July 5, 2013

What thick air, 81 degrees, 3:45 am, coffee in hand as can so be enjoyed in a treasured Cascabel Clayworks mug. Dark, but there’s the thinnest of Crescent Moon giving the tiny glow of a nightlight behind the clouds. At zenith a few stars but only one house light shows across the canyons, overhead a covering of martins calling down from so great a height that it could be imagined their quarky notes are broadcast from the stars themselves. The birds seem if anything even more numerous than when the nights are bright and clear but perhaps the clouds change the acoustics. This will be the first day of the season I won’t be closing the windows early to keep in the cool, because the house never got cool to begin with, so the windows will be open to let in any tiny movement of air. Bed sheets and pillows toasted to the high 90s are now to be lived with.

When dawn comes, tanagers and grosbeaks are singing at The Stockpond and many nighthawks come for an on-the-wing drink but–no toads! The Sonoran Desert Toads have just … vanished, the water surface left now unruffled, the air above it quiet. The gigantic amphibians have come and gone, like that.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds are decorating a wheel line tractor, as they love to do. Two much younger ones are among them today, which seems to be evidence the species is breeding nearby though I must remember that years ago when I contacted the Audubon Society in Tucson to report a rancher telling me the birds were nesting in the edge of his pond across the River, I was told that was an impossibility. One of the pretty males has a neat white–rather than black–mask.

Pairs of round mesquite cotyledons have popped above their cow poop peat pots, assuring us a future of hard work of tree removal for many years to come. Two Brown-headed Cowbirds are sitting on a cow; I can count the number of times I’ve seen them actually do this, but I imagine it was their habit with their buffalo friends as well.

Sue and a friend come in the evening in hopes the bird show might still have some thrill to it, but only one nighthawk appears. We do see an impressive black tarantula with blond body come past in its measured, giant spider-ly fashion as we sip wine, a male according to what I can read. Suddenly from the gallery forest of willows, cottonwoods, hackberry and of course mesquite along the River bed behind us comes the sounds of large critters crashing through, breaking large branches and sticks in a panic we can’t think what the cause of can be. We never see the animals, but we can tell they’ve topped out over the steep banks where they could at last make a passage and escape something they feared mightily–then comes what sounds like a rush of wind through those cottonwoods. It’s not wind; I realize it’s a flood, and a big one, and that the deer or the javelina or whatever they were, were running madly ahead of a wave coming down that narrow and deep sandy channel that’s been dry for many months. The water arrives in wild fury, stretches immediately bank to bank, and down its course bounces and tumbles and rolls and then flies past me large branches, logs, whole railroad ties that had been H-braces on a pasture edge somewhere between here and Mexico, bobbing styrofoam coolers, a tennis ball … I jump back, fearing that the overhanging bank would collapse under my feet and add me to the number of bodies that have been swept away and gone over the years, some found, some ground up and never found, left buried under quicksand miles downstream.