Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On a Drone Note

Rain is gently falling outside the open door to the back porch. A rumble of thunder here and there, off in the distance, gives a nice touch. It is lulling and sweet. My plans for the day did not include rain, but rain can give permission to change one’s plans, and so mine shifted. 

As to life on the farm, and deaths, in continuum from the last entry in blogdom, I wrote that I was not happy with the recent snake predation on wren nests and such and I also wondered why the starlings seemed to get away from being molested by the no necks and could raise their squawking babies with immunity. Well, I was wrong. The day before yesterday on the afternoon hike to the barn, I noticed, first, there was no irritating squawking noise from the starling babies coming from the gourd houses. Looking up, I saw the side of a snake, the unmistakable pattern of its skin, coiled there in the gourd, digesting baby birds. Not that I particularly wished the birds a death sentence, but finally it was quiet. The gourd was well out of my reach and there was nothing I could do, either way to deal with the snake where it was. So I left the shovel, for its potential use later in reckoning with the serpent, leaning against the fence.

The next day, yesterday, I had finished my riding, had practiced my drum playing in preparation for two gigs this weekend, and was beginning to make my way up to the house from the barn when I heard the most amazing and unexpected sound. There were two Purple Martins, either immature or both females I could not tell which, flitting around the houses. They flew into several of the houses and out, chattering and calling all the while. Pure music their voices are, lilting and light. The sound takes me to an instant happy place. In watching them, with a smile on my face, I really hoped they would not try to nest here since my snake situation had not improved from last year, and I did not want to see these two eaten. Then I realized that the snake who had been in the starling house yesterday, was indeed still there, and was just now trying to get down from the housing.

It hung from the gourd hole, kinked up and twisted, about a foot length out. It flickered its tongue and looked about not sure what to do next. Apparently the climb up to the house was lot more easy than going down was going to be. Its choice to leave was either to drop to the ground, some ten feet down or more, or to slither out of the gourd and go back up to the pole the gourds hung off of, and then go down the pole again. It had apparently not figured out either option.

And so it hung there while these two martins flittered about only inches away from this snake, oblivious to it, just happy to be making musical sounds for me to enjoy for the moment. The martins finally left and the snake slunk back into the house to ponder its situation, its head just inside the house, peeking out. When Mark got home I told him about the stuck snake and so as not to turn away a good chance to practice his skills with flying his new toy, uh, real estate tool for showing property, he got out his new drone and off to the nest pole we went. 

This drone, a four propeller driven flying thing, has a camera mounted on it and can be sent to incredibly high heights, and is a steady and stable flyer with radio controls. Mark set it on the ground and waited for it to warm up. The snake watched us from its perch above us. Then Mark set the drone in motion and up it went. The whirling noise from the propeller blades were enough to drive the serpent into a retreat mode and we could not see its face from the ground any more. The  drone went up and hovered at the door of the gourd, taking video of what it saw. The video did later show the side of the snake as it hid its head into the farthest region of the gourd. The silly snake was still in there this morning and I am beginning to wonder at the relative intelligence of this creature at the art of leaving. It may well be still full, though,  and not hell bent of leaving just yet and taking this opportunity to chill out and observe the farm below its perch. Who knows with snakes.

So, rainy day, thunder, a day with a built in excuse not to do the things that probably should get done, like vegetation management, but perfectly suited for my spending a few hours playing drums. In my tack room I have a set of practice drums that are probably more antique than up to date, but function very well for how I practice. I put on a set of headphones and a cd of the music that I know our band wants to play at our upcoming gigs, and strike the plastic heads of the set, hopefully in time. Not as gratifying as a real wood and skin kit but good for hearing the songs and keeping the motor skills up.

Very easily, though, I no longer hear my tapping on plastic but go straight into the music in my ears, and I am there, playing with Santana, and the Allman Brothers. I am sitting right next to Butch Trucks and watching Greg as he plays the organ and sings, feeling the magic of the music they created in the years of my teens. There was so much great music made during and around the 70’s, and it still holds the test of time. I have no doubt that Greg and Carlos would not appreciate my efforts to help them along, but its nice to imagine I am there kicking it with them. And so I play their songs and tap out the beats, with the three dogs in residence laying undisturbed at my feet.  

My batteries sadly died to my cd player, though, and I put down the sticks and headphones and walked outside my tack room into the barn aisle. Two of the mares were munching on their hay, standing quietly, the sound of rainfall on the metal roof above them ringing in a peaceful serenade. Cistine, however, had left her stall and stood standing as I have seen her do before, her body, under the run in shed but with her face just out far enough to catch the falling water that runs off the roof. I said something and she turned to face me and her head was drenched but she seemed delighted to be being rained on, face only. She is a very silly horse and likes to play with water.

Since the batteries had died and there was to be no riding in this rain, I pulled one of yesterday’s saddle pads over my head for cover and rounded up the dogs to head to the house. As I passed the bird houses, I saw that the snake was still there in that gourd, and coiled tight. The shovel is in the same place too, just in case.

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