Sunday, August 29, 2004

August 29, 2004

A number of random nature notes:

The monsoon is over. It might get a bit moist and rain again, but basically all the tropical moisture has cleared out and moved back south. The good part is that we have gone back to using the evaporative cooler, which is way more comfortable than air conditioning. The bad part is that there was practically no rain this summer, and it’s hot again—around 100 during the afternoon. But dry, which is a blessing.

About a week ago, I noticed a sahuaro blooming on the River Walk. I can’t imagine what it is thinking. All its compatriots long ago finished blooming and fruiting.

Last week a beautiful male phaenopepla perched in the ocotillo just outside the pond, then flew in to drink from the pond. The first one I have seen. I’ve also seen goldfinches drinking from the waterfall part of the pond. And this morning a gorgeous red dragonfly hovered over the pond, possibly thinking it is a real riparian area and looking for something to eat.

A male Virden who likes to drink from the hummingbird feeder recently installed outside my office window repeatedly flies into the window, apparently attracted by the reflective glass. He doesn’t seem to hurt himself, but it’s hard to understand why he doesn’t just give up.

And finally, arachnophobia: last night when we came home late, we almost stepped on a tarantula in the carport near the door. A broom swiftly moved the spider to the other end of the carport, but the first thing I saw when I entered the kitchen was another tarantula on the floor. It was only a little one, but it freaked me out. I think they are cool, but I don’t want them in my kitchen! This one was removed to the outside with the help of a dish and a broom.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

August 17, 2004

We’ve made a few changes around the pond. I bought several small plants, which I hope to actually put into the ground soon, and also put up a new feeder on a pvc pipe. The feeder holds fruit and whatever I want to put in a small dish beneath the fruit holder. I could use jelly, but at present am putting in a gross concoction from the bird store called “Nuts ‘n Bugs,” which consists of ground-up flies and pecans, bound together with suet. Birds love it. They would probably be baffled by my love of ice cream.

Anyway, the plan is to attract mockingbirds, but so far only cactus wrens and finches seem interested. (I have also seen goldfinches drinking from the pond).

Yesterday I watched a male pyrrhuloxia bathe in the pond. He looked really scruffy when he was through. Just now a little sparrow is taking a dust bath next to the pond in a small hollow that the birds have created for themselves.

Among the new plants is a beautiful pink hibiscus that I hope not to kill. A chipmunk has been interested in it all day. He has eaten the stem-ends of fallen blossoms and keeps returning in hopes of being able to scale the pot and get to the still-blooming blossoms. I half-expect him to show up with a little ladder.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

August 10, 2004

It continues to rain everywhere but here. Last night coming home from a meeting we saw puddles everywhere. This morning even more puddles—the Riverwalk was soaked. When I checked our rain gauge later, however, there wasn’t even enough water in it to shake out. Less than a trace!

Two new nature notes: the barrel cactus are blooming everywhere. We have quite a few on our property, and the blooms are lovely—a kind of deep apricot. The little pincushion cacti in the front yard seem to have disappeared, perhaps victims of the pack rat removal team.

And the most exciting news in weeks: this morning while having coffee out on the porch I thought I heard a mockingbird. Later on, from the office, I saw one perched on the back fence around the pond. A few minutes ago I saw it again, this time on the near fence. It seems to have a slight deformity on its right breast, but it flies okay. I don’t know if it was attracted by the sliced grapefruit I hung in the palo verde tree, but I’m going to put more fruit out just in case. I hope this beautiful mockingbird is the harbinger of many to come.

It’s been very hot the last few days. It’s fun to watch my “riparian paradise” through the heat of the day and see that for so many birds it really is a haven, a place to eat, bathe, take a dust-bath, or just laze in the bits of shade. Just what I wanted for it!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

August 7, 2004

Still nothing doing with the monsoon—around here. However, it is raining like crazy all around Tucson. There was a very big rainstorm in the Vail area the other night, which we discovered yesterday morning when we went out to the river to walk, and were shocked to see water actually flowing in it! Had to be quite a lot of water for so much action this far west. It turned out some women were nearly drowned the night before while trying to cross the Pantano Wash out by Harrison. A woman had gone to pick up her friend at the airport. The wash crossing was dry. Forty-five minutes later, on the way home in the dark, they ran into a wall of water and were swept out of their car (along with the woman’s dog). Luckily, everyone survived with only bruises. The woman who got picked up at the airport had had a very bad day; on top of everything else, the airline lost her luggage.

Around here, pond is still full of algae. I put a little algaecide in, after emailing the company that makes it. They promise it is not toxic. We’ll see if the small amount works.

<>And a very sad note: yesterday morning I saw a round, fat bird I couldn’t quite identify sitting on the fence by the pond. His one-note cry seemed vaguely familiar. I realized who he was when a male cardinal came to the fence to feed him. It was a baby cowbird. This would be a case when I might WANT some toxic water.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

August 5, 2004

I haven’t had too much time to observe nature in the backyard—been too busy observing nature in the house with our two new kittens. Anyway, a brief update: the monsoon has so far been a bust. Less than an inch total at the airport, and probably even less here (my new rain gauge has hardly gotten any work at all). It’s humid, the clouds build up, and then nothing happens. A friend of mine has described this nonfunctional sort of monsoon as “the dry heaves.” The sunsets, however, have been glorious.

For the last four days, Mr. Pack Rat and sons have been trapping pack rats and removing and sanitizing nests. Also rat-proofing the structures they had lived in, like the workbench in the carport and the shed behind it. This morning they are back at work, in the back of the house, where the cactus is really thick. Most of the rats had been trapped. When I went to add water to the spa, I noticed that the trap by the heater contained a very young, very scared pack rat. I was able to get a close look at it. It was sandy-colored, with dark shoe-button eyes and a shortish little quivering nose. It was actually very cute, about half the size of the one I’d seen in the workbench. A little bigger than our youngest kitten. (My husband did not think it was cute.) Much less scary-looking than Norwegian rats.

The poor little thing will soon be euthanized, with gas, but I’m sure that’s much better than bleeding internally for several days from rat poison.

Our spa is so gunked with algae we’re paying someone to clean it. I’m not sure what to do about the pond. Still thinking about that one. I haven’t seen any new interesting birds or bugs for several days, but I’m sure they’re around. That is one of the great things about living up here. I’m beginning to understand why foothills living has always been touted as so desirable. Another thing is that the sky and the views are way more spacious—every time I walk out in the yard, or drive to or from the house, I see breathtaking beauty, whether it’s clouds and cloud shadows on the mountains, or a sunlit pastel desertscape. I am a very blessed person, packrats, scorpions, and all.