We finally arrive at our starting point for our survey. Here under the tree canopy a few Sacred Daturas are blooming with huge white bell-shaped flowers. I am told these flowers are hallucinogenic if I were to eat one. No chance of that happening with me! I’ll just enjoy looking at them, thank you! Since it is peak migration we hope to see some new birds today. It hasn’t rained in quite awhile and I can tell the creek level has definitely fallen since the last time we were here. It is rattlesnake season, however, and we keep a close lookout for where we place our feet as we head down the transect route along the riparian area. While we don't find any rattlesnakes, we do find this cone shaped depression in the sand which indicates the presence of an antlion larva's den.
As we scramble over rocks and boulders Jean points out a beautiful rock that is indicative of the geology of Sabino Canyon. This rock is called gneiss and is composed of feldspar, quartz, garnet, mica, and magnetite.
Since the water in the creek is frequently too high for us to follow its course along the bank we walk as far as we can, then backtrack to the road where we hike down to the bluff trail and take up the survey again. At the point where we reconnect with the road is a restroom where we often take a rest stop. It is in this restroom that I have had frogs fall out of the toilet paper roll or leap out of the sink on suction toes that cling to the side of the sink only to crawl back in to the wet center once I am done washing my hands. Today there are no frogs but right outside the rest room Jean and Pam call me over quickly to see a Gila Monster that is slowly lumbering across the ground. Finally I have my camera with me! I hastily start snapping photos as the creature crawls off into the cacti and scrub. I want to get a good picture of him of course, but he is heading away from me and most shots are of its backside!
Farther down the trail we spot a yellow warbler in the top of an ash tree. It performs feats of high acrobatics in the top of the tree as it gleans insects from the new green leaves. Once down along the creek again we find more hummingbirds and some Wilson’s Warblers. A female black-chinned hummingbird alights briefly on her spider-web woven nest beneath a large tree that holds a Cooper’s Hawk nest. Research by the hummingbird survey group has revealed that Black-chinned hummingbirds are 50% more successful in raising their broods when they nest beneath a Cooper’s hawk nest. The interplay of species never ceases to amaze me.
It was still a bit cool when we first started our survey, but the rising sun has raised the temperature considerably. I shed my light sweater and sip water from my camel pack on a regular basis. Our dew points have been running in the single digits lately with a few dips in the negative category. Yes, I have seen dew points of -9 degrees posted on the local evening news. This means our air is extremely dry which makes the fire danger extreme also. According to the news, we are experiencing the highest fire danger in 26 years!