Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Late Spring, Early Summer Beauty at Tohono Chul Park

We have gone from a relatively cool spring to a suddenly and ferociously hot summer, with the Monsoon fast approaching. Before it gets here, I want to share some of the beautiful things I've seen in the Park in the last few weeks:

You may have to look carefully to see the mama hummer sitting on this nest, which is directly on top of another nest in which someone--probably the same bird--recently fledged two babies. It is a pent-nest, if you will.

Below is a beautiful white-winged dove perched atop a blooming agave:

And a Gila woodpecker on nearby agave blossoms:

My last still photo is of two adorable, sleepy screech owls who have been roosting in the tree outside the Museum Shop:

 And finally, here's a video of a beautiful, very long gophersnake I saw meandering across the main path near the old penstemon garden. Even if you don't like snakes, just take a moment to watch its grace and fluidity:


Fierce Ground Squirrel Attacks, Kills, and Eats Longnose Snake!

This morning at Tohono Chul Park, some other docents and I watched a round-tailed ground squirrel attack, kill, and start to eat a longnose snake. All of us were flabbergasted; we think of these little rodents as extremely cute, harmless creatures whose only encounters with snakes occur when snakes go into their burrows and eat their young. It turns out the story is way more complicated, and as I found out while researching this, ground squirrels are well-known as eaters of carrion, birds, and snakes, even, apparently, rattlesnakes.

We did not see the beginning of the attack, but the snake was still moving when we began watching. After it was clearly dead, the squirrel began tearing through the snake's skin and biting off, then eating small pieces. After a while the squirrel began to drag the snake away, perhaps to pull into its burrow so the young squirrels might enjoy a treat?  I like to imagine a future race of pumped up killer ground squirrels rampaging through the desert. The actual truth is perhaps not so far-fetched. Here is the sequence as I photographed it.

For more on longnose snakes, click here. Another story about round-tailed groundsquirrels can be found here.

And finally, I managed to upload my video of this event. (June 23, 2015).