Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This beautiful picture is used with permission from the photographer, Brian E. Small, whose website (http://www.briansmallphoto.com/index.html) contains not only awesome photos of birds but also several very useful articles on birding and photography.

The photo shows a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and the reason it is here is that one of these birds showed up in my pond area two days ago. I was at the computer when I spotted a woodpecker on the quail block. At first glance it looked like an ordinary Gila Woodpecker, but I'd never seen one on the quail block, so I pulled out my binoculars for a closer look. Through the binoculars it was clear this wasn't an ordinary Gila: it had yellow above its beak and a very large patch of yellow at the nape of its neck. Instead of a small round "cardinal's cap" it had a larger, brighter, irregularly-shaped patch of red on top. it also looked somewhat... strange. Definitely not a Gila.

I went to my bird book and started looking up flickers, which are very similar to woodpeckers, but none had the yellow patches. So I flipped to the next woodpecker page, and here was the guy out in my yard, exact down to every detail. When I checked the map, I discovered that Golden-fronted woodpeckers do NOT appear in Arizona. They're common in Oklahoma and Texas and even extreme eastern New Mexico. So I posted the sighting on the Audubon Rare Bird Line, and this morning got an email telling me that this is the FIRST report EVER in Arizona.

I don't know if they will take my word for it, but I am 100% sure of the identification. And I'm really excited!

Quail update: yesterday I saw a family of six babies--kindergartners, maybe, so young they didn't even have mohawks yet. They were SO CUTE! They kept sitting down in the dirt, as if walking around was still too new to put all that energy into. A little later I saw a family of teenagers--six or seven. I don't know if this is one of the families I saw before with the offspring having grown. They do mature very quickly.

Also--a big javelina wandered through our front yard a couple of afternoons ago on the way to the back yard. I wanted to photograph it, but by the time I got outside with my camera it was already lumbering off through the prickly pear to the neighbors' yard.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We're having very weird weather this week... extreme wind, and I do mean extreme today and tomorrow, followed by much lower temps (into the seventies!) and maybe even rain Friday. I'm worried about all the little baby birds who will be blown out of their nests and probably die, not to mention the baby quails... depending on size, I can imagine some of them blowing away too. Oh, well.

Quail update: There have been quite a few families at the quail block by my pond. I saw 7 or 8 first-graders more than once, and a family of four sixth-graders. I've seen a family crossing the road on my walk. I don't know if anything is going on in the dorm tree just now.

The most exciting happening lately occurred day before yesterday. I went out back to look at the quail block around sunset. I had my camera with me. But before I could get to the pond area I saw three animals running east across the back yard. Two were rabbits; one was striped and so big that at first I thought it might be a coatamundi. When I got closer I realized it was the BIGGEST gila monster I have ever seen. I thought it was at least two feet long, but the reptile book says they only grow to 14 inches. It was running, with a strange rolling gait in which all movement seemed to come from its front shoulders. I was so excited I couldn't get my camera out and set up before the gila monster ran into a big thicket of prickly pear. So... no picture. I think I do have a gila monster pic I shot while out hiking a few years ago. I'll see if I can find it. And I will be on the lookout for THE GIANT MUTANT NINJA GILA MONSTER.

Finally: the pictures with this post. One was taken the other morning on Calle Karina, one of the streets we power walk on. The other is a closeup of my young pomegranate tree. This is the first year it has really bloomed, and it amazes me. Instead of putting all its blossoms out at once, like a citrus or peach tree, it sets them out now and then, from time to time. New ones are still coming out (it started in February!) while old ones are turning into pomegranates. You can see one of each in the photo.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Yesterday I saw my first baby quails, out in the pond area, around the quail block with their parents. I counted three, but there might have been more. Today I saw a family with five young'uns. The babies are all in what I would judge to be 6th or 7th grade. I haven't seen any of the adorable fuzzy rolling thimbles. But the season is young.

I went out on the front porch last night to see what was up. (About two weeks ago I determined that at least one male quail was roosting in the dorm tree.) Last night I counted at least three and possibly more males up in the tree. I guess it has become a bachelor apartment. I also saw a female, but she jumped out of the tree and ran off. They were probably talking dirty to her.

These pictures are of some tragic quail chicks whose parents made a nest in a small porch area on my friend Hayford's carport, about five miles east and north of here. As he describes it, the deck is small and surrounded by a 3-foot wall. Apparently the parents thought it was a safe area for a nest, but didn't give any thought to how they would get the babies OUT of the safe area once they hatched. Alas, once the hatchlings appeared reality set in and after a couple of days the parents abandoned them to starve. Which they did.

Apart from the sadness of the whole thing, this did allow some fairly decent closeups of young quail. Check out their amazing camouflage. They look just like sandy ground with pebbles, where they are meant to spend most of their gradeschool education. Thanks to Hayford Peirce for the sad story and the great photos.