The day temperature has plummeted to just above 80 degrees, what’s with that? The coolness does give more of a party feel (well, invigoration at least) to the mesquite removal chore that we must first do before the land is ready for the sowing of winter pasture. In digging up one mesquite root I unearth a good-sized, spectacularly ornate larva like that found in late August by Chris E. and James C. when they were doing this same work, only this creature is in deep repose–paralyzed–and I suppose will transform itself into an adult wasp of whatever species had apparently parasitized it, instead of metamorphosing into the beautiful gray and pink silk moth, Sphingicampa hubbardi, the “Mesquite Moth” (a fitting a name!)
Surely it is the zenith of Western Kingbird passage now, they are on every fenceline, most every utility pole, mix it up with the last of the Bullock’s Orioles and with Summer Tanagers and Bell’s Vireos. And … was that a Dusky Flycatcher? More madness and masochism is added to that pastime of trying to sort out autumnal Empidonax, in a place and season where almost any of the ten species recorded in the West could turn up. Birds like this possible Dusky have enough about them to make me believe I am seeing something different, but it’s all mostly too subtle … Audubon Society writes things like, “Status uncertain,” and, “‘Western’-type flycatchers cannot be differentiated in the field” (referring to the recent split of Western Flycatcher into Pacific-slope and Cordilleran Flycatcher) and other works tell that some Empidonax that could be seen at The Stockpond in September are best distinguished by voice, but except for the Gray Flycatcher they seem to be silent in the Fall!
The first Violet-green Swallow back down from the mountains swings alone over the pastures, and a Hepatic Tanager flies ahead of me down The Lane–a bird also coming down from the forests and thence to Mesoamerica and beyond. Not one but two pairs of Red-tailed Hawks dance a wind-tango high overhead, the couples coming near each other, then in seconds glide across the sky stage far from the other pair, glide back, swirl up, sideways, like twin dust devils over the hot playas.
The cattle herd, newly placed on a pasture where they had kicked up their heels and danced delightedly over the grass, as they graze along now with more leisure stir masses of insects to which three most colorful male Brewer’s Blackbirds fly delightedly, and go to snapping at. Then come many Violet-green Swallows, soaring, swirling, swooping so near to me I can see every white circle of the plumage just above their tails. They drop and drop lower, and continue to swirl, only now right through the cows, around the cows, just over the cows’ heads, or skim the seeding heads of the bermudagrass as they pursue those stirred-up bugs. Poor bugs, they must be the only creatures not experiencing delight just now.