A scene has been playing out daily this past week as I awake and go into the kitchen for my morning coffee. I peek out the window and see a bevy of infant quail in my garden, their mama hovering over them. The little aviary fluff-balls squeak and hop around merrily, digging their little beaks into the sand to find their buggy breakfast. There are thirteen of them. The sole adult female stands guard on the gate, then hops down into the garden for a bite or two herself. When the babies have satisfied their hunger, they scurry out the rabbit fence into the sagebrush. The mama bird, however, is quick to forget that she has wings and, in a panic, runs along the fence, pecking at the grating, throwing herself against it, trying to exit in the manner her little flock did. Eventually she remembers her flight capabilities and makes a hop over the barrier to her waiting chicks.
In addition to the adorable avians, we have a few cute cottontail rabbits who routinely visit, looking for scraps from the garden and to drink from the water dish we've put out to attract such creatures. One of these, also, is a baby bunny and hops around in circles between the water dish and the carrot scraps, as if undecided which he wants first. Once the carrots win over, he nibbles nimbly away at the stalk and orange flesh, lifting his head to look around from time to time, skiddish to any sound that will cause him to high-tail it into the brush.
We also have a fair share of roadrunners -our state bird- coming to torment Winston, the birds seemingly knowing that he is too old and unable to jump very high to pursue them, they perch on the courtyard wall and cause him to emit his "kitty chatter" and slump down in a pounce position, which never changes into an actual pounce. The roadrunner are as large as him, in any case, and he probably wouldn't have pounced even in his younger days.
These backyard wildlife viewings have suddenly, we fear, been eliminated due to a new, more beastly invasion: construction on the lot next door. We've known that a house would be built there, and we've been fortunate that in our nine years of residence in Corrales we've not had this ordeal sooner. It began with a large well-drilling truck churning up a racket on Tuesday. Wednesday brought a huge front-end loader which was noisily used to begin digging a gigantic hole, the purpose of which we can't imagine. Basements are practically non-existant in New Mexico, as are crawl spaces. No other builders in our area (that we've seen, and lots of homes have gone up since we've moved here) dig out large expanses such as this. Last night the noise blessedly stopped at about 5:20 p.m. so we started dinner and set the table outside. The moment - honestly, the very instant- I brought out the food, a worker returned to the big water truck, started up the rumbling diesel engine and proceeded to wet down the big pile of dirt. This morning, instead of the usual chirps and calls of the birds to awaken us, the whining drone of the front-end loader began at 6:40 a.m. Thank you so much.
This wouldn't be so bad (though I do dislike mechanical wake-up calls before 7:30 a.m.) were it not for the manner in which it all started. The builder staked out the lot about two weeks ago, and we winced. The stakes, indicating the position of the gigantic home to be built, also indicated that our view would be decimated. We were, naturally, disheartened and displeased. Knowing that the subdivision has covenants in place and that plans have to be submitted to an architectural committee for review, though, we waited, hoping. One of the three committee members came out to the lot with the plans and surveyed. He walked all over, from stake to stake, while consulting the builder's plans. He recommended moving the structure 20 feet south, which he said would not impact their views at all because of window orientation, but would help our views quite a bit. The builder informed him that the buyers refused. They wanted the view they wanted, and that was it. They hadn't even considered that a home was already in place behind them. Or they just didn't care. Back and forth we went with the poor committee member - a neighbor - in the middle. It looked as if the only way to preserve any semblance of a view would be to obtain an injunction and then sue. Not something we wanted to do for many reasons, including cost. Eventually the builder convinced the buyer to move the structure 10 feet south. Oh, thank you generous buyers, I say tongue-firmly-in-cheek. We're not unrealistic, we knew our view wouldn't be what it has been for nine years and that it would be partially obstructed. But the audacity to plop their monstrosity directly in front of every single one of our windows irked me tremendously. We are so looking forward to living next to these affable, neighborly people.
Our friends and family have been offering helpful advice:
"Get yourself a nice, noisy rooster."
"Put in a pig pen right on the lot line and upwind. I think Bryan would make a good pig farmer!"
"Ask the neighbors on the other side of them to erect a very high fence."
"Invite your electric guitar-playing brother for a loud visit."
All tempting suggestions.
We are anticipating five to six months of construction noise. In the meantime, we wonder what will become of our fluff-ball quail babies and bunny visitors. We rather enjoyed our backyard wildlife. I hope they're smart enough to scurry around to the front yard, where there are no gaping holes or noisy mechanical things devouring their habitat. If not, it may be rather lonely out here on the mesa. They sure have been better, friendlier neighbors than the ones moving in.
copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider