High above the Moreno Valley between Angel Fire and Eagle Nest, New Mexico,
where I wander and wonder in mountain meadows, aspen stands and conifer forests, I really do encounter things that “more or less kill me with delight“.
Here are a few.
While birding along Tolby Creek in Cimarron Canyon,we found strange insects
perched atop a stand of 5 foot high Cone Flowers.
Upon first glance, I thought I was seeing large, colorful bumblebees.
On closer inspection and with a little help from a friend who was well acquainted with
what was, for me, a totally new species,
I learned these fat,bristly insects called TACHNID FLIES are parasitic and
an insect’s worst nightmare!
Cue music from Jaws and flash back to your first ALIEN movie and
you’ll get the picture.
is the description one botanist applies to this species.
The adult Tachnid Fly in the photo above lays eggs on flowers where they are ingested by
the target host. The horror show begins as the egg quickly hatches into a larvae that
eats its way through the living host.
The more than a dozen sub-species of Tachnid Flies, each with its own insect victim
(grasshoppers, beetles and sadly….butterflies)
are considered beneficial bugs because they kill many insect pests that harm
crops and gardens.
I am surprised to learn that these wonderfully wicked creatures and I occupy the
More things that delight me:
Unfortunately, I sometimes discover nature’s sad side when I encounter
things that just” kill me“.
This handsome 5X5 young bull would have been a contender in next year’s rut
had he not been hit by a car.
The Game Warden “put him down”, field dressed him on site and sold the meat
to a local for $40.
I must admit it was a delight to stroke the soft velvet of his antlers.
Just down the road from the house is Burning Tree Meadow, named for the
Ponderosa Pine that periodically grew into the overhead electric wires,
flamed up and burned down until the branches no longer made contact.
Soon Kit Carson Electric came along to cut down the tree that would be a
fire hazard come summer.
Curious, we walked down to check out their work and found a sad sight:
An immature Goshawk, electrocuted and twisted in among the branches.
One afternoon this spring as Richard drove into Burning Tree Meadow,
just past the spot where we previously observed
seven wild turkey gobblers competing in sumo wrestling matches,
their faces flashing red, white and blue,
there was a gathering of vultures.
A new elk calf did not survive summer.
Mom was nowhere in sight.
I took this photo after the predators and scavengers had their fill.
Even with a healthy caring mom, good grass, water and a bit of luck,
an elk calf’s survival is not a sure thing.
David Peterson, author and elk expert, describes a new-born calf’s world as a
raceway of survival.
At the start the calf is born as a “little hider” with no scent and the instinct to remain
deep in the grass, safe from predators when mom is away grazing.
The calf reaches his first turn at 2 weeks when the he is up and running with the herd.
Second turn is the end of summer and the third turn is winter survival.
Our elk completes the fourth turn and charges into the straightaway when he matures and successfully mates.
From Birth to Breeding he must survive starvation, predators, disease, injury and
An elk researcher I know describes elk calves as
“ridiculously cute… like all big-eyed, helpless little things.”