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Desert walks and hikes are always a joy, but I’ve always been surprised by how few animals we see when we’re out in the wild. For sure we can count on the gila woodpeckers and the cactus wren, but what about the larger and more exotic animals?

I have yet to see a bobcat, though I know they’re all over. The only javelina I’ve seen have been at a golf course, of all places. I would think I was in heaven if I caught a glimpse of a mountain lion, but as they can want as much as 200 square miles of territory, that’s unlikely to happen. Even the ubiquitous coyotes are far more visible in our neighborhood than out in the desert.

Why? Today the answer suddenly occurred to me – it’s not that the animals aren’t there, probably; it’s that we just don’t see them. They are masters of camouflage. What brought this to my attention was watching a roadrunner approach our house today. Here’s what he looks like:

Can’t see him? Don’t feel bad, I couldn’t either when I first looked at the picture. Maybe this will help:

It’s still hard to make out what this jokester looks like. Here’s another shot of him taken when he crossed the road. (Why did he cross the road, you ask? But you already know the answer!)

Amusing as they are in appearance, roadrunners are actually not very nice birds. They’re carnivores, and are quick enough to eat rattlesnakes (I’d love to see that show – but then, I’m still waiting to see a rattle snake in the desert, or a roadrunner in the desert, for that matter). What they do to their unwanted runt hatchlings is not a fit topic for a general interest blog.

So maybe it’s not that the animals aren’t there – it’s just that I’m not clever enough to see them.  For me it’s too bad they wear cloaks of invisibility; but for them it’s probably for the best.