May 23, 2013

Dawn brings with it temperatures in the upper 40s still. Chunks of cobalt, chunks of lapis take wing–many Blue Grosbeaks, and Lazuli Buntings. In the gray light, a Lucy’s Warbler is jumping in and out of the cavity in the railroad tie gate post in which one of those birds was busily putting in a nest a bit less than a month ago; I thought it had been abandoned. There are many chirping babies around and if I remember, Lucy’s fledge with a startling quickness.

While I sit in the pickup sipping coffee after completing irrigation rounds, a Gray Fox comes along to get a drink at the pond. A beautiful animal, it is–red fur on its legs, and a swath of red that runs diagonally from its red ears down the sides of its body. It sits over there for a good long while, black-tipped tail draped elegantly, but acts nervously about something beyond it most of the time though it didn’t seem to care about me. Around him many swallows are flying in for quick on-the-wing dips of their bills into the water, and there’s a real “mess” of tanagers, of both species, coming to drink as well. One of them is a first year male Summer Tanager in that peculiar transition to adult plumage: green, blotched with red all over like either I’m seeing spots before my eyes or he has some dreadful tanager pox.

Sapphire blue damselflies are alighting on the irrigation hoses wherever the units have put out enough water to build little ponds that will of course drain away. The air has heated to just short of 100 degrees, and the grassland birds have discovered quite the way to stay comfortable: with the humidity at 4%, the seventy-foot wide zone of wet soil dwn the center of which the wheel lines sit becomes a giant evaporative cooler, and the upper spokes of the wheels of the units are crowded with birds who get as high as they can up under the wide, flat aluminum “tire” so it can shade them. Close up under one wheel canopy alone there were stuffed a Lark Sparrow, a Cassin’s Kingbird, and two Western Kingbirds, obviously enjoying that shade and “cool”!