We are fortunate to live in a critter-diverse part of town. Even though the street in front of our house looks hopelessly suburban, walk just a few blocks any direction from here and you’ll find open fields, pecan orchards, onion and chile plots, alfalfa patches and horse pasture. Because of the open space nearby, we get lots of animals living in and passing though the area.
We have regular visits from foxes, coyotes, raccoons, skunks (lots of ’em), large pack rats, ground squirrels and we harbor a fine crop of lizards to keep bugs out of the garden. My neighbor and I even witnessed a pack of javelinas trotting down the center of our street early one morning a couple of years ago. Birders like this area of town for all its variety of visitors. Although we’re oblivious to most of what flutters around here, we have noted nesting hawk and owl families and a large colony of turkey vultures that congregate in some tall trees southwest of us each summer. And of course we have an oversupply of birds we know as “rats of the sky” — white winged doves.
When flying my balloon over this area of the Mesilla Valley, it was always interesting to note various wild animals that would scurry out of hiding when I would engage the blast valve on my burner.
One fall morning when I was cruising at a fairly low altitude, I spooked a fox out of its hiding place in a tangle of mulberry trees. The fox scampered into a nearby field of corn that had not yet been harvested. As I flew closer, I was able to spot the fox’s distinct reddish brown coloring in the patch of yellow gold stalks.
Seconds later, I spooked up another animal, this time a plump cottontail rabbit that urgently hopped — you guessed it — right into the middle of the field where the fox was waiting. I was expecting to see a twirl of dust above the corn patch and floating puffs of bunny fur as I flew overhead, but I needed to stay focused on flying the aircraft, so I kept my attention on the flight path ahead.
I’m sure the fox was quite irritated when I first scared him out of hiding. However, I’ll bet he thanked me after brunch that day.