Sunday, October 02, 2005

Roadrunner Kills Big Sidewinder

Here is an item from the FRONT PAGE of the April 16, 1938 (Vol. V, No. 47) edition of the Palm Springs Limelight weekly paper. Thank you Jen Robinson, librarian extraordinaire for uncovering this hidden jewel.

     An excited and breathless eyewitness to a rare desert tragedy on Monday was Mrs. Ralph Nesmith, as she stood on the back porch of her hacienda in Palm Canyon Mesa, south of the village. Mrs. Nesmith stepped out to look at the view and wind her alarm clock. Suddenly, from over the wall which surrounds the patio, hurtled a two-foot sidewinder (a member of the rattlesnake family).
     "Flying snakes!!" murmured Mrs. Nesmith as she followed the parabola described by the snake through the air.
     Scene two was a Road Runner (long tailed desert bird) which hopped up on the wall and made a dive for the thrashing snake. The two denizens of the desert jockeyed around for position for a few moments, the snake coiling and striking several times while the road runner adroitly sidestepped the onslaught. Suddenly the road runner got the opening he was waiting for and made a dart at the snake which he caught just back [sic] of the triangular head, where the neck is slender.
     A spellbound witness, Mrs. Nesmith at this moment glanced at the clock in her hand. The road runner shook the deadly head of the sidewinder for five full minutes. Mrs. Nesmith reported a thrashing and whipping around between snake and bird which at times obliterated them both in dust. At the end of five minutes the road runner relinquished his hold and stood back with beak partially open, panting. The snake showed signs of life and the bird again whipped in and renewed the violent shaking, this time only for a minute. Then the road runner stood back and peered at his victim inquiringly.
     When the snake showed no signs of life, the bird cautiously advanced and gingerly lifted the snake in its beak, inching up over the entire body which measured about two feet, twitching and tweeking at it. Satisfied that the snake was dead, the road runner the took the head in its beak and swallowed the entire snake inch by inch until only the rattles stuck out of its beak. These the road runner attempted to knock off - without success, so the rattles also disappeared down the bird's throat.
     It has long been a desert legend that the roadrunner kills rattlers -- but so far as is known here -- this is the first instance of an eye witness to the event.
Returned to the village for the spring season are Mrs. & Mrs. Clarence Beesemeyer.

Opening their hacienda for the first time this season this week are Mrs. and Mrs. Harold Lloyd and family, who will spend the spring season in the desert.

As Jen posted on her Blog:“We wouldn't need televisions if newspapers were still written like this. That is ACTION, people.” We at I’d Rather Be Birding heartily agree.

Desert Naturalist Certificate

Nature Enthusiasts who want a well-rounded introduction to the desert environment may be interested in the Desert Naturalist Certificate from College of the Desert. The certificate can easily be earned over two semesters. Courses focus on the study of wildlife and plants native to the Coachella Valley desert area. For info. call (760) 776-7285.

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

BMCP has bird & nature walks on Wednesdays and Saturdays except the first Saturday of every month from 8:00-10:00 a.m. The preserve is located at 11055 East Drive, Morongo Valley for information call Dee Zeller at (760) 363-7190

The Living Desert

Living Desert Members only bird walks are the second Thursday of every month. Members meet outside the gates around 7:30 a.m. It is located on, Portola Ave. in Palm Desert call (760) 346-5694 ext. (8)2506

Volunteers Needed

The Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center in Indio is open every day. Do you have time to spare? They are always looking for volunteers. Phone Linda York for information (760) 347-2647

Sandy Swan

Sandy Swan was the able leader at the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center's birdwalk on Saturday. Right of the bat we saw a Wood Duck! He was fabulous!

If you need t-shirts, caps and other items for your club, event, or organization, call Sandy at Swan Design and Screenprint in Palm Desert. (760) 836-0999

Do you need a specialized field guide?

LA Audubon bookstore is a great resource. They are especially helpful when planning a foreign excursion. They always know just the book you need. Call toll free (888) 522-7428