Thursday, May 8, 2008
Snakes, Doves, and a Black-crowned Night Heron
It’s definitely Spring here in Sycamore Canyon for the snakes are on the move. Gus and I saw a beautiful salmon-colored snake about 4-feet long as it crossed the road in front of our vehicle here in Corona de Tucson on Monday. We stopped our car to watch it pass as it was taking its own sweet time. Once again, I was without my camera! Soon we saw other vehicles approaching from the opposite direction and Gus flashed his lights to warn them to slow down, but that must not be a universally accepted signal here in Arizona for no one did. I was about to jump out of the car and stand in the road to protect the snake, but apparently it felt the vibrations and picked up the pace, for it slithered quickly off into the desert.
We’ve been busy for the past 10 days with grandchildren visiting from Maine. At ages 3 and 5 it was the first time my grandchildren have flown on a plane or left New England. How much fun it was to see the desert through their young eyes. At their ages they were more interested in playgrounds than anything else, but we did manage to get to the Sonoran Desert Museum and the Reid Park Zoo. Brooklyn, the 5-year old was captivated by all the animals and spent much of her time trying to pet birds and squirrels. She wasn’t successful but she gave it her best effort. Trey loved playgrounds the most and we visited one almost every day.
Last night was their last night here and for the first time we discovered a snake in our backyard. At about 2 feet long the slender body had a narrow head and no rattles on its tail. Still, the pattern was reminiscent of a rattlesnake, so we were cautious. My oldest son, G, was visiting from Coolidge and he captured the snake in a bucket with some barbeque tongs. We simply dumped it over the wall back into the desert but I had to know what kind of snake it was. So, though supper was ready, I turned on the computer and searched for Snakes in Arizona. I found this great web site with the snake patterns indicated next to the species names. You just look for the pattern and click on the link and it takes you to a complete description of the reptile you are searching for. In this way I discovered my backyard snake was a Gopher snake and non-venomous. I believe the long salmon colored snake was a Coachwhip snake. Finding the snake in the yard is one more encouragement to get a piece of screening to put over the drainage hole in the block wall. After that the yard will be pretty much sealed up and a snake will have to climb the walls to get in. I really don’t want to find any rattlers in my back yard!
On Tuesday, May 6, we visited Reid Park and Reid Park Zoo. It was our first time visiting the zoo, which, though small, is nicely laid out with many impressive animals. The kids also loved a small splash area near the otters called “Kenya Get Wet”. It didn’t matter that they were fully clothed, they splashed away anyway. With the dry Tucson air it wasn’t long before their clothes dried either. Along with all the zoo animals there are two walk through aviaries with exotic birds from around the world, but the artificial habitat created by the lush trees and artificial streams also draws many of our native birds to the zoo. As a result, we saw a Black-crowned Night Heron in a wooded area near some water, and an Inca dove feeding on the ground beneath a bird feeder suspended from a tree. The Inca dove was feeding with a flock of house sparrows and you can really get a good idea of their size in relation to that common bird. Inca doves are quite small. You can see their all over scaly pattern in this picture.
Well, in another area I found these two small doves with a somewhat scaly pattern roosting on the ground. I thought at first they might be more Inca doves but they had the spots of mourning doves. So, then I thought they might be Common Ground Doves, but after consulting my field guides I realized these were simply juvenile mourning doves. Ground doves would be ruddy colored underneath their wings, and these weren’t, plus, ground doves also have a pinkish or orange-ish base to their bills and these clearly don’t.Gus took all the pictures at the zoo and I have to confess, this one is my favorite. I’m including it here, simply because I love the feathers. Can you guess what bird it is? Enjoy!