Red dawn, the kind I think will be coming through my old window in Alamos right now at the other reach of this far-flung Sonoran Desert in Mexico. Before sunrise over Mason Pastures it is 38 degrees, by noon, 75.
The whiffling of bluebirds: so high are they that they are invisible, only their notes pass overhead, and fall all around me. Gnatcatchers wheeze in the dense mesquite twigs.
Large saffron ants, in mounds and islands three or four bodies deep, are going in and out of their cavern but not carrying anything. Do they wait along the procession route of Persephone hoping for a glimpse–surely she is returned? They’re late, the goddess is already abroad: Bob tells that he’s heard a Poorwill calling in the evening already … Cardinals are singing of Spring joyously at El Potrero, dragonflies fly there as well, the Malta Starthistle is becoming too obviously still present and their mumbled threat can be heard, “I’m gonna get you, and your little pasture too!”, and the first bat comes out in the evening over the Cowboy Caravan.
Just as I had when the season of the Red-winged Grasshopper started almost four months ago, I find a blazing scarlet wing lying on a path, then see a single live grasshopper on this another sweetly warm afternoon in the mid 70s. Polka Dot Beetles are also out, massing again in great numbers everywhere; they are hovering up to ten feet over the grass.
A Mountain Bluebird drifts down out of the sky, lights atop an irrigator wheel. A chip of blue ice, Prince of the High Country, color of a glacial rivulet.
Sun is gone behind leaden clouds long before its moment to set. In an astounding silence on the pastures, a pair of Great Blue Heron hunt–I’d bet they’re angling not for frogs but for gophers! They’re colored the very grays and blacks of the sky above them. The Tamarisk trees drift orange, and yellow, long avenues and rows and single Cottonwoods are nearly wholly green or green-and-yellow or gold, some are become empty gray crowns of twigs with their edges hoops of rich butter, others are artists’ wide brushes dipped in all these colors and stood upright in a jar. The River is a palette of Thanksgiving hues. The gallery forest’s colors are delicate, on this last day of November muted, like Christmas lights already placed but waiting to be lit with great fanfare by December Sun tomorrow.
The whistles of four unseeable Bluebirds drift down from high overhead (Winter!), yet there are Rattlesnakes still in the road (Summer!)
Red-winged Grasshoppers are on the decline, but still very noticeable.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds are in their spectacular mating aerial dances at El Potrero. As they swing up and down on the wing they purr and putt, the quavering sounds grow louder and dimmer with the swing of the bird on its pendulum course, closer and then away and back again. Did the animation folks who created the Jetsons in the 1960s use this for the sound effect of the futuristic personal flying cars? No sightings or sounds of these hummers at Mason’s, either.
There is appearing a pattern here, of something that may have been happening with every spring, perhaps in reverse every autumn: the returning birds come north in their waves, and eddy and flow around (or over) places that take a little waiting for them to become more comfortable for them. El Potrero is warmer, more temperate than the Mason Pastures–certainly the thermometer readings show this and so singing and courting and avian housekeeping appear to start earlier those miles north at El Potrero. Do more birds come along from their wintering grounds at the right moment to occupy Mason’s areas directly, or are they already present somewhere east, west, north and they swirl on around back to Mason’s when conditions please? The number of species that are showing evidence of this keeps growing–something at least interesting is going on, but … what?
Winter seems about gone though of course we could (and probably will) have a couple snows yet on the higher country above us, and mornings that’ll make us grumble, “Oh this never happens!”, but yes, it always does happen. A lot of wintering birds appeared at Mason’s sparingly or not at all and now their season is winding down–they didn’t come far enough south because of global warming? Winter of 2011-2012 brought great and beautiful flocks of Lark Buntings to us; this year they appeared on only a couple of occasions and in much smaller numbers. Winter before last, often Western Bluebirds would alight all along the wheel line pipes and spokes around me, truly a glittering show and I’d hear their musical “phew! phheww!” overhead, and there were the many Mountain Bluebirds visiting and landing mostly on the open ground, but not a single of the latter species came along this winter. Both bluebird species can be pretty irregular, but the more to be expected flocks of American Pipit didn’t come this year to the irrigated grass, either, though I saw and heard a very few individuals–and no longspurs at all. Long before this time last year Tree Swallow and Violet-green Swallow were passing over our planted grass, but neither of these species has come through yet in 2013. With climate shifting northwards, what might the summer hold for birds on the place? What “Mexican” species might appear?