Remember the roadrunner that hopped up on my side mirror one morning? It came back!
It was early evening. The sun was still out, but the temperature had dropped a bit and my van cast a big shadow. I had my table set up in a shady spot in the back of my campsite, and I was cooking dinner.
I saw movement in my peripheral vision and turned my head to investigate. The roadrunner was on the ground, strolling, in no hurry at all. I froze and watched it.
(I’m not 100% sure it was the same roadrunner, but it seemed to be the same size and color. According to http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/greater_roadrunner_facts/465/, the
[g]reater roadrunner is territorial animal…
which lends credence to my idea that it was the same bird I’d seen before.)
The roadrunner was close enough for me to see it very well, especially when it stopped moving. I could see the iridescence of its long tail feathers. I could see the crest of feathers on the top of its head move up and down. (Was the bird trying to communicate with me? If so, I missed the message.)
While I observed the bird, it picked up one of its legs and used its foot to scratch where its ear would be if it had external ear parts. The bird scratched its “ear” like a dog would. I was delighted! I’ve never seen another bird do such a thing. Is that a normal thing for a bird to do? Is that specifically a roadrunner move?
The bird didn’t seem worried or frightened. I wonder if it were as interested in me as I was in it.
As I stood watching it, the roadrunner turned its back to me. I thought it was going to walk away, but instead, it lifted its wings away from its body. It looked sort of puffed up. I could see the downy feathers on its body. Those feathers were being fluffed by the wind. I could see its skin in patches not covered by feathers. The bird stood with its wings lifted for what seemed like a long time before it walked away.
I wondered if it were trying to make itself look bigger in hopes of intimidating me. It seemed odd to me that an animal’s act of aggression would involve turning its back on a possible threat.
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadrunner,
To warm itself during the day, the roadrunner exposes dark patches of skin on its back to the sun.
The Hill Country Naturalist says that to warm itself,
[t]he roadrunner turns its back to the sun and fluffs out its feathers, using its black skin to absorb the warmth.
So that’s what it was doing! The roadrunner was feeling chilly and was trying to get warm. Its behavior had nothing to do with me.
When the roadrunner walked away, I went over to the van and sat in the open side doors to eat my dinner. As I sat there, the bird came back! It stood about three steps away from me, parallel to the van and calmly regarded me. I thought I should grab my camera, but I was worried my movements would scare off the critter. I decided I’d rather look at it and not risk spooking it while fumbling around.
When the bird grew tired of looking at me, it walked a few more steps away from me, toward some creosote bushes. It stopped, turned its back, and commenced its wing flapping. Then it disappeared into the bushes, not to be seen again.
When I told the Lady of the House about the return of the roadrunner, she said maybe it was my new spirit guide. I’ve been pretty happy with the sloth as my spirit guide, but there’s not much I can do if the roadrunner has chosen me.
Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photography-roadrunner-at-the-top-of-red-surface-during-daytime-158097/.