August 11, 2013

A return walk to that blown out irrigation main in #4 Pasture to see if it’s holding pressure gives an impression that all the world is being devoured by those White-lined Sphinx worms. There are at least four or five to the square foot of Boerhavia that they are quickly decimating, but they leave alone the related Annual Windmills (Allionia choisyi) that are growing among them and showing their pretty, tiny lavendar-pink blooms on widely sprawling plants. The worms are fabulously beautiful: lime and yellow, with black stripes and red bars. I imagine them in their not millions, but probably billions, this year when every flat is massed with their host plants from here up to the canyonlands and over to the far-off Pecos. If any Elf Owls waited out the dry spring with its lack of flowers and thus lack of insects for them, they will be feasting on hornworms this year no doubt. (I once had a pair come down to visit a number of evenings in a row years ago, when one of them brought its own dinner, a huge Tomato Hornworm that it held in one foot while it balanced on the branch with the other. I watched the last of the sunset while only a few feet away from me the little toy owl bit off the head of the hornworm and working from the bottom up squeezed out the liquid green contents and slurped them–a sort of slimesicle–while I toasted the sweet little creature on its hunting prowess, raised my glass of wine to it with a “Bon appetit, frere!”) Also no doubt, there will be a bumper crop of hornworms of various species and the Screech Owls will be seen aplenty around the spotlights on garages and house walls, flying out of the dark of a sudden to snatch a large hawkmoth adult and vanishing back out of sight where it will munch away leisurely on a branch.

One of the few butterflies that are common this year, the Orange Sulphur, flits over all the pastures, sipping at almost any kind of flower they can find open. Grasshopper numbers are still growing, and don’t seem about to decline. In fact I wonder if this year they aren’t going at some point to reach a critical mass and then mow off all the bermuda we have spent our time and our wealth growing. At least for now, there appears to be not a single leaf chewed off, and I wonder what they’re doing. They’re certainly leaving behind a real mass of grasshopper excrement, which must be as good a fertilizer as any cricket poop that is a product of growing popularity among the organic set lately … […]

The mesquites are hung (already!) with whitening beans, they look as pretty as any cultivated flowering tree, as tinselled as any fir at Christmas. On one of these, bright Lark Sparrows perch on each branch tip to complete the look, as if someone had attached to the mesquitebaum the finest of Austrian ornaments, ones that wind themselves up and sing. The second week of August, our Sonoran Summer, perfected. All that has come before from those first days when the mercury shot over a line into the 90s, the wicked Foresummer, the first wild storm and haboob wall of dust, the first flood of The River, have built to this. A pleasant, 96 degrees late afternoon, the Saguaros on the hilltop are stark against giant white Monsoon clouds, the clouds themselves hard against an impossibly blue sky. All things looked at, in every direction, are as if viewed through a stereoscope. The White-winged Doves do yet call and coo, as if spring has not gone to high summer of Los Temporales. Their notes wonderfully blend with far away thunder.