Finished business – blog 30

This doesn't prove that I saw one as the photo is by Tim Melling. Thanks Tim!
This doesn’t prove that I saw one as the photo is by Tim Melling. Thanks Tim!

Even the ladies in Andrea’s cafe had seen roadrunners and they didn’t seem that interested in birds.  I am interested in birds and I started off another day not having seen a roadrunner.

There is a terrific mural of a roadrunner on the Joshua Tree-29 Palms road – it must be about 20 feet long – but I don’t think I can count that.

Breakfast at Andrea’s, after early-morning birding, in the relative cool of the day, was a very reasonably priced ($5) two eggs, over-easy, and hash browns and sourdough toast.

The French lady motel owner had asked me why I was writing a book about an extinct bird rather than a living bird and that isn’t a bad question.  I said that we had quite a lot to learn from our mistakes.

Another lady, who sold me a smoothie, asked me where I was from so I asked her where she thought I was from and she got England right.  Her first husband was from England – from Bath.  I asked her whether she hated him and she said no, but she didn’t like him.  I said we Bristolians don’t like people from Bath either, so she and I had something in common.  She wanted to know why people from Bristol don’t like people from Bath and I said it was because, these days, they are so much better at rugby than we are.  She’d seen a roadrunner a few days ago too.

I feel that yesterday and today I have looked at just about every patch of ground in the Joshua Tree NP but that can’t be remotely true because the park is so huge. As you drive through it you can see the transition between one type of desert (Sonoran) with cactuses and another type of desert (Mojave) with Joshua Trees.

I strolled around the very short walk in a ‘cactus garden’ where the signs saying ‘Don’t touch’ just made me want to see how sharp the spines were and whether they really could travel through your shoes so easily – but I didn’t.

After 10 minutes walk I sought the cool of my car and gulped a bottle of water.  The outside temperature was 103F (c40C). I wondered how the gold prospectors and miners coped here.  And I imagined riding through the desert on a horse (with no name) and how you would cope if your horse died.  Where I was, it was at least 20miles to the nearest house.

The desert is amazing – but it is quite lifeless in the middle of the day.

I headed back to the visitor center to have a quick look around the vegetation there and to fill a bottle or two with water – and also to use the restrooms.  As I pulled in and turned off the engine I looked at a movement in the small patch of cultivated land and there was a roadrunner.

It was walking around as though it owned the place, and in one of the places where I’d been told they ‘always’ were.  It took a few steps, partly raised its crest, raised its tail and then slowly lowered it, and took a few more steps. A roadrunner.

I’ve seen a road-runner – at last.

And what fine birds they are too.  This relative of the cuckoo is unlike anything else you have seen and it’s worth a bit of a struggle, and a bit of a wait finally to see one.

I watched my first roadrunner with interest but then whether it was the excitement of the roadrunner or the gallons of water I had drunk I remembered that I needed the rest rooms for a, you know, rest.

I kept eye contact with the roadrunner as I entered the restroom but moments later, on exiting, it was gone.  And I walked around and couldn’t relocate him.  With a stronger bladder I would have had more roadrunner but I am infinitely better off for roadrunner sightings now than I was when I woke up. I will never start another day not having seen a roadrunner.

I’ll probably see roadrunners everywhere I go now! And next is Arizona where on Wednesday evening I am giving a talk to Tucson Audubon.


10 Replies to “Finished business – blog 30”

  1. Hi Mark

    It is always the way with roadrunners. I had looked around the Tucson area for days and finally tipped up at Sabino Canyon on a Christmas Day. There on the roof of the toilet block was a Roadrunner sitting in the sun. It was a lifer but I was fortunate to see one or two in more natural habitat before I left the area.

    I hope you will be visiting Tombstone so you can get yourself printed on a wanted poster!

  2. Hi Mark,still write with interesting humorous style then.Thank goodness you have seen a roadrunner.Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip as much as the first part.

  3. Greatly enjoying your American blog Mark, including the frequent musical references – Dylan, Sinatra and America. But surely you missed a trick with the Roadrunner – no name-check of the marvellous Jonathan Richman?

    1. Mark – many thanks. I haven’t mentioned music enough on this trip, I think. Will try to rectify in the next few days.

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