Tag Archives: Shrubs & Subshrubs

February 19, 2014

Ladybugs in their tens, Horseweed seedlings in their millions.

The first Vermillion Flycatcher of the Mason Pastures is there in the top of Grandfather Hackberry, was not very long away from us and not far to the South but still, I wouldn’t want it to be away any longer than it was.  The sight of it gives me to feel a combination of excitement, great pensiveness, and relief–that I’ve got through javelina, skunks, rattlesnakes, blows to the skull and snuffy horses to live to see this glowing coal of a little bird return.  Then there is another one perched on the top of an electric line post.  I’ve been granted a common enough wish, it seems … “Oh, Death, won’t ya spare me over til another year?!”  In the pleasant warmth of evening another of the flycatchers sings from aloft over El Potrero.

 

January 2, 2014

Five Phyrrhuloxia at The Stockpond’s edge, a Shrike on a T-post, Redwings aloft against sun with wings white as light passes through them, their bodies black in silhouette.

Though late in the afternoon the air is 71 degrees, Winter cannot be denied: the Conyza has finally given up trying to get through to Spring, and the mesquites are at last bare in the sunset light of the mirror of the pond.

December 27, 2013

A night down near 20 degrees has left The Stockpond half frozen over, and it’s not out of the 30s yet when the irrigation nozzles need to be cleared of debris; they give my face a soaking in a cold, cold wind.

Shaggy Miner fungus, acting and looking so like their namesake as their tall heads pop up suddenly from below ground, are hard to take seriously as the desert inhabitants they are. Coming up in Winter the way they do makes them all the more unlikely.

The day breathes with just enough warmth to stir creatures six-legged and eight-legged: a black jumping spider springs from the mesquite to the handle of the shovel I’m using to remove ever more mesquite trees, and still the Polka Dot Beetles are a-flight. Removing the bermudagrass mounds from the bases of the little trees I dig out reveals that the grass is already putting out little green points of growth, there under the deep and warming quilt of old blades. Burroweeds are also sprouting fresh greenery (at their bases at least) and a Bronze Dragonfly is at The Stockpond–this species is apparently the only one that is active right through the Winter, though a week or two can go by without any of them venturing out. Just on either side of 11:00 am the warmth is sweet and the air moves in zephyrs, not in cold slaps as it had earlier.

At day’s end, the tiniest grasshoppers I’ve ever seen (and I mean minute, I can scarcely believe they’re real but sproing they do, so real they must be …) line up on the top of an irrigator’s hose that I must empty of water if it isn’t to freeze solidly in the deep cold of the night coming on.

December 9, 2013

In the shimmering blue morning most of the Cottonwoods are now appearing in their delicate gray winter cloaks, leafless, and some of these look a bit like they’re even in bloom (though they’re not, but who knows how long it will take for that very thing to happen in early December with the way Winter is changing …) New cotyledons of annual weeds are still appearing, and to my dismay I find Milk Thistle in this stage in #2(south) Pasture. Is this a new infestation arrived from afar? Even after these repeated temperatures in the mid-teens of the last few nights, the Caribbean Horseweed is still green–it obviously can adapt to more adverse conditions than its Canadian cousin. The bosque itself also remains green despite the freezes! Only one dragonfly ventures out along The Stockpond edges.

December 4, 2013

The peak of the Rincon and its cliffs and boulders are white and dancing on the eye in the sun, making those evergreen forests on their far heights look so much the darker.  A shining white cloud crowns all, itself under a long clean blue sky.  Cottonwoods glow yellow below.  Doubtless a storm comes: the air is warm, yet has some tang to it, is even salty, and there is a strong waft of change.  Caribbean Horseweed on the pastures grows on as if none of this is happening, and even shows fresh flower buds, and on the irrigation hoses are the black spiders of Summer.  Canadian Horseweed, presumably more attuned to North America has already turned into seeds or dormant biennial rosettes and thus is well ready for Winter.

American Pipits drop in again–they’ve been elsewhere lately, probably over on the just-germinated seedling alfalfa pasture of our fence-neighbor ranch.  Midday 70 degrees, I am still eating lunch with dragonflies.

The last bat before the year’s deep freezes come on flies down the Cascabel Road, ahead of the truck in the dusk

November 2, 2013

Hallowmas, Dias de los Muertos.  No matter the Winter trickling over this waning year, new flowers are come into bloom, vivid in color, huge in size: abundant plastic, freshly cleaned flowers suddenly burst from the roadside, where the families of the two lost vaqueros of this querencia have come to freshen and brighten the memorial to the deaths of their loved ones.  A tall crucifix marks where their men were swept from a hay-hauling rig after they made a move that couldn’t be retracted, of entering the Hot Springs Canyon, on that day a Crossing Too Far, when Monsoon growled a warning unheeded. The vaqueros didn’t make the other bank and safety and home and senoras.  They crossed to Eternity, instead.

Many many tracks that look like ancient pictographs of human hands are in the mud of the roads through Mason’s Pastures this morning.  I follow along where the raccoons must’ve been playing through the night, and scare into flight just as many Red-winged Grasshoppers from the sides of the tire ruts.

The day itself wings gently up to 81 degrees, and in the late light it is so warm that I sweat in my shirt, without vest or jacket on.  Gossamer catches that light and shimmers high over the grass, and a new hatch of bugs fills the air–glowing Sprites, with partners in the dance the Sulphur Butterflies in rich orange, or plain bright yellow.  Meadowlarks must rejoice in this Winter-long abundance of food for them.  Tall Conyza weeds are also glowing, the high, rock-strewn hills behind us lit golden, too, overarched by sky palest blue with half of it cobbled in little round, evenly spaced clouds.

October 20, 2013

Still, Moon is full, rises in truly night-dark sky tonight. Under Her the horizon above half of Earth is glowing and lit: the wide desert sand and reflective cliffs and billions of glossy leaves of Creosote shining back the moonbeams must cause the incandescence. Moon rises higher, dazzling in an inky sky She robs of stars.

October 18, 2013

Dawn Moon, old ivory, glowing, cupped between the Rincon and Mt. Lemmon.

The first Barn Swallow in three weeks wings in, does not linger, is gone–and so with it are they all. It leaves behind a Great Blue Heron motionless in The Stockpond. Avian migrants on the way South, human migrants on the way North, viajeros on these multi-level highways running North and South piercing that bubble-fiction called “The Borderline”. Creatures move. It’s what we do.

Deep, dry borders of the recently arrived “African Grass” (Enneapogon) shine silver and white as late sun passes through them, beyond the River’s edge fence where the cattle can’t reach, and before a backdrop of light and dark green Cottonwoods. On every steep hill and high mesa to the West of that gallery forest of alamos, the Ocotillo have already dropped their leaves that had given their own brief but subtly exquisite fall foliage show of yellow and orange. Autumnal shadows of Creosote Bush streak long down those slopes, and drip over edges into darkening arroyos.

Full Moon, new ivory, a crown atop a rounded peak, rises into that deep blue penumbra cast by Earth out into fathomless Space. Above Moon, all the sky is pink, and as She is almost let free by mountain crown of Muleshoe wilderness, Moon seems held aloft by some priest or holy woman, a Eucharist coming to be made sanctified. Moon hovers just above the mountain, in ancient symbol, Egyptian, Hohokam, Japanese. The Creosote Bush glow.

October 16, 2013

A False Dawn, in wintry silence on The Ridge.

One can forget that the Mallard, that every-duck, is also one of the most beautiful of waterfowl. This morning an incredibly handsome male is palling around with a little Teal on The Stockpond water; I wonder if that one in eclipse plumage of four days ago is this one, now come into its own with a brand new, very natty courting outfit.

Joel gives a go at rototilling a stretch of mesquite-cleared pasture, to see if it’s moist enough to receive the tines deeply enough, but it’s not and more watering will have to be done. I watch the days go on, and the optimum window for winter graze planting slowly being closed. Fifty or more Chihuahuan Ravens materialize from nowhere, descend on that plot, and look it over hoping to find our oats and barley, only they don’t realize we haven’t planted any yet. The Ravens know we do this every year and can read the sign that will be hung out for the easy feast … they will have their pound of seed, and that must be worked into our sowing rate!

Cooper’s Hawks are terrorizing both ponds, thrilled with the constant arrival of more thirsty birds out of the North. Migrant “traps”, all right! I know not to bother trying to find anything around them if those Cooper’s are about.

Vermillion Flycatcher numbers are up again, all immatures, but no Kingbirds to be seen now for a couple of days. Tail-pumping Gray Flycatchers are looking green and not their namesake color, in their fresh Fall plumage.

Checkerspot Butterflies are on that #3 Pasture Burroweed, even though the crowns of the plants are offering mostly fluffy seed heads to the wind, and hardly any nectar to insects. There is much coupling of grasshoppers … scandal!

The pressure on the irrigation pump seems a bit low, and I wonder if the fix we did on the deep underground main in #4 has maintained its seal. The shaft down to the break was left unfilled so that it all could be easily watched for a while, but instead of water down there (and I’m happy about that) what I do find to my alarm is a hole-bottom filled with Box Turtles that had fallen in and couldn’t get back out. They are all very much alive and don’t seem worse for their ordeal, and they scurry smartly off in every direction when they’re got out of there. That shaft will be filled in but pronto!

Lots of Devil’s Claw in that overgrown field that we don’t irrigate, the plants luxuriated in the wonderful, now gone Monsoon. Their fruits are everywhere, dangling and green still (and looking like some exotic vegetable only to be found in the trendiest of farmer’s markets) or brown and dried, and scattered about …

[…]

Dusk comes on, a pair of Peregrine Falcons tussle with each other in the air over the roof of the truck while I wait at the pump at The Stockpond for it to use up the last of the lower electric rate minutes of the day. I turn it off, and make the rounds of emptying waterlines, a chore of real winter: it is going to freeze tonight, though I can’t tell how deeply and can’t chance swelling ice breaking the fabric of the hoses. It is almost dark when the last of that work is done, and the Mourning Doves are sailing in from all sides to drink at The Cienega. In the Bottomlands moves a cold like the breathed presence of a malevolant spirit by whom Summer has been overpowered, is helpless–taken–but such brutality will never keep Summer down, not in these Spanish Borderlands.

October 14, 2013

My fingers are frigid (it’s down near freezing), their cells remember the tropics. Later on I get the first complete face full of winter irrigation water, though it’s much warmer than the air that has got up to 40 degrees. Birds have gone back up to good numbers, equalling the lost summer splendor but their colors are more subdued and subtle, their vocals more quiet and discreet, so different from the Neotropicals who now mostly have returned to their sambas and salsas. For the next six months the sparrows will reign, and I go over and over them in the field guides, as I must every year. I’d have difficulty with some of them even if they were right in my hand.

The day warms comfortably, into the 80s, Red-shafted Flickers have come back from whatever local place they’d hidden out in for Summer and a Phainopepla sings out, “prrrrrt!” in The Lane, back from whatever local place it had also hidden out offstage for the Summer. Then comes a huge arrival of Western Meadowlarks, who claim all the pastures for their own. American Pipits overhead, whistling “Sweet!” while in flight, their movement something between a bat and a Vermillion Flycatcher. A bright russet Harrier (which I’d rather forever call “Marsh Hawk”), its rump gleaming like a spotlight, freaks out all the phoebes. A Sparrow Hawk, errrrr, Kestrel, displays some mighty fine colors, and Killdeers (Killdeer?) are bouncing through the gathered piles of pulled mesquite–and still the winter pasture is not prepared, cannot be planted. An impressive number of White-crowned and Chipping sparrows comes to The Stockpond, to join Lazuli Buntings (and the last are these to be seen) bathing in the cow pogs at the edge of the shore.

Small blue butterflies (Azures? Blues?) are visiting the Burroweeds in #3, which don’t have much in the way of blossoms to offer them any more.