Fate of the Newborn

January 10, 2011

This is a follow-up to a post I made in June about a newborn from the Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA that I was privileged to photograph the day he was born. (That story is here: https://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/the-newborn/

Below are a couple of photos from that memorable day.

We went back the very next day to see if we could find the baby and check on his condition. And once again, we were lucky enough to find the family, almost in the same location. The little guy appeared to be doing just fine.

The mare is ultra wary with a newborn at her side.

He was nursing and all appeared to be going well

As I was watching the little one, the band stallion (my favorite from Piceance Creek) approached me, snorting and tossing his head in an attempt to keep me from getting too close. I did not want to stress any member of this family so we didn’t stay long and we kept our distance. Afterall, all I wanted to do was see that the new youngster was doing well and he was. We decided it was a good time to head home.

Stay safe mama and little one!

About a mile down the road from the horses, I saw a ridge of swallow nests that I wanted to take a closer look at. There I found what has to be the most bizzare thing I’ve ever encountered in a horse range (so far anyway).

Not a swallow, but either a Pine or Mourning Warbler that was feeding near the outcropping.

And here it is - what in the world is this creature doing in what I assumed were swallow nests?! I call him Willard since he looks like a scary rat-like rodent. There's even a little foot sticking out. Just down-right creepy and bizarre.

I called Tom over just to confirm what I was seeing. He was just as bewildered as I was. So, we started looking around the area. We spotted an entrance with tracks (no idea from what) inside the rocks and then this pile of debris and bones. What kind of animal lives here?!

Well, the eerie find gave us lots to wonder and theorize about as we drove home. Ah the things we come across in the horse ranges…

On successive trips to Piceance Creek throughout the summer, we were never able to find the wild horse family with the newborn again. Frustrating, but it happens.

Tom and I took about 10 days in September to go out to several of the horse ranges that were scheduled for roundups (including Piceance Creek) since we figured it would be our last chance to see many of the horses we’d documented over the years. Of course I was focused on this elusive band as we entered Piceance Creek on the first day of our trip. I just HAD to see them again.

We were coming down one of the roads that led to where we had spotted the newborn in May when we heard a terrible noise underneath the Jeep followed by loud hissing. What the heck?! We stopped and I looked out my window at the rear tire as the air was rushing out. We were now sitting on the wheel. I had just purchased these new, more durable tires! Not a good way to start our vacation I thought to myself.

Tom and I got out and walked down the road a ways to try to figure out what we’d run into (most likely a bungee cord or something similar), but we never found a thing. Tom unloaded the back of the Jeep (the spare is in a storage compartment inside the vehicle) and went about changing the tire (which had an irreparable cut across the tread we found out later).

Well, at least the weather was beautiful and we still had light. Just an inconvenience we decided.

Since Tom had things under control, I started looking around. We had been waylayed right next to a meadow full of wild horses – it doesn’t get much better than that if you have to be stranded somewhere! I got my camera out and scanned the bands.

Bummer – they’re not in this bunch. But wait, there’s some more horses over to the right.

And there they were – the pretty mare and the handsome gray stallion. I continued to scan the band, but pretty quickly it became apparent that the mare’s foal was not among them. My heart sank a little, but I decided to stay positive until I could get closer. Little ones can be hard to see if they’re laying down.

As I was searching through my lens, I noticed the stallion trot off. I followed him with my camera.

Where are you off to boy?

I also like the younger, darker gray stallion that “Handsome” is checking out. I’ve seen him a few times while out in this HMA. I’ve wondered if they’re related they’re so similar.

There's a little posturing and squeeling between them, but nothing too dramatic.

And, as quickly as they came together, the encounter ends and they go their separate ways.

And then something set the bands off and they all started to run.

Still no foal with the pretty mare.

Once again, the handsome gray stallion goes after his look alike.

More squeeling and flying hooves.

“Handsome’s” band watches the exchange (and me) from a safe distance.

Tom finished changing the tire and we continued down the road to the other side of the meadow where I could hike out to the bands and get on the right side of the light.

This little guy startled me when he popped out as I started out towards the horses.

The first band I passed included the dark dappled gray stallion that was causing such a ruckus with Handsome. He’s a satellite/secondary stallion to the dark bay band stallion pictured below.

As he watches me come closer, the dark gray runs towards his band.

Good looking boy.

But the band stallion doesn’t appreciate his close proximity to the mares.

Even though he had just chased him off, the band stallion allows the gray to come back to the band, but he’s made his point about the younger stallion’s status.

I knew I might spook a cow that was in the path I needed to follow to continue up the meadow to Handsome’s band, but I hoped she’d keep her cool and not send the bands running again. No such luck however.

The horses scatter as the cow runs from me.

With her calf right behind her.

I love the horse's natural curiosity. The band didn't go far before they turned to watch me.

I finally made my way to Handsome’s band. This is a very pretty little mare too (she looks young to me) with her cute stud colt.

At this point, I've assumed the newborn didn't make it, but at least there are 2 healthy foals left to carry on the genes.

Such a stately stallion. Love this guy.

Without a youngster at her side, the pretty mare is much more willing to come closer and check me out.

I wondered if she recognized me from previous trips and I wondered if she could sense how sorry I was about her baby. She worked her way even closer and seemed genuinely intrigued.

She came close enough for a lovely portrait.

The handsome stallion is not comfortable having one of his mares so interested in me.

And he moves her away.

His actions towards the pretty mare are what make him a great stallion. He protects his band members from danger.

He keeps himself between me and the mare.

She glances over at me again and I wave good-bye.

I pack up my camera and turn to leave. I try to replace the feeling of loss with a more positive thought – the hope that the pretty mare is already carrying next year’s newborn.

(Click on the images for a larger/sharper views)

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23 Responses to “Fate of the Newborn”

  1. John Stoj Says:

    Very interesting to seem through the years… Thanks for sharing the fruits of your hard work… Looking forward to more of your very interesting photos.

  2. Maggie Says:

    You sure do tell a story with your pictures.
    Sad about the grey mare’s foal – but I guess this happens often – the way they live their lives.
    Beautiful horses – and what a strange creature by the swallow nests! Very weird.
    Did you happen to see the report CNN did on the wild horses – it was a pretty good one altho way too short – hopefully it will make more people aware.
    Thanks again, Pam

  3. Helen Ellis Says:

    Your stories with pictures certainly tug at my heart strings as I will never be able to understand WHY anyone would want to harm such beautiful gifts from god. The horses are in such perfect condition without the intervention of man made feed. Such beautiful beautiful pictures…… Thank you for allowing us to share them with you xxx

  4. I really enjoyed following this one, Pam. Help me out here, are these the horses in holding in Canon City at this time. And if yes, can you identify the stallion and the mare or anybody on these photos vs. the photos from Canon City Holding??? Some of which are going to Judy Barnes I believe, some who will be used in the Ft. Collins Makeover in June?

  5. pnickoles Says:

    Thank you for your interest and kind words John! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hi Maggie – I had really hoped to follow the little one from birth on, but sadly, not all the wild babies make it. I wish someone would tell me what that creature in the swallow nest is. Too weird. I did see the CNN special and it’s a good start.

  6. pnickoles Says:

    Thank you Helen for your kind words. These horses are truly in wonderful condition. They’re amazing.

    Hi Gabriele – I did not see any of these horses at Canon City (thank goodness). It was my understanding that most of the horses rounded up in Piceance Creek were in a more northern location than these guys.

  7. sandra longley Says:

    big Ben the beautiful bay stallion from this HMA is going to Judys with 10-12 adobe town stallions and 60 mares, all are older SA horses. scheduled for jan 20 & 21-nothing is certain until they get on the semi, we cannot pick the mares, but we have hand picked the stallions wanting to get as many old stallions to live out their last years in the wild and then 6 band stallions

  8. Jan Says:

    So sad to hear the young one didn’t make it. But, yes, positive thoughts for new Babe for this mare.

    That critter in the Swallow nest? Hope you get an answer…but it won’t be from me!! Looks like a lizard of sorts, tho! Interesting to find out what lives in that pile of bones, too!

    ~ Jan

  9. Rene Says:

    Pam, Craig looked at the strange creature and immediately said “it’s an old possum”. I don’t know about that (!), but it sure is an odd creature and its den is pretty good size.

    Loved the story and accompanying pictures of this trip and sad loss of the foal. I believe that mare did understand your sadness…. and your hope. What a gorgeous, healthy band of wild horses!

  10. Dona Hilkey Says:

    Pam, I enjoyed your post and photos. I know this band of horses! I saw and photographed them in early November and again on Nov. 15th. The rodent skull and nest probably belong to a Bushy-tailed Woodrat,Neotoma cinerea, or Packrat as they are usually called around here. They are cute little rodents. As a birder I love your warbler photos. It is a MacGillvray’s Warbler.

  11. TJ Says:

    Always too bad about the loss of a foal, but my goodness, what gorgeous horses! Really striking.

  12. DianneC Says:

    The odd assortment of things makes me think it was a pack rat. I’ve heard that each generation keeps adding things and there is some way to date how old the nest is. Might have been bitten by a snake and made it to where you found it before dying.

  13. Kim Michels Says:

    The story you did in June of the newborn was so beautiful. I was in ahh of the moment you had photographing the beautiful mare with her newborn. I looked at those photos for days. I’m glad you did a follow up.

  14. Karen Says:

    Great follow up Pam. I like the Handsome stallion. The herd dynamics and the way they move always fascinates me. Your odd creature with the big nest could be a Pack Rat. Nocturnal rodent creatures that we have in AZ and quiet a few at my NM place. Wonderful photos, thanks for taking me on your adventure!

  15. Linda Horn Says:

    Beautiful images of nature as it is. The foal may no longer be a part of the physical world, but I believe it’s spirit lives on – woven back into the fabric of the universe.

  16. Linda Horn Says:

    Even the skull has it’s own strange beauty.

    I agree it’s a rat. Fits not only the shape, but also the postion, proportion, and angle of the canines. Rats are prodigious climbers that often raid bird’s nests.

  17. Forest Horse Says:

    Thanks for these wonderous reports from our beautiful country.

  18. r a worden Says:

    I don’t know but I’m happy the baby is not around. Who knows. What terrors man will throw his way had he lived. You have talent at story telling and I was with you completely. The beauty of the horses makes it hard to take a bad picture. They look so healthy. Amazing.

  19. Joy Nichols Says:

    Beautiful horses hope they stay safe.

  20. Roxy Says:

    Pam, absolutley wonderfull story and pictures – except the absense of the baby – but that is nature.

    Thank you as always for such inspiration!

  21. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks for all your kind comments.

    Of course, a pack rat makes perfect sense! ๐Ÿ™‚

    It is sad about the loss of the newborn, but like some of you said, it’s nature. While I had hoped to be able to follow the little guy from birth, it just wasn’t meant to be. The others horses look good though, as do the remaining foals.

    Thanks Dona for letting me know you saw these horses recently and for the correct bird identification. I just have a book to look at and sometimes the different birds look too much alike.

    I appreciate all your thoughts and input! ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Mustangsrunwild Says:

    Thank you for your story, loved it and tears – it is almost like she was talking to you about her loss.

  23. pnickoles Says:

    Thank you Mustangsrunwild. I appreciate you taking the time to write. ๐Ÿ™‚

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