Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Arrival of the Pigs

Pig portrait 7-7-09

When I first returned from Connecticut I discovered that the pigs have come. Yes, that’s right pigs. Winged pigs. Greedy feathered beast that drop from the air on my feeders and chase away all the other birds in their greed to gobble up as much seed as possible in the shortest amount of time.


As a result, I have modified my bird feeding and it seems to have helped. Whereas before I was feeding black oil sunflower seed along with quail blocks, thistle seed, and a peanut feeder I now only feed thistle seed, peanuts and nectar.

While I am not getting as many birds at my feeders, I am getting more of the kind that I want to see. Though a few house sparrows, house finches and mourning doves still hang around, there are not the hoards that I saw before and I don’t miss them. The sweet lesser goldfinches and numerous migrating hummingbirds more than make up for it and I do still get a canyon towhee or a black-throated sparrow once in awhile.

Rufous Hummingbird 8-24-09

Male Black-chinned hummingbird 8-24-09

Winged PIGS! 7-7-09

As for the pigs, I can still see a huge flock downhill from me in another neighborhood. I have heard that someone down there actually LIKES them and encourages them to come and feed at her house. All I know is that I can see a flock of 30 to 40 birds soaring over the rooftops to the northeast of me and I don’t want them here! Perhaps someone should tell her about the gas station awning that collapsed in Yuma, Arizona last year just from the weight of the accumulated pigeon droppings!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Skywatch Friday: Hope in the Desert

Hope starts
With the first drop of rain.
In the desert the dry ground
And it’s gone;
But then another drop follows,
And another,

Until the fragile shower
Has become a raging torrent
Racing down desert washes
Filling empty pools
Until ponds and rivers form
Where once the earth lay
Bare-breasted in the baking sun.

And in these muddy waters
In the creosote scented air
As night falls
The mating calls
Of poison-skinned desert toads
Are sure to follow.

~Kathie Brown (8-24-09)

For more amazing skies visit

These photos were taken Saturday as the rains came down. I did not see any toads this weekend but I did finally hear them calling wildly in the night after last week's rain. So, there is hope for the next genereation after all.

All of today's photos were taken by Kathie with the Nikon D80 and the 18-70mm lens set in Programmed Auto. Except for the toad which was photographed 7-3-09 with the 70-300mm lens set in sports mode.

Attention! TEP Open House Tonight!

Important information for the Residents of Sycamore Canyon, Corona de Tucson, Sahuarita, and anyone who cares about the Santa Rita Mountains!

WHAT: Tucson Electric Power Is holding an Open House style meeting on the Proposed Rosemont Copper Mine


WHERE: Rancho Resort Clubhouse, 15900 S. Resort Blvd., Sahuarita, AZ West of I-19 off Helmet Peak Rd. (Sahuarita Rd. becomes Helmet Peak west of I-19)

TIME: Come anytime between 5:30 - 7:30 PM

It is not necessary for you to come and stay for the whole 2 hours. You can drop in anytime and leave your comments. It is important that people show up and express their opinions! TEP will be choosing the route for their High Power Transmission lines to go up and over the Santa Rita Mountains if the proposed mine is approved. One route would take these power lines directly west of Sycamore Canyon through our sensitive natural preserve. They would be in view of our homes and affect our property values as well.

This is the only meeting for this stage of the Proposed Rosemont Copper Electric Project so it is vitally important that people attend! Your presence counts! TEP will be choosing their route after this meeting!

For more info and to see the proposed routes go to the TEP website and look under Transmission Line Projects

PDF Map Here

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blossom Update No. 2

Blossom 8-24-09

On Friday we went to the vet for Blossom’s last Class IV laser treatment. The treatment seems to have helped her quite a bit for it looks like her tail will be saved. The laser is not painful at all but rather very warming to the deep tissues of her body. When we arrive at the vet’s the technician places a towel up on the cold steel table and I lift blossom up there. Next the tech opens a box about the size of a brief case and takes out an instrument that looks like a black wand with a clear shield at the tip. The other end is attached by a cable to a meter which has various settings. After donning special glasses to protect our eyes the tech turns the machine on and it whirrs and hums while a thin beam of light emits from the other end. The tech passes the wand back and forth and up and down over the area to be treated. In this case she is treating Blossom’s rump and spine, so the wand passes over her back in steady rhythm. She cannot linger in any one area too long or the beam could burn Blossom’s tissues instead.

Blossom has no fear of the machine and after awhile she usually lays down and relaxes. The treatment only takes about 3 to 1o minutes and the theory behind it is that the warmth of the laser stimulates the tissue and brings blood to the area which promotes healing. The rays emitted are in various frequencies and the settings are determined by what type of animal you have and what you are trying to accomplish. There are different settings for wound healing than for muscle soreness and different settings for a horse than for a small 15 pound dog!

Blossom with her happy tail curled over her back 4-5-2008

Blossom with her happy tail 4-5-08

Blossom with her tail as far as it will go now 8-24-09

While Blossom’s tail looks like it will be saved, a new issue has arisen. Small wounds have started to open on her rump from the impact of the other dog’s teeth. At first one appeared last week, then another. Right now there are about 5 of them and the vet says it is because the tissue is dying from the impact and pressure of the attacker’s teeth. As a result Blossom is on her second round of antibiotics to keep her from infection. She is also on a daily laxative to prevent any pain when she has a bowel movement. At first you could tell this was a problem for her and it was painful to eliminate but now things seem to be normal. She will be on the laxative for at least a month and she may have to be on it for the rest of her life. We go back to see the vet this Friday so he can check on the wounds on her rump. For now she is mostly normal and her tail goes higher every day. She still likes to go for walks, but we are so wary and our hearts clench whenever we see another person walking towards us with a big dog or small. Blossom could not withstand another attack and neither could we.

One side affect of all of this is the guilt we feel for not being able to protect her. Gus constantly recriminates himself for not protecting her but I remind him that he saved her life. If her had let go of her for even an instant that dog would have shaken her and she would be dead. As for me, I chide myself for being so useless. All I did was scream like a girl. I am usually good in a crisis and can think on my feet. I am usually the one who reacts first and falls apart later, but this time I just screamed like I have never screamed before. I frequently have dreams where I am in grave danger but I cannot scream. I have often wondered what would happen in real life. Well, now I know that I CAN scream, but I wish I had done something a bit more useful.

For more information on the use and science behind Class IV Laser go to the

They have an excellent demonstration video as well as in depth information on how this therapy works.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My World: An Unexpected Encounter

The low road 8-22-09

It is Saturday and I have been inside most of the day after Monsoon rains poured down from leaden skies. The rain washed air is fresh and cool by evening as I head outside for a walk. I leave both bins and camera behind. I intend to just walk and enjoy the gentle light of the setting sun and the sights and sounds and smells of this desert refreshed. I purposely resist the urge to count the birds. I only want to enjoy nature, and so I plod along. I cross the street to access the desert at its closest path to my house but I find the trail flooded and so turn and walk down the street. After I cross another street I find the desert trail that runs behind a different set of homes.

The winding gravel trail passes through a forest of mesquite, saguaros, and ocotillos. I hear the cries of curve-billed thrashers and the cackling calls of cactus wrens. Nearby ocotillo branches are dotted with perching mourning doves. How they find a foothold on those thorny branches I will never know. As the trail winds down past a retention basin I can hear the trickle of water as it tumble over stones and forms a small rivulet in this dry desert. How quickly the water rises here and how quickly it fades away.

Blue sky is breaking through the tattered gray clouds already blushing in the fading sunlight. I hop over the spreading creek to the sidewalk and find my way to the massive bridge that spans the large wash for which Sycamore Canyon is named. As I walk across the bridge I gaze below on either side to see if the water flowed down the wash this time around. Apparently there was some flow, for I see puddles and pools of water here and there along its course. In the desert, all water is a giver of life and the birds are gathered around these pools quenching their thirst, bathing, or searching for food as the insects gather over the water also.

The high road 8-22-09

On the west side of the bridge huge mounds of dirt rise deposited here by the construction crews. They have created their own canyons and one road leads down past a cliff of gravel while the other leads up and over the top. I take the high road because I like to be up high and have a view. As I gain the height of the hill I stop and turn 360 degrees to drink in the sight.

Mt. Wrightston 8-22-09

The Santa Ritas to the south rise raggedly to the sky. Their jagged peaks tear at the clouds drifting slowly by. Mt. Wrightston towers above them all, but the whole range is a sight to behold. Beautiful and smoky blue in this light, with gray green desert tumbling down its slopes punctuated here and there by the towering and spiny saguaros. And everywhere tonight it seems there are birds. Perhaps they have raised their voices in joy over the blessings of rain. The air is alive with the sound of their voices and my ears search the sounds trying to identify them all. I am getting better at birding by ear and I hear so many familiar desert voices.

Gravel pool where the low road ends 8-22-09

I continue to turn and drink in the view of unspoiled desert to west, the road I walked up to the north, and the dirt banks and cliff near my feet with a deep pool of water below. If I had taken the lower road I would have ended at this impromptu pool.

Sycamore Canyon and Mt. Fagan 8-22-09

Now it reflects the blue sky above with a towering thunderhead rising behind Mount Fagan to the east. In front of the mountain the rooftops of Sycamore Canyon rise in jagged mimic of the mountain range. All the home are stuccoed in shades of dirt and mud in an effort to match the surrounding landscape, but it comes off to me as brown and taupe and boring. Still, I like my life here and I am not complaining too much.

As I stand here on this ledge of dirt drinking it all in I suddenly hear the sounds of bird voices rising in a crescendo. It is a chorus of sound and I search to sky to find its source. I look to the north as a large flock of purple martins flies mobbing a fleeing raptor. I watch as the raucous gang flies west with a pointed-winged raptor fleeing before them. Now I am trying desperately to discern who these purple bullets are chasing. I am cursing myself for leaving my bins behind and totally enthralled with the chase. As the mob draws nearer my location I see the raptor bank and turn towards me as it flies low along the artificial cliff formed by the mounds of dirt. I realize now that if I wait it will reappear nearby where I might perhaps be able to see what species of bird this is with my bare eyes. And so I hold my breath and wait. I have become a statue as I try desperately to blend in with my surroundings. To my utter surprise, the bird not only appears from behind the dirt bank with the twittering banshees in hot pursuit, it is flying straight towards my face as it comes up over the rim of the cliff. I watch open mouthed as I see the pointed wings, black hood and white breast of a peregrine falcon. It is less than 20 feet from me when it realizes I am in its direct path of flight! Quickly it banks to its left and veers off toward the big wash of Sycamore Canyon to the east. The mad martins continue their pursuit until the bird is lost in the desert. I watch the mob disburse like a vapor in the sky and then feel my own heart flutter as a pair dips low over the pool at my feet and scoop up a refreshing drink on the wing. The chorus of twitters has tapered off to the gentle song of victory in the throats of this purple martin pair.

I stand there as if in a dream, gazing around at this enchanted place. My own heart flutters like a bird in my breast as I realize I have to tell this story to someone! It takes me twenty minutes to get home and grab my camera to come back and photograph this spot. By now the sun is truly almost down. I have brought Gus with me to this spot where we stand on the manmade mound of dirt and I tell him the story of what I have seen. I point out the water, the ridge and the cliff. I tell him about the mobbing birds. I try to describe what it was like to see a peregrine flying straight at my face but, in the end I am at a loss for words.

Silvery sunset 8-22-09

All I can do is photograph the scene of the crime and wonder at the golden light cascading from the sinking sun as it peeks from behind a remnant of today’s storm clouds before it slips quietly beyond the horizon.

And that's...

(All photos click to enlarge)

All of today's photography is copyrighted by kathie brown and is done with the Nikon D80 and the 18 to 70 mm lens set in programmed auto.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Empire-Fagan Public Town Hall Meeting

Empire Mountains and Limestone Cliffs in Davidson Canyon
(photo by Kathie Brown 8-13-08)

Empire-Fagan Coalition
Public Town Hall

Rally public support in opposition to CalPortland's proposed mining operations in Davidson Canyon. Specifically, we are facilitating a public response to the Clean Water Act "404 Permit" that CalPortland has applied for. CalPortland must have this permit to be able to build a haul road across the biologically sensitive canyon.

Wednesday, August 26th, 6:00 pm

Corona de Tucson Fire Station 99 Tallahassee Street Corona de Tucson

6:00 pm - Opening
6:05 pm - Welcome and Opening Remarks
Mike Carson, President, Empire-Fagan Coalition

6:15 pm - Speakers
- Gayle Hartman, President, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas
- Roger Featherstone, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition
- Ray Carroll, Pima County Supervisor

6:45 pm - Expert Panel / Q&A
- Lainie Levick, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas
- Claire Zucker, Pima Association of Governments
- Trevor Hare, Sky Island Alliance

7:30 - Music compliments of Fire Chief Whitehouse and his band

For more information: Empire Fagan Coalition

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Skywatch Friday: It's all about the Water

Blue Sky above Cienega Creek
as it flows through Davidson Canyon 12-13-07

Cienega Creek flowing under the train trestle 12-13-07

Cienega Creek flows down from Davidson Canyon as one of the only permanent streams here in the desert southwest. Home to birds and wildlife, it has been deemed an "Outstanding Water of Arizona." If either the Rosemont Mine or the Cal-Portland Cement and SEEL mines go in all their water run off will flow downstream, affecting this pristine natural area. Birds have used it as a home and a migratory stop off for ages. In a very short time it could be destroyed.

In the desert it is all about the water.

To find out how you can help contact: Empire Fagan Coalition

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Empire-Fagan Press Release

Limestone heap in Davidson Canyon
with the Empire Mountains behind. 8-13-09

The battle for Davidson Canyon heated up today as The Empire-Fagan Coalition announced a multi-pronged response to cement and mining giant Arizona California Portland Cement Company (CalPortland), as the company moved forward with plans to mine calcium carbonate in two open-pit quarries spanning Davidson Canyon.

Earlier this week, CalPortland made a formal application to the Army Corps of Engineers, to be allowed to build a mining haul road across the canyon, which runs along Scenic Highway 83. Davidson Canyon, parts of which were recently designated an "Outstanding Water of Arizona", is a major tributary to Las Cienegas Preserve, and a critical link in a watershed that supplies the Tucson Basin with up to 20% of its recharge.

Home to protected species, perennial above-ground springs, and an essential wildlife corridor, the Canyon's vital place in the Sonoran Desert ecosystem is unquestioned. Furthermore, archeological discoveries of objects considered sacred to indigenous groups are located within a stone's throw from the proposed pits.

The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the public debate for a 30-day comment period, and the emails faxes and letters are flying. Mike Carson, president of the Empire Fagan Coalition, estimates that before the comment period ends, the Corps will hear from over 40 governmental and conservation organizations, hundreds of residents, and the Coalition itself. "Yes, we are outgunned - if you are talking about high-priced lobbyists and unlimited spin budgets," said Carson, "but ultimately the will of a community prevails, and I predict that September will see CalPortland slinking home with its multinational tail between its greedy legs." Just to be sure, the Coalition has organized a public Town Hall event for Wednesday August 26th, to get out the word. "The clock is ticking, and the legislative and regulatory environment is stacked against us, to say the least," said Carson. "But the main criterion that the Corps of Engineers uses to evaluate this 404 application is that of the public interest. If you define the public as a few executives in Los Angeles, they might prevail. But we are keeping our fingers crossed and mobilizing all the help we can get."

Empire-Fagan Coalition
PO Box 812, Vail, Arizona 85641

Please Save my home!

Rock Squirrel on limestone in Davidson Canyon 8-13-08

(This article is a press release from the Empire-Fagan coalition. These photos were taken by Kathiebirds on a visit to the canyon and Andrada Ranch last summer. )

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Magnificent Hummingbird 8-16-09 by Gusto!

Magnificent Hummingbird by Gusto! 8-16-09

Magnificent Hummingbird with green gorget flashing.

Magnificent Hummingbird in a pine tree. 8-16-09

Magnificent hummingbird at feeder with other hummers.

On Sunday Gus and I took a drive up Mt Lemmon, a 9000 ft mountain located at the northeast side of Tucson in the Catalina Mountains. A drive up the Catalina Highway starts in the Sonoran Desert with towering saguaros. As we head up the highway the temperature is already 98 degrees F at noontime. As the road follows the steep switchbacks higher and higher we watch the temperature gauge drop and the terrain around us changes from sonoran desert to mountain pine forest. By the time we reach the Palisades Visitor Center the temperature has dropped to 77 degrees!

Today Gus is taking the photos as I have injured my left arm trying to put away a suitcase on a shelf high overhead and strained my rotator cuff. I am alright but the gist of the matter is, I can't use my left arm. So Gus is doing all the photography today. That's fine by me. I am pleased that he is with me and that he finds pleasure in photographing the birds. We scurry out of the car, for the Plaisades Visitor Center is well known as a great location to see a Magnificent hummingbird. If I do see one here it will be a *Life Bird for me.

We take up positions on the deck of the visitor center and watch as broad-tailed hummingbirds and rufous buzz and whizz by. They land at the feeder in groups and drive each other away fiercely. Then suddenly a large black looking hummer lands on the perch, dwarfing the rest of the birds. In the shadows he appears black but then the sunlight bounces off his throat and the lime green gorget flashes like a neon sign. After drinking a moment he flies off into the nearby pine tree and lands on a slim twig. I watch with mouth agape as the smaller hummers dive past him and he flashes his feathers once again. This time I see not only the lime green gorget, but the purple crown feathers on his head. Is there any wonder they named this bird "Magnificent?"

Magnificent Hummingbird at feeder, Palisades Visitor Center,
Mt Lemmon, AZ 8-16-09 by Gusto!
with the Nikon D80 set in sports mode.

and that's...

Go visit!
*Life Bird-the first time one sees a species of bird and adds it to their Life List. Most birders maintain a list of all the bird species they ave seen in their lives. I am no exception. I have been keeping a list since I was around 16 years old. This makes #355 for me, but I have not entered all my historical data into eBird yet and this number could change.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Skywatch Friday: Summer Rain

Storm clouds over the Santa Rita's 8-13-09

We awoke to gentle rain on Thursday morning. After weeks of temperatures in the 105 range, this morning it was 71 and oh so cool and fresh! I immediately shut off the Ac and threw all the windows open wide. A cool breeze wafted in until I felt so chilled I needed to don a sweater! By late afternoon the sun broke through and the temperature rose to 91, but I left the AC off and the windows open. It was a fine day here in Sycamore Canyon.

Sycamore Canyon 8-13-09

To see more amazing skies click on the link below

(All photos click to enlarge.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blossom Update

Blossom 8-13-09

Blossom is getting around and starting to act more like herself. Initially she was afraid to go outside, but now she even wants to go for walks again. She has started to bark whenever someone comes to the front door and she is greeting Gus when he comes home from work by jumping up on her hind legs and digging at his pants. She is wagging her tail in greeting, which is good, but she still can’t hold it over her back and wave it like a flag like she used to. Every day it goes higher though, and we still have hope. She has now had 3 class IV laser treatments which the doctor recommended to promote healing. It seems to be doing her some good and she now relaxes and lays down for her treatment. She has 3 more to go. Next Friday we will have a recheck with the vet and hopefully he will give her the all clear. I just want everyone to know that the owners of the other dog have taken full responsibility and have paid all of Blossom’s bills. We have no malice towards them. They did not want this to happen any more than we did. As for Gus, he is sore and tired but healing up just fine. I think that he will be okay, though he still hasn’t seen a doctor. Right now he is just happy to see Blossom acting more like herself.

Blossom 8-13-09

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My World: Hummingbird Season

Costa's hummingbird immature male 8-10-09

In My World it is the season of hummingbirds. While the rest of the country enjoys hummingbirds in the heat of the summer, for me they arrive in August and stay all winter long.

Male Costa's 8-9-09

Though I have seen a few Costa’s females during June and July, it is only recently that the males started to show up again.

Black-chinned male 8-10-09

Then, on Saturday I saw my first black-chinned male of the season. By Sunday the flood gates had opened and theses tiny feathered jewels are here in force. I now have two rufous hummingbirds battling for my feeders along with at least 2 black-chins and numerous Costa’s hummingbirds. I have already seen some Anna’s and soon the broad-billed hummingbirds will arrive. My back yard has become a war zone with these feathered weapons flying about. They use their tiny beaks like swords or lances and dive at each other to defend whichever feeder they have claimed as their own.

Fiery rufous 8-10-09

Of all the hummingbirds in the yard the rufous hummingbirds are the most fiery. If they are at a feeder and an intruder tries to feed, they hover in the air, orange tail feathers spread and buzz and chirp and dive until they drive the intruder away.

Rufous Hummingbird 8-10-09

Unafraid, the hummingbirds will whizz past my head like a shot, and I will flinch before they will. It makes it hard to get anything done, for they are so fascinating to watch. I tried not to love them just because everyone else does. I am a bit of an oppositional child in this way, but I could not resist. They have won me over and I am in love with them.

Rufous immature 8-10-09

I will only have this wide variety of species for a short time. Soon most of them will migrate even farther south, and I will be left with mostly Costa’s and Anna’s hummingbirds. The Costa’s will establish their breeding territories and by January and February they will be nesting once again.

Feeding in harmony 8-10-09

I can easily see how native tribes lived so in tune with the earth that they named the seasons according to what was happening at the moment. For me, the season of the purple martins is about to end, as I know they will soon be migrating south. Now the season of the hummingbirds has arrived and after that, it will be the season of the raptors and waterfowl as those species return from the north. I know I still have so much to learn about my desert home, but as the days pass and I tune in to this wonderful world around me I begin to feel the beating heart of this earth and hear the breath of the land. I begin to know and understand the moods of this land I live on, this earth that I am a part of, this place that gives me Life.

And that's...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Announcement: Empire-Fagan Committee to Meet

Scenic Highway 83 through Davidson Canyon looking North to Mt. Fagan. 8-3-08

The next meeting of the Empire-Fagan Coalition is Sunday, August 9th at 1:00 pm, at the Corona de Tucson Fire House. 99 Talahassee St., Corona de Tucson

Friday, August 7, 2009

Attack of the Gray Ghost

It is a pleasant evening for a walk as Gus and I step out the front door with our little dog, Blossom. A few clouds have rolled in and the wind has picked up, dropping the temperature from 106 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit. We walk casually up our street towards the new neighborhood that is going in. I want to see the new house they are building that I first noticed when I took a walk in the wash last week. As we draw near the neighborhood I notice the gate is closed. A couple around our age and a little girl are coming towards us with two large dogs. They must skirt the gate to get back out to where we are. We check to see if their dogs are on a leash, because poor little Blossom has been attacked by larger dogs before. All is well and we keep on walking, but we keep our distance. As they pass the stone monuments that support the metal gate I am looking off into the desert for birds, but Gus is focused on them. Suddenly I turn and see a gray ghost coming straight towards us dragging his leash, head low and silent.

Gus tries to grab Blossom but she panics and bolts to the end of her leash. Gus slips as he grabs for her and lands on his butt. I interject my body between Gus, who now has Blossom, and this large 85 pound dog. I have no weapon to use of any kind. I tell the dog “NO” loud and firm and it crouches slightly and looks at me out of the corner of its eye, then it darts around me and clamps onto Blossom’s rump with a vice-like grip. I turn to see the dark muzzle wrapped around Blossom’s butt. All the upper teeth are exposed as they dig into her flesh. Gus is holding onto Blossom for all he is worth. If Gus lets go I am sure the dog will run away with Blossom in his jaws, shaking her until she is dead. The owner comes running and grabs his dog by the rump and sits down. Me? I am screaming for all I am worth. I am screaming like I have never screamed before in my life!

Meanwhile, Gus has his right arm wrapped around Blossom keeping her from being carried off by the much larger dog. At only 15 pounds, the other dog grossly outweighs her. Gus is punching the dog with all his might with his left hand, the hand that he just had surgery on. He is punching and punching and punching. Blow after blow falls unheeded on the gray monster. Still the dog grips tight. My mind is racing wilding now. When will this nightmare end? Why won’t someone come to help us? Why won’t this dog let go. I am afraid that Blossom is dying as her eyes bulge out of her head. I am afraid Gus is going to die in his attempts to rescue her. And all I can do is stand there and scream.

Suddenly Gus switches from pounding on the dog’s ribs to punching it in the face. The new attack works and the dog finally releases Blossom. The male owner of the dog scurries to his feet and takes his dogs home. The little girl goes with him and we are left with the woman owner. She immediately volunteers to pay the vet bill for our dog. Amazingly, Blossom appears to be unscathed in that we can see no blood and she is walking. The woman gives us her phone number and address and we walk home shaking and near tears. Already Gus’s hand is starting to swell. It isn’t until we are home that we discover the full extent of his injuries. As he washes his hands he wisely removes his wedding ring. His hand is bleeding and swelling and turning black and blue. Both his elbows are scraped, as are both his knees. Meanwhile Blossom is hiding under the bed.

We try to coax her out with food but she is not interested. Gus just wants her to act normal again, but she cannot. She is not normal. I decide to give her a bath to wash off the fecal matter from when the dog first attacked her and she evacuated her bowels. But it hurts her too much and I quickly give that up as a bad idea. It takes us all quite awhile to unwind and go to bed. It is after 1:00 a.m. when we finally fall asleep. Gus sleeps through the night, but I can hear Blossom's pitiful whimpers from underneath the bed. I get up at 3:30 to try to comfort her but she crawls back up onto her pillow. I fall asleep and dream of mutant humans with partial metallic faces and silverware growing out of their upper jaw pointing straight out. At 5:30 Blossom starts whimpering again and scratching on the bed. It is her way of communicating with us. I think she wants to go out. Gus and I both get up and I have to drag her from beneath the bed. We carry her outside to the garden and set her down. It is now that we discover that she can’t raise her tail to relieve herself. I come inside and find the vet’s phone number and soon discover his office does not open until 8:30. It is a long wait. It becomes an even longer wait when I find out the doctor is in surgery all morning and the soonest he can see Blossom is 2:30 PM. Later on I get a call that someone has cancelled and we bring her in at 1:00. After x-rays and an exam, we have our verdict.

Apparently the dog did puncture Blossom’s muscles as I can see the teeth marks on the x-rays. In an area above her colon a golf-sized pocket of blood and interstitial fluid has collected. But worst of all is that 3 vertebra in her tail are broken and 1 is fractured. These are not the vertebrae that hang down off her butt, but rather they are the vertebrae that connect the tail to the pelvis area. One of the dog’s teeth pierced in this area right near the artery that supplies blood to the tail. If that artery is severed, her tail will die. If it dies, she will need surgery to remove it and any dead tissue surrounding it in her lower back.

For now the doc has given her a shot of doggie morphine along with steroids for the inflammation and an antibiotic. He also gave her a rabies shot, which she was due for. Then he sent me home with more drugs for the dog and a hefty bill which we will be taking to the other dog’s owner this evening. Yes, we did call the police and animal control and we are waiting to hear from them still.

Meanwhile, all we can do is wait and see if the tail will live or die. It’s going to be a long two weeks.

Update 8-7-09: This incident happened on Monday, August 3. Animal control was called and they are involved in the situation. The owners of the other dog felt just awful and they have stepped up to pay Blossom’s vet bills. Today Blossom went back to the vet for a recheck and some laser therapy. She is eating well and starting to act more like herself, but her fever is still up and she still can’t raise her tail over her back. However, she did attempt to wag it for the first time today. The vet says her tail still feels soft, so that is a good sign. We go back for more laser treatments next week.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Skywatch Friday: Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk 8-1-09 Sahuarita, AZ

Zone-tailed hawks can fool you and their prey by their similarity to turkey vultures. A hawk of the desert southwest, they nest in trees along rivers and canyons but hunt widely over open areas. With a wingspan of 51" this hawk soars with its wings in an open shallow V, just like turkey vultures and is often seen with them. A closer look will reveal the barred wings, feathered head, and the contrast of the yellow beak and feet against the black body. Notice also the white bands in the long tail.

Compare the silhouettes and coloring of these 2 birds. Both were seen just last weekend in Sahuarita and were hunting in the sky at the same time. The one on the left is a zone-tailed hawk. The one on the right is a turkey vulture.

Zone-tailed hawk 8-1-09

Look at these beautiful dark wings and the dark T shape of the body. The turkey vulture below shows the same T shape with translucent flight feathers, but the Zone-tailed hawks feathers are barred, not solid.

Turkey Vulture in Sycamore Canyon 4-10-07

Notice how much longer and and straighter the turkey vulture's wings are. With a wingspan of 67" its "fingers" are of almost equal length, forming a square tip, while the zone-tailed hawk 's fingers are graduated in length, forming a gentle curve. Also, the zone-tailed hawk has 5 fingers while the turkey vulture has 6. I saw my first zone-tailed hawk on July 2 right here in Sycamore Canyon, the day after I returned form Connecticut. It came flying toward my den window and at first I thought it was a turkey vulture, but then it seem to be flying differently. Then I though it might be a raven, but it seemed much larger. as the bird drew closer with deep scoops of its wings I was able to see the white bands in the tail and the feathered head. As my mouth dropped open in astonishment it flew directly at the window and over the house. It was so close I was able to see it with my bare eyes. Knocking myself out of my stupor, I dashed into the living room to grab my camera. I had to hurry and change the lens to the 70-300 mm zoom, since the camera was still packed up from my trip. By the time I got outside with camera and bins, the bird was much higher in the sky. Though I was able to capture some photos the image had to be cropped and enlarged so much that it was not worth posting, though I could still see the barred wings and the white bands in the tail. It was enough to confirm my ID. That makes bird number 78 for Sycamore Canyon!

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Thanks Klaus, Sandy, Louise, Ivar, Wren and Fishing Guy!

Monday, August 3, 2009

My World: Parque Los Arroyos

Parque Los Arroyos in Sahuarita 8-1-09

Parque Los Arroyos is a 7 acre park located in the town of Sahuarita, Arizona. It has a shaded picnic area and playground as well as 2 acres of turf. Typical desert scrub surrounds the park with paved and winding trails. All are handicapped accessible. I recently discovered this park on one of my trips to Sahuarita.

I finally followed the signs to the park.

On Saturday some of the trails were covered with water.

But that didn't stop me from exploring, or finding this butterfly.

I followed the trail around the park watching and listening for birds.

I found this desert cottontail resting in the shade...

...while this Cactus wren scolded me from a nearby tree.
It was only one of a family of Five!

Cactus Wrens are the Arizona State Bird.

Farther down the trail I found two zebra-tailed lizards fighting. They tumbled about in a violent grasp, then broke apart. I can only guess the victor is the one showing off his butt...

...while the challenger blushes red with rage!

Zone-tailed hawk 8-1-09

I identified 17 species of birds at Paque Los Arroyos on Saturday. Combined with the birds I saw the last time I was hear it brings my total for this location to 25 species of birds. My best surprise was a zone-tailed hawk that flew overhead just as I was getting ready to leave. You can bet I stayed a bit longer and took quite a few more shots. Come back for Skywatch Friday this week to see and learn more about Zone-tailed Hawks.

Meanwhile, this little round-tailed ground squirrel dived for its burrow beneath a barrel cactus.

Los Arroyos Park also has a drinking fountain and flush toilets with sinks to wash your hands. To get to Parque Los Arroyos take the Duval Mine exit off I-10 and head east past the shopping centers. Just past the Wal-mart the road become Old Nogales Highway. At the traffic light turn north on S. Calle Valle Verde. Take your first left on W. Calle Arroyo Norte. This road is well marked with signs to the park. About 1 mile up take a right on S. Avienda Arroyo Seco. The park is straight ahead. Have fun birding!

...and that's MY WORLD Tuesday!

Birds seen on this visit to Paque Los Arroyos:

Location: Sahuarita--Parque Los Arroyos
Observation date: 8/1/09
Notes: Also saw 2 hummingbird species, one rusty-capped sparrow, plain breast underneath a creosote bush but never got to see it's face. there is water in the arroyo this morning. Mammal's seen: 1 desert cotton tail, 3 round-tailed ground squirrels. Reptiles: 3 whip-tail and 1 collared lizard.

Number of species: 17

Gambel's Quail 11
Turkey Vulture 3
Zone-tailed Hawk 1
White-winged Dove 15
Mourning Dove 11
Gila Woodpecker 3
Gilded Flicker 2
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Barn Swallow 1
Verdin 7
Cactus Wren 7
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher 1
Curve-billed Thrasher (Western) 3
Lark Sparrow 3
Black-throated Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
House Finch 5

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(