Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Who knew?
    The other morning we went on a bird walk at Agua Caliente Park, a county park out east near Mt. Lemmon. I had heard of it, but never seen it. And I was dazzled. The park is on the grounds of an old cattle ranch. There are several huge ponds, fed by a perennial hot spring.
    According to signage, there were once two springs, one very hot, one cold. In an effort to increase the flow, the springs were dynamited, creating one warm spring. These pictures show the panorama as well as the spring itself (with a downed palm tree across it).
    As I hope these pictures indicate, the place is breathtakingly beautiful. More photos to come.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Last night I saw SEVEN birds head for the "dorm tree" out front. A few moments later a very large family group with at least eight half-grown chicks suddenly dropped onto the driveway in front from the air. I have no idea where they came from or why they were flying. They milled about a bit, then headed east to roost. I'm pretty sure they are roosting in the oleanders just north of our bedroom, but I can't see from inside the house.
    A bit more on the dorm tree. It is actually two trees: a Meyer lemon tree and an ornamental orange (or possibly a kumquat tree), which were for some reason planted right next to each other and have intertwined into one very large citrus tree. The two pictures show this: the size of the tree, and then the two kinds of fruit. You can see a Meyer lemon to the left toward the bottom of the picture.
    I will try to get more information on the large family group that may be roosting in the oleanders.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

     I've taken to watching the front yard late in the afternoon, because it is beautiful (see the picture above) and because there's a lot of animal activity, cactus wrens, bunnies, lizards, and toward sunset quail. I've seen a lot of families scurrying homeward, wherever that may be.
     The other night I saw a fairly large family seemingly heading toward the tree by my front porch... so I went out on the porch the next night and counted them as they roosted: ten! I don't know if they are all members of the same family, and several were quite young--maybe junior high age. I'll try to spend more time watching and see if I can get a better breakdown.
    It greatly cheers me to know quail are roosting in my "dorm tree" again. I can't help wondering how many--if any--of the adults were children from last year.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

     Okay; one more post on quails. Back when I was obsessively watching the families and trying to tell one from another, I noticed that one young quail in a very large family (I think there were 12 chicks) had been hatched with only one wing. At first he seemed to do just fine. He had that excited, curious, high-energy aspect that all baby birds seem to possess, and did well following his parents and siblings, though he was already noticeably smaller than the sibs.
     After a few days, though, I could tell that he was falling behind. He couldn't run as fast as the others--he'd be straggling behind as they all scurried across the back yard. He never seemed to lose his good spirits, though. One day he climbed on top of the quail block to feed with his father. Then the whole family left. He could not figure out how to get down. He tried running back and forth across the top of the block, looking over the edge as he decided whether or not to jump. His family was getting farther and farther away. Finally, he jumped into the air and tried to fly on his one pitiful little wing. He hit the ground in a heap, scrambled up, and took off after his family.
     I never saw him again.

Monday, August 04, 2008

    The main reason I've not been writing for a while is that I've had so much I wanted to discuss. I've decided to just do one thing at a time and see how that works. So... first, quail.
     I have gotten to see many, many more quail than I would ever have dreamed of this summer. It appears that all the quails in the neighborhood have spread the word about my pond and quail block. I have an unknown but large number of families visiting daily, with chicks of all ages from perhaps grade school through college. I'd guess the average size is three chicks; some families are much larger, others have only one or two chicks. A few sad couples have no remaining offspring.
     I have seen two childless couples roosting in the citrus tree by my front porch, but have not been paying much attention there. There are several families with young chicks who go rushing off each evening across the front yard to wherever they do roost. 
     And I see a number of families on the post-dawn morning walk. Usually, they are scurrying across the road. This morning a group of about eight quite young chicks FLEW across the road. I wonder if they were surprised to have pulled that off.

Friday, August 01, 2008

     It came early in July, along with really spectacular (and hideously uncomfortable) humidity. We had a huge amount of rain here for the first couple of weeks: according to my rain gauge, nearly five inches (total for the whole monsoon is supposed to be six inches).
     Then, nothing. It rained everywhere but this neighborhood for the rest of the month, though the humidity remained, and then a week ago the whole city dried up.
      It's supposed to return tomorrow. I look forward to it. It's uncomfortable, but the plants love it so much.