This is a desert tortoise:
These are the fruit of prickly pears. Around here they are called TUNAS. Most birds and animals love them:
This video shows a desert tortoise eating a tuna. YUM!
Three weeks ago, my roving buddy and I were walking the Saguaro Discovery Trail at Tohono Chul Park looking for a nighthawk nest we had heard about. Suddenly, a lesser nighthawk erupted from the ground and flew several feet away.
We did some research and learned that nighthawks usually lay two eggs. The chicks are semi-precocial, meaning that they can move about after they are hatched, but depend on parental care till they fledge, 17 days later. How can almost-helpless baby birds survive 17 days on the hot desert floor? The answer is that they are invisible!
These two amazing photos were taken by photographer John Durham and are used with his permission. He took them in the Altar Valley, somewhat southwest of Tucson.
This morning, standing at the kitchen window at dawn, I saw a cluster of four white-winged doves on the wall. At first I thought it was two adults feeding two chicks, but then realized it was one extremely patient adult feeding THREE very demanding chicks. I finally sorted it out, and believe it was mama or papa, two recently-fledged chicks, and one nearly full-grown chick from the previous clutch. I’ve always known white-wingeds were good parents, but had no idea they would continue to feed a fledgling until it was nearly full grown!
I do not have pictures of the incident, but here are nestling doves in the carport from a previous year.
These homely little guys will grow up to look like this beauty:
I love late spring in the Sonoran Desert. There is so much beauty now. Here are three things in particular that I look forward to from year to year, and cherish every second that they are here:
1. Palo Verde trees in bloom. Throughout the city of Tucson and in the surrounding desert, everywhere you look there is a sea of yellow blossoms.
2. White-winged doves on saguaros. The beautiful white-winged dove spends the winter in Mexico, then flies up here in springtime to feed on saguaro blossoms and fruit. The most iconic image of the Sonoran desert is a white-winged dove atop a saguaro. (In this photo the dove is accompanied by a Gila woodpecker and a bee.)
3. Baby Gambel’s quail. These adorable little guys start showing up in April and provide continuing entertainment and beauty well into summer.