Tag Archives: Dragonflies & Damselflies

August 13, 2016

It is still Summer: a Rufous-winged Sparrow perches for a moment on a fencepost near me, and it’s carrying nesting material in its beak, flies off into the Saguaro Canyon across the road. I wonder again if this sparrow’s long breeding period from early Spring to the late Monsoon, and the fact that it is in one of its high-population phases now for a couple years, doesn’t have an effect on the other rarer sparrows’ Summer presence here. Do the Cassin’s keep checking back and find that the Rufous-winged have yet to check out, so they keep looking further?

A dragonfly different from all I’ve ever seen, comes to The Stockpond for one day: the “Widow Skimmer”, with wings banded in black and very pale azure at the tips so bright those spots appeared to be white; the body is dark. It would be a dragonfly collector’s treasure …

More Gray Flycatchers (but looking rather more green than gray), I hear their friendly and familiar, frequently called out “chee-bik! chee-bik!” in most every kind of cover, or fenceline.

June 27, 2016

Hooded Oriole pairs are showy and colorful out in the tall grass and weeds, far from the bosque edge, and over those pastures are winging many Rough-winged Swallows, mostly juveniles from large families. Monday’s swallow is fair of face … the Rough-wings have also lately taken to perching on the branches of the mesquites overhanging The Pond, giving a rare opportunity to study them leisurely, and do they ever chatter there while they sit! Masses of dragonflies are low over the same pasture, echoing the sight and behavior of the swallows above them.

I peer down through the top of the iron gate post where the Ash-throated Flycatcher has her nest, and as my eyes focus through the dimness I can make out not a mother but a big baby bird alone in there, still fuzzy but well along, its eyes piercing the dark and looking straight up, deeply and resentfully (or is it hopefully?) into mine. I must look to it like Cyclops, with my one eye gazing down from the opening in the roof. Actually I am as startled as this juvenile bird is, especially when it suddenly lets out with the most remarkable sounds, sharp loud clicks like the shorting out of some powerful electronic unit that carry a long way, all the while with its brilliantly colored maw held open wide … How does it make such a noise? The disembodiment of those clicks is so unsettling I draw back involuntarily and determine not to investigate that nest cavity again. I’d heard this a couple days ago from some paces away from that post, though couldn’t imagine what it was that was putting out the sound effect–had some live wire come undone and was sparking-out on the metal posts? The noise may be what greets anything the fledgling thinks is going to be bringing it something, rather than a panic or warning.

Fledglings rule the fencelines, the wheel lines, the mesquite hedgerows, the bosque edge, the thickets, the stalks of maturing oats–and their parents. Vermillion Flycatcher siblings … Lark Sparrow babies everywhere … Bell’s Vireo young’uns with fluttering wings hopping along from one parent to another, begging, all these gray birds and the birdlings poking around and fidgeting madly through a bramble of Graythorn and mesquite just outside the truck; they fill the open window as if it were a broad television screen. And on The Pond, a lively set of eight Mexican Mallard ducklings where none had been seen the day before. They’re not ducklings exactly any more, already half grown the way they are this year upon their appearance though they still can’t fly. The now quite tame Mallard parents will probably acculturate these offspring to our human ways, as they did their last year’s brood. Where could these have hatched? The river has been dry for a while, without the deep grass on its banks where ducklings could hide the way there was a year ago. In 2015 the family arrived out of the riverbed, the very young ducks walking behind their parents much earlier than this, too–that surprise of a dozen ducklings that added so much life to The Pond came then the first week of May, and by the end of the first week of June they’d left, parents and all. Many came back later, at least who survived the King Snakes and the coyotes, fully grown and fully winged: we could always tell which they were among other ducks by how relaxed they’d stay when we’d drive up or I’d scoot around the water’s edge to record and empty the rain gauge.

When will the rain gauge need emptying again? In this most Fearsome Foresummer we’ve almost become numb to, our unconscious is turning over the possibility that it won’t ever again have water in it …

February 18, 2014

Spring, as announced by Roadrunner who is calling out to the hills his territorial claim, the tone, timbre and pattern of it pronouncing the bird unmistakably a cuckoo. A fox hunts mice among the cows. Big Pinacate Beetles are on a walk-about, or on the raise-a-butt, threatening to shoot something foul on me when I blunder too near them.

The most spectacular bug-hatch yet adds sparkle to the late light, of who-can-count how many different species? Dragonflies, and of course Cucumber Beetles … Phainopeplas are out hawking in the increasing bounty, calling their soft “Purt!” when they’ve gone back to a branch tip, sunlit windows in their spread wings flashing as they show off graceful aerial skills.

February 13, 2014

I set into digging out the next of many T-posts along the road that have long been half-buried in rock and silt by the sheet flooding of decades, and with the trench shovel pop out a beautiful, large white-bellied mouse, who lands next to my feet and is very friendly for some moments–then the poor thing’s daze wears off suddenly and it bounces off in lightning speed, aware obviously of how many and how varied are the creatures that would swoop and zero in on it. A tiny green winged aphid is on my shirt.

The pasture grass shines back the late rays so intensely into my eyes that I’m left green-blind for long moments, but I make out the many dragonflies, Sulphur Butterflies, mists of Cucumber Beetles a-hovering and drifting, little golden beetles, and in the last hour of sun, a big bug-hatch of black gnats that must be slipped through to get to the wheel lines to be moved for tomorrow’s watering.

After Sun slips just under the highest ridge, six Mule Deer, six dark bodies, each with black ears in a V, are there against the broad dark green, graze eagerly the oats and the barley they seem to know somehow has too been provided for them. Winter feels to be vanishing in all other ways but in this sunset, and once again with arms embracing our Querencia the mountains all around are shining and dark, but tonight it’s the Galiuro that are bright in their last moments of Sun, the Mae West Peaks lit too, with all the other ridges high and low, east and west, but Sierra Blanca tonight is dark. The Stockpond glows azure, coral and flamingo, as does the sky over it. Dark has almost completely settled over us as I get the last wheel line moved into place but the air is downright hot, though it cools quickly after that to become very pleasant. Everybody is talking about the weather, realizing the more that only Winter’s horse has come back in, dragging its saddle with rider lost, and there is unexpressed worry. A bat flits over the Cascabel Road, James and Chris tell that they’ve been seeing them, too. 82 degrees in the valley here today, while 18 inches of snow fall on the East Coast.

February 12th

The Mourning Cloak, in so many other places the harbinger of Spring, appears today as if its alarm clock hadn’t gone off and everyone else has arrived already, but no matter, seeing the first of them will always give thrill to a naturalist’s inner child, and stoke memories. Red-brown dragonflies with blue-tinted wings are buoyed on air that already approaches what are summer temperatures in many places, and I wonder if we won’t hit 80 degrees today. A bobbing out there on the water, and a sending out of rings of tiny waves in all directions catches my eye: a large moth, on its back (the Lepidopteran Backstroke, I suppose) is trying to get to a bank, but how did it just fall into The Stockpond? What beauty … with forewings having two diagonal white bars across them over gray, pink lower underwings, a bright red-brown body. This must be the Tricolor Buckmoth, a species special to the Greater Southwest on both sides of The Border from Carlsbad through Sonora to the Baja and Arizona.

The tiny grasshoppers in their thousands are still on the irrigation hoses.

A pair of Red-tailed Hawks swing in tandem, mirror each others steps and romantic dance moves in what I can only think is honeymoon glee and grace. They race across the fields and then in a couple of broad circles high and then low shoot into the Saguaro Canyon and out of it again, come over me, bank hard and head back to the dividing ridges. Their shadows, cast sideways by the horizontal light of late day, race up, up and up the slope and close in on the pair they’re chasing, until those shadows meet the birds and fold themselves into them them as the hawks come almost to brush the ground at the rocky crest, and vanish then down into the next canyon.

February 10, 2014

Red dawn, the kind I think will be coming through my old window in Alamos right now at the other reach of this far-flung Sonoran Desert in Mexico. Before sunrise over Mason Pastures it is 38 degrees, by noon, 75.

The whiffling of bluebirds: so high are they that they are invisible, only their notes pass overhead, and fall all around me. Gnatcatchers wheeze in the dense mesquite twigs.

Large saffron ants, in mounds and islands three or four bodies deep, are going in and out of their cavern but not carrying anything. Do they wait along the procession route of Persephone hoping for a glimpse–surely she is returned? They’re late, the goddess is already abroad: Bob tells that he’s heard a Poorwill calling in the evening already … Cardinals are singing of Spring joyously at El Potrero, dragonflies fly there as well, the Malta Starthistle is becoming too obviously still present and their mumbled threat can be heard, “I’m gonna get you, and your little pasture too!”, and the first bat comes out in the evening over the Cowboy Caravan.

January 30, 2014

Bob comes to help dig mesquite, and reports there are Mexican Mallards on The Stockpond and while we are working, he finds the first Filaree in bloom with its flowers of an odd hue of magenta washed with blue. A brown and russet young Harrier patrols around us on tilting wings.

The day warms … and warms … … 78 degrees … … and out come more Bronze Dragonflies and even Sulphur Butterflies. Well so much for Winter, which I’ll declare has lasted all of six weeks and two days, and began the day after I marked the end of “Fall” when the last of the Sulphurs were a-wing in mid-December on the last day of that month that had reached 75. My shirt is soon darkened by sweat as I dig out those T-posts of the fence long ago so buried in silt and gravel of sheet flooding that Mycha can lightly step over it and get loose on the Cascabel Road if the top wire isn’t raised by another two feet to that optimum 48 inches. Already chores like this one are nagging me, that I’m afraid won’t get done before Summer but better well be. There’s not much I hate more to hear than a voice on the phone telling, just as I’ve put feet up, “Um … your cows are out.”