Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snakes and quails

First, I haven’t done an exact head count, but there are a gazillion quails roosting in the front these days. I have definitely seen some—smaller ones—flying into the pyracantha bush to the right of the front porch as you face it (the dorm tree is on the left). I guess I’ll start thinking of the pyracantha as the dorm annex.

KL Snake CU crop 10-28-2009 6-24-55

Second, just had to post this photo from Geezergarten yesterday. This is a beautiful Common King Snake, the exact type of snake I have around my house, and about the same size as the one (presumably) that shed its skin on my back porch on Sunday.

Some of the other students were afraid of the snakes, so we had lots of practice handling them. Me—I was thrilled. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this snake.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More from Geezergarten

At lunchtime, I took this photo of a very small desert spiny lizard sunning himself. He has such great protective coloration that you may not be able to see him:Where's the lizard 10-21-2009 5-21-05 AM 1817x1340

I also photographed a very calm male Costa’s hummingbird that allowed me to point my camera within a few inches of him:

Gorgeous Costa CU

I also got a photo of a crestate barrel cactus. The crest at the top is the result of a genetic mutation.

Crestate Barrel 10-17-2009 2-22-04 AM 1406x1459

Quick quail update: a cold front blew through two nights ago. Just at sunset I heard a big racket from the front yard and looked out to see about twenty quail  squabbling and chasing each other. Eventually they all started flying into the tree, flying out, flying into the pyracantha bush, flying out. I assume they got it all sorted out, but I didn’t see how and I didn’t get a head count.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Alien abduction

Today in Geezergarten, we got to watch a rattlesnake in the exhibit area. This was a large diamondback that had been caught in the Park and will be let go after it shows off a bit more. Our facilitator kept the snake in line with snake tongs, and you could see it was terrified. It spent almost the whole time (at least half an hour) rattling and alternately trying to escape, striking at the snake tongs, and rising up in a defensive posture as the picture shows:

Alien abduction 10-21-2009 7-32-44 AM 2304x1728 I imagine that this was like an alien abduction to the rattlesnake, surrounded by a dozen giant warm-blooded creatures, repeatedly approached by one of the creatures, and menaced by an instrument that didn’t yield when he struck it. Oh, the tales he’ll have for the other rattlers. And speaking of tails, here’s a close-up showing his, striped, with an impressive set of rattles:

Rattle 10-21-2009 7-27-00 AM 1345x941

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tohono Chul Critters

I have attended presentations about reptiles and a captive Harris Hawk (rehabilitated, but can’t be released to the wild). Here is the hawk, Sueno:

Sueno closeup 10-14-2009 4-56-09 AM 2304x1728 Sueno on Glove 10-14-2009 4-54-35 AM 1099x1659 She is a gorgeous bird.

The snake below is a hognosed snake, the one that plays dead by lying on its back:

Hognosed snake 10-9-2009 3-24-50 AM 2304x1728

…and a coach-whip snake. The coach-whip can grow to be nine feet long, and is fast-moving, with bubble-gum pink coloration:

Coach-whip CU 10-9-2009 3-29-35 AM 711x399

And finally, a molting Gila monster, the only venomous lizard:

Molting Gila Monster 10-9-2009 3-46-09 AM 1603x714

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I’m going back to school. Yesterday was my first day studying to be a docent at Tohono Chul Park (, a beautiful desert botanical garden near where we live.

The training is very rigorous and time consuming—basically all day Wednesday and a few hours the rest of the week. Yesterday was my first day, and it was so much fun! I learned a few interesting things, including the fact that international taxonomy rules have changed quite a lot since I last studied zoology in the sixties. These days some experts think birds (Aves) should be a subdivision of snakes (Reptilia). I partly like that, since it acknowledges that birds descended from dinosaurs, but I also think it disses birds.

In other news… Sundial 10-7-2009 7-31-07 AM 2304x1728 Cement horned toad 10-7-2009 5-33-31 AM 1575x772 Education garden 10-7-2009 5-34-05 AM 2304x1728 the Docent Emperor told me that the reason I saw no pack rat nests is that they live-trap and kill all packrats they find in the park. I understand, but am a little creeped out.  Above, pictures from gardens near the education center, including a cement horned toad and a very elaborate sundial.

Quick Update

It’s fall! It’s cool! The white wing doves have all gone to Mexico! The baby quails are all grown! My only remaining problem is the nectar-eating bats, which have been draining my hummer feeders nightly. But this morning the two feeders I leave out still had a little fluid in them, so I think the bats are pretty well on their way to Mexico too. Yay!