I mentioned before my experience with desert hiking and the natural aspects that come with the desert ecosystem. Today’s hike was a wonderful example of the unexpected wonders the desert can bring. I started my hike just before sunrise and just as I had entered the trail, the first thing I heard was an owl’s “Hoo-hoo, Hoo-hoo-hooo!”. It was a Great Horned owl sitting on a the hillside to the left of the trail. I know this was a Great Horned Owl because just days before I had heard and seen one in the same area.
All smiles I continue forward. It is still rather dim out as the sun had not yet made it’s appearance over the horizon so all the while I am working with the best of my low-light adjusted eyesight. After about a half a mile in, a young mule deer with velvet antlers bolts from the trail to the left and bounces its way down to a comfortable distance from me. The winding trail begins to make a gradual climb when I realized I was following a covey of quail. I followed them for a while as they remained on the trail until I became too close for comfort which caused them to fly away. At this point I reached a small mountain which has a large reddish rock outcrop on the top. On its most prominent rock ledge sat a Red-tail hawk, scanning the desert below.
The trail continues at the base of the small mountain made up of many gradual ups and downs; twists and turns. The morning’s first light was beginning to dapple the ground and my eyes were beginning to see more. Happily I follow the trail which was about to make a left turn when I suddenly stop to see right in front of me on the trail a Western Diamondback! He had apparently just made a kill of a Merriam’s Kangaroo rat which he sat beside. He sat there for a while before sizing up the meal to consume it. This was a rather young rattlesnake measuring maybe less than 2 feet. Though I could make him out, they are remarkably great at camouflaging to their surroundings. When I hike in the desert, there is always an alert part of me that keeps an eye out for these sorts of dangers, though every time I have come across a dangerous snake, or other animal, that alertness becomes even more heightened. Nevertheless, I was able to capture a few shots of this remarkable animal before continuing my hike. The day brought many more natural wonders of the desert which made for a very pleasant day’s hike.
You can read more about this hike’s findings at my other blog: http://thewanderingnaturalist.wordpress.com