Monday, March 28, 2005

March 28, 2005
Just a quickie: this morning I saw a BRIGHT ORANGE finch out by the pond. He looked like a house finch, but was orange instead of red. I looked him up in the bird book, and discovered that orange is a normal variant. In all these years of watching, this is the first one I've seen.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 24
Spring continues to burgeon; blossoms to blossom. It is exciting to look at all the plants around the house and watch them burst forth. When we moved in most of the main blooming was over, so it's all new and fun. I don't know what a lot of the plants are. I have some kind of bulbs about to bloom, I think. I hope they're irises.

Random nature notes: our #2 cat was very interested in something on the kitchen counter yesterday morning. I assumed it was a roach, which seemed to be hiding under the telephone. I moved the phone and found a rather large scorpion. Large is good--it's the little bitty guys that are most venomous, but it freaked me out. My hands were shaking. Gotta get used to these incidents now that I live in the desert!

Cardinals and pyrrhuloxia continue to flock to the cardinal feeder. The seeds deplete rapidly. This morning I found one reason why: at least one clever finch has figured out how to operate it! The door on the feeder is restrained by a weight that lets it slide down to reveal the feeding hole. It's set exactly for birds of cardinal/pyrrhuloxia size. A dove, which is heavier, would cause the door to slide down too far. A finch is lighter, and causes the door to slide down not far enough. But the enterprising finch I watched this morning had figured out that if she shifts her weight on the perch, the door swings out far enough for her to stick her head between the door and the feeder and grab a seed! (Her beak isn't strong enough to open the seed, but that's another story.)

I saw a second finch watching the first and try the same thing, but this one didn't get the trick and instead pecked futilely at the plastic.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

March 9, 2005
Yesterday we went on a hike behind Picacho Peak, a state park about forty miles north of Tucson that is the site of the only Civil War battle ever fought in Arizona. Apart from its historical significance, Picacho is renowned for its wildflower displays.

We saw everything yesterday: brittle bush, lupine, poppies, phocelia, tackstem, twist, globe mallow (the pink kind), and a gazillian yellow, pink, and magenta flowers that weren't in the wildflower book. I took several digital photos, and will try to figure out how to post them here.

It was a gorgeous day, blue skies and around seventy degrees, and except for a few planes it really felt like "being out in the desert." In addition to the wildflower, we also saw:
  • A white goat with a black face at the top of one of the ridges. We were told he is a domestic goat who escaped, and has evaded capture for three years. He seems to be very happy trotting around on the ridge top and foraging in the desert scrub. I'm assuming that he has reverted to an ancestral state. I hope a female goat escapes sometime and joins him.
  • A white bird! We do not know what this was, as we weren't able to get a really good look at it, but its body shape and habits seemed very finchlike, so we concluded that it is an albino or leucistic house finch. I tried to get a picture of it, but don't think I succeeded.
Not too many other birds visible, but it was midday and already feeling hot. I know summer will be coming soon enough, but I'm really loving the spring.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

March 2
The Scott's Oriole is back today. I just saw him first at the fruit feeder, eating fruit, then at one of the hummer feeders--one that isn't accessible to orioles--trying in vain to feed, and then in the pond, taking a good long bath. He is so gorgeous! Shiny ebony and bright lemon yellow. I hope his wife comes by one of these days. I'd like to get to know these guys better. I occasionally got orioles at the old house--hooded and Bullock's, mostly--but they never stuck around.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

March 1
I love it when birds look exactly like their pictures in my bird book. I just had a beautiful male Scott's Oriole on the fence behind the bird pond. According to the map, he's up here for breeding season. I wish him great luck--preferably in my back yard, so I can watch his babies grow up. (I've never seen baby orioles, to my knowledge).

The spate of rain stopped and everything is lovely now--blue skies, high sixties to low seventies, a few puffy clouds, the air clear and the mountains every shade of lavender. Everything in my back yard is fixing to bloom, except the new citrus trees.Even the "dead" ocotillo out behind the pond is putting out leaves, and it practically never does. The others all have orange flowers already.

Out in front of the house, the brittle bush is starting to bloom. The desert zinnias have been flowering for a few days. A bunch of other stuff is coming up, but I don't know if it will turn out to be wildflowers or "weeds." Which is also what wildflowers are.