Tag Archives: Crickets

October 8, 2013

The newly established native grass planting is being weaned into dormancy, getting watered only twice a month and in decreasing amounts–it is a showcase of wintering sparrows (Lincoln’s, White-crowned, Vesper, Savannah, and a female Lark Bunting.) Seeding amaranths in there are shoulder high and dropping spiny fruits into my boot tops, irritating my feet but quite the buffet spread for the birds. Native gramas long before established by themselves in there, plus naturalized Stinkgrass and Lovegrass, add to the seed bounty.

Opening one of the growing number of silky chambers appearing in the outside branches of the small mesquites overgrowing the pastures, I find a large-bodied, pearly-gray furry spider, fascinating and also unsettling, with an abdomen fat as if it were storing up supplies for the winter.

A drive to that north dirt tank reveals it still has water in it, going on three weeks after the last rain. It has always been “productive” of little birds, but today a Sharp-shinned Hawk is present and the only sound is crickets. The electric wires and utility poles, t-posts and barbed wire strands, and mesquite crowns are also empty of Cassin’s Kingbirds, and I think ours must have left.

Amigo Snipe is at The Stockpond, and Snout Butterflies, and a plain, nut-brown dragonfly with a blue, soap bubble sheen to the wings. Across the water itself gracefully swims a bright orange, large Water Scorpion–or should it be called better, Water Stick?

A Verdin peeps in the mesquites of The Lane; they are almost absent from these lands I work every day.

October 1, 2013

Crescent Moon, topaz chalice, hovering above the peaks that crest the Muleshoe country, all else is stars and constellations. Not a sound of bird, but the night is rich with chirps and singing of insects. Martins overhead are gone, flycatchers on the mesas are gone, Chats in the bosque below are gone, there are no calls of Sonoran Desert Toads, nor Spadefoots, nor Red-spotted Toads from the far flats. For crickets, though, it is their time, and they will only get louder as the months of the year wind down–all their predators having gone to Mexico or dug towards Hades. When light finally suffuses the sky towards the East where Dipper rises and sparkles, two Great Horned Owls hoot a duet. Cold air flows right through the house, to be captured by closing doors and windows early as a hedge against the still 90-degrees-hot and sweaty days.

It’s a madhouse of birds newly arrived and soon to depart (though I wonder when) at The Stockpond: Bell’s Vireos, Blue Grosbeaks, the first White-crowned Sparrows, the first Yellow-rumped Warblers–the comforting and at-home burrs and buzzes of those Vireos, though, will be the last that I’ll hear for today they vanish. Several Wilson’s Snipe take off with a much bothered, “Shrekk! Shrekk!”, circle, land again, crouch, freeze, tilt their back end at a 45 degree angle with bill pointed a slant the other direction to touch the mud. The ephemeral dirt tank sounds like a bird aisle in a pet store, with the chattering and whistles of many Lark Sparrows, Pyrrhuloxia, and the Brewer’s Sparrows that today arrive at the Mason Pastures. Gad, one of those Fall warblers, the ones to be identified in part by process of elimination … green above, yellow throat, yellow under tail coverts, grayish crown; I think I can take it for a female Nashville Warbler. A Rock Wren calls out a chittling note from the hillside scree on the other side of Cascabel Road. Cassin’s and Western Kingbirds, still aplenty on the fences and wires and poles, still entertaining with their boldness, their colors, their lusty joy of flight.

Those little frogs of Summer never grew up into Bullfrogs (it appears we are Bullfrog free, who knows how, or for sure?) and they’re still very active–I can never get “the jump” on them and have a good look. Not that frogs are so easy to tell apart, even if they’re in the hand. No chance of that happening, what with how they leap in panic from along The Stockpond edge even at my distant approach, scream an “EEEeeeep!”, splash and are gone. Today, though, while I watch dragonflies and stand completely still, one of the frogs rises submarine-like to the surface at my feet; I don’t dare blink, though it does, one eye looking up at me, then the other. It has a knobby face, with a beautifully bright green jaw, the top of the head green but duller, and it’s spotted on every limb going out onto the toes. Could these be Chiricahua Leopard Frogs, known to be making their last stand along The Border in about the only habitats left that are dependably wet year round, ranch ponds and cattle drinkers? I grow tired being motionless, move ever so slightly, and it submerges and is gone so quickly that it is as if it had never appeared to begin with though little swirls of mud show something had indeed been there.

A dear mamma cow, Brindle, looks a little odd, isn’t walking with the right rhythm, and while I try to divine if she has a problem or it’s my imagination, an immature Cooper’s Hawk hunts past us. Tom and I look over this herd later on, and find Brindle’s entire left side collapsed and enlarged; neither one of us have seen anything like it, and fear she will be carried off by it. Vultures have lately become thin on the air, not many around still to clean up a carcass, but one suddenly comes into view high over the cow and the humans now alarmed by her appearance. Everyone instantly has the same thought, endemic in this far country under the Mae West Peaks: “She’d better do it now before the Vultures leave.”–Kathleen. “Good thing the vultures haven’t left!”–Pat.

The last sun rays on The Stockpond light brightly, stunningly, the stripes on the head of a single Snipe, who probes the mud with its marvelously long bill, all the way up to its eyeballs!

September 17, 2013

Though the goblets of Toloache blossoms are still fresh, abundant and fragrant on plants outside the fenceline along the road as if Summer were never to end, the bosque and ponds are without birdsong now in the dawn. It is quiet but for crickets, and a couple of chip-notes of arrived Fall sparrows.

Swainson’s Hawks continue to pass through, though in fewer numbers than I might expect–then today we make a field trip to the Nature Conservancy’s Cobra Ranch by way of Willcox and it is revealed that a main column of this bird must follow the Sulphur Springs Valley as a route south, rather than the San Pedro. Outside Willcox we pass a wide field, and on it there are mind-teasing numbers of Swainson’s Hawks at rest on the ground, the unmoving, standing birds evenly placed as if the whole were a vast farm of fighting cocks or a garden gnome storage lot. For a moment I almost unconsciously passed off all those hawks as just decoys someone had placed a little too carefully; I’ve never seen so many birds of prey in one ground spot before!

September 8, 2013

Monsoon yet holds her orb and scepter: it’s been raining now for a couple afternoons, her moisture bringing crickets to give near deafening music in the evenings. House windows still open through to the dawn let in the song tonight, and I sleep under a sheet til sunrise for the first time even though it is hardly what others would call cool. Towards the end of such a Summer of heat, I am made to shiver.

August 14, 2013

A Great Blue Heron that’s supposed to be uncommon in the summer here is at the northern dirt tank catchment pond, the water is clean and clear now there’s been no storm or wild muddy runoff from the canyons for a few days. The bird is beautifully reflected. Off across all the pastures to the south is the buzz and murmur of crickets, grasshoppers, katydids. Moisture is enough that with the decaying plant matter come very showy mushrooms popping up: stems of pure white, jet black caps speckled white. There is a little similarly colored and patterned butterfly, black, with a crescent of white stars on its forewings, the delightfully named Funereal Duskywing. It has taken up life in that area where we’re coaxing the native grasses to sprout from seeds.

I notice that suddenly the Brown-crested Flycatchers aren’t flying and hawking around in the pastures and desert edge any more. I was just thinking it must be time to take stock of the birds here, now has come the Ides of Summer when the breeding birds are all still showing themselves and none have left but may be about to, and fall transients and winter residents are still far off. Sure enough, a look in the bird calendar for Southeastern Arizona reveals that the “neotropical” Brown-crested would be the first to leave, and precipitously: once the first of August has come the species goes from common to uncommon, and by the end of the first week, to be rare though a few may hang on til mid-September.

I make the mistake of leaving on the ground and out in the sun the nails for a fence repair I’d like to get done before the storm approaching from the horizon gets here. It’s 102 degrees, and the nails are too hot to pick up with bare fingers, and have to be splashed with canteen water as if they’ve just come out of a forge! When the mesquite pods start falling and stir into the air the sound of a kalimba as they hit the ground and bounce off each other, plainly it’s time to get out of here and through all the washes and outflows of canyons and besides, all the windows and doors are open back at the house! I just arrive there and don’t get them all closed before It hits, the Mother of all Monsoon Storms this Summer. It’s been on its way up from the South, and from the East, and from this high spot I watch each valley and ridge and washbottom vanishing from sight in its oncoming, go completely gray in a wall of wild rain from the ground up as high as can be seen, and it’s not slowing down or thinning. I get to the door on the south side of the house a moment after the house is slammed by the front, the door is hard to close and click against it and the space that narrows as I push funnels the air and wet into the room the harder, increasing the blast that sweeps everything off the kitchen table, and for at least the third time this rainy season, the refrigerator is cleared of most of the pictures and mementos held there by magnets. The sun still shines for a little while through the pounding sheets of rain, the landscape 360 degrees around the house glows as if it sits inside an incandescent bulb. Suddenly, all becomes much darkened. The Creosote Bush outside is bent in the wind to the point of almost being flattened to the ground, though I can’t see beyond a few feet from the windows so much like a blizzard has this come to be look. I can’t believe the eaves are able to stay attached to the house … and then, it’s all gone as quickly as it came, moving along in a way that the windows on each side are battered and draining water and when the storm cell reaches the bottomlands to the West, all that land fills like a newly laid out lake, one that later reflects the glow of the sunset for weeks.

Over the course of the storm the temperature has dropped to 74–almost thirty degrees cooler than an hour before and in that hour, 1.35 inches of rain has fallen. Doubtless no one will be able to get in or out of here for a while … when it’s done and the rumbling is drifting off to the northwest, I can hear and see that this long ridge has become an island: Pool Wash and Sierra Blanca wash are white and rushing and their murmur comes up to me from below, water boring wildly past me on either side. I can see trucks and a stocktrailer for now stranded down there but hoping to be able to cross when the grader comes or more people with shovels in their vehicles do (most carry one for this kind of affair)–but there’s more trouble this time than usual, because the electric company left a bunch of line poles in the bed of the arroyo last week, up stream from the crossing. All of those creosoted poles are now gone and swept west down and to the San Pedro, except for one, which is left a anchored lengthwise crossing the road. That’s gotta be fun! Cascabel folk will talk about this great storm for days, about the mess and the damage and the glorious refill of rain which everyone will take any time and any how it will be offered even if it comes with ripped off porch ceiling fans and lawn chairs lifted, taken, and dropped off in the desert. Bob E. reports that his house was saved by his anemometer: lightning hit it, and followed the metal pole it was attached to down to the ground. He couldn’t tell what the blasts of wind ever ended up registering in speed because the bolt shattered everything into pieces. The wind couldn’t have been less than 60 mph …[…]