Sunday, December 02, 2007

I have so many things I want to blog about that I have been paralyzed. I'll try to hit the high spots here, and then hopefully be more current in the future.

First the quail. Very shortly after my last post, half of my quail disappeared. I sat out there every night for weeks, but the only birds that came to the tree were two females and a male--possibly the children from the family of five, and two males, possibly from the other grouping. Since then I have occasionally seen one or more other birds show up at dusk, but never the tight-knit family.

I don't know if something bad happened, or if they all just split up when coveys started to form. I haven't been able to find out anything through Internet research, and I haven't been able to find a quail behavior expert.

Meanwhile, I continue to observe. I only catch the guys going to roost occasionally, but there have been a lot of quail in the back yard, especially since I put out a quail block (see the picture above, with a mourning dove). I have also spotted largish groups of quail pretty much everywhere on the property, and I see smaller groups of up to five or six throughout the neighborhood on my walks.

One of the females that roosts in front (who I suspect is a daughter from the family of quail) lost her tail somehow. I first spotted the tailless quail in the back, at the quail block, then happened to see her in the front. The tail is slowly growing back. It started out as little bitty feather-stubs and now is a few inches long, but still obviously way too short. When she's in the back at the quail block she is usually with the other young female, along with two males and a larger female. Maybe it's the family group reuniting for food? The largest male keeps guard on the top of the fence while the others eat.

In other news, for several days in a row I saw a beautiful mockingbird drinking from the pond. I haven't seen it lately, but am holding out hope that it will set up a spring territory here and breed nearby. The other day when I was out walking I heard the unmistakable sound of a mockingbird calling (but not singing--it's a very weird sound). I glanced over to see a beautiful mockingbird in a pyracantha bush, looking directly at me. I like to think it was the one I've seen, telling me it will be back. The mockingbird picture above is of a bird that frequented my yard in the other house.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You'd think by now I would be bored with the quail, but I'm not. Night comes quite early now, and I haven't been hanging out on the front porch every evening as was my wont. The last time I saw all nine quail, in their two groups, was over a week ago. About five days ago I saw seven quail--the family and two of the others. The most I've seen since then was five, last night: the mama and papa plus one daughter from the family, and two males from the other group. I'm hoping that the other quail have just gone to roost at a different time, or that maybe some of them are roosting elsewhere, but I'm worried. I never saw the family group without everybody before. And they didn't seem to be looking for or waiting for anyone. It's been VERY HOT and dry, and I'm wondering if the stress has done some of them in.

In other news, the beautiful Cooper's hawk that visited me last year--or perhaps his brother--has showed up at my pond several times lately. (Gulp! What if he ate one or more of my quails?) In his honor I'm posting a picture of a different hawk, on a saguaro, partly because I have nothing else beautiful.

The other pictures are of a small nest (one zoomed in, the other a long shot) that was firmly attached to the top of an ocotillo till just recently. I think it is a verdin nest, but the bird book says they are five or six inches in diameter, and two observers have told me they are sure it was no more than three or four. It was football-shaped, which rules out a hummingbird nest, and also it was very prominent, which is typical of verdins but not hummers. I don't think any other birds around here are that small. In any case, it finally fell off, but before I could measure it someone ran over it.

Finally, the other day I put out some old, hard bread for the birds. It was so stale and so hard that even a pyrrhuloxia couldn't make a dent in it. This morning a ground squirrel grabbed it up and ran off with the whole piece of bread. I'm sure he'll be very disappointed when he gets back to his nest and breaks his teeth.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Last night I set up my chair at the edge of the porch, with the door open, hoping to be able to photograph the quails. But by the time they roosted it was way too dark and all I got was pictures of dark grainy things. I do, however, have a nice picture of the front yard of sunset (above).

When I closed the front screen I scared the pee-waddin' out of at least two quail, who exploded out of the tree. I hope they didn't hurt themselves. We are having a party tomorrow night beginning about roosting time. I'm a little worried that one of my babies will get run over, but probably they'll be okay.

The second photo is from this morning: it's two (well, really 1 1/2) of our cats enthralled by a very tiny collared lizard on the outside windowsill of our "cat window."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Okay, I promise I'll stop with the quail after this one last post. Last night I set up my chair on the porch to watch as usual. The three males plus one female came along and pretty quickly headed for the dorm tree. About five minutes later a lone male showed up... plunked himself down in the middle of the yard under a scrawny palo verde tree... and just sat there. Sitting, not standing. Not scratching for food. I began to wonder if he were sick or what. Also no sign of the family, and it was getting dark.

About ten minutes after the male showed up, two females arrived, then another male. The females, at least one of which was a juvenile, headed for the tree but didn't roost. The two males stayed in the yard till finally, the remaining female, I'm assuming Mama, showed up, and the whole family went to roost. So Daddy was simply waiting for Mama. I think that is very sweet.

Final note: today we saw a humongous crow standing by the side of the road. He did a knee bend before jumping into the air to fly away.

The picture above is a male verdin from the old house. These are very tiny birds--somewhat smaller even than goldfinches but bigger than hummers-- that build football-shaped nests, usually low enough in trees to see. They love sugar nectar and have a very loud voice for such a tiny bird.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bird and Ant update

I wish I could hide out in a quail costume and take pictures, as has been suggested, but they would never go for it. I will soon get another quail block, however, and may be able to take pix of quail at that. Stay tuned....

First, the ants. It has turned cold in the mornings, plus I have poisoned the heck out of several ant hills, so that crisis seems resolved. I feel a little guilty, but knowing they are like the Borg helps. Destroy one hive and ten other spring up to take its place. I've read that they form vast underground labyrinthal colonies, and I'm sure this is true. I'm sure they are underneath our entire property. Our next door neighbor also has problems with them. I don't actually mind that they do what they do. They help aerate the soil, and probably do other good things. They take the leaves they tear up back to the nest, where they chew them up and create a kind of mash for fungi that they tend, which I think they subsist on in the winter.

Anyway, birds: First, the whitewings have migrated for the winter. I didn't even notice, but a friend pointed it out, and it is true. It is much quieter without their constant calls of "Who cooks for YOU?"

Hummers: I've had a lot lately. I think mostly migrants, and mostly Anna's and Black-chinneds. The other day while sitting in the Jacuzzi we watched about six madly chase each other through the porch, around the house, into the trees. All of them swearing a blue streak in Hum-speak. It is amazing that any of them ever gets enough to eat. They look very like old movie scenes of airplane dogfights.

And the quail. My quail are all just fine. I am now certain that my young covey consists of two groups: the family of five, which is intact, and another probable family of four: three males and a female. The four-guys usually come to roost first, followed a few minutes later by the family of five. They are all roosting earlier and earlier. The dorm tree is full by about 6:30 now; just a few weeks ago they were coming home at around 8 PM.

Finally: while watching my quails, I've noticed that they move very slowly through regular desert (presumably so they can spot and eat anything yummy on the ground). But when they come to a bare patch, like the gravel driveway, they speed up and zip across. This, presumably, so predators won't spot them out in the open. I HEART QUAILS!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Quail in a moment, but first ants and snakes. The leaf-cutting ants are driving me insane. First they nearly stripped my pomegranate tree. I poisoned that nest, then noticed a few days later that they had completely stripped a climbing rose that I have been trying to grow for three years in the backyard. It's been attacked by rabbits, other bugs, and now the damned ants. I'm about ready to give up on the poor thing.

I couldn't find the ant nest, then noticed that they were also attacking the cape honeysuckle growing against the porch wall, and had spilled over into the carport. My husband found the nest the next morning, in the middle of a big patch of prickly pear, covered with old cactus pads. I poisoned it, but then this morning when I went out to check I almost tripped on another line of ants, marching toward a different cape honeysuckle in a different part of the yard, almost completely stripped. These guys joined the main column of ants from yesterday. So I went back and poured more poison on the nest. We'll see tomorrow if it did any good. It's too late for the rose now, and probably for the second cape honeysuckle.

Anyway, I can't help admire the ants. They remind me of the Borg, from Star Trek, and I do believe RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

My pictures today include one of the ant trails. I tried to get close enough to show the ants, but all you can see is the bits of leaf each one is carryig. I also posted a butterfly, because the ant trail is ugly.

Snakes: I saw another, this time medium-sized king snake when I was out looking for the ant nest.

Quail: the family is no longer together! But they may be okay, or they may not be. Night before last all the quail showed up together and went up in the tree almost simultaneously. But then a mature male and female repeatedly hopped out of the tree, squawking, ran around a bit, then went back into the tree, then out. I thought it might be the parents, looking for a missing child.

Last night, the quails showed up in groups. I counted five males and four females into the tree. At least one of the females was a juvenile (she showed up with an adult male, the last two to get into the tree). I'm pretty sure she is part of the family. I think I saw another juvenile female. All the males looked pretty big, but maybe one of them was the young male? I'm thinking that these guys have probably formed a flock and I may never again see the family as a unit again. But I'll check them out again tonight.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Just to prove that this isn't the All Quail All the Time blog, I am going to talk about snakes today. But first a quail update! The days are getting shorter really fast. I'd estimate that night falls about five minutes earlier every evening now. The quail no long take their time pecking around the front yard before retiring to the dormitory tree; instead, they appear all at once in the dusk, and usually together, so it's pretty hard to count them or be sure who's who. But I'm keeping my eye on them.

Now, snakes...

A couple of evenings ago two of the cats didn't want to come in after the quails went to roost. I saw they were intently watching something
on the flagstones in front of the porch. Well, it took me a minute to see it in the near dark, but it was a little, teeny, tiny snakelet, striped (I couldn't tell what color) and wiggling frantically as it tried to get over the lip of the metal thingy that separates the front plant bed from the flagstone. It was about the size of a soda straw. It was adorable. I'm assuming it was a king snake, but don't know for sure.

Then, this morning as I was heading out to get the paper I nearly stepped on a quite large king snake on the flagstone. I guess it was warming itself to get ready to start the day. It moved off into the pyracantha, but really slowly, so I guess it wasn't very warm yet. I think it was probably the snake I saw in the back yard the other day. It was about three feet long and black, with broken pale-yellow stripes.

When I went out a bit later to see if the snake was still there, I saw a very small lizard trying to eat a pretty large caterpillar. I'm pretty sure the caterpillar was winning, but I didn't stick around to find out.

Last night there was some rain to the west, resulting in a beautiful sunset that I photographed from my garden. Pix are above.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Before I return to my obsession with quail, I must thank Aiyana, who posts as "no rain," and who pointed out that my hedgehog cactus blooms are actually pincushion cactus blooms; that is, from Mammillaria genus rather than from Echinocereus genus. I definitely need to learn my cacti better. I do, however, know that cholla and prickly pear are from the same genus, Opuntia.

Quail. I've been watching just about every night. The family of five is always the last group up in the tree. The children are now nearly full grown. I just love to watch any quail get ready to fly up to roost. First they gaze up at the tree as if gathering determination. Then they do a deep squat, and then they jump into the air with their little wings propellering. I could watch that for hours, but it actually only takes a few seconds.

Today's pictures: Some Opuntia blossoms, from this year's cholla crop. I have NO IDEA what kind of cholla this is, except it is not a teddy bear cholla. I think it might be staghorn. And a picture of one of our Texas Ranger shrubs, right after the rains made it bloom.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Am I obsessed with quail, or what? I have decided that Gambel's quail are my second favorite birds, after Hummers and Mockingbirds. (Still no mockingbirds here, alas, despite my best efforts to attract them.)

Last night all nine birds were around in the yard, though I didn't stay to watch them roost. This morning while watering the garden, I saw a large group of quail--I was able to count nine, though there may have been more. And I wondered if it might include the guys who roost in my tree, so I went online and found a site that told me quail form coveys in the winter, when family groups come together. Then they split apart in the spring for mating.

What constitutes winter? I'm thinking the guys I saw this morning might already be a covey, but maybe not. And probably all the guys who roost in my citrus tree will form a covey if they haven't already. I've got to do more observing and reading. Already I know that they have fourteen separate vocalizations.

I have no more quail pictures, so am posting a picture of our rose garden from last April. I have never seen a quail in the rose garden.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Good news! All my baby quails are fine. I have watched the family group the last two nights: Mom, Dad, and three college-age kids (two female, one male). There is also another group of four, all adults, three males and one female. I'm assuming they are also a family group.

They all sleep up in the tree, but when they try to go up there at the same time there's always a lot of squabbling both before and after. The father of three seems to be the alpha male.

Here's another quail picture, of a VERY YOUNG quail.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just a quick update on what's happening. The rainy season is hanging on, making everyone miserable, since we now have both heat and humidity, but little promise of much if any rain. (Though this afternoon, to my great surprise, we received .50 inch while we were out.)

The most exciting recent nature news is that about a week ago, when our nonfunctional fountain had some rainwater in it, a beautiful bobcat came strolling into the yard, placed his front paws on the lowest rung of the fountain, and drank his fill. There wasn't enough time to get a camera.

Quail and dorm tree update: I've been checking that little quail family most evenings. Last night I was a little late, but it appeared that there were only TWO children. I'll look again tonight. I hope it's not so, but life is perilous for a quail. The picture here is my only current quail photo--it's from the old house, but it shows their beautiful coloration. I love the little black fishing lure that hangs off the male's forehead.

Speaking of which, this morning I found a young mourning dove trapped in the chicken wire around my grapefruit tree. Her wing appeared to be broken. I freed her, and she slowly walked to the other side of the garden, but I doubt very much that she will live. Very sad.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Three items on the agenda for today. First, I DO have at least one male Broadbilled hummingbird. I got a good look at him the other day, and he is gorgeous!

Second: a couple of days ago as I was about to sit down for an afternoon look at the pond and birds, I spied a snake moving across my garden area, a BIG, black snake, probably over three feet long. I ran to get my camera, but by the time I got back it had moved into the upper part of the pond and was crawling under the turtle that spits out water. I managed to get a couple of pictures before the snake moved on out into the desert, but it doesn't show very well. It was basically black and thick, very like a fire hose, with light-golden broken bands on the lower part of its sides. I'm almost positive it is a king snake, but I'm not sure what kind.

Finally, the tree above, which is on the west side of our front porch, is a dormitory tree. It is actually a double tree: part of it is an ornamental orange, and the other is a Meyer lemon. For some reason at least one part of it is in bloom right now, about four months out of season. I've taken to watching from the front porch right before sunset, and a lot of birds are roosting in this tree. I've seen a baby cardinal or pyrrhuloxia hop into the tree; I've heard cactus wrens in there, I think I saw a couple of hummers fly in one night, and there are a lot of quail. Last night I saw two childless quail couples and the couple with the three school-age kids (by now probably freshmen in high school). The big family is usually the last to go into the dorm. I haven't checked it out in the monring, so I don't know what order they wake up in.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The rains have brought a huge crop of hedgehog cactus blooms in the front yard. They are scattered throughout the yard, and they are beautiful, as these photos show.

They are predicting more rain today. At this point, we don't really need it. The cactuses and trees have already taken in what they want. Our prickly pears are no longer shriveled and wrinkly, but have become fat and juicy-looking. The saguaros have also become fat, to the point where their pleats have mostly filled out. The drooping agaves now stand upright once again.

I wish there were some way to space the water out more evenly over the year. Or even over the monsoon season. But some of this should soak in and help recharge the valley's very depleted aquifer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Well, we got another storm shortly after I posted yesterday. It lasted about 45 minutes, and looking out into the yard you could see a virtual wall of water falling. I figured maybe another .70 or so, but when I went out to check the rain gauge I could hardly believe my eyes: 1.80. With another .15 falling overnight, we got 2.65 inches of rain in less than one day. This in an area that averages 10 - 12 inches in a year.

This morning when I went out very early to get the paper, the air was filled with swarms of small insects. I think they were looking for sex partners; sort of a singles swarm. The birds all seem happy and very active this morning, and the cacti and trees all look great. the ocotillo are leafing out, and it's just gorgeous.

Bird notes: we have a bumper crop of young cardinals and pyrrhuloxias. They have all mostly learned how to use the seed feeder, and they or their parents are at it throughout the day. I'm going through a huge amount of striped sunflower seed. Also, the other day I saw a big bird eating the blossoms of my golden jubilee vine. On closer inspection I saw it was an oriole, but I'm not sure what kind: either hooded or Northern, probably. A beautiful bird, very like an overgrown goldfinch.

Finally, my yellow bells were in full, glorious bloom (see them and the golden jubilee in the picture above) until three nights ago when something ate all the blossoms and a lot of the stems. I suspect a pack rat, because the dregs were left in my planter on the porch.

The other picture here is my mutant golden barrel cactus in the back yard. It is a gorgeous plant, and very unusual. There is another in the front yard.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The monsoon has been raging the last few days, with heavy rains everywhere but here. This afternoon, finally, we got a really good one: .70 of an inch in about half an hour. They are predicting more rain for later, but I'll see it when I believe it.

The pictures here are of an approaching storm seen from our backyard, and another of a distant storm to the north beyond my garden fence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

As you can see, I have changed the format for this blog. I have unfortunately lost all previous comments, and want to thank everyone who commented in the past.

A bit of bird discussion today. First, hummingbirds. I finally have a decent variety in the yard, including, at last, I'm pretty sure a broad-billed, which is my very favorite. The picture here is a broadbill from my old house. We called him "Olivier" because he was so dramatic and self-confident.

Second topic is the monsoon, which so far is pretty much a non-soon. Though it has been very hot (105 plus most days) and humid, this neighborhood has received only .18 inch in the last three weeks. It has been horribly uncomfortable out, and my back porch is full of baby birds panting in the shade. They are very messy, but I love to watch them because they are so full of curiosity, interested in everything around them. There's even a baby cardinal who occasionally snags a sunflower seed from the feeder, then brings it to the porch to try to open. He seems to be getting pretty good at it.

This morning while I was watering, a black-headed grosbeak landed on the fence about two feet from where I was standing. I wish I had a picture, as this is a very impressive bird. About the size of a cardinal, maybe a little bit bigger, but its body is a bright russety orange, it doesn't have a crest, and its bill is large and parrot-like.

Finally, quail. There are a number of quail families of varying sizes that visit my pond and run around our front and side yards as well as the back. I've been hearing quail calling at sunset in the front yard, and suspected they might be nesting in citrus tree outside the porch, which has a thick security screen. Yesterday evening while I was standing on the porch looking at storm clouds to the south, a quail family including three young fourth- or fifth-graders began preparing to roost. First the parents began herding the children toward the citrus. Then, after everyone was in position, the father flew up into the tree, quite high, and began calling to his family. Then the mother flew up. Then, one by one, the babies flew up. Their little wings flapped so hard they looked like little sideways helicopters. The third baby didn't quite get the angle right and slammed into the screen door. He then picked himself up and made another attempt, landing perfectly on a branch.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

No picture for this one, but trust me--you don't want a picture. I just watched a cactus wren on my porch with something large in its mouth... big bug, maybe, I thought. I got my binoculars as the prey tried to run away, and it was a small lizard. I think a gekko. The cactus wren grabbed it again, and again it tried to escape. Then the two of them disappeared out into the garden beyond my view.

A few minutes later, the cactus wren returned to the shade with the now-limp lizard in its beak, and is now dismembering and eating it, using that very sharp beak to peck the lizard's body into pieces.

If my cats had caught the lizard, I would have freed it, but I can't bring myself to interfere in this. Nature Red in Tooth and Claw. Indeed!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I have three things I want to talk about today, only one of which is illustrated. The first one is tall things in the desert. You can tell what pollinates a plant by how high it is off the ground. The examples above, all from our yard, are a saguaro cactus, a yucca blossom , and agave blossoms. They are all way high off the ground, and they are all pollinated primarily by bats, though I believe bees also work on the yucca, and birds on the saguaros.

Next, I want to talk about the pre-monsoon, which is here now, and which is the worst time of year. It's very hot (this year, rather unusually, around 110 or more every day), and a bit humid, enough to make you uncomfortable but not enough to do the plants any good. It's the meteorological equivalent of PMS.

Finally, bees. More specifically, bee behavior. My little bird pond in my garden attracts a lot of bees this time of year, and by "a lot" I mean dozens--though probably not hundreds. They congregate on the algae in one corner all day long. In the morning, when I water, they are very active and easily agitated. if I stir them up by getting water on them, they lift up and fly around irritably.

Now, these are almost certainly Africanized bees, also known as "killer" bees, because they can mass and sting large animals, including humans, to death. (Every year now a few people in Southern Arizona are killed by them.) But I'm not afraid of them, because I'm pretty sure they only attack when they are defending their nest, and their nest is somewhere to the northwest of here. How do I know? Because after soaking for a while, each bee flies off in that direction. I believe they are acting as apian cooler pads, saturating their bodies and taking the moisture back to the hive, where they and others will beat their wings to cool it off.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It's dead summer, just before the monsoon, and I have so much nature stuff to blog about. But I will limit myself for the moment to two things: one old and one new.

Old is the beautiful cactus blooms we had all around the valley till just recently. The one posted is a prickly pear blossom from our front yard. They range in color from creamy yellow, like this one, through champagne and pale orange.

New is more pack rat trouble, which required getting Mr. Pack Rat out here to get rid of the two guys living on our porch and their gross nests. The guy who set the traps did not come back the next day because the following morning he was bitten by a rattlesnake (but he's going to be fine). His boss, Mr. Pack Rat, collected the one trapped rat and while cleaning up the nests found the other, which was hiding behind a desk. He dispatched it with a shovel.

This morning I saw a great harbinger of rat-free times when I startled a very small, very beautiful king snake on the porch. This picture is of him freezing in fear beneath the baby keiki of a spider plant.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Time is slipping away. It seems like only yesterday it was spring, and now summer is here. We've already had a few 100 degree plus days, and this week, which is cooler, is undoubtedly the last taste of low-nineties until maybe October.

A mama dove is incubating her eggs on top of one of the posts outside the carport. A mama quail has repeatedly flown out from behind some boxes on the top shelf of a very cluttered shelving unit at the back of the carport. I haven't seen her in a while, so maybe her eggs hatched. I wish her well. So many of the baby quail fail to make it past the feathered-thimble stage.

My pond area is shaping up, and things are growing. Unfortunately the pond is overrun with algae again. I try to rake away as much of it as I can, but it's a losing battle. There are seveal dozen bees buzzing the pond every day. They settle on the algae and become trapped, then die. It's rather gross.

I have a new feeder, a mesh sock full of niger thistle. It's attracting lots of beautiful goldfinches. The cardinals and pyrrhuloxia come often to the cardinal feeder, but I've not yet seen any babies.

The saguaros are blooming, the ocotillo just finished. The pix above are of a whitewing dove on the big saguaro behind our house, and the lovely ocotillo outside our bedroom window. It no longer has blossoms, but the leaves are still green.

Monday, April 30, 2007

This weekend we went to Sabino Canyon for the first time since the devastating floods last summer destroyed many of the trails, bridges, and roads. Overall, things didn't look as bad as I had feared. In fact, except for Rattlesnake Creek (a dry wash near the start of the hike), which is now about twice as wide as it used to be, we didn't see much change up until the first couple of bridges. Then we saw that the creek is full of sand, and the sand is preventing the water from running under the bridges, so they are all wet with water running over.

As we got further up, we saw that many of the bridges have been badly damaged. These are structures that have stood through many floods since the 1930's, when they were built. After Stop 4, the damage gets worse. Along the side of the road you can see many places where the cliffs just gave way. The Phone Line trail is supposedly being rebuilt, but there are so many wiped-out places high above the road that it's hard to imagine how they can make a safe trail.

The road was closed for months, and now is open most of the way to the top. There were apparently huge boulders, dead trees, and dead cactus lying on the pavement, which they have somehow managed to clear out. As you get higher up, you can see deep scars in what remains of the pavement from where the boulders lay. In many of those areas the shoulder on the side of the road is gone, along with part of the road. There are lots of places along the road where the cliff walls are close to the walking area and obviously very unstable. I'm assuming they'll have to dynamite some of these (killing more cactus, especially sahuaros) to ever make it safe. Supposedly they are not going to rebuild anything until a thorough geological study has been done of the likelihood of further rock falls.

There are still a lot of beautiful cottonwoods and willows in the creek, and forests of sahuaro on either side all the way up. (We went up to the former Stop 8, which is about a third of a mile before the end of the road.) We met a woman who told us that the beautiful, almost jungly area behind the dam down in lower Sabino has been wiped out and is now just a tangle of broken trees, branches, and roots. Also, many of the picnic tables and stone ovens (also built in the thirties) are gone or buried in sand.

But Sabino is still beautiful. It is still my church.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bird Singles Ads

Young, handsome male mockingbird, great territory, awesome song repertoire, able to leap into air and turn completely around while singing, seeks unattached female for nesting and egg-laying. Good insect-gleaning skills a plus.

Gorgeous unattached female cardinal seeks brilliant red male for flying along the beach, sharing seeds, and ....? Good territory a must, no cowbirds, please.

Strong, protective male Gambel's quail, beautiful markings and large topknot, seeks healthy female companion. Object: raising a very large family.

Exceptionally good-looking male Anna's hummingbird, brilliant red gorget, great flying skills, striking singing voice, seeks comely female for SLAM BAM THANK YOU MA'AM.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March 14, 2006

Note: Google has "improved" Blogger and now for some reason my text is blue and underlined. I cannot change it. But here is my post:

It suddenly became summer, after a mostly-cold winter (January was one of the coldest on record). No transition, just one day it was so cold we had to have the heat on all day, and the next day it was in the eighties. A little weird, but all my plants are loving it, putting out new leaves and stems like crazy, and the citrus are starting to bloom with that incredible sensual scent that to me defines Spring in Tucson. (My picture for this post is grapefruit blossoms. Wish I could somehow attach the perfume.)

The climbing rose in the backyard that I thought had been assassinated by critters put forth leaves and stems, and then a rabbit or something got to it. We have now re-surrounded it with chicken wire, securely staked down. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the leaf-cutter ants will leave it alone and it will finally start to cimb the trellis.

The animals are also starting to realize that it is Sex Season. Male birdies are chasing the females, and I expect to see nesting activity soon. I think it is a good thing that humans don't mate only during a certain time of the year. Can you imagine, say, if you're trying to sell a book, you'd have to work everything around avoiding the rutting season. Actually, if you're in any kind of business at all, except maybe the singles business, nobody would pay any attention to anything unless it helped get them laid. And come to think of it, things are like that already in some respects.

Monday, January 22, 2007

January 22
Woo-hoo! There was major snow last night, all over Tucson (everywhere but here at our house). When I went out to check the rain gauge this morning, it was frozen! (.6; I guess I'll have to wait for it to thaw to see how much rain actually fell.) The mountains are covered with snow down to the valley floor, and there are little patchy bits here and there in our yard. The Meyer lemon tree out front is all frozen on the outside. I haven't checked the regular lemon and orange trees, but I imagine there is at least some damage. Too bad, because we have (had) a bumper crop of lemons.

The woman who bought my house called to say that a hummingbird had fallen out of a tree onto her boyfriend's shoulder. From her description, I knew it was a beautiful Broadbill. She had it in a box in her car, on the way to work, and wanted to know what to do with it. She is no longer feeding the hummers, so she couldn't give it a sip of nectar. I told her to take it home, that it would probably be all right, that it was just cold, had no doubt been in torpor and just needed to come to a little. She called back later to say that it was fine, it was trying to get out of the box so she pulled over and let it go. I hope it finds food soon. And I am VERY dismayed to hear that "my" hummers are no longer being fed over there. I'll just concentrate on these ones over here. And maybe I'll eventually end up with as many as I had over there. After all, I've only been here two and a half years, and I was there for nearly fifteen.

Above are two not-too-good picture of the feisty male Costa's who's been hanging around for most of the winter. One of the pix is a good close-up out of the sun, so you can't see his gorget. The other is very out-of-focus, but shows the brilliant amethyst of the gorget.

This bird is one of the boldest and most fearless hummers I've been acquainted with, similar to the Broadbill I nicknamed "Olivier" over at the other house. He will perch on a feeder when I'm holding it for changing; when he's perched near the porch he lets me get within a few inches of him; and when I'm wearing bright colors he buzzes me to see if I have anything good to eat. Day before yesterday a cactus wren was perched on the gate in between the two porch feeders that Mr. Feisty guards. Although the wren had no interest in nectar, Mr. Feisty didn't want it around, and as I watched he repeatedly flew at the cactus wren, fiercely spreading his wings and tail and swearing at the top of his voice to show the Cactus wren how tough he is. The cactus wren responded with the bird-equivalent of a yawn, then eventually flew off, maybe tired of being pestered. I swear Mr. Feisty had a satisfied air as he returned to his perch, mission accomplished.