Okapis – draft illustrations for my first picture book.

I feel like someone’s watching me.
Something bright flashed in the woods.
An eyelid scrub is so refreshing!
The leaves are so-o high!
Got ’em!
Still as a stone.
Washing my ears.
Catching raindrops.

My first picture books follow the adventures of a young okapi. If you don’t know, the okapi is a relative of the giraffe that lives in the rainforests of the Congo in Africa. They have a head similar to a horse, cloven hooves, zebra stripes on their legs, and a long, prehensile tongue that they use to grab leaves. Their tongue is nearly 18 inches long and they frequently lick their eyelids and ears as part of their grooming.

Okapis are secretive and shy. They are found together only when they mate and when a female has a calf.

Their only natural predators are leopards and humans. Habitat loss has reduced their wild population size to 10,000-40,000 and they are classified as endangered.

I decided to create illustrations of some of the events in my first book and post them here.

Out and about without Scout 03/05/2017

Scout, my young American Brittany and walking companion, had better things to do today, so I walked the property alone. So sad, but look what I found! Half of a worn out, rusty horseshoe. Pretty cool. The horses were interested in what I was looking at and came over to inspect. They’re glad they don’t have to wear shoes.

Yazzie, my husband’s Rocky Mountain Horse mare.
Quincy, my paint gelding.

Out and about with Scout – 02/26/2017

Rabbit tracks in fresh snow

I have an 18-month-old American Brittany named, Scout. He’s a boy scout, not a girl scout. I take him for a run almost every morning around our 35-acre property and we see all sorts of things. Today it was the Rabbit Highway – why I worry about my wild cacti! http://nancyrileynovelist.com/?p=116

Possible bobcat tracks.

We also spotted these tracks. We think it could be a bobcat! We have observed a bobcat roaming across our land twice this winter. Pretty exciting stuff for wildlife biologists!

 

 

Do rabbits eat columnar cactus in Colorado?

Yes, rabbits eat columnar cactus in Colorado. Darn it!

Nylon hedgehog cactus in bloom.
Mountain ball cactus in bloom.
Spinystar or pincushion cactus in bloom.

 

 

 

 

 

When I moved to my current home north of Fort Collins, Colorado, in September 2015, I discovered three species of columnar or globose (round) cactus growing on our land. I found hundreds (really) of nylon hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus viridiflorus), a dozen or so mountain ball cactus (Pediocactus simpsonii), and three spinystar, pincushion, or

Colorado hookless cactus in bloom.

nipple cactus (Escobaria vivipara). I was very excited because I’d spent the previous two summers searching for another small columnar cactus, the federally threatened Colorado hookless cactus (Sclerocactus glaucus), over near Debeque, east of Grand Junction.

 

Last year, I located all these plants on my 35 acres. I flagged them, began to collect field information, I watched them grow buds and bloom. I practically named them! Then, the spring snows and rains ended and the summer heat arrived. Little moisture came with it. As summer turned to fall, my cacti began to disappear, gnawed by rabbits. One day a nibble, the next a bloody root stump left, often with a pile of droppings left as Peter Rabbit’s calling card.

Mountain ball cactus eaten by rabbit.
Same cactus two days later, looking like a bloody stump!
Colorado hookless cactus nibbled by rabbits.

 

 

 

 

 

Are there others who have suffered the same ravages to their cacti or garden plants?