No, I am not going to pontificate on the NCAA basketball tournament in progress, though the testosterone-driven excitement around the games certainly parallels the changes that I see in the hummingbirds in my yard. Anna’s Hummingbirds have been chasing each other around like ballistic missiles with hyperdrive all month. When a surprising snowstorm raged through Arizona in the final two days before the vernal equinox, it was shocking to see zipping flashes of hot pink though the snowflakes. When I would replace a feeder of frozen nectar with fresh liquid, the feisty little birds buzzed my head as if annoyed that I was not out there at the crack of dawn with sugary elixir. Patience is not a hummingbird virtue. Continue reading
Dining has its dangers. And I don’t mean indigestion or choking on a bone. I’m talking hazards for the local seed-eating birds—the doves, quail, sparrows, juncos, and finches that check out the seeds that I scatter on the ground each morning.
Winter’s icy chill has descended on this part of Arizona, and recent snow has frozen into a crunchy crust. Little soil is exposed, and even the shrubs continue to bear heavy blobs of snow. These are lean times for seed-eating birds; there is no dietary margin for error. Find enough to eat or die. Continue reading
A blustery stranger arrived unannounced on Friday. The day dawned clear like so many others. By 11 as I drove home from the college for a quick lunch, the unexpected guest had arrived, leaving the door open so that its forceful breath whipped up whitecaps on Watson Lake. Dust and leaves swirled in its powerful exhalations. Low clouds streamed over the rounded crests of the Bradshaw Mountains. Winter had suddenly returned to Arizona. Continue reading
Deep within us we carry the genetic legacy of our distant ancestors. When we hear the mournful howl of a wolf, there is a shiver down our spine, a surge of adrenalin that we cannot control. We respond automatically and positively when we view a cute and cuddly creature or one of the “charismatic megafauna.” For some people, the call of the wild has become more of a whisper, but it’s there.
Recently I gave the keynote address for the 2011 Regional Urban Wildlife Symposium sponsored by the Open Space Alliance of Yavapai County, Arizona. Joe Phillips videotaped it and posted it on You Tube, so here it is if you want to hear and see my take on THE CALL OF THE WILD: ARE WE LISTENING?
Monsoon season in Arizona is a time of waiting and watching. Waiting for rain is like playing the lottery. Your odds improve after the 4th of July, but it’s still a roller coaster of optimism and disappointment.
This morning dawns with haze and humidity, and by 8 am, the sun’s direct rays drill into my shoulders like a laser beam. Decisions—do I water the outside plants or not? For days, the thunderheads have played with us, marching toward Granite Dells like an invading army, rumbling ominously and trailing sheets of rain, only to dissipate upon arrival. They act as if it was all bluster, threat, intimidation, then shrug a rounded shoulder, “Just kidding!” . . . It’s hard not to take it personally. Continue reading
After a day spent mostly at the computer screen, I need to stretch. Granite Dells stretches me, pulls me irresistibly into the mazes of outcrops and canyons, especially appealing when thunderheads have finished their rumbling and are sailing away across the heavens, mission accomplished.
I head toward Granite Creek, its cottonwoods pulsing with the choruses of strident cicadas. Though monsoon storms have been modest at best in this neighborhood, the weeds, native and otherwise, are dense and lush. Fortunately, mosquito populations here are lower than last year, and as long as I keep moving, I avoid serious blood-letting.
There are signs here indicating that this is a restoration area, and the twenty-foot cottonwoods and shorter velvet ash and hackberry trees are evidence that recovery is occurring. A developer had grand plans for this area, and he drained a small recreational lake that had been used by residents and tourists alike in the “good old days” of early Prescott. He also cut out the willows and cottonwoods that framed the pond and leveled the whole works for his development. There were plans for a bridge across Granite Creek where now there is a fair-weather ford—a bridge that might have impeded Wood Ducks and Black-Hawks as they flew up and downstream searching for food. With money pouring from his deep pockets and machines moving the earth with seeming impunity, he didn’t take one thing into account: his development was right next to the property of one of the Dells’ most colorful characters, Happy Heavenly Oasis (no, this is not a pseudonym). Continue reading