Friday, December 17, 2010

Leaf-cutters and birds

On Mondays I rove from 8 AM to 11. This week the temperature started in the low forties and went up around twenty degrees. It was a beautiful, cloudless, windless day, and there were lots of birds all through the Park: pyrrhuloxias, Abert’s towhees, black-tailed gnat-catchers (a pair), a Cooper’s hawk, possibly a juvenile red-tailed hawk, and all the usual suspects: housefinches, 2010_1018roadrunner0001 lesser goldfinches, cactus wrens, Gila woodpeckers, phainopeplas, a curved-bill thrasher, one of the first seen in ages, and probably others I’ve forgotten.
Leafcutter nest good 12-13-2010 9-26-37 AM 3616x2712
In one of the main wildflower beds we saw this leaf-cutter ant nest, clearly displaying the ant hill, the pieces of leaf, the trail of cut leaves. Leafcutter trail 12-13-2010 9-27-00 AM 3616x2712 I get aggravated when they destroy my ornamental plants (they seem to love roses and pomegranates), but boy are they efficient! They do not actually eat the leaf and flower bits, but rather feed the bits of plant to the colonies of fungus that they tend. Then they eat the fungus!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tough Little Grossbeak

Sundial flowers 9-17-2010 9-03-58 AM 3616x2712
The juvenile grossbeak I wrote about last week somehow made it through the hard freeze, and has returned to the area in the Park where it was originally captured, the Sundial Plaza, near the center of everything. I saw it this morning hopping around on the ground, and also jumping from (very low) branch to branch among some bushes. Its broken wing protrudes awkwardly from its side, but doesn’t seem to be in the way. One of the groundskeepers who’s been keeping an eye on the grossbeak says that it has the strongest legs he’s ever seen on a bird.
Everyone in the Park who knows about it is rooting for this brave, tough little creature.
I tried to take a photo, and will try again, but the grossbeak is very fast, and has amazingly good protective coloration. So the photo above is of some flowers in the plaza near where I saw the grossbeak this morning.