We are at the end of dry summer now with whispers of the Monsoon’s soon approach. Already the weather forecasters are tracking it, watching as the moisture inches ever closer up from the Gulf of Mexico. For now, the desert grasses have turned to gold, the ocatillo have dropped their leaves, while the prickly pear fruit is starting to ripen.
(House Finches in feeder June 12, 2008 3:15 p.m. MST Photo by Kathie)
(Gilded Flicker Photo by Kathie June 8, 2008 Nikon D80; focal length 300mm; F/5.6-1/1000 sec)
Like everyone else, I have birds that I see on a regular basis around here, but the population is always in flux and flow. While House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches and Mourning Doves are year round visitors, the White-winged Doves are summer birds for me, though they do overwinter in other areas as close as Green Valley. I am definitely seeing more Curved-billed Thrashers and Gilded Flickers. It is not at all unusual to see 3 or 4 Gilded Flickers or Gila woodpeckers at my feeders at one time. If they see me looking at them they try to hide behind the feeder, and peek around the edges to see if I am gone.
(Pyrrhuloxia photo by Kathie 6-10-08 Nikon D80; Focal length 300; F/5.6-1/640 sec)
The flickers, Gila Woodpeckers, Curved-billed Thrashers, Pyrrhuloxias and even the Cactus Wrens all like the peanuts. Phyrrhuloxias and Gambel’s quail seem to like safflower seed. If I put out a suet cake, it is gone in less than 2 days. In May a black-headed grosbeak stopped by to feed on the suet cake in my yard, but he was only here for a day or two, before he moved on. Still, I was able to capture a couple of shots through the window before he left. Notice the large conical beak from which he derives his name "grosbeak."
(Black-headed Grosbeak by Kathie May 2008 Nikon D80 focal length 300 F/5.6-1/320 sec)
I feed Niger seed to attract the Lesser Goldfinches. Of course, the house finches like it also. Sometimes a stray siskin shows up at the Niger seed feeder along with the finches. I tried finch food with white proso millet last year thinking that, since I live in the desert, I wouldn't have to worry about it sprouting. Well, when the Monsoon rains came I had a lawn growing on the side of my house. I spent the next month or two plucking grass each time I went to fill the feeders. I never feed the cheaper "Wild Bird Seed" that is sold in almost every grocery store as most of it is wasted as the birds spill it on the ground searching for black oil sunflower seeds in the mix. It also tends to attract the more undesirable birds like pigeons and house sparrows. Plus, it also tends to sprout. I do feed black oil sunflower seeds now and again, but not often as I don't want to have to cleanup the hulls from beneath the feeders. Instead, I use sunflower seed hearts which the birds love but be careful to watch for mold if it gets wet.
(Bird feeders as seen from my den window 6-12-08 @3:15 p.m. MST)While I do put out a quail block to attract the quail, they are more interested in whatever falls from the bird feeders. It is the house sparrows that seem to like the quail block the best. Quail babies show up almost every day now, sometimes even twice a day. They follow their parents everywhere and can now fly as well as the adults if they feel threatened. This morning I noticed that papa quail has gone from being the look-out for the family to teaching his youngsters about the pecking order. Today as the family fed beneath the feeder, papa chased the younger birds away, while allowing Momma bird to feed at will. I think soon these youngsters will be out on their own, fending for themselves. Perhaps Mama will soon be setting on another clutch of eggs and the cycle will repeat itself again.
(Gambel's Quail female and young: Photo by Kathie 6-8-08 Nikon D80 Focal Length 300 F/5.6-1/200 sec.)
(Cactus wren photo by Kathie June 9, 2008 Nikon D80 Focal length 300 mm F/5.6 -1/250 sec)
They hunt along the edges of my house and bushes looking for insects hiding in the foliage or in cracks and crevices of the block walls and foundation. But they are not above snatching a peanut or too if the opportunity presents itself.
(Purple Martin photo by Kathie 7:30 a.m. 6-12-08 Nikon D80 sports mode)I took a very short walk on the desert’s edge this morning and it was enough to convince me I need to go back out into the wash once again. I could hear and see birds all around me, and the purple martins were gliding through such deep blue skies you could almost imagine them swimming in air! I was so concerned that they wouldn’t come back, but they are here, out in the wash, nesting in the tall saguaros once again.
(Purple Martins and saguaro taken by Kathie 6-12-08 @ 7:30 a.m. MST with Nikon D80 set in sports mode.)