Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September Summary

Blue Passion Flower by Kathiesbirds

The summer ended quickly with so much going on. For me the days have flown like autumn leaves on the wind. My blue passion flower blossomed, then the blooms faded on the vine. Now the vine itself is whithering and fading like the year. Autumn is upon us, and with it cooler nights. Yet still the days are sunny and hot with dry winds that burnish the grasses brown and the seed heads flaxen. I see them blowing in this autumn wind outside my window, tossing like the mane of a golden palomino galloping at full speed. Autumn in Arizona is a wild thing!

Can it be only a month ago that Xavier came to play in the water in my backyard?

Can it be only a month ago that this gopher snake showed up on the same day and scared me for his safety until I was sure it wasn't a rattlesnake? I went to turn off the hose and found this creature coming out of the drainage pipe. I grabbed my grandson and quickly put him safely inside the house, then came back out to see if I needed to call the Fire Department to come relocate the snake. The slender head and mild temperment let me know I and the child were safe. The bulge in the snake's belly led me to believe it had crawled up the pipe and eaten some rodent who had taken refuge in the cool dark tunnel. Alas, not such a good idea for the rodent, but for me, this jeweled beauty did me a favor!

In this month of September a lark sparrow bashed into my picture window. It sat stunned on my patio table, but eventually flew off. I can only hope it lived.

On International Turkey Vulture Day this bird flew down to devour the carcass of a snake killed the night before by a vehicle as it crossed the road...

...and then, as if to drive home the point that I live in a truly wild place, this tarantula walked across the brick patio on evening, as casual as can be.

It has been a busy month here in Sycamore Canyon. The bird populations are changing. I have not seen a purple martin or a white-winged dove in awhile. I have spent all month monitoring the Lesserlong-nosed bats but I believe they have finally migrated south for the winter. The hummingbirds are still here, but most of the black-chins are gone. A few rufous hummingbirds still linger, while the population of Costa's is increasing.

Earlier this month Blossom got the all clear from the vet. Shortly before her last appointment the scabs fell off her rump and once they were gone her "happy tail" came back. She can now curl it completely over her back again. We are so glad to see it wagging once again.

I just returned today from spending 3 days and nights in Maricopa where I did birding presentations for six 7th grade classes. This was my first time doing this, and I ran out of time before I ran out of things to say! Of course, I went birding in my spare time and took lots of photos which I will post as soon as I unpack, clean house, rest, and upload them. I found quite a few new places to bird. I know it has been a long time since I have been around to see everybody. I hope to get to some of that this week. Until then,

Happy Autumn Everyone!

Now, lets bring on October and all the winter birds!

And that's...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My World Sabino Surprise

Upper Sabino Canyon 9-19-09

On Thursday, September 17th Jean, Peggy, Pam and I headed into Sabino Canyon for out final IBA survey of the year. Migration is in full swing and we saw over 40 species of birds. I have been participating in the Important Bird Area survey of Sabino Canyon for almost 2 years now and I have never been any farther than Tram Stop 1 where our survey transect begins. Now it is Saturday and Gus and I are meeting our son and his family at Mimi's cafe in Tucson for breakfast.

G and Xavier on the tram 9-19-09

G and his wife, Trish have recently moved to the Tucson area, which puts them much closer to us. It makes it much easier to visit them and spend time with them. I am so excited to show them the wonderful natural areas around Tucson. Gus has never been to Sabino Canyon either, so I propose a trip to Sabino after breakfast. Unfortunately Trish has to work, but G, Xavier, Gus and I drive up to the canyon and purchase our tram tickets. While Sabino Canyon is part of the Coronado National Forest, the tram is run as a separate concession and so costs $8 a ticket beyond the admission to the park. Since we have a National Park pass, all we have to buy is three tickets. Children under 3 are free. This is good since Xavier is soon fast asleep in his daddy's arms.

Gus on the tram at tram stop 9.

Though is is quite hot by now we ride the tram to the top of Sabino Canyon. I get excited as we finally pass tram stop 1. From here on out this is all new territory for me. The road winds up the canyon with rocky outcrops everywhere. It crosses several narrow bridges over the meandering creek. Willow, ash, and sycamore trees line the creek banks, along with a few cottonwood tree. Palo Verdes and mesquite cover the canyon slopes with Saguaros standing at attention inbetween. I must admit I thought the canyon would pass into more forested zones. I thought we would eventually reach the pine forests I have seen on Mt. Lemmon. I thought it would be shady and cool the farther we went into the canyon, but though we gain elevation, we remain in the Sonoran desert all the way to the top and it is sunny, bright and hot.

Looking back down the road 9-19-09

Gus is too hot to get out of the tram. Xavier is still asleep in his father's arms. I hop out to snap a few photos and then the driver honks his horn, a signal to those who want to reboard and head back down. We ride back down to tram stop 8 where there is a rest room and better access to the creek. I thought we could take Xavier to the creek edge to play in the water, but he is still fast asleep. As the tram heads back down the road without us we realize it will be at least 30 minutes before we can get back on the next train. It is far too hot to hike with the baby, and so we stand in the shade of a nearby tree. Gus decides to hike down to the next stop, while G and I stand and sweat.

What hawk is this? 9-19-09

Of course, I do have my bins with me and I quickly occupy myself with looking around for birds. Suddenly I notice a large raptor on a branch overhanging the creek. I focus in and try to figure out what species it is, but this is something new to me and I haven't got a clue. I quickly snap a few shots off so I will have something to look at when I get back to my bird books. For now I just look and look and try to take metal notes of what I am seeing. Streaked back, dark feathers, is that an eyeline? What hawk has an eye line? Could it be a goshawk? The streaks make me think it is a juvenile, but a juvenile what? My mind is racing.

Close up of the mystery hawk 9-19-09

Poised to pounce 9-19-09

Finally the bird turns so I can see its breast. Then is leaps into the crouch of a nearby tree and appears to be eating something, but my view is obstructed by foliage and after awhile I turn away. I think it is gone, but a look back at the creek shows the hawk in the water! In the water?

Hawk with frog (click to enlarge) 9-19-09

The only hawk I know of that hunts in the water is an osprey. Could this be a juvenile osprey? What do juvenile osprey look like? Since I don't have my books with me, I will have to look it up when I get back to the car. Meanwhile, I just keep watching and photographing. But it is so hot and I am sweating and excited, the photos are not quite as clear as I would like.

Juvenile Common Black hawk 9-19-09 at tram stop 8

I watch as the hawk jumps up onto the rock with another bit of prey. This time it is a fish I think. It gobbles up the morsel, then...

...jumps back into the creek for a bath!

By this time Xavier has awakened and the tram is on here to pick us up. We board the tram and find Gus at tram stop 6. He has hiked quite a ways down by himself. After we are back at the car with AC running to cool us off I pull out my bird guide to look the hawk up. I happened to have Kaufman and Sibley's bird guide with me, but it is Sibley's I consult and only then do I learn that this is a juvenile Common Black Hawk and a *Life Bird for me! I had no idea that it was even possible for me to see a common black hawk in Sabino Canyon. Common black hawks are one of the trophy birds that people come to Arizona to see. I thought I would have to go to the San Pedro River or some other more remote canyon to ever get to see one and now, here is one in our own Sabino right at tram stop 8, across the creek from the restrooms!

Though there were other birds in the canyon this morning, I only counted 2 Wilson's warblers, a cactus wren, 3 Bell's vireos and a black-throated sparrow. I was too focused on the hawk. Gus thoroughly enjoyed his walk by himself and G thinks it would be a great place to ride his bike, so I think we will be coming back to upper Sabino once the weather cools off a bit. As for me, we are on break from our IBA surveys for the rest of the year, but we will be back again in January to for our first survey of 2010! Until then, you can scroll down to see my list from Thursday, which includes birds from the survey as well as what I saw on the hike in and back out again. And that's...

Sabino Canyon Bird List:
Location: Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Observation date: 9/17/09
Notes: IBA survey hike from parking lot on upper sabino road to tram stop one then hike back along the creek trail with Jean, Peggy, and Pam. 63F to 90F. No clouds, no wind. We were seeing green-tailed towhees and sparrows everywhere!
Number of species: 39

Gambel's Quail 3
Turkey Vulture 2
Cooper's Hawk 2 1 in tre near dam, 1 flying below dam.
Mourning Dove 2
Greater Roadrunner 2
Great Horned Owl 1 In willow tree below dam
Broad-billed Hummingbird 8
Black-chinned Hummingbird 6
Anna's Hummingbird 1
Rufous Hummingbird 5
Gila Woodpecker 8
Gray Flycatcher 1
Cordilleran Flycatcher 3
Black Phoebe 1
Bell's Vireo 10
Plumbeous Vireo 1
Verdin 5
Cactus Wren 6
Rock Wren 2
Canyon Wren 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher 1
Curve-billed Thrasher (Western) 5
Phainopepla 1
Yellow Warbler 2
Wilson's Warbler 3
Summer Tanager 4
Green-tailed Towhee 8
Chipping Sparrow 5 by themselves below dam
Brewer's Sparrow 6 in mixed flock
Black-throated Sparrow 1 on the trail back towards the parking lot
Song Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 4 in a mixed flock of sparrows
Northern Cardinal 3
Black-headed Grosbeak 3
Lazuli Bunting 3
Varied Bunting 1
House Finch 3
Lesser Goldfinch 3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2
*Life Bird: the first time a birder sees a species of bird. This gets added to their Life List, a list of all species of birds a person has seen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My World: A Sweet Day at Sweetwater Wetlands

Road Runner 09-09-09

I had to think of something special to do on o9-o9-o9. I had been in the house all weekend and I was getting squirrelly. I need to be outside! So, I load up my gear and leave the house early, arriving at Sweetwater by 7:30 a.m. The parking lot is already full of birders who arrived before me, but I find a spot un the corner and park my car. In the middle of the parking lot sits a big white truck and wandering the edges are some workers cleaning up debris and trimming trees. Warm golden sunlight pours down on me as I head down the path past the information boards. A lot has happened since the last time I was here when when the parking lot was closed and I had to park along the street and enter Sweetwater Wetlands from the side.

Now as I cross the little bridge I can see all the work that has been done. A large amount of brush has been cut back revealing the little creek that flows beneath my feet into a pool on the left. Now I see a small "waterfall" tumbling over a ledge and flowing past rocks bathed in sunlight and shadow. It is a peaceful way to start my walk around the perimeter of these manmade ponds. Like Gilbert Water Ranch, Sweetwater Wetlands is made from reclaimed sewage water. The trees and plants growth thick and lush in this nutrient rich water and soil. To migrating birds, this is an oasis in the desert and Sweetwater Wetlands is well known for the variety of species it attracts. As usual I saw my first birds in the parking lot with Great-tailed grackles and cactus wrens flitting about. Already I hear the call of the killdeer and now an Abert's towhee appears in the brush alongside the path along with two song sparrows. I hear a raucous call above and look up to see three yellow-headed blackbirds flying east and then in the trees alongside the path I spot a different bird. At first I think it is a Western Wood peewee, but then I see the lower orange mandible, some dull wingbars and an bit of an eye ring. It has a faint yellow wash on it's belly and from what I can determine from consulting 3 different bird guides I believe I have seen a juvenile Greater Pewee! The lower orange mandible is so striking. However, when I raise my camera to get a photo of course it flies away. This is a *Life Bird for me and a good omen for the day.

Tropical Kingbird 09-09-09

Farther down the trail I hear a metallic chattering coming from over the ponds. I wend my way through the downed limbs of a willow tree and emerge into a more open space where I can see across the water to a dead tree. Scattered throughout its branches a family of kingbirds is chattering away and hunting insects in the early morning coolness. I watch excitedly hoping against hope that I am seeing what I hope I am. Here in Arizona it is possible to see all seven varieties of the Tyrannus family of flycatchers. I have seen Eastern Flycatchers in New England and Scissor-tailed flycatchers in Oklahoma. Here in Arizona I have seen Western and Cassin's Kingbirds, but I have yet to see a Tropical Kingbird. Now I watch and listen. I have been studying their voices and field marks and I look carefully now. I see the notched tail and the large beak. I do not see any white outer tail feathers. I listen to that metallic chattering and I snap photo after photo. At first the birds are quite far away and small in the frame but then one finally flies closer and I get the look I need. Tropical Kingbirds confirmed! *Life Bird number 2 of the day!

Cinnamon Teal, female blue-winged teal and ? 9-9-09

Of course, Sweetwater is well known for the ducks it attracts and today is no exception. I find Northern shovelers, mallards, ruddy ducks and cinnamon teals. I came here initially because a wood duck was spotted here, but I have not found it yet. The descending whinny of a sora fills the morning air and I walk on. I find a family of kestrels hunting along the bank of one of the recharge ponds to the east when I encounter another birder. His name is Dan and he tells me that he saw some Nashville warblers here today. I tell him I wouldn't know a Nashville warbler if it came up and landed on my finger! I have never seen one and I have not studied their field marks. We end up talking for quite awhile then follow yet another birder to a spot where he saw a semipalmated sandpiper. That would be yet another Life Bird for me, so we follow him to the location. While we find a solitary, western and least sandpiper, the semipalmated has moved on. Yet as we stand there I look of to the side and notice a large goose floating among the flooded grasses.

Greater white-fronted goose 9-9-09

"What is that goose I ask?" It turns out to be a greater white-fronted goose, yet another *Life Bird for me! I have never seen one before and so I stare and stare through my bins and camera lens. I cannot get enough of this new bird. It paddles around slowly grazing on the seed heads of the grass. It is in no hurry and shows no fear of us. I am already feeling like this has been a bonus day for me when Dan and I look up to see a flock of white-faced Ibises winging overhead.

White-faced ibises 9-9-09

We estimate the flock at around 40 birds and watch as they circle and soar over the mudflats. Will they land? Will they land? I feel the rush of their wings in my breast. I feel their trepidation. Is is safe? Is it safe? They circle and drop then lift skywards again. They fly off to the east and I fear they are gone, but they circle around yet again and land in the muddy field.

It is the same field where the sandpipers are and it is the same field where a Great Egret hunts in a corner pool for breakfast.

By now Dan has to leave after we have had a lively discussion about the environment. Once again I am alone until a road runner pops up like toast from below the embankment. I smile at its comical face and stance. Ever since I have seen the movie Jurassic Park it is so easy to equate these birds with dinosaurs. I love the way they move with head and tail raised as they look around, then they drop both and slink along the ground hunting low and swift. It seems every muscle in their body is tense and ready to pounce on whatever crosses their path.

I have been here quite awhile now and the sun is starting to bake me. So, I start my trek back to the parking lot. On the far side of the ponds I find the Harris Hawk on its usual perch. It watches me pass unconcerned as it surveys its Kingdom. I wander back to the parking lot thinking of all the birds I have seen today. My pocket notebook is full of page after page of species and notes. I have consumed the bottle of water I took with me. Now I head to the car for a cool drink. I guzzle a bottle of juice, then grab a new bottle of water and some chips and head over to a small boulder in the shade at the edge of the parking lot. I saw an unusual bird over here and I want to check it out. There are actually a couple of them flitting about on the twigs and branches. I know it is a warbler of some sorts, but it seems a bit different from the orange-crowned warblers I am use to seeing here.

Nashville Warbler 09-09-09

Look at that eye-ring and that big dark eye! Look at that gray head and yellow breast! Now I have the luxury of pulling out my bird guides which I took out of the car along with my snacks. I set my camera down and thumb through the books. Oh my goodness, this is a Nashville Warbler! this is the bird I told Dan I wouldn't know if it came up and landed on my finger! Well guess what? I figured this one out all by myself! And while it didn't land on my finger, it did land in my heart!

Nashville warbler 09-09-09

I am so proud of myself for figuring this out. While the other birders tried to find the semipalmated sandpiper for me and told me the name of the Greater-white fronted goose, this one I did all by myself and there is a certain satisfaction to that.

Nashville Warbler 09-09-09

Like a proud parent I snap photo after photo. I cannot get enough of this bird either even though sweat is running off my forehead and into my eyes. It is so cute! Gus always likes to photograph the big birds. They are really so impressive. But I kind of like these small treasures that hide in the woods.

I pile back into my car with head and heart and bird list full. I picked up 4 *Life Birds right here in Tucson on 09-09-09. When I get home and compile my list, I find that I have seen 52 species of birds on this special day. And that's...

*Life Bird: The first time a birder sees a species of bird.

Bird Count:

Location: Sweetwater Wetlands
Observation date: 9/9/09
Notes: Met Dan, Jerry, and Nina while birding. Tried to find the wood duck but to no avail. Sunny, warm, beautiful day!
Number of species: 52

Greater White-fronted Goose 1
Mallard 35
Blue-winged Teal 1
Cinnamon Teal 10
Northern Shoveler 30
Ruddy Duck 3
Gambel's Quail 5
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Neotropic Cormorant 1
Great Egret 1
White-faced Ibis 40 flew in and landed in the eastern recharge basin.
Turkey Vulture 2
Cooper's Hawk 2
Harris's Hawk 2
American Kestrel 3
Sora 2 heard
Common Moorhen 1
American Coot 11
Killdeer 6
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Western Sandpiper 1
Least Sandpiper 2
Mourning Dove 10
Greater Roadrunner 2
Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Anna's Hummingbird 1
Gila Woodpecker 7
Greater Pewee 1
Black Phoebe 3
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Tropical Kingbird 3
Warbling Vireo (Western) 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 8
Verdin 12
Cactus Wren 8
Curve-billed Thrasher (Western) 2
European Starling 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 5
Nashville Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 2
Canyon Towhee 1
Abert's Towhee 2
Vesper Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Black-headed Grosbeak 2
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Yellow-headed Blackbird 3
Great-tailed Grackle 6
House Finch 1
Lesser Goldfinch 2

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My World: Gilbert Water Ranch

Black-necked Stilt 8-28-09 by Gusto!

Only in Arizona would they call the place you round up water from the sewage treatment plant a Water Ranch! I only recently discovered the Gilbert Water Ranch when I was viewing and Exploring Data on the eBird website. As I scanned the species of birds in the bar chart I was surprised to discover a wood stork on the list. I quickly clicked on the link to see where in the world one could possible see a wood stork in Arizona, for as far as I know, this is a southeast species. When the map came up I clicked on the display pin marking the bird's sighting. When the record came up it revealed who spotted the bird, when and where. A quick Internet search gave me the information I needed and on Friday, August 28, Gus and I were off!

Black-phoebe 8-28-09 by Kathie

We drive north to Phoenix, then east to the town of Gilbert. Also known as the Riparian Institute, the 110-acre Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is located at 2757 E. Guadalupe Road east of Greenfield Road, next to the Southeast Regional Library in Gilbert, Arizona. According to the Riparian Institute Website, over 200 species of birds have been sighted here. Though we left from Tucson by 6 a.m it is already 91 degrees F at 8:30 a.m. when we arrive. Donning hat, bins, camera and water bottle we head across the parking lot with a white sun blazing down on us. I always get so excited when I am in a new birding place. I can already see birds ahead of me in the muddy pond as well as on the ground and in the trees surrounding us. On a nearby fence a little black phoebe perches and I quickly snap its picture, but then I hand the camera to Gus. There are just too many birds to see and count!

Long-billed dowitchers 8-28-09 by Gusto!

Before us black-necked stilts, snowy egrets, mallards and sandpipers wade in the shallow water. Overhead turkey vultures soar. We walk from pond to pond. We find long-billed dowitchers, along with more stilts, common and snowy egrets, least and western sandpipers and a lone cattle egret still showing the rust-colored feathers from its fading breeding plumage. The trees surrounding the ponds are full of warblers, blackbirds and sparrows. Abert's towhees and Inca doves land on the dirt paths before us, then fly up as we draw near. In the surrounding trees the great tailed grackles whistle and call. All my senses are on alert! I don't know where to look first!

A flock of 50 white-faced ibis mingles with the egrets, stilts and sandpipers. Then a racuous sound fills the air and a flock of at least 55 more ibis fly in and lands with the rest of them. Standing there by the pond is another birder/photographer. He too is here to try to capture a photo of the wood stork. As we stand there talking it suddenly flies right over our heads and lands in an adjacent pond. We quickly grab our gear and cross the path to that pond.

Wood-stork 8-28-09 by Gusto!

As we scan the sky the wood stock suddenly makes a landing! However, from this angle it is terribly back-lit and in the excitement, Gus gets the best shot that he can at the moment.

Wood stork and Great egret by Gusto!

Gus takes another couple of shots, but none are like he wants. The other photographer says there is a spot from the other side of the pond where we can get better light, so we leave our viewing area and walk around the pond, but by the time we get there, of course the stork is gone!

Great-horned owl 8-28-09 by Gusto!

Instead this great horned owl watches us from a nearby willow tree.

Common egret 8-28-09 by Gusto!

And then Gus photographs this gorgeous great Egret. I am starting to wonder, am I really in Arizona? The temperature has risen significantly now and we are getting so hot. We bid good-bye to our new found photographer friend and head back to the car. There is so much more to explore, but it will have to wait for another cooler day. We grab our small cooler from the car and rest in the shade of one of the ramadas. We drink juice and water and eat some fruit and chips trying to replenish what we have sweated out in the 2 hours we have been here. When we finally get in our vehicle and start it up the car thermometer reads 114 degree F! Yikes! And it's only 11 a.m.! However as soon as we start driving the temp drops to 107F. On the drive home it once again reaches 111F near Casa Grande. Apparently we decided to go birding on one of the hottest days in August. Gilbert Water Ranch is a wonderful place to bird. It has 7 small ponds and we only made it to about 4 of them. We discuss coming back again when it is a bit cooler, but I am not sorry we came. How often does one get the chance to add a wood stork to their Arizona Life List after all! In the end I recorded 4o species of birds at Gilbert Water Ranch. I hope to return one day soon to find the peach-faced love birds that are reported to be hanging out there. And that's....

Juvenile Great Blue Heron 8-28-09 by Gusto!

I want my Mommy!

Bird Report:

Location: Gilbert Water Ranch
Observation date: 8/28/09
Notes: What an amazing place! There were so many birds! I did my best but I could not count or identify all the peeps. We only got to a few of the ponds before the heat drove us away. It was 91F when we arrived and 107F by the time we left at 11:00 A.M.! Photos of stork and ibises.
Number of species: 41

1. Mallard 14
2. Gambel's Quail 2
3. Pied-billed Grebe 1
4. Neotropic Cormorant 30
5. Great Blue Heron 6
6. Great Egret 30
7. Snowy Egret 25
8. Cattle Egret 1
9. Green Heron 1
10. Black-crowned Night-Heron 5
11.White-faced Ibis 105
12. Wood Stork 1
13. Turkey Vulture 7
14. Common Moorhen 1
15. American Coot 1
16. Killdeer 10
17. Black-necked Stilt 25
18. Spotted Sandpiper 1
19. Greater Yellowlegs 1
20. Western Sandpiper 50
21. Least Sandpiper 20
22. Long-billed Dowitcher 40
23. White-winged Dove 1
24. Mourning Dove 12
25. Inca Dove 2
26. Great Horned Owl 1
27. Gila Woodpecker 1
28. Black Phoebe 2
29. Northern Rough-winged Swallow 12
30. Verdin 12
31. Northern Mockingbird 2
32. Curve-billed Thrasher (Western) 4
33. Orange-crowned Warbler 2
34. Yellow Warbler 1
35. Abert's Towhee 5
36. Red-winged Blackbird 20
37. Great-tailed Grackle 30
38. Brown-headed Cowbird 15
39. House Finch 12
40. Lesser Goldfinch 2
41. House Sparrow 12

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm Going Batty!

Lesser long-nosed bat 9-109

The bats arrived on August 27 and since then I have been going batty trying to keep up with their need for nectar. Every night they drain my feeders and every morning I get up early in time to refill them so the hummingbirds will have something to eat! The bats typically arrive around 8 PM and stay until 3:30 or 4 AM. I currently have 4 feeders up in various locations around the yard. While they don't ever use the fixed feeder on the window over the sink, they drain all 3 other feeders every night. Since the Lesser Long-nosed Bat is an endangered species I have decided to join the Bat Monitoring Network this year. As a result I am now collecting data on the arrivals and departure of this migratory species in hopes of protecting them and their environment. I first saw the bats last year when my hummingbird feeders were being mysteriously drained during the night. You can read about that post here.

Lesser-long-nosed bat at the favorite feeder 9-1-09

You cannot imagine how it is to have these swooping clouds of membraned mammals flying past your window. At night I shut the lights off inside the house and gaze out through the sliding glass window as bat after bat swoops in for a sip from the feeder. They barely touch it and they are gone, but another is quickly in its place. This particular feeder has 10 drinking ports, so sometimes I see 2 bats at a time drinking. As their brown bodies flutter by I feel as if my heart is taking wing with them. I have always been afraid of bats, but these creatures have me fascinated. I could watch them for hours on end.

As for my recent absence from the blogosphere, I have been very busy attending meetings about the proposed Limestone mines that would severely impact the pristine and fragile habitat of Davidson Canyon. The Army Corps of Engineers has extended their comment period for Cal Portland cement's 404 permit to build a haul road across Davidson Canyon from September 5 to September 11th. If you do not want to see this precious habitat destroyed you can submit your e-mailed comments to

or snail mailed to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
ATTENTION: Regulatory Branch (SPL-2004-01399-MB)
5205 E. Comanche Street
Tucson, Arizona 85707

You do not have to live in Arizona or Pima county to do this. This is a Federal issue and any one in the United States can comment. Davidson Canyon flows north to Cienega Creek an area that has been designated as an Arizona Outstanding Waterway. As a perenial stream, it provides habitat to all kinds of birds and wildlife and is a favorite among serious and amateur bird watchers. One thing I learned at the recent Town Hall meeting is that the Davidson Canyon Corridor and Cienega Creek provide the only possible wildlife corridor from Mexico to the Mogollon Rim. If this haul road is built it will cut off this passage since it will bisect the canyon with huge 23 ton trucks hauling limestone from east to west and back. The limestone will have to be removed by blasting. Can you imagine what impact that will have on the birds and other creatures?

I have personally birded in this area twice now and it is so pristine and peaceful. Yet, CalPortland has already destroyed some of this habitat by starting to build the haul road before they even have the permit! You can see the KOLD News coverage of this story here.

This mine could possibly affect the migration of the lesser-long-nosed bat, but we won't know for sure unless the impact on this and all other species are studied. Please ask the Army Corps of Engineers to request a full Environmental Impact Statement instead of the abbreviated Environmental Assessment.

In your comments you can ask them to study the impact of any and every species you list. this is more effective that generalizing by just saying "birds" or "snakes". I want any and all of you to be able to come and visit Southeast Arizona and be able to see lesser long-nosed bats, varied buntings, green kingfishers, and barn owls in Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek now and in the future. It is a birder's and naturalist's paradise here and a well kept secret until now.

Here are some helpful links:

On a personal Note: If you have asked me to be your friend on FACEBOOK I am not ignoring you, I have just been too busy to go to the site and confirm you as a friend. Perhaps I will get to that task this week. My problem is, I would rather be outside watching birds! There is always so much going on and I never even have time to tell all the stories I want to!

Blossom Update: All is well since her last check-up. We go back for another one next week. Still no curl in her tail.

Sycamore Canyon Update: I have seen 2 new species seen here in Sycamore Canyon.

Lark Bunting at the park 8-19-09 and my house 8-28-09
Magnificent Hummingbird (female) 8-28-09 at my house and very shy! The only photo I got was her hiding in the mesquite tree!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Skywatch Friday: Old View, New View

2007 View from my yard with Nikon Coolpix

April 2008 view with Nikon D80

August 24, 2009 One Last Look

September 1, 2009 New View from yard.

Ever since we moved here 2 1/2 years ago we knew this day would come. Well, now it is here and I have to say it makes me sad. I feel all closed in now with those home so close and blocking my view of the Catalinas and Rincon Mountains. I feel like I live in a canyon, instead of the wide open spaces. While I still have my view to the west of the sunset and a view to the south of Mount Fagan, I will miss the feeling of openness I have enjoyed for so long.

Good-bye wide open sky.

See more Sky views at...