Tag Archives: Ducks & teals

August 31, 2016

People on the desert long enough
on a certain day about this time
in August feel
and taste
and see
a shift in the afternoon light and
shadows and breeze, and the
oppression of heavy air
lifts off and away
from each

and they let out a sigh
and breathe back in
a new Season
under another
desert Sun

Day after day the temperature tries to reach 100 degrees, and I take it for granted that as a diamond is said to be, the Sonoran Desert Summer is forever. But then–there is a morning like this one come, when coffee in hand I slip into the patio in the dark and wonder what is wrong, what is different. It sinks in, the world has gone silent, no notes from Purple Martins echoing down from stars, all is still and empty, not even a cricket though as the Autumn will, when it comes to its own winding down, have nights again in cricket song. We can get pretty gladly through every afternoon now that still sizzles, every still mid-morning with its drenching humidity, for we know we’re on our way to one of those months whose weather the World must envy, months that bookend that hot time the snowbirds famously flee in panic. This year there have been few storms violent enough to alarm much, nor did the house get hit by lightning and neither did the power pole and lines so no blackouts of more than a few minutes, the WiFi box never got fried once much less its usual several times, no tornado-like microbursts to upend and throw the patio furniture around.

The wide drifts on every flat and mesa-top of brilliant yellow flowers of Hierba de San Nicolas (Thymophylla acerosa) aren’t making a grand show this year, though there are scattered plants low underfoot on Firesky Ridge and they are still in bud, seemingly staying in an arrested state. Neither have I noticed any vines of the naturalized, exquisitely blue Morning-glory, begin their climb through the branches of Creosote Bush along the roadside. In this area of Cascabel the rain accumulation is about an inch and a half less than last year’s Monsoon’s, could that be why we haven’t had this flower display that is one of the delights of late Summer? Or is it that the rains have come at the “wrong” moments? (Mason Pastures, only a few miles away, received much more rain as storm cells passed over them than has come to Ridge House, and their Native Grass Planting has come back to life and greenery spectacularly. It turned out all right to have taken that chance and not watered them from the irrigation well.) The crop of mesquite beans everywhere is no more than half its usual plenty, and many trees have no beans on them at all–another case of rain falling at the wrong time? Many local folk tell that a rain coming at the height of bloom will abort the work of those sweetly scented blossoms, or mold the anthers and pollen but also this year the cattle herd hasn’t gone after the pods on the ground in the manic and addictive way they always do. Perhaps the cows with their oh-so-discriminating palettes have warned the community we shouldn’t expect the flavor of this Fall’s ground flour to be any better than so-so!

At those Mason Pastures the brood of Ash-throated Flycatchers in the post have long ago hatched and fledged, and by tomorrow–September–they’ll have left for the Pacific Coast of Mexico. I’m filled with a longing to go with these birds when they leave for where Summer itself will be migrating too, let go all this Romance of Western Life …

After the Sun is up and I’m watering the flowers on the patio, what is unmistakably some vireo begins singing out on the Creosote Bush flats, and it’s one I haven’t heard before. Bob had listened to a differently-voiced vireo at his place a couple of ridges away and in much the same sort of upland desert country during Spring migration this year; he identified it as a Gray Vireo, one of the “uncommon and local” species sought out by naturalists who travel a long way to visit southern Arizona. The bird here stays close to the house a good while, long enough for me to find recordings of Gray Vireo songs on the Internet and play them right along with what was coming from a Palo Verde. The real and the recording matched note for note, and so a “Lifer” bird is delivered right to the house before I even get on all my work clothes!

Too many kingbirds on the wires with obviously notched tails, birds that haven’t read the field guides (as Ralph says)–that tail shape is supposed to be the mark of the Tropical Kingbird. They’re silent though, not like that bird at El Potrero that gave itself away with its chattering. In the study of natural history there must be art, intuition, science. Making of friends with the notion that there will be birds, butterflies and bugs, that will not be identified even if you hold them in your hand, also helps. To strive for a life solved of all mysteries is hubris.

A “bug” lands noisily on a shrub next to me, oh it’s large, frightening enough that no one would think of holding it in the hand to identify, or get too close to its mysteries. It is more than intriguing enough to demand being wondered over. Looks can be deceiving and that was what this insect unmistakably mimicking the Tarantula Hawk must be all about! I first take it for one of those Tarantula Hawks that are visiting the Graythorns but then see how its strong black legs bow out to the sides, then come back together and are held in a tight row where it clasps the stem (picture a scissors jack) and the head was that of a fly, not a wasp, with large and bulbous eyes sticking out at the sides. The colors perfectly match the wasp it must imitate–the same orange-red and black–and the pattern fools the eye of the human and I’d guess this insect’s prey. Much of the body is black, but it’s the very long, fat abdomen that is orange, rather than the wings. What the insect does on landing is fold those wings long and straight over the abdomen, the wings are clear with tiny black veins and see-through enough that it appears suddenly indeed that they are what’s orange like those of the big wasp! Have I been fooled myself all this time, or is this something appearing on this desert only lately? (Later I mention it to Kathleen, who tells she has been seeing this very monster insect the last couple of years at 3-Links and was also sure it is a Tarantula Hawk mimic. As it turns out we are not alone in seeing it, and it is indeed a newly arrived and spreading species come north from South of the Border. This “Mexican Robber Fly”, Archilestris magnificus, was first recorded north of The Border here only about 2007 and that first published photograph from Arizona then caused a sensation in the world of entomology. Lately it has suddenly crossed over from rarity to “oh, there’s another one” from Arivaca through Cochise County. It does not sip nectar or nip pollen like the Pepsis wasps, but is a voracious carnivore on the wing snagging bugs and insects who presume it is looking for either a flower or a Tarantula, not for them.

Nine teal drop out of the sky, skittering, falling, completely out of control but completely in control, land like cannonballs with such a splash that they cause a mini-tsunami against the bank of hard-grazed Barnyard Grass. One swims warily, quickly away from the truck, shows fully a wing speculum of cobalt blue … she reaches the far shore of Barnyard Grass, turns forty-five degrees and the gem of that speculum lights wildly into an emerald that would raise the avarice of a jewel thief eyeing the Topkapi. A Great Blue Heron is unmoving in this wild splash-down of Green-winged Teal though perhaps he’s grinding his mandibles over the fright it will have set off among what’s left of the huge Bullfrogs he hasn’t yet dispatched. Heron remains implacable, inscrutable. He has an image to maintain.

September, tomorrow, the month larger numbers of Great Blue Herons begin to arrive, northern birds that will stay for the Winter …

So when the shadows lengthen
leaves have turned to dust
first there’s Summer, then
I’ll let you in,
September,
when it comes …

I watch the clouds go sailing
I watch the clock and Sun,
oh I watch myself
depending on
September,
when it comes

–Rosanne Cash and John Levanthal, “September When It Comes”

July 12, 2016

Spotted Sandpiper still in smart breeding plumage pokes and teeters around the marsh-edge of The Stockpond. And so it is here: Summer is already winding down like a party whose hosts you notice with sudden regret are giving hints are getting tired. Summer lets go sweetly here and we will have it for a good long time yet, Summer is kindly but it does know that there is also woven within her height the end of her glory.

The Ducklings have been gone about a week now …

July 2, 2016

When Monsoon after her opening fiesta lifts the hem of her skirt of clouds enough above her ankles to wade in the arroyos she’s left running, all this land lies drenched and steaming.

Over a half inch of rain begins High Summer and the temperature soars from the delight of a cool 80 degrees yesterday to well past 90 today. The smallest of effort to push myself into #3 Pasture to listen for Botteri’s Sparrows pulls sweat to wet and darken the work shirt. No, no Botteri’s–but yes, yes! for a second day comes the rich, descending, see-sawing whistles of Cassin’s. They may have been here already but they do not let go their songs until rain actually falls for if it doesn’t, why waste the swagger and the aerial dance of courtship? Will they stay even if the much rarer Botteri’s has abandoned us and apparently withdrawn to their more usual range closer to The Border? The presence of the Cassin’s Sparrows is exciting and deeply satisfying enough to us and the Forest Service and the pastures, now after so much work of the past few years has turned the wide almost sterile Burroweed flats into the kind of mosaic of those shrubs and the native grasses that this “Species of Concern” might want to call home.

Those overgrown “ducklings” of the Mexican Mallard pair head for the shore whenever the Silverado appears at The Stockpond, move up through the weeds away from me crouched almost flat to the ground, quickly and more like lizards than large birds that can fly off if they want to. Black Phoebes have appeared again in good numbers through the pastures but especially in the branches overhanging the open water, after having been absent most of the Foresummer and early Summer. Where do they come back from?

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 …

May 2, 2016

Among chores and the cow-critters of Mason Pastures, there are lately passing through birds that even for here, are remarkable. Thought I’d share some “jottings” (more like scribbles) from the pocket notebook of the recent weeks …

Two Gray Hawks
Tristan, Isolde,
in love song duet
out of the lush wood it drifts
through budge budge of swallows
and to my ears–
and grumble of thunder that thrills
and welcomes me home
to Summer.

A male Wood Duck on The Stockpond, for one day.

Kingfisher thought he might get hold of tender squablets of Vermillion Flycatchers in their nest out on the branch over the water of The Stockpond, and so spent some minutes giving the alarmed and harried parent birds their annual Spring heart attack …

A great swirl of Rough-winged Swallows curves and descends to the pond in midday heat, to opera playing on public radio while I eat lunch.

I don’t open the middle wheel line irrigator hydrant until I’m sure that the first line has come up to full pressure after its last flush valve closes and stops hemorrhaging water. I put the binoculars there, on its east end, but my sight instead landed right on a low-flying creature I thought by its flight was a bat still out and now caught by the first sun rays, but–it was a very leisurely and solitary Vaux’s Swift! I could have watched and watched, the way I could have that Wood Duck, so rare is such an opportunity of seeing that swift at all, much less in a situation with the light perfect, against good background (vegetation and not glaring sky behind it), its closeness, and how it hung around so temptingly, but,     with that valve having closed, I had to tend to another riser and hydrant that must be opened.

A warbler morning at The Pond … Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, more Wilson’s, a dapper-dan Black-throated Gray (good, understated taste in suits, that bird–I don’t think I’d recorded any before at the place …)

Another great swirl of birds who spend much of their lives on the air–a flock of White-throated Swifts. I’d never be able to count them, they screech and zoom right past my head and seemingly right through me, to drink for the smallest of moments from The Stockpond where I stood.

A splendidly flaming Bullock’s Oriole above a treetop, out on a long wand of a mesquite branch.

A Mockingbird is immitating a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

and now a large flock of Violet-green Swallows; they spend the day over the pastures swinging low, swinging high, the next day are gone.

Kingbirds already in goodly numbers, and already on the fight.

I’ve got to get that riser closed down, the pump has turned itself off, and as I buzz across the pasture with the chore blinders on, I glance up to see a finch of an obvious strangeness that demands a lifting of the binoculars and, oh my … what has Alex’s devotion to turning that sprouting mesquite bosque back to grassland rewarded us with? A beautiful, and oh-so-rare Dickcissel. It’s not far away, I can see every detail that confirms the bird that looks so like a Meadowlark in miniature. Even if Botteri’s Sparrows don’t come again this summer, the appearance of the Dickcissel (apparently none have ever been recorded in the month of April in southern Arizona!) confirms the rightness of having taken on so awful, painful, and tiring a chore of keeping our little world safe for those sparrows by removing those mesquites. It seems as comfortable there as it is on its native, vast, waving grass of The Plains.

Through all the glory and rarity of these birds of our April, the flycatcher still stands out, and it can take your breath …

Vermillion Flycatcher,
bird aflame
never consumed,
from your ashes
no need to arise
for the one consumed
by your fire, is I.

February 28, 2014

The night was warm enough to have slept without a blanket.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets are in the nearby giant of an Afghan Pine, giving out their oriole-like chatters and beautiful motets scaled down to miniature as befits the size of these friendly green sprites.

The oats and barley of Sam’s yet ungrazed winter pasture is already shooting out sprays of flowers, before February has ended.  This day will come to feel roasting in the 80 degrees of heat, which must signal to the cool season, “small grain” grass crops that they must produce seed before Winter skips right into Summer.  There’s been no rain, neither in this month nor last, none since Christmas, which demands of these grasses they bolt and drop seed before they’re turned into hay by drought and the bake of sun.

As I sit in the pickup and scan The Stockpond, the first fly of the year big enough to buzz annoyingly around my face and ears circles round and round inside the cab.  Venus the heifer sticks her head through the window, drops out a tongue that would alarm the rock band KISS, she thinks I’m her adoring head banger and wants to lick me as much as I’ll allow.  It’s hard to hold binoculars still enough to study a duck’s speculum while a cow’s tongue is wrapped around one’s wrist, and tugging.  Neither Cinnamon Teal is present today, but the pair of Mexican Mallards are, and the female Vermillion Flycatcher who is not wanting much to be in the treetop with the male in what he thinks should be a fetching scarlet hussar’s tunic.  “How can she resist me in this uniform??”  She’ll have none of it.  “I’m not that kind of a girl!”  Or, is she the coquette?  Black Swallowtail Butterflies and Sulphurs are underneath, dancing, having a mud party.

Storm clouds! … high, blue and cream-colored, with layer cake tops reflecting as a circle in the pond late in the day, the Mexican Mallards’ dabbling making ripples go out from this brightly lit center to the edges, the water pale blue though Sun is gone.  Silver sky in the North, with throw-pillows of white clouds darkly, ominously edged on their sides, their bottoms thick, even blacker.

Anticipation and a joy that it is hoped is not misguided rises in Cascabel.  Under the Mae West Peaks, it’s going to rain!

February 27, 2014

The windows of the Cowboy Caravan must be left open for the day, otherwise it will be too hot to sleep comfortably tonight, and too hot for the comfort as well of the inside window garden of English Primrose, Iceland Poppy, Chinese Pinks and Cyclamens, all in flower-show bloom.

The female Cinnamon Teal is missing this morning, but the female Vermillion Flycatcher has arrived, to drive into a frenzy the boys who’ve been here for a while bach’ing it.  A frog swims off from the bank in water gone opaque, bright olive green with algae.  A large hawkmoth with bright hindwings striped pink, and brown mottled forewings, and long white antennae ending in black knobs, swings right past the truck windshield, drops to the rippled surface, hovers flat and drops its proboscis and drinks and drinks.  It’s only the second time I’ve ever seen one do this, the first was of another species, the White-lined Sphinx, over a pool of the San Pedro years ago.

Full sized, mottled-brown grasshoppers appear again, and comes for Spring a single Rough-winged Swallow who glides low over sunny, windy pastures.  Malta Star Thistle has exploded in three of those pastures, to give yet another year the horrid, mind-numbing chore of trying to rid ourselves of them, and I try painting undiluted white vinegar across their leaves with a brush to see if that could burn them out “organically” … Foxtail grass also overnight has started to show their flat, feather-edged paddles of inflorescences held outwards on the ground, bringing to mind that a fretful time will come when those spikes become sharp and dried and endanger the jaws and tender cheeks of the cattle.  More Cottonwood leaves unfurling, moving towards Summer shade … this seems to have come on here in this Once and Future Sonora even earlier than I’d seen it in Alamos, far to the south in Old Mexico.

February 26, 2014

Snipe on The Cienega, creeping, hiding, like a mammal in green tussocks.

The blue-green Stockpond is lightly ruffled by Spring breezes, on it bob a pair of Mexican Mallards and a pair of Cinnamon Teal. The male teal is a color deep and rich, carnelian and that very rich cinnamon of theirs.  The black bill is set off by a red eye startling as a jewel set into the idol, Matrix, the Mother–Nature–from whence we came, to which we go, in which we are.

In what is called “Winter” here this landscape is as richly toned as the great black-and-white Hollywood romances of the 1930s–but that is gone by this last week of February, the Cottonwoods are already a splash of watercolor green and now they remind me of my mother tinting with Easter egg dye the black-and-white kodak snapshots of the 1950s (who could afford color film then?), green for a dress, red for her lips.  While Arizonans pride ourselves on toughing out some of the wildest heat on Earth, we also resist letting go of the precious cold, but the season is being overpowered before our disbelieving eyes.  It’s sinking in that we are not this year to have the dramatic canvasses to treasure of stark white Cottonwood trunks against a frigid blackening sky as snow flurries sweep in, no, not in this Winter That Never Really Was.  There will be no dawn of surpassing enchantment of Silver Fog this year, when a white cloud is snuggled down over the mesquites and rises in level blanket to just above the treetops, each tiny twig and large limb feathered with frost that picks up and holds within it the sunlight sifting down into the mist from an utterly clear blue sky above the roof of that fog blanket.  I realize sadly that neither are we to see the high double mountain to the south be draped for a day (or even two) in a stunning and surprising blanket of snow: no, Mae West will not be donning her white angora sweater.  It is 77 degrees, on the radio the KXCI deejay tells that orange blossoms are perfuming the air in Tucson, the flower buds of lilacs in Cascabel yards are showing color, violets have been in bloom since December in Pat’s dooryard garden at El Potrero, Bladderpods are in flower in our seldomly used #4 Pasture, and Loggerhead Shrikes are already wandering off and becoming more scarce–been weeks since I’ve seen one–and I expect they’ll move out soon to wherever it is they do go for their own Arizona Summer.  I already miss their sass and chatter and their cheery greeting and know that we’ll probably not hear much more of that until about the time the pastures are to be made ready in September for another Winter’s planting.  Into the ears of even those whose ignorance of the Earth’s climate change is willful are coming these whispers–and shouts–of the possibility we come to be driven out of this already challenging place that ever has been close to the edge of uninhabitability to begin with.  Or … will we find we are going to lose it all through one catastrophic change or another anyway, we who stay on here now and live in the wonder of how this naturalist’s and historian’s and cowboy’s paradise remains what we’ve wanted it to and what we love?  Freeway bypasses … bedroom community subdivisions … drone test range proposals … the road getting completely paved some day … and now: SunZia’s massive sets of high tension electric lines tall as a high-rise, the construction effects collateral that will come with the installation of those lines, the ongoing access needs to service them, with the vehicles to do so, the warning lights that will flash atop them in what was once a desert of darkness inviolate.  I am emotionally unable to watch this happen yet its coming is apparently unstoppable, with likely its first destruction flowing into this valley through the saddle between Mason Pastures and the Mae West Peaks, after the towers make that wildland pass from Willcox over which year after year we carry our grassfed beeves on the last trailer trip of their lives.  SunZia would be a pill deadly to each of us here in personally different ways; for me the gaul in it is that I am expected to surrender with grace and peaceable resignation what is left in my life to love above all things, surrender it to someone else who through power-sucking video games and consoles can only live through a screen’s virtual reality a life as exciting as the one I do in real reality.   My ranching existence as it presents in the Contemporary West will be sacrificed to someone else’s artificial existence as it presents in a fabricated Old West of, e.g., the gunslinging and fabulously popular, fabulously and deeply disturbingly violent game (complete with human gore oft-splattered onto the screen) set in an imagined Southwest borderland, “Red Dead Redemption”, which enthusiastic gaming reviews say “expertly captures the Wild West.”   What it really captures is the market demographic of young males who are the usual rattlesnake bite victims hauled off to the emergency room.  Cascabel and my life under the Mae West Peaks will be sold for a mess of wattage.

Not that I haven’t thought of leaving, or haven’t tried to leave and more than once, but … well, I’ll go, but will this be the year like 2001 when wildflowers bloom spectacularly again, so I ought to wait and see if they do, I mean, that can’t be missed … oh but then the warblers are soon to pass through after that, well, I can stay at least long enough to enjoy migration one more time, and the arrival and singing of our Mexican bird specialties … and calves! who’d want to miss the calves? … and oh yes, scattering the herd on the range, well I want to do that one more year, give one more go at it, I can hang around that long … the sizzling Foresummer, with all the world looking to the sky for the first grand thunderheads to form … the season of delicious and beautiful red Saguaro fruits … no, can’t leave when the Monsoon is about to make every creature human and otherwise happy, and excited, and bring raging washes and flashfloods to liven up the day, or night … wait, the Barrel Cactus are really going to go nuts with flowers this summer, you can see all the buds and it’s so much fun to ride out and compare them all one to the other … ah, no, better not leave now, maybe I’ll go next month, can’t do it with the skies of September about to bless us with their O’keefe cloudscapes and dazzling huge moonrises … oh hell, leaving can wait until after we watch the pastures we’ve seed-planted sprout and thicken and become as emerald as Ireland … got to see the snow return to the high country around us in all directions, then I can go … but look, there are so many millions of wildflower seedlings, this could be the best year yet for The Show though it had better rain damn soon or we’ll lose it …  I’ll leave after that!

[…]

Sunset is fire, and lilac.

February 24, 2014

An odd little song, “tseeee-burr-REEP … tseee-burrr-REEP”, repeated and repeated, ventriloqual, of an elusive bird leads me around and around the bigger mesquites at El Potrero early this morning but I finally track it down to a small, greenish fluffball: Hutton’s Vireo.  It looks so like a Kinglet, whose numbers are increasing here too, eight miles north of Mason Pastures.

I stare and stare at them (who could help it?) but I still can’t take seriously that the glowing embers of Vermillion Flycatchers are so soon back on what seems to be every fencepost at Mason’s.  Their numbers have increased to the crowding point, and now pairs of males are already eyeing each other resentfully but don’t know why.  There are no females yet, and when they arrive, oh buddy, watch out!

Three Flickers are in the native grass area, where the many sprangletops, gramas, bristlegrasses and dropseeds planted there last year are doing passably well and might even bring seeds for their own natural increase this Summer and Fall.

Only one pair of Mexican Mallards swims this morning, but brown duck feathers are spread all along one bank …

I’m resigned to the job of raising the stock fence along the Cascabel Road never having an end, but at least there are always many interesting creatures winged and running and burrowing to be a distraction between jacking out posts, or being wrapped round about with devil-inhabited coils of barbed wire, and the fuss of measuring the distance between each of the five ranks of wire that need attaching.  The day is hot–over 80 degress, again we’re not yet at the end of February–and from across the road and out of the Saguaro Canyon comes that mysterious, descending singing again, only now I know this is not a bird, but a mammal: the Harris’s Antelope Squirrel.  (A few words in a websearch line led me straight to recordings of various Arizona squirrels and chipmunks, and there it was to be heard at the click of an audio link!  I already feel keenly the loss of that mystery, though.)  The work of leveling the old ridges of grader-piled rocks and sand digs out many panicked centipedes, sundry bothered spiders and many Whiptail Lizards (undoubtedly Desert Grassland Whiptails) that run off lightning fast and which I’m always glad I haven’t accidentally cut in two with the shovel blade.  And scorpions … lots of scorpions … two species at least, one kind gruesomely fat, cold blue with big yellow forceps-like pincers, the other small and black but no less fearsome.  None are killed, of course, though maybe I’ve done so to others unknowingly as the project has continued over many a day.