Tuesday, June 28, 2005

June 28, 2005
I guess the rattlesnakes and coyotes are going to be very well fed this summer. There are quail all over the place. Sunday afternoon I counted 26(!) young quail with their parents. I might have even missed some. I don't know if this was a blended family or a family where 26 babies lived, though I suspect the former. The attrition seems to be very high in general, and these were pretty well grown. It was exciting to watch them as they came into view.

This morning, a mama and papa and two adolescent chicks came to the pond. I think this might be the former 3-family, but I'm only guessing. As I say, there are a lot of quail. The mama in this group had a hard time getting through the wire mesh around the pond fence. The spaces aren't very big, but there are apparently some large enough for rabbits and fat quail to squeeze through. Mama had trouble, though, and tried square after square, all along one side, before she finally found one that she could get through.

The baby doves are growing quickly. They look like actual birds now, and are the size of finches. Their little beaks are very long, and they still spend most of the day sitting motionless in the nest, either snuggled with mama or waiting till she comes back if she has gone off for some reason. I was thinking yesterday that she'll probably be glad when they're gone and out of the nest and she can go back to just pecking the ground, bathing in the pond, and generally hanging out somewhere else.

Friday, June 24, 2005

June 24, 2005
There's been a little rain, but it's not yet the monsoon. Sure feels like it, though, with high dewpoints and humidities higher than 30.

Mama dove's babies hatched sometime a few days ago. I first noticed she seemed to be sitting a little higher than usual. It turns out that's because instead of sitting on eggs, she was sitting on babies. By the time I saw them, they were already feathered. But still very little, and unlike other baby birds, who seem to spend a lot of time squawking and screaming to be fed, these guys remain completely motionless, as she was while brooding. They are striped and dull-colored, and look very much like the twigs that make up the nest, except for their little black beady eyes that occasionally blink. I took a photo, and will try to post it, but truthfully it doesn't look like much.

Yesterday afternoon the pond was visited in close succession by three quail families, all of whom spent some time drinking and poking around on the ground. The first family had three babies--two rather large and one quite small. I'm assuming they are from two separate broods, but wonder why so few babies?

The second family had five or six medium-sized chicks. They were at the stage where their topknots look like mohawks. They reminded me a bit of our old next-door neighbor, who for some inexplicable reason has worn a mohawk for several years.

The third family had at least nine medium-to large chicks. They made quite a picture, all crowded around the water. It was very, very, very gratifying to see all these adorable young quail and to feel that my riparian area has made their lives a bit more pleasant and predictable.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

June 21, 2005
Well, yesterday was the longest day of the year, and also the hottest, at 110. Today the high was maybe 109. Very hot. Also very cloudy, with what one of the weathermen calls a "monsoon preview."

The little pond is getting a workout. Especially now that it is cloudy, critters have been flocking to it. A cottontail burrowed into the shallow depression the antelope squirrel had made in the shade beside the pomegranate tree pot. When I first looked, all I could see was one eye, one ear, a nose, and the cotton tail. A family of quail with four babies has been in the yard, drinking and scrounging for food. Antelope squirrel too, but he's been on the porch since the rabbit took his hole by the pot. Six very small fledgling finches were standing, panting, their teeny little wings out, underneath my chair on the porch. And a few minutes ago I saw an unidentifiable hummingbird hovering at the waterfall.

All these guys, when they go completely motionless, look just like rocks.

So much fun to watch! I'm so glad I have the pond!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

June 18, 2005
It's three days from midsummer's eve, the solstice, the official beginning of summer. It's seasonably hot, which means low one-hundreds. That's about to change. It's going to get hotter--105 and above--for a few days. And according to the National Weather Service, the monsoon is underway in Sonora. Moisture is expected to start moving into our area soon, meaning it will be humid (though not like back east). Some forecasts call for the monsoon to arrive late; others say it is right on track. Average start date is July 4. We haven't had a "normal" monsoon in several years, though--there have been way fewer thunderstorms than we used to expect. No way of telling if this is a long term trend or not.

Yesterday afternoon when I went to get the mail I surprised a flock of quail in the driveway. Mama and Papa and too many babies to count. This might be the same flock I saw the other day in the pond area. The babies were bigger, but they do grow up fast.

Today I saw who is eating the bison burgers. I put some out (the last of what I have cooked) because I haven't seen the road runner for a while, and hoped to attract it. I put out four pieces. Two remain. A little while ago I saw my little chipmunky guy disappear with one of the chunks.

He is, by the way, a Harris Antelope Squirrel. I don't remember if I posted that here or not. The other squirrels we have are round-tailed ground squirrels, which look a little bit like prairie dogs, only smaller. There are a gazillion of them down along the River Walk.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

June 15, 2005
Finally! Some adorable really little baby quails. I caught a glimpse of them as their parents led them across the pond area toward the tree where the suet feeder hangs. I can't see the suet feeder or the ground beneath it from inside the house (or from the porch, for that matter). I don't know how many little quail there were, but I saw around seven as they passed by quickly, like dandelion heads on wheels.

Summer is here! It's hot! Not yet humid, but very uncomfortable. During the hardest part of the afternoon the cooler no longer helps much. Can the monsoon be far behind?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

June 11, 2005

The young cardinal has been in the pond area and on the porch a great deal today, mostly by himself. I suspect his parents have cut him loose. I haven't seen him try to use the feeder yet, though he often sits on top of it, but I have watched him try to get nourishment from empty sunflower shells. I know that he will catch on eventually.

In other bird news, this morning on the way back from our walk, we saw a quail family in the driveway--mama and papa and five little babies. They were past the fluffball stage, but still pretty young, and quite adorable. I'm assuming that they are the second batch of offspring for the season.

The doves are at it again, too. Yesterday afternoon I needed to get something out of one of the boxes on a shelf in the carport. I was rummaging around when suddenly a panicked dove exploded up and out from the side of the box. Well, it was the same shelf that held the original nest, and it may be the same dove. The nest seems to have been augmented, and holds two little white eggs. Mama eventually returned and was unobtrusively brooding this morning. I bet she wishes I would go away.

Friday, June 10, 2005

June 10, 2005
During the past two days, the little cardinal and Daddy have been around a lot. Yesterday afternoon, I saw TWO little cardinals, but Daddy turned out to be Mr. Pyrrhuloxia. So I'm not sure if I have a total of two or three. Probably it's two baby pyrrhuloxias and one baby cardinal. They're so much fun to watch, whatever they are.

I have some bison burgers that my cats won't eat, so yesterday I put some chunks out for the roadrunner. I don't know if s/he ate them, but they disappeared when I wasn't watching. Today I put out more. Just a few minutes ago, the roadrunner darted across the pond area, a limp lizard in its beak. I think it stopped and eyed the bison burger chunks... perhaps trying to decide whether to check them out. But then it hopped up on top of the fence and flew away. Maybe it will be back.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

June 8, 2005
I swear, there is nothing perkier looking than a young cardinal. There's something about their little topknots--kind of disheveled--and the bright, alert way they look at the new (to them) world. Anyway, a young cardinal, I think the one I mentioned in an earlier post, has been hanging around my pond area. He drinks from the waterfall and looks longingly at the seed feeder. I haven't yet seen him try to use it. And I don't know if he has yet learned to crack sunflower shells. His dad was with him earlier in the day, but then took off--perhaps to care for younger birds still in the nest.

The road runner, too, has apparently decided to make my habitat part of his hangout. I saw him several times today, and yesterday afternoon watched as he hurried across the pond area with what appeared to be a nest in his mouth. I wonder what THAT was about!

Today he vocalized several times: a hoarse, eerie kind of low-pitched honk that I am convinced sounds EXACTLY the way dinosaurs sounded. (The bird book describes it as a low-pitched cooing, but it sounded anything but dovelike to me.) I hope he sticks around; he is very interesting to watch.

Monday, June 06, 2005

June 6, 2005 EXTRA

Wait! This just in! A while ago I saw a papa cardinal feeding the first cardinal baby of the year. Then I saw the baby land on the feeder--but no! It wasn't the baby! It was a papa pyrrhuloxia, who then proceeded to feed HIS baby.

The pyrrhuloxias took off, I guess intimidated by the cardinals. Baby card stuck around for a while and I got a good look at him. He's sort of greenish and very scruffy looking, but his tail is already red, and he has red on the tips of his wings. He was drinking from the waterfall, but kept dropping his tail in the water.

June 6, 2005
We were suddenly called out of town for a week. Upon my return, I see that there are no doves on the nest, the tree blooms have all blown away, and most serious: there appear to be NO HUMMERS anywhere in the yard! Did they all get pissed off that I didn't change the nectar for a week? Seems unlikely. But the desert flowers are drying up, so they should be coming to the feeders, I would think. I may have to try hanging more feeders out in the yard, since mine are all under the eaves and not casually visible to those who are just passing by. (But I do have hummer flowers here, which should attract them too.) This requires further study, for sure.

Other wildlife news: last night the kittens caught a gecko, who had probably slipped in through a hole in the screen on the front porch. By the time I got to it, it was dead, poor thing. At least it answered my question about whether there are any geckos up here. This was the first one I have seen.