Roadrunner Rush

I moved to Arizona from Eugene, Oregon, also known as Track Town USA.  Road runners were everywhere—streets, sidewalks, and trails.  Funny that the collegiate athletes are called “Ducks.”

Here in Arizona, ducks are limited to rare wetlands in the desert.  Roadrunners, on the other hand, thrive in the deserts and chaparral of the Southwest, and it is always a special treat to encounter this bizarre member of the cuckoo family.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

I live in Granite Dells, a wonderland of granite outcrops with clearings (“dells”) nestled among the boulders and peaks.  This is roadrunner country.  Continue reading

Wildlife Wonders of Tanzania

My first experience of East Africa was in 1979, and it changed my life profoundly.  The wildlife and people of Kenya and Tanzania have become “family” to me–not replacing kinship but adding to it.  After the tremendous success of the June 2015 safari, I have set up two exciting and very different safaris in order to renew my connections there and give others the chance to experience the very best that an African safari can offer.

The next safari takes us off the beaten path using small planes to get us to wilderness parks few people are even aware of: Selous, Ruaha, Katavi, Mahale.  Here are details: Tanzania WILD: Explore the Exceptional (July 25-August 8, 2016).

The next will be in January-February 2017 when we can expect the Great Migration to be in the shortgrass plains of the southern Serengeti.  It also coincides with green landscapes, wildflowers, and tremendous bird populations as winged visitors for Europe and Asia join the African residents.  I hope you can join us! Tanzania Herds & Birds, Nature & Culture (January 25-Feb. 6, 2017).

A few months ago, I gave a presentation at Prescott College, and they video-taped it so that if you were not there, you can now, through the wonders of technology, experience that presentation and vicariously go on safari.

I, Pundit

The holiday season is upon us, that mathematically odd time of year when ads multiply, good friendships reap dividends, and politics remain as divisive as ever.  My in box and mail box swell with promises of deals so good that if I only spend enough, I can surely become rich.  Buy until you’re spent!  No money down!

The sporting goods catalogs promote insulated jackets so well that the market for down is up.  Which reminds me how our language (and corruptions of it) can bring us cheer well before happy hour.  When I hear someone say, “I am going to lay down,” I immediately visualize that person ovipositing feathers.  If those speakers realized what they were saying, I think they would be willing to lie a lot more readily.

Try to imagine this bird "laying down."

Try to imagine this bird “laying down.”

Our language simply invites word play, and as a man, I manipulate it. Continue reading

Monsoon Magic

For weeks, we have waited, hoping that the early July pattern of monsoon rain arrival would be repeated.  It did not look promising.  June was brutally hot and dry, clouds rare, winds fierce.  The scrub oaks and manzanitas have shed most of their leaves; time will tell if they will all survive this challenge.  Grasses were dry as tinder, nutritionless.  Sprouting daturas withered and died except where we gave them water.  We are the recipients of past pluvial generosity, siphoning water from underground stores without little thought of where that water has come from.  But for now, sharing a little of that water with the other creatures that share our space seems like the right thing to do, since we have taken so much from the wild already.

Water set out for the local birds and mammals was eagerly sought by both.  Our house became the oasis to which dozens of species flocked.  Quail seemed to have had a good reproduction year, as at least a half dozen broods came in daily, but what would have happened without our water subsidy?

Quail brood at water dish

Quail brood at water dish

Rufous –crowned Sparrows, Crissal Thrashers, finches, towhees, and even woodpeckers—they all drank from our little pools in apparent harmony.  Continue reading

When Verde Means Gold

Autumn on Upper Verde River

Just as a migratory bird feels an irresistible inner urge teach fall, so do I experience a powerful restlessness satisfied only by ignoring my in-box, pushing aside the endless piles of papers begging to be shuffled, and taking off to some quiet corner of nature when I can embrace the changing of the seasons with full attention.

Autumn hasn’t been waiting for me—the aspens have scattered their yellow coins already up at Mt. Francis, and the maples have displayed their crimson badges at Mingus Mountain without my approval.  I am not teaching my Interpreting Nature class this fall, which usually provides me a legitimate excuse to get out there.   Thus, if I am not to miss the whole gaudy show of carotenoids, anthocyanins, and other pigments, I have to seize the moment, and yesterday afternoon I did just that. Continue reading

Granite Dells & the Lakes

Granite Dells and the Lakes—Central to Arizona

In Arizona, a state noted for natural wonders, Yavapai County stands out.  Prescott’s physical environment—pine forests, chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodlands, grasslands, dramatic rock formations, and wetlands—is one of the reasons it is called “Everybody’s Hometown.”  Watson and Willow Lakes in the Granite Dells dominate this landscape.

For the entire month of June, the Prescott Public Library Viewerie will display more than thirty large (some up to six feet in length) photographs in professional gallery mounts of Granite Dells and the Lakes (Watson & Willow) that stand as the centerpiece of the Tri-city area of Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley in Yavapai County, Arizona.  They represent the work of Walt Anderson, acclaimed nature photographer, and Joe Phillips, master printer.  A reception open to the public is set for Wednesday, June 6, from 5:30-7:30 pm at the library.

This site presents an expanded tour of the content and images, with bonus photos and text added, but it cannot replace the impact of seeing the images in live time.  Please try to visit the exhibition.  Images are for sale from the photographer (geolobo@cableone.net or 928-445-7470), and other images and sizes, individually and lovingly printed by Joe, can be created for your needs.  Here is the price list with images.

This exhibit celebrates our natural heritage and urges all citizens, including decision-makers, to prioritize protection and wise stewardship of our great natural assets.  Right here, right now, in the heart of this watershed, we must act to keep what we love. Continue reading

March Madness

Anna's Hummingbird in flight

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

Aerial Assassin

Cooper's Hawk taking flight, snowy day

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

The Call of the Wild: Are We Listening?

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?

Harris's Hawk is responding to climate warming in Arizona