Monday, April 29, 2013

As The Egg Turns: Goose Drama by the Parking Lot

This guest post was written by G.H. Curminion, my Internet buddy in South Carolina, who also took the photos.

This is so cool. My office is on the ground floor, with floor to ceiling windows. I looked up a few minutes ago and a Canada goose was building a nest not 6' from my window! It can't see me, what with the reflection and the mini-blinds. The pair has been hanging out in a small L-shaped area, about 20' on each side, with the sidewalk and parking lot crossing the open part, for about three days now. I thought it was odd, because the geese usually wander around in indiscriminate numbers, but lately it's just been the one pair.

Mama goose through window

Oh! she just stood up! I saw an egg! Dad has been standing guard faithfully since early this week. Now I feel bad about heckling him every morning when I get out of the car (I'm parked just off the L).
It's getting pretty windy, and the area is well-protected, but the wind swirls back in that spot. I'll have to alert our groundskeepers to stay away. They come through with leaf blowers every few days. The nest is built from the pine needles they use as ground cover.

Mama goose defended

Mama Goose looks uncomfortable. Maybe she can see me, so I just turned out my office lights. Maybe it's the wind, but she's not really settling fully on the nest. Sort of squatting over it. Maybe she's laying another egg! Last time we had chicks here there were five. Okay, I just stood up to close the mini-blinds some more. There are two eggs. [Mama goose went on to lay two more eggs.]

Four eggs

[Later] Well, before I left on Friday I noticed that Mama Goose had covered up the nest with more pine straw and departed. I was worried because of a storm front due to come through that evening. When I pulled in this morning, the nest was still there, covered with even MORE pine straw, and the couple are hanging out, grazing on the median in the parking lot, watching the nest. When she is on the nest, he stands guard. 

male and female goose through blinds

Google says incubation period is 24-28 days, so we’re in for the long haul. Dad was chasing people away from the front door last night, and lunged at my car when I pulled out. My parking space is closest to the nest, and when I pulled up this morning, dad was sitting in MY spot. I had to park a couple spots down. So far he hasn’t lunged at me, but apparently there are several pairs nesting in the complex. The other day one of the dads chased the UPS guy all the way around one of the buildings.

To be continued….

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mysteries and Marvels at two Parks

Yesterday, my buddy Sue and I went birding at Catalina State Park, a nearby mountain Park with a lovely, short birding trail.

CSP Vista 4-21-2013 8-55-41 AM 3616x2712

We saw (and heard) lots of birds, though couldn’t identify all of them. The biggest mystery was the almost frantic, constant song of either a mockingbird or a curve-billed thrasher. It sounded much like the thrasher I wrote about in an earlier post. We never did see the bird that was singing, though saw a thrasher fairly nearby.

We solved two other mysteries involving birdsong through judicious use of the iBird app, which I intend to write about in the future. It helped us identify a brown-crested flycatcher and helped confirm the song of the yelllow-rumped warbler.

Here are two of the beautiful wildflowers we saw at the state park, desert dandelion and Mariposa lily:

Desert Dandelions 4-21-2013 9-36-45 AM 1951x2671Mariposa Lily 4-21-2013 8-53-17 AM 1502x2134

Today Sue and I roved at Tohono Chul Park. It was hot—mid-eighties going up to low nineties, but it was a fabulous day. In addition to the marvels of the year’s first trichocereus blooms:

Yellow tricho 4-22-2013 9-16-49 AM 1318x1453 Pink tricho 4-22-2013 9-05-32 AM 3616x2712

The passionflowers Passion flower vine 4-22-2013 10-05-32 AM 1623x1643 were also beginning to open, and while squiring a bunch of preschoolers through the riparian area we saw a beautiful kingsnake:

wild kingsnake 4-22-2013 10-29-42 AM 3616x2712

(The preschoolers were awed.)

Finally, perhaps the highlight of a wonderful day, we saw another Bell’s Vireo nest, this one in an olive tree near the center of the Park. I believe the bird I photographed is adding some finishing touches to the inside before moving in:

Bell's vireo nest in olive tree 4-22-2013 9-55-32 AM 3616x2712

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Late-spring Rove at Tohono Chul Park

No matter what the time of year, there is always beauty at the Park. This is one of the best times, because in addition to flowers, birds are still courting and nesting. Below is a Bell’s vireo in its nest high up in a Texas ebony tree (photo courtesy of my roving buddy, Sue Feyrer). This wonderful nest is an intricately woven and decorated hanging basket. The other pictures show some of our amazing late-spring blooms.

vireo in nest

Blue paloverde in bloom 4-15-2013 9-42-16 AM 1882x2027        The glory of Sonoran spring: a blue palo verde in bloom

Remarkable Penstemon 4-15-2013 10-50-50 AM 2982x2564Remarkable Penstemon (that’s its name!)

 blooming yucca 4-15-2013 10-18-15 AM 3616x2712Blooming yucca

Mexican bird of paradise 4-15-2013 10-35-48 AM 1821x1624Mexican Bird of Paradise

red prickly pear 4-15-2013 9-50-40 AM 1313x1171Red prickly pear blossom

chocolate flowers 4-15-2013 10-07-35 AM 2534x1522Wish you could smell these chocolate flowers. They smell exactly like chocolate!

magenta hedgehogs 4-15-2013 10-04-50 AM 3510x2083Magenta hedgehog blossoms

Blooming prickly pear 4-15-2013 10-28-57 AM 3177x2652And beautiful Engelmann’s prickly pear in almost-full bloom!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dove Love, Competition, and Flowers

I wish I could invite everyone who reads this to come over to my house and look at the birds and flowers in the yard. Even though some of the flowers are past peak, it’s still amazingly gorgeous.

I’ve been worried about the white-winged dove female who has nested in the carport and raised several broods the last few years. I had seen her in the nesting spot several times, but no sign of a nest. This morning I heard white-winged doves calling, and when I looked up at the pillar where she nests, I saw her and a male dove evidently just completing copulation. She was all fluffed-out and shuddery, as I’ve seen female doves after sex. Anyway, no signs yet of a nest, but I now feel they will build it soon.

White wing mama and one baby

White-winged mama and one baby from last year.

Back in the bird garden, a pair of pyrrhuloxias and a pair of cardinals squabbled over the sunflower seed feeder. It was also  visited by a thrasher and a cactus wren who shoveled seeds out as fast as it could for future eating.

cards feeder bottlebrush 4-11-2013 8-20-42 AM 2475x2414

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, at the seed feeder. The bottlebrush blossoms are so thick they have pulled several stems down to the ground.

Elsewhere, in the back and front yards, everything is blooming and beautiful.

Cleveland Sage 4-11-2013 7-58-37 AM 1736x1343

Cleveland Sage in the back yard; this plant has the most heavenly scent in the world.

Hawthorne bush 4-11-2013 7-59-06 AM 1849x1709

Hawthorne blossoms. This bush came with the house.

creosote blooms 4-11-2013 8-05-45 AM 3264x2448 brittlebush mailbox 4-11-2013 8-01-40 AM 1892x2189

Creosote in the front yard and brittlebush at the mailbox

Ocotillo 4-11-2013 8-03-46 AM 2448x3264

And ocotillo in the driveway.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Two Amazing Flowers and a Hummingbird

I look out the back door and I can’t believe how much beauty surrounds me. This morning I was struck by the semi-wild bottlebrush tree growing behind my bird garden. Its beautiful red bristles are tipped with gold:

Bottlebrush CU2 4-6-2013 8-49-30 AM 1964x2780

The hummingbirds love it:

Hummer on bottlebrush 4-6-2013 8-49-59 AM 1569x2212

In my tiny rose garden, our orange rose blazes. I love spring!

Flame rose2 4-6-2013 8-53-59 AM 1567x1432

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Mystery, a Parapet, and an Impostor

I had a great time roving at Tohono Chul Park yesterday with my buddy Sue. As we walked the trails, Sue noticed something very odd: shredded leaves and twigs lay beneath many creosote bushes. What made this particularly strange is that not many creatures eat creosote, which contains a number of potent  and presumably bad-tasting chemicals.

Mystery (creosote) 4-1-2013 9-32-10 AM 3255x2532MYSTERY: who is attacking the creosote?

We continued our walk, and at the top of a hill we saw this:

round-tailed ground squirrel creosote 4-1-2013 9-28-16 AM 1808x1425

It was a round-tailed ground squirrel, dismantling a creosote branch. We said in unison: “Mystery solved!” We assume that he or she was using the little twigs and leaves to line a nest.

A little farther on, in a different part of the Park, we saw this beautiful example of a wolf-spider parapet.

wolf spider parapet 4-1-2013 9-35-19 AM 2520x2138Wolf-spider hole with parapet

A wolf spider creates a hole in the ground, usually alongside a trail, and builds a very nicely-constructed parapet all the way around the hole. I have heard different stories about why they do this; some say it is to give them a better vantage of approaching prey, but I have NEVER seen a wolf spider on a parapet.

Finally, in the front of the Park, we saw something I’ve never seen there before: a hummingbird moth (white-lined sphinx moth) busily sipping nectar from a field of penstemons. The below photo is courtesy of Sheri Williamson, of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (

Hummingbird moth

Here’s a video illustrating why these insects are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds:

Hummingbird Moth (White-lined Sphinx Moth) and penstemons at Tohono Chul Park