covers them. It has taken a few extra days but now they seem to be growing fine in sunny weather.

While in the yard a new song captured my attention. I finally got a look at the bird singing it. It is a sparrow that I was not familiar with. It has a long tail and nearly constant song. I had to take some time to identify it- so I took my camera out and did my best to get a picture of it. Its song identified it to be a Cassin's Sparrow. It is one of my new favorite birds. I love birds that sing with heart and soul. A song filled with joy and energy, not for any particular purpose, but just for fun. Their favorite stage is on top of a yucca, or a conveinent wire. I have only seen Cassin's Sparrows one other time, but now they are my constant companions singing, making my time in the yard more pleasant. Their early morning songs accompany my dreams, punctuate my work, and sing me to sleep at night.

They have no striking colors or patterns but have captured my admiration for two reasons. The first is their song which varies little and yet is a tune that gets stuck in your head. The second is their amazing flight display. I have to say it reminds me of a jet fighter landing on an aircraft Carrier. They launch themselves straight into the air and then with head reaching to the sky, feet stretched forward to the ground, tail cocked back as if a parachute land ever so gracefully in the weeds. They repeat this many times throughout the day. I appreciate the break from my yard work, which will assuredly be there after a bird break, and listen and watch.

One of the commonest visitors to the yard is the Horned Lark. They are not particularly concerned with my presence. They will land in the garden with me and sing their chime-like song, or find some fast food to nibble on.

Over the last few months I have learned to love the great maneuverability in flight they have. They are constantly on the road and seldom have a problem waiting till the last moment and darting off just in the nick of time. When with a partner they seem to delight in complicated synchronized flying- as if performing in a military air show. They carve their way across the fields. Flying low they veer suddenly upward and just as suddenly weave an intricate pattern with wing man tucked neatly in position, never missing a beat. Bursts of speed are followed by separation of the team, only to again resume the show. Was this show meant just for me, or simply a time to feel the wind beneath powerful wings and try something new, just because they can?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Smell of Rain

As I walked home from school one day. I was followed by a darkening sky and strengthening breeze-an approaching storm. The thick, black, velvet curtain was suddenly drawn across the sky behind me. "Can I make it home?" I made it only half way before I was caught in the rain. I love the rain and took a mental image-amazed by its many faces. Sometimes you can feel the rain coming and sometimes you can smell it. This is one of those times when the native smell of dessicated air is gradually replaced just before the storm. As I mulled over how to describe this image. These words gave life to what I saw and smelled.

The Smell of Rain

This land where water is scarce and the
pungent odor of dust rises up your nostrils
like the smell of empty grain sacks.
Stiff dry plants crackled under foot -
the browns of life wanting - filled the vast expanse.

Always a hint of grit in your teeth,
ever-drifting sands prowl looking for respite,
anchored only when slowed by some tenacious plant
somehow clinging to this land like a weathered homestead.

The hope of rain is eternal -
clouds carried by need and fervent prayer often build
and sail on without a single tear.
In this land rain is more precious than gold,
distant clouds black with rain drifted in with the promise of life.

Before she arrived, a cool assurance piqued my interest
as I stood and faced the wind and willed it forward.
The breeze delivered the welcome message -
the smell of rain approached - slow on turtle's feet.
This sun-baked land now drank deeply and grasped at her passing skirt.
As I walked, I now could smell the wet earth
alive with energy released by soaking rain.

The smell of life, of wet rain-filled soil
are better medicine than rest.
Each passing storm with hope and longing, taunts my memory,
and conjures up the image of the prairie alive with oceans of green,
sprinkled with constellations of blazing color.

The smell of rain proves this is no mirage -
but an awakening of the senses, and the earth.
Growth and hope are as secure in this land
as the unyielding plants that breathed deeply of the smell of rain.

Plover Lover
May 7, 2009

Another School Year Is Over

So busy, that is all that can be said as any school year comes to a close. Final everything, final concert, final trips, final games, meets, tests, and graduation. All were a success in their own way.

My first year in Karval was a success and a great welcoming. I welcomed spring and warm weather. I welcomed planting the garden to the song of birds. I look forward to time to do yard work, study, plan, make curriculum, write poetry, read, bird watch, sing, hike, and play. It is finally here and first on the list- rest and get the garden in. Now that I have time, the home list continues to grow faster than the garden weeds. I am excited to have the summer to get things done one task at a time. It is wonderful to be a teacher and have time to get ready for the next year and reflect on the past.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mountain Plover- Dreams

As the season transforms itself from spring, the call of the Mountain Plover is heard less often. The now familiar sound still brings me to attention. I hope to see the flight display again. It is hard to put into words the feelings one gets seeing something unusual and rare. It is like finding a buried treasure or climbing a mountain peak. The scene just can't be described, only experienced. The Falling Leaf Display, as it is called, is performed over the nesting grounds. The male flies into the air, plummets with wings held in a tight "V", and drifts back to earth. This repeated dance is accompanied by the call that echoes across the prairie as to say, "Whee, here I come... look at meee!" Oh, the things we will do to impress our lady friends. In a time of anticipation, I penned these words, hoping the real event would be as vivid as my imagination. They remind me of finding my own treasure and the crystal clear view standing on the mountain peak.

The Mountain Plover

From falling leaf to falling leaf
how strange it was…
I saw the plover flying near
up, up - on powerful wings they flew

So high its ascent,
almost beyond sight
then in an instant tumbled
down, down - as a wind-blown leaf might do

Then up again to higher points
it all began again
feathers ruffled, he plummeted
Swiftly, swiftly he blew

And many a hidden secret told
by the pattern of wing and tilt
what purple, what gems displayed for her
below, below - he knew

October 2008
Plover Lover

SBJ'S- Small Brown Jobs! Who Am I?

As I sat in my car on the far side of Karval lake a small visitor came and posed for me. I took several pictures and found him a challenge to Identify. Much smaller than the White-Crowned Sparrows that were in the Salt-Cedars with him. He had distinct markings on his face, and back. The streaked crown and color on the back ruled out Chipping Sparrow for me. The noticeable facial pattern made me question Brewer's Sparrow. They seem to have a less distinctively marked faces. Could this be a Clay-Colored Sparrow? Experts out there get out your field guides and give our SBJ a name. By the way his song was a low buzz of two to four syllables, much lower pitched than Chipping Sparrows.