There is nothing like first hand observation to provide a naturalist with new astonishing information. In my last column for another publication I wrote about gophers in the abstract, and two days later Hector made his first appearance. I noted the hole that appeared one morning with some curiosity but I never expected to meet its owner. While standing at the window one morning (I lose amazing amounts of time here watching birds, the river, soaking in the subtlety of the winter scrub, red willows, flying geese, ducks, egrets, and soaring eagles) a small russet brown head popped out of a hole in a cleared area. The rodent perused his immediate surroundings and then disappeared. I have just met my immediate neighbor, a gopher, I thought excitedly, as the name Hector flashed through my mind. I didn’t know then that friend Iren loved the name Hector! Of course, I have no idea whether Hector is a male or female but I trust the part of me that might know…
Hector is a most fascinating neighbor. Soon after I put seed and cracked corn out in the early sometimes pre-dawn hours he appears. Every morning he re -opens the hole he closes at the end of each feeding day (which here ends around noon because by then the birds and Hector have devoured the day’s ration of food). Just why he feels the need to close his door after the food is gone remains a mystery to me, unless he is irritated by the sparrows who sometimes peer down into his abode, no doubt looking for food too! Yesterday I noticed that a couple of birds actually snuggled into the orifice Hector had created – maybe for warmth? I recalled that gophers are very territorial.
This morning I didn’t awaken until after dawn. When I went outdoors to scatter seed there were five new holes in the same area. Hector had obviously opened one door and when he found nothing edible he descended into his cavern of tunnels and created new doors to the surface to scout around for seed! At least that’s my theory.
As soon as I came in around 7:30 AM I went to the window and there was Hector pulling down sunflower seed and cracked corn into his favored tunnel as fast as he could! Today is a bonus day because in addition to bird food I also sprinkle my dove’s food outdoors recycling Lily b’s left overs. Hector has been busy storing goodies all morning!
After the flock of blackbirds arrived things took a turn for the worse because now the ground is picked clean and it’s only 11AM. Hector has already closed down one of his entrances (his favorite), and I am anxious to see what he does with the others. I still try to imagine what it must be like to have a burrow that snakes its way through the earth six feet deep and can extend up to 5000 feet in length. I would like to believe that Hector sleeps under the Trailercita snuggled into his gopher nest somewhere below us.
(We need to be mindful that all gophers do so much good because they keep the desert soil aerated allowing precious moisture to be absorbed)
Clearly, living with a gopher is a source of ongoing amazement to me. I am always wondering what Hector might do next!