Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Mesquite Tree and a Dust Storm

(Dust Storm photo taken by Kathie June 21, 2008 @ 7:21 p.m. MST)

The bugs are gone. After the mesquite tree was invaded by hoards of insects I water blasted them off the tiny leaves. This mesquite tree has only been in the ground for a year and already is providing lacy shade to our new patio. I am rather fond of the tree, especially since the birds seem to love it. It is a native Velvet Mesquite, the kind that grows scrubby out in the desert, but here in the landscape with a regular supply of water, it will grow tall and lush.

(Velvet Mesquite Tree taken by Kathie 6-22-08 @ 10:59 a.m.)

Yesterday the temperature was 111 degrees Fahrenheit here in the shade of my patio at 1:30 in the afternoon. I sought shelter in my room and watched a movie while keeping an eye out the patio door. Suddenly a strange bird landed near the door. I watched this small bird with a bright white eye-line that was different that anything I have seen around here before. I knew it was a sparrow and I was hoping it was the elusive 5-striped sparrow which I have never seen and is only in a few locations here in Southern Arizona. It would be Big News if it was here, but I would have to have proof. I crept out of my room and grabbed my camera which was in the den with the 18-70 mm lens on it. I changed it as quickly as I could and crept up to the back door where the strange sparrow was now perched in the ever friendly mesquite tree.

(Juvenile Black-throated Sparrow 6-22-08 by Kathiesbirds)

I started taking pictures but the bird soon got leery of me and flew off. As usual when I am excited, these are not the best, but once uploaded to the computer I was able to identify this new mystery bird as a juvenile black-throated sparrow. While it does not have the black throat of the adult, it has already developed the dark cheek patch and the white eye-line seen in its parents. Black-throated sparrows are frequently spotted here in the Sonoran desert. They make a lovely tinkling sound, like a tiny bell choir when they sing amongst the desert scrub.

(Adult Black-throated sparrow taken by Kathie in Sycamore Canyon 3-18-08 8:09 a.m. MST)

By late afternoon the temperature has dropped to 95F in the shade. I join my daughter-in-law on the covered portion of the patio where we sit in the shade and sip strawberry smoothies and talk. The sun is getting ever closer to the horizon when the wind starts to pick up. There is a noticeable drop in the temperature and I look towards Mt. Fagan only to find his face obscured by a thick gray veil. I wonder if that is rain on the mountain but as the wind intensifies our skin is being sandblasted. We gather up our stuff and head indoors. While we frequently have high winds here in the canyon, it is rare for us to have dust storms. This wind is blowing over the top of Fagan and down-slope to my house. It is now I realize that if the Rosemont Mine goes in this dust would be full of poison and there would be nothing I could do except flee inside and shut my door.

Dust obscures Mt. Fagan; Palo verde tosses in the wind. Photo: Kathie 6-21-08 @ 7:22 p.m. MST)

The wind is so fierce it lifts the seat cushions from my chairs and I remove them to the safety of the house. The flag in front of the model homes is full out and I wonder if it will be torn from its tether once again. Now the air is full of dust and the sinking sun is cast as an eerie copper glow in the sky. The sight is ethereal, beautiful, and mysterious but the beauty belies the possible danger to come.

(Dust over the desert by Kathie 6-21-08 @ 7:21 p.m. MST)

The wind is still howling when we head off to bed, but this morning all is calm in Sycamore Canyon.

(Gilded Flicker 6-22-08 by Kathie)

The birds are back at the feeders with gilded flickers and Gila woodpeckers eating peanuts, finches feasting on Niger and sunflower seed, while doves and quail fight for position beneath the feeders, scrambling for every scrap.

(Juvenile Gambel's Quail Poto by kathie June 22, 2008)

These scrappy juvenile quail showed up and joined the fray with the rest of them. The trees look none the worse for the bashing they received last night, and the temperature is rising once again. Let’s see, should I read a book, or watch another movie today?

(Peaceful Palo Verde and Mt. Fagan June 22, 2008 @ 10:55 a.m. MST Photo by Kathie)


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I immagine when the temps get so high or the winds get that strong all you CAN do is go inside, safely out of it. I don't think I'd mind the excuse to watch a good movie or tuck into the pile of books I always have waiting for me...

George Townboy said...

Amazing photos!!

Texas Travelers said...

We used to live in Borger, north of Amarillo. It is 3000' altitude on the high plains. We used to get storms like yours and they are scary and beautiful at the same time, I liked the photo of the young BTSP. Great series of photos.

In answer to your question ---- Yes, lonely and peaceful at the same time. It has a different type of beauty.

Troy and Martha

Leigh of Tales from Bloggeritaville said...

I throughly enjoyed your post and the pics of all of the birds. Loved being in "your backyard".

Anonymous said...

Very sweet Juvenile Black-throated Sparrow!!! Thanks for sharing your day and I found your Skywatch post interesting :)

Doug Taron said...

I've only once been in a sandstorm out your way. It was eerie- your words and pictures capture the feeling well.

bobbie said...

Wonderful pictures. Your part of the country is certainly beautiful, but I cannot imagine living in such heat, not to mention the storms. I just hibernate if the thermometer reaches 90. My only experience in AZ has been the Phoenix Airport, and that is wicked enough for me. But everything I see through your pictures and others is so very beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful post!

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

I like your top banner! It's so pretty! The dust storm picture is stunning, Kathie, but a little eerie, too. I've never seen a mesquite tree before, but we've grilled outside using mesquite. Love the pictures of the Black-Throated Sparrows. I've never seen them before either. That's a beautiful shot of the flicker, and I like the quail, too.
I can't imagine what 111° F must feel like! Yeow! It sounds so strange to hear that the temperature DROPPED to 95°!

me ann my camera said...

How different your environment is from mine with such high temperatures and wind and dust storms. Our humidity was high yesterday and it was muggy and warm and it did not cool down until late evening; a breeze, please! This morning we had early fog rising from the trees and meadow. The Black-throated Sparrow is a handsome bird and I recognize it from your 'melody' poem. I identify with your story of quickly reaching for your camera and stealthily creeping up on the sparrow to take photos :-) A nice post, an interesting read of a region so different from mine.

Kathryn and Ari said...

I spent my first six years in Phoenix, and I remember similar storms there. As a four or five year old, it's pretty a pretty intimidating experience.

You have such a lovely way with words: I always look forward to reading your narratives!

Kathie Brown said...

Lynne, I don't mind at all, except nowadays I'm usually drawn back to my blog instead!

Georgetownboy, thanks for the visit.

Troy, We are at 3300 feet here in Sycamore Canyon. Usually I watch the dust storm roll like a train through the valley. This one came right over the top of us.

BTW, Lonely and peaceful can be good. Thanks.

Leigh, you are welcome in my backyard any time!

Anonymous, nice to see you again. Glad you enjoyed Skywatch.

Doug, it is eerie. Hopefully you won't get caught in one when you are here this year.

Bobbie, it is beautiful here, but different, as you say, especially from the east coast. In the east the 90 degree heat always drove me inside. Here that temp is comfortably cool! I like the dry heat and have adapted well, I think, but if I had to be out in the sun all day I would be sick. 111 is hot, no matter who you are or how dry it is. I stayed inside and watched a movie instead.

For the people, thank you. Nice to see you.

Sandpiper, thank you. Gus took that pic last weekend when we walked down the wash. At least this photo is from Sycamore Canyon. I think it fits rather well! Thanks for noticing. As for the temp, see comment to bobbie above. As for the flicker photo, I had 2 where you could see her head and beak better but I liked this one where she was twisting to get a seed out. More interesting I think.

Kathryn and Ari, the dust storms down near Picacho Peak and Casa Grande ARE intimidating! This one wasn't so bad. As for my way with words, well, the feeling is mutual towards you! Ari is a good writer! (smile)

Kathie Brown said...

Meannemycamera I well remember those muggy days in the east. I love to watch the mist or fog rise from the meadows or off a lake or pond. I hate the mugginess though. I just love the black-throated sparrows as you can tell from how often I write about them. It made me smile to hear you identify with creeping up on the bird. I think all nature photraphers can!

Amy said...

I love what you've done with the mesquite tree. The rounded wall is just perfect! Do you have a barrel cactus in there with it? If I had your climate, I'd plant tons of succulent plants (you know, my thing with cacti). The mesquite tree is fabulous. I wish I could grow one here but I'm afraid it would drown. The dust storm photo is wonderful too--I love the colors!

Kathie Brown said...

amy, there is not a barrel cactus in with the mesquite but we have a golden barrel sitting in a pot waiting to get planted on the side of the house where we hope to have a cactus garden. Everything is on hold right now as all our available resources are put towards our trip back east. When we return we hope to start on the landscaping again!