Fly Away Home

For the last several years, I have visited the same friends in the Texas Hill Country and I still need directions. Even so, I will inevitably make a wrong turn at the last fork in the road. My favorite friend to visit is a four year old Vulture named Buffy who was orphaned and had to be hand fed and cared for until she learned to survive on her own. Even after she learned to fly and was able to soar with the other Vultures she never needed a map to find her way back to her birthplace. Our friend Bruce has a way with birds and has rescued and rehabilitated numerous species through the years. They remind me of dogs with feathers. As much as I have read about birds, especially birds of prey, I am still clueless as to how they are able to migrate. I can’t even drive to the north side of San Antonio without a map. If you call someone a birdbrain it is supposed to be an insult, but more and more I realize how fascinating and complex birds are. Two weeks ago, Buffy and another Vulture were brought here to our ranch to be released so that they would have a safe environment free of the dangers of highways and power lines. We kept them confined to the aviary for a week and then according to plan we released them hoping that they would stay within a mile or so. Not a chance…..Yesterday, my phone rang. I did not recognize the area code or number. “Buffy is here perched on my shoulder” The call was from Dave, a neighbor of Bruce’s. My little birdbrain had flown 100 miles.

I can see for miles and miles

There’s no place like home……

Bye Bye Birdy

Four years ago, I was introduced to a little ball of downy feathers by the name of Buffy.

Baby Buffy

She is a vulture that had been rescued and was in the process of being rehabilitated with the hopes of being able to be released back into the wild. This is a precarious task and care must be taken so that the young bird has the skills to survive on their own. Buffy has thrived and grown to be independent, but would often visit her home in the Texas Hill Country were she was hand fed as a fledgling. She bonded with her caregiver, my friend Bruce who has raised numerous birds and animals of all species.

Bruce and Buffy

Her BFF is another young Vulture that was orphaned named Fluffy. Through the years I have grown to appreciate the beauty and respect the role in nature of all birds of prey. Our ranch south of San Antonio was the place chosen for the two buddies to be released and we hoped that they would stay nearby so that we would be able to watch them raise their family.

I am free!!!

They never looked back when we released them that day two weeks ago. I worried that they were disoriented, cold and scared in their new environment 100 miles from their home. Buffy had encountered a few mishaps through the years. She always came back to Poppa Bruce. One crash involved surgery to her beak.

Buffy with her splint after surgery

She lost a toe nail and we thought she was going to bleed to death. A swig of anti-freeze took a few days to recover. To put it bluntly, I love that bird Buffy and her BFF Fluffy. Everyday these last few weeks I call out to every Vulture I see. “Is that you, Buffy?”

Herd Dynamics

The status changes with people, whether they are celebrities or whatever. With horses, they are comfortable with their pecking order. The higher ones are responsible leaders and the lower ones are satisfied to be able to have the herd to warn them of predators and seek out the best feeding grounds. As they age, horses lose some of their hierarchy and in the event of an injury their order of importance can go down a few notches until they regain full potency and fitness. Our herd leader for the last 14 years has reveled in his reign unchallenged……This little half pint stold our hearts from the minute we saw him……..fuzzy, chubby, awesome is all…..

Queen of the Rodeo

We would have loved to get Grand Moye on a horse, a pony really. We just could not take the chance, even though our trusty little Welsh gelding is the most intelligent and laid back equine I have ever known. Luckily, my mother-in-law did not miss the experience. We kept her busy and entertained with plenty of other great activities during her visit to the ranch. Tom and I had fun dressing her up like a cowgirl. “She looks like a doll”He said.

Ready to ride the Range

She loves the scenery along the drive from San Antonio to Fairview, always commenting on the trees and cows and as excited as a child the whole way. She amazes me in so many ways. It was only the week before Thanksgiving that she fractured her pelvis. She went from a wheelchair to her walker which we hoped she would be using anyway to aid her balance at all times. She is slim and trim and has the appetite of a teenager. We grilled ribs and corn on the cob. Bread and butter, fresh green beans and a salad completed the feast. After dinner she had a slice of chocolate cream pie while we listened to a recording from 1957 of her five children at Christmas and a story told by her mother about The Cow with no Tail.

Grand Moye, Kirby and Tom

We tucked her in bed early with her pets who now live with us, Kirby the cat and Oakie the beautiful Pomeranian. They let her sleep late. We kept checking in on her while Bridgette the goat and Francie our horse peeked in the back door at her. Tom finally woke her up, so she would have plenty of time to help him with all the ranch chores. He told her she better have a hearty breakfast to start the day.Chilaquilles with flour tortillas, potatoes, tomatoes along with lots of hot cowboy coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice. “I won’t be able to eat lunch”she laughed. Before we hit the trail, she spent an hour reading her Valentine’s greetings via e-mail. Tom drove the fence-line and they fed hay and water to the Longhorns and horses.

Cactus Jack

They stopped off at the barn and Grand Moye was surprised to see Buffy and Fluffy, two Vultures who call this home.

Fluffy

When we arrived at her apartment, we had missed lunch, but the building was brimming with Valentine cheer and there were platters full 0f heart shaped cookies and baskets of fruit on tables down the hallway. A musician was playing the piano and her friends were glad to have her back. Our good byes are usually tearful, but I left her smiling and I have no doubt she will take a great nap and dream about the fun times at the ranch.

Out Of Africa

Our African Sulcata Tortoise was estivating last week, which is what they do in winter……but we had 3 inches of rain and the ground was already saturated, so he was underwater and seemingly oblivious to it. The easiest way to move this 80 pound  bombshell is to load him up in a wheel barrow.The last time his pasture was icy, I brought him into the house along with his igloo where he closed his eyes and covered his face with his front feet. This was great until Tom came home. I felt like I should tell him that Fast Eddie was in the house, so he didn’t trip over him during the night. He just shook his head and so Eddie was moved to the garage with a space heater and lots of fresh hay on the floor. Our tortoise adviser Bruce Deuley gave us good tips about keeping him healthy and warned us not to let him get too cold and especially not cold and wet. During the spring and summer, Eddie grazes on coastal Bermuda grass and we give him treats of bell peppers, romaine lettuce, field greens and cucumbers. The web-site Sulcata Station has great advice about caring for tortoises. Spinach impedes the absorption of calcium and can cause deformities of their shell, so this should never be fed. Iceberg lettuce holds no nutritional value and tomatoes are too acidic. Click here to read more about the care and feeding of the African Sulcata Tortoise.