4 a.m. at the house on Fire Sky Ridge between Sierra Blanca Wash and Pool Wash, the martins are as high as the moon nestled among a few meek clouds overhead. In the light the moon pours down the birds pour down calls and notes. I stand on the patio, coffee cup in hand, under the ramada. Over it and all the dark lands arches a firmament of the martins’ starry whistles. This phenomenon which I’m not sure anyone else is much aware of comes to an end as it always does about fifteen minutes before the dawn light comes. Lesser Nighthawk quaverings and weird chuckles come suddenly and night-jarringly out of the dark from out over the Saguaro slopes that drop into those washes.
Their loud, “check!” calls draw my attention to the five Yellow-headed Blackbirds that again today have arranged themselves artfully on the wheels of the irrigation lines. In another pasture Abert’s Towhees chase each other up and down the wheel line axle pipes. It is time to keep an ear out for Botteri’s and Cassin’s sparrows, and this morning I see a far sparrow singing like a Chipping, but with a wren-like ending to the song. I have a second to catch rufous on its crown before a bleepin’ Lark Sparrow chases it far off (later in listening to recordings of the Rufous-crowned Sparrow I’m encouraged to think that a Rufous-crowned it is …)
Kathleen and Ralph W. must see the evening spectacle of birds at The Stockpond before the days of it trickle down and away when Monsoon arrives, so tonight while I was getting the lines up to their watering for the night our naturalist friends arrive in their pickup and set themselves along the shore. It takes me longer than usual to make sure all is running efficiently out on the pastures, and I just miss the parade of martins coming through and sweeping the water, and I’m glad Ralph and Kathleen have been able to see it. What I do see when I get there is a lowered tailgate spread with delectables and fine food, a bowl of fresh large cherries, homemade cookies, a slab of brie cheese for heaven’s sake, crackers, all to be washed down with cabernet, all as if pulled from some never-exhausted magic bag from The Arabian Nights … and then comes in that vast swirl of Poorwills, bats, and nighthawks of two very different sizes–immatures and adults? Lesser Nighthawks and Common Nighthawks? I had been thinking the Nighthawks that come in and hover to drink for that suspended moment have the manner and grace of storm petrels, and similarly Ralph volunteered on his own that what they reminded him of is Kittiwakes. We talk about these things far into the night, well, “far” where we’re concerned in this life that puts us to bed earlier than town folk. Who’d let any of those rare goodies be left on the tailgate anyway? The conversation is as delectable as what is spread on the sideboard of the tailgate, and that’s not just because I mostly have cows to talk to all day.