Tag Archives: Mammals (Other)

August 26, 2016

At the far west end of the Botteri’s Pasture, an electric fence has to be unhooked and moved, where the line of it comes to the end insulator I find a very small woodpecker intricately patterned in black and white, headless and hollowed and left like a taxidermy skin, obviously left impaled there by one of the shrikes that have become so friendly towards me. Black and white bars, beautiful indeed, and Nancy confirms it with the Sibley’s as an immature Ladder-backed.

Huge hornworms of a strange shade of violet, with lateral light-colored stripes, are on the move across the pastures looking for–? more solanaceous plants to munch before they might turn into an equally huge hawkmoth? the right place for Gaia to wave Her wand and the worm become pupa, become moth?

A Harris’s Antelope Squirrel sings like a bird from the rubbled slopes of Saguaro Canyon, off to the East. The acoustics in there are like an amphitheater’s, how that little critter’s voice can carry, it blasts from the opening like a wind out of a tunnel.

February 24, 2014

An odd little song, “tseeee-burr-REEP … tseee-burrr-REEP”, repeated and repeated, ventriloqual, of an elusive bird leads me around and around the bigger mesquites at El Potrero early this morning but I finally track it down to a small, greenish fluffball: Hutton’s Vireo.  It looks so like a Kinglet, whose numbers are increasing here too, eight miles north of Mason Pastures.

I stare and stare at them (who could help it?) but I still can’t take seriously that the glowing embers of Vermillion Flycatchers are so soon back on what seems to be every fencepost at Mason’s.  Their numbers have increased to the crowding point, and now pairs of males are already eyeing each other resentfully but don’t know why.  There are no females yet, and when they arrive, oh buddy, watch out!

Three Flickers are in the native grass area, where the many sprangletops, gramas, bristlegrasses and dropseeds planted there last year are doing passably well and might even bring seeds for their own natural increase this Summer and Fall.

Only one pair of Mexican Mallards swims this morning, but brown duck feathers are spread all along one bank …

I’m resigned to the job of raising the stock fence along the Cascabel Road never having an end, but at least there are always many interesting creatures winged and running and burrowing to be a distraction between jacking out posts, or being wrapped round about with devil-inhabited coils of barbed wire, and the fuss of measuring the distance between each of the five ranks of wire that need attaching.  The day is hot–over 80 degress, again we’re not yet at the end of February–and from across the road and out of the Saguaro Canyon comes that mysterious, descending singing again, only now I know this is not a bird, but a mammal: the Harris’s Antelope Squirrel.  (A few words in a websearch line led me straight to recordings of various Arizona squirrels and chipmunks, and there it was to be heard at the click of an audio link!  I already feel keenly the loss of that mystery, though.)  The work of leveling the old ridges of grader-piled rocks and sand digs out many panicked centipedes, sundry bothered spiders and many Whiptail Lizards (undoubtedly Desert Grassland Whiptails) that run off lightning fast and which I’m always glad I haven’t accidentally cut in two with the shovel blade.  And scorpions … lots of scorpions … two species at least, one kind gruesomely fat, cold blue with big yellow forceps-like pincers, the other small and black but no less fearsome.  None are killed, of course, though maybe I’ve done so to others unknowingly as the project has continued over many a day.

February 18, 2014

Spring, as announced by Roadrunner who is calling out to the hills his territorial claim, the tone, timbre and pattern of it pronouncing the bird unmistakably a cuckoo. A fox hunts mice among the cows. Big Pinacate Beetles are on a walk-about, or on the raise-a-butt, threatening to shoot something foul on me when I blunder too near them.

The most spectacular bug-hatch yet adds sparkle to the late light, of who-can-count how many different species? Dragonflies, and of course Cucumber Beetles … Phainopeplas are out hawking in the increasing bounty, calling their soft “Purt!” when they’ve gone back to a branch tip, sunlit windows in their spread wings flashing as they show off graceful aerial skills.

February 13, 2014

I set into digging out the next of many T-posts along the road that have long been half-buried in rock and silt by the sheet flooding of decades, and with the trench shovel pop out a beautiful, large white-bellied mouse, who lands next to my feet and is very friendly for some moments–then the poor thing’s daze wears off suddenly and it bounces off in lightning speed, aware obviously of how many and how varied are the creatures that would swoop and zero in on it. A tiny green winged aphid is on my shirt.

The pasture grass shines back the late rays so intensely into my eyes that I’m left green-blind for long moments, but I make out the many dragonflies, Sulphur Butterflies, mists of Cucumber Beetles a-hovering and drifting, little golden beetles, and in the last hour of sun, a big bug-hatch of black gnats that must be slipped through to get to the wheel lines to be moved for tomorrow’s watering.

After Sun slips just under the highest ridge, six Mule Deer, six dark bodies, each with black ears in a V, are there against the broad dark green, graze eagerly the oats and the barley they seem to know somehow has too been provided for them. Winter feels to be vanishing in all other ways but in this sunset, and once again with arms embracing our Querencia the mountains all around are shining and dark, but tonight it’s the Galiuro that are bright in their last moments of Sun, the Mae West Peaks lit too, with all the other ridges high and low, east and west, but Sierra Blanca tonight is dark. The Stockpond glows azure, coral and flamingo, as does the sky over it. Dark has almost completely settled over us as I get the last wheel line moved into place but the air is downright hot, though it cools quickly after that to become very pleasant. Everybody is talking about the weather, realizing the more that only Winter’s horse has come back in, dragging its saddle with rider lost, and there is unexpressed worry. A bat flits over the Cascabel Road, James and Chris tell that they’ve been seeing them, too. 82 degrees in the valley here today, while 18 inches of snow fall on the East Coast.

February 11, 2014

Even though the nights are near freezing the windows of the Caravan must be left open, or else the inside will heat too uncomfortably through the day–and it’s not even mid-February yet.

Cottonwoods are filling out rapidly, are the same color now as those Cucumber Beetles that are flying again in numbers over the pastures.

Friend Heron lies dead in the tall grass of #3 Pasture, it feels a stun to my own neck to see it there crumpled in heaps of huge feathers, its body core ripped out, gone, its bird-flesh probably now being turned into Odalisque the Bobcat, who is likely offstage picking her teeth. I look greedily at an exquisite broad gray plume, the fullest of feathers and with a fine and unexpected halo of marabou towards its base. I’m sure I’m not supposed to “have” it, what with our modern forgetfulness of the 4th Amendment when such a thing is found in one’s possession but I try it out for a moment in the Stetson’s hatband … nah, wouldn’t work there anyway, a little too Oscar Wilde. Maggots are quickly transforming the little flesh left of the Great Blue into other things that can also fly!

February 7, 2014

A sudden rain awakens me in the Cowboy Caravan, is brief, gone, Venus rises and is a spectacle. The deep dust outside isn’t much ruffled by the big drops.

Before sliding into chaps, buckling on spurs and saddling horses with Pat to ride for cows on range, I speed down to the winter green fields to set the day’s watering. A Gray Fox with orange-red legs and a red head is out on one pasture, staring and staring, or sneaking up to the burrows of one critter or another … mice? gophers? jackrabbits?

On range we find the wildflowers much progressed, so much so that it seems we’re promised a colorful Spring. It’s often prematurely announced that there will be! but–the Bladderpod are fat, healthy, and are even showing flower scapes already, and this gives hope.

February 4, 2014

Twenty-four degrees this clear blue morning, a cold to assure that Winter, though much threatened, is not yet an extinct species. The new snow dust gives The Rincon a pale shimmer in the first sunrays.

Not much going on at the edge of the cold Stockpond, just a Rock Squirrel stretched out almost flat trying to reach the water, and a few nondescript sparrows I decide are not Brewer’s on the strength of their having gray rumps, but think instead they must be “Pale 1st winter” (as Sibley puts it) Chipping Sparrows. The book says they don’t weigh much … imagine, at less than half an ounce they are yet creatures complete.

Haven’t seen the beautiful Polka Dot Beetles for more than a couple weeks, the cold of the nights must have set them groggy, but in the late light during as much warmth as is going to be mustered by the day (50s) one of them appears–it carries not six black spots, but eleven! (One entomologist has sent word that what has been seen over most of the winter with those six spots were just a form of the common and universally-resented garden Cucumber Beetle, and this new one today certainly looks a lot more like any illustration one might find of that pest. Yet another entomologist, whose specialty is beetles of southern Arizona, tells that he doesn’t believe Cucumber Beetles would have one race with a very different number of spots active the first half of their season, and change over to one with almost double the number during the second. He thinks it’s a different, maybe even undescribed, species. I wonder which I’ll be seeing from here on, and for how long into spring …)

January 10, 2014

The silvered Harrier is just full of fun and mischief today–I watch him do moves I didn’t think his species had a penchant for. He dives and pulls up in steep curves then low over the bermudagrass, making the Meadowlarks wild with panic. He doesn’t catch any.

At sunset when I’m getting the wheel lines drained (as night approaches the smell of a deep freeze down to the teens is in the air) the Bobcat so lusted after by that hunter is with me, keeps moving off lazily as I slowly come along, keeps itself at a hundred yards or so distant, looks back, stops. I say, “Meow!”, and it seems fascinated.

December 28, 2013

Out of the corner of my eye I catch sight of a tall hunter in camouflage waving to me it seems in something of a panic, or at least with enough urgency that I wonder, “Good grief, now what?” and I pull the wheel line tractor joystick into neutral to stop its roll across the pasture. The man stands within The Lane (he had to have hopped unseen the fence along Cascabel Road) and then drops flat out on the ground–I think he must have been in physical trouble and has fallen with a heart attack! But no … he rolls under the fence along the #1 Pasture and bounces back to his feet, runs towards me in great agitation … “Oh oh oh oh oh, that Bobcat! that Bobcat! I’ve got to get him!” “What Bobcat?” I say. “The one that’s right behind you, been staring at you from that row of mesquites! Don’t you want me to get ‘im?” (He brought to me warm and fond thoughts of Black and Tan Coonhounds we farm kids snuck into bed with us, dogs that had to be encouraged to keep themselves calm, thoughts of duck dogs you had to see didn’t chomp down too hard on the teal he was retrieving …) “Well no … the policy of this place is to let things be and see if the herds and the predators can’t work it out among themselves first out in the parking lot …” I don’t tell him that Bobcat and I have had something of an each-mind-our-own-business relationship for a good while now. The hunter stiffens, pulls himself even taller than he was already, and slowly lets out with managed aggression and the slightest of menace that since we don’t have “No Hunting” signs close enough to each other to meet the law’s requirement out on the road fence, he could just come in and take that critter as he like, but–not to worry!–he’ll be gracious enough to honor the policy I told him about but I’d better get more notices up on those fenceposts.

New, regulation every-quarter-mile signs will be up by New Year’s Day! Turns out the man was indeed within the law of Arizona, and I’m grateful to have had his instruction.

December 3, 2013

Pyrrhuloxias male and female, and Chipping Sparrows, drink among dragonflies at The Stockpond.  Seedlings wild and encouraged are developing rapidly in the Vernal Winter: oats and barley have shot out two or three true leaves, the rye shows one or two, and out of the fresh mounds of gopher-dug soil spring grass seedlings with stems and blades fully formed.  Millions of perfect Valentine hearts of Cheeseweed Mallow cotyledons are making green patches on the wide, open ground.  Javelina are already grazing heavily on the fruit of our works long before cows will get the chance!