January 2, 2014 830 a.m.
Around the barn. Pea-soup thick fog and an enormous careening flock of starlings or Brewer’s Blackbirds; I can’t tell which since as soon as I get close enough and fix my glasses on them, they rise up and turn circles en masse.
Walking through the East Oak Savannah; it’s filled with this fog. The sounds of house finch chatter weaves around the oaks reaching us all the way from the feeder at the house a half-mile away. I also hear a short carol of an American robin deep within the foggy veil.
The dogs, donkeys, and I find evidence of pheasant under our favorite old Ponderosa Pine. I pick up a long, narrow feather and stroke Ziggy’s muzzle with its tip. He relaxes into the feather and takes a deep breath.
This isn’t a place I associate with pheasants. They like tall grasses and fields and agriculture. The pine litter is disturbed, as though a few pheasants have been scratching about. I suspect a killing, but don’t see any bird’s carcass, so perhaps just a cavorting. I put four of the long striated feathers into my backpack, and zip them in.
The donkeys munch on wet grasses for the fog leaves everything it touches moist. The fog is such a presence as it presses down around us. Winter oaks stand barren as their naked arms rise and their branches spread out like long crooked fingers. Under the oaks, partially decayed leaves lay in a tangle of bronze, brown, and dirty gold –an endless array of crazy quilt. The wet, winter-weary pale grasses slump under our footfalls.
The game trail winds through the oak savannah, and we follow its invitation. The hollow clang of the bird dogs’ bells sound as Skookum and Ouzel explore beyond the trail’s boundaries and then they return to meet me and the donkeys on the trail further along.
I see five small scatterings of deer pellet spaced a few feet apart, and this is an observation worth note, since I don’t see many deer on our farm, because of the surrounding commercial orchards, and their very tall and effective fences. But, lately I’ve noticed some things are changing, and I’m seeing a greater abundance of quite a few different animals around Mule Springs. Our wildlife habit and land restoration programs may be responsible.