Arroyo search for our Baja birds

 

Our friends Bill and Kay said they wanted to do a trip up the arroyo so away we went!  We are always happy to get out and look for our Baja birds and wildlife!

Of course, when we take an arroyo ride, we are looking for a lot more than just birds.  I always have my eye out for the beautiful San Lucan Rock Lizard which I always have to snap several shots of.  There are plenty of them out right now and if you haven’t seen them, they are a real treat of natural beauty.

San Lucan Lizard

San Lucan Rock Lizard

This species is endemic to Mexico, where it has been recorded from the islands of Espiritu Santo and Partida Sur in the Gulf of California, and from the Cape Region of the Baja California peninsula.

This species is generally associated with rocky areas, but animals can sometimes also be found in upland wooded areas in the Sierra La Laguna.  It is an abundant species that is commonly seen in its preferred habitat.

It is an abundant species that is commonly seen in its preferred habitat and its population trend is stable.

The rain that we have had here in Baja (and continue to have!) has been advantageous to the animals that roam.  All of them are bulging from the rewards.  We came upon a pack of donkeys on the side of the arroyo, heading upwards.  Now, I’m not an aficionado of donkeys so I’m left wondering….donkey?  Mule?  Which is it? So, I will share some of my research with you.  If you don’t think this is a donkey, please comment below.

Donkey

Donkey

Horse + Donkey = Mule

by Morris Helmig & Sybil E. Sewell

A mule combines the traits of its horse dam and donkey sire to create a new animal with its own distinctive characteristics. Here are the notable differences between horses, donkeys, and mules.

Head—A donkey’s head is larger than that of a horse, as is evidenced by its need for a bridle with a larger browband than is required for a horse or pony of comparable size. Donkey owners like to point out that this characteristic indicates a larger brain capacity, and therefore greater intelligence. The head of a mule or hinny is larger than the head of a horse of comparable size.

Ears—A donkey’s ears are longer than those of the horse and have an excellent blood supply, which is a desert adaptation for cooling the body. A mule’s ears are inherited from the donkey, but are not quite as long as the donkey’s. A hinny’s ears are shorter than those of a donkey, but are much wider.

Eyes—A donkey’s eyes are larger in proportion to the head than those of a horse. Donkeys and mules have heavier eye sockets set farther out on the side of the head, resulting in a wider field of vision than the horse has. The horse’s eye sockets are round, the donkey’s are D-shaped. The mule’s eye sockets are somewhat D-shaped, as seen in male (horse) mules with heavy brow ridges.

Tail—The donkey has a cow-like tail covered by short coarse body hair, except for a tuft at the end. The horse’s thick, long tail is inherited by the mule, but the mule’s tail hair is coarse like a donkey’s rather than fine like a horse’s, and the top is not as full as a horse’s tail. The hinny’s tail is more like that of a donkey.

Chestnuts (Ergots)—The donkey has chestnuts on the front legs, but only rarely on the hind legs, where you would find them on a horse. Like the donkey, a mule or hinny rarely has chestnuts on the hind legs.

Hoof—A donkey’s hooves are more elastic, tougher, smaller, rounder, and upright compared to those of a horse. Mules and hinnies inherit the donkey’s hoof characteristics, but to a lesser degree—not quite as upright, small, or tough. Like the donkey, the mule needn’t be shod unless the animal is regularly worked in rocky terrain.

Skeleton—The donkey’s spinal column lacks the fifth lumbar vertebrae (loin area) normally found in the horse. The donkey’s pelvis is higher, steeper, and less broad than a horse’s, due to the longer length and steeper angle of the upper hip bones. The donkey’s croup is therefore less round or broad than a horse’s croup. Most (but not all) mules have the horse’s fifth lumbar vertebrae and the donkey’s short croup, and may or may not have the horse’s muscling. Overall size is governed by the dam, although offspring may grow taller than either parent.

Coat—The donkey’s coat is longer and coarser than that of a horse. The donkey lacks the horse’s protective undercoat and is therefore more susceptible to climatic conditions such as rain, wet snow, and wind, but the donkey is insulated from heat and cold by air pockets between its longer hairs. The mule’s or hinny’s coat is fine in summer, like a horse’s, but coarse in winter, like a donkey’s. Coat color tends to be like the dam’s.

Voice—Each mule or hinny makes a distinctive sound that might be described as a cross between the donkey’s bray and the horse’s whinny.

Reproduction—The donkey is more prepotent [high in its ability to transmit certain characteristics to its offspring] but less fertile than the horse. It has 50% to 60% conception rate, compared to the horse’s average of 60% to 65%. The conception rate for mares carrying mule foals is about same as for horse foals, but for jennets carrying hinny foals the rate drops to about 25%.

Compared to a gestation period of 11 months for the horse, the donkey’s gestation period averages 12 months, but may vary between 11 and 14 months. The gestation period for a hybrid foal is usually intermediate between the parent species. Production of twins, although rare, is more frequent among donkeys than among horses.

The mule is a sterile hybrid, yet occasionally a mare mule will be fertile. The difference between the numbers of chromosomes in the cells of the donkey (62 chromosomes; 31 pairs) and the horse (64 chromosomes; 32 pairs) results in a mule or hinny with 63 chromosomes. This odd number is responsible for mule’s sterility—the donkey and horse chromosomes are unable to form matched pairs during the early stages of conception, resulting in the death of the reproductive cells.

Intelligence—The donkey is more intelligent than the horse, but its instincts give it a different behavior pattern that is often mistaken for stubbornness. A frightened donkey won’t, for example, bolt in panic like a horse will. The donkey is instead more likely to stop and carefully study the situation before determining the best course of action. Like the donkey, the mule or hinny is highly intelligent and has a well-developed instinct for self-preservation.

Longevity—A lifespan of 30 to 50 years is common for a donkey. Horses average 25 to 30 years. Thanks to hybrid vigor, mules and hinnies may live 30 to 40 years (and sometimes up to 50), with a comparably longer working life than that of a horse.

We really didn’t come across that much wildlife on this trip up the arroyo but we are always intrigued at what we do see.  We are always looking no matter where we are.  Our friends want to know why we drive so slow!  We are looking for our Baja birds and any other Baja wildlife we may be so privileged to see.

On our way back to our casa, I (Chris normally spots first but I beat him on this one!) happened to spot this pair of Harris’s Hawks.  We have seen them, or maybe their offspring, in the area for quite a while.  Bill and Kay missed them as they had headed back earlier.

Harris's Hawks

Harris’s Hawks

So now, I’m wondering…what is the lifespan of the Harris’s Hawk?  In my research, this  is what I found.  I’ll give you the Wiki link first: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harris’s_Hawk.

Harris's Hawk

Harris’s Hawk

And I did find this information regarding their life span:         The oldest recorded life span of a wild Harris Hawk is 12 years and 7 months. However over 25 years has been recorded in captivity.

This is not a great shot but, it still shows his or her?magnificence.  I hope we see them here for many more years to come.

So, that concludes my bird blog for today but I hope you enjoy the other jewels we saw too and….don’t forget to slow down and see the beautiful birds and wildlife of Baja!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

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