May 31, 2013

One night of warm and tender breezes coming through the windows of the house was a delight, but the second (last night) brought … them. Cone Nose Kissing Bugs. Every year I forget about this when the sweetness of that first truly soft summer night comes along, and then–well even the sound of a toy wind-up helicopter buzzing the bed in the dark, then a sudden silence as whatever big insect it is lands on the wall over there doesn’t jog the memory of the little horrors yet. The sudden sharp pains that come later do, though, and the flicking on of the light that shows six, eight of them scurrying under the sheets or between the mattress and boxspring or disappearing into the open end of a pillowcase, and then there’s that one that still has its assassin bug snout deeply plunged into my big toe. Before night’s end I’m burning under most of my skin, feeling like a turkey in a pot of brine with a flame being turned up slowly below. By dawn a fever sets in, and I start out the day’s labors trembling a bit and worn as if I’d put in a day’s work already. About as limp as a tortilla that’s been patted too much, I wander unenthusiastically among the herd, watching what they’re eating now, looking for jaw problems if they’ve got into too much foxtail grass heads … […]

June is bustin’ out all over, with the welts of Kissing Bugs that is, but I’m hoping not with Chagas’s Disease which pathogen has been increasingly found over the years carried by those hateful insects in southern Arizona. What will global warming bring us next? Vampire Bats, I suppose, which are already only 170 miles south of The Border.

One of the little greeny-yellow flycatchers hops around in the mud on the far side of the pond, too far away to tell whether it be something rare for this week of the year, like a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, or a common transient like a Willow Flycatcher. Neither does it make any sounds that’d help get an identity for it, so I just enjoy it and make no attempt to “nail down” one of that group of birds that the professionals have been having the most fun with splitting and then splitting again into one species and then subspecies and another.

It seems in past years that by the last day of May there were many more butterflies to be seen, and I check around the edges of a large pool of leftover irrigation water for them, in Pasture #2(north). On the mud there is a beautiful hairstreak, species unknown, and Queens sailing around (not a single Monarch yet) and the tiniest butterfly I think I’ve ever seen, or some authorities say, that anyone’s ever seen, a Western Pygmy Blue. I’m stooped over so I can get within an inch of it (with my glasses off I can focus that close in), when there is a short, quick, angry rattle from a snake as huge as that Pygmy Blue butterfly is small, and I catch sight of the Diamondback as it pulls into a coil over where the grass can hide it a little after it had tried to strike me. Although it missed by four feet, I am “rattled” nonetheless. I suspect the rattler hangs out near the edge of the water and waits for plump House Finches to arrive to drink and that are distracted in thirst, House Finches that to a hungry rattlesnake could look appropriately dipped in bright salsa, or rich red chili paste, so brightly colored are they. I bet he’s thinking, “mmmmm … finch! Tastes like chicken!”

Back at The Stockpond, it’s too early to turn off the irrigation so I watch the lots and lots of Barn Swallows sweeping in for drinks. Haven’t been able to figure out what it is that brings the Song Sparrows in such numbers to this deep mud. I don’t see them drinking often, but they do pick tiny things from the open water’s surface and at times they act more like shorebirds than Emberizids what with how they wade out til they’re belly deep. They go for things that look like seeds (but, of what?) and they also sneak up on apparent insects back in the mud flats, pounce on them and chase them first, but again, I can’t make out anything. I wouldn’t think you’d have to sneak up on seeds, so it must be a life form that can escape; the shore is often nearly completely ringed today with these sparrows.

Out in the fields the exhuberance of young sparrow-hood and the primavera has passed for the Lark Sparrows, which are to be seen here and not attending their packed finchy raves. All their “rowdy friends have settled down” and the big flocks that were so entertaining now dispersed, gone off to raise families. Farewell, what’s left of spring, what’s left of youth. […]