Tag Archives: Phoebes

July 23, 2016

More Western Tanagers jarring the bosque and The Lane with their tropically beautiful plumage and patterns. Other Say’s Phoebes are arriving, too, and will probably stay through to the Summer breeding season of 2017.

A Gray Hawk is “makin’ lazy circles in the sky” (well, “Oklahoma” was filmed not very far away after all) in #3 Pasture high above my head in that Red-tail way, which behavior I’ve never seen with this bird before. The Camphor Plants below it scattered through the grass have a first flower or two open.

July 16, 2016

An adult Say’s Phoebe is back on a top fencewire: the birds must be done with their nesting among the buildings of neighboring ranches and homesteads.

Cecilia and Cecil Roadrunner become the bolder as the July droughty spell continues, though she is the more friendly and calls from off in the garden edge to announce her arrival and tell her hope that I’d be putting out water for them. I’ve stopped keeping the hanging bird bowl full, the honeybees have become so thick flying in and out to it and fill the rim inches deep with their vibrating bodies, and fill the patio with a too discomfiting noise. They must have a hive down over the ridge-edge in the canyon below to the northeast, not far away–I can make out their coming and going in that direction. Cecilia will come quickly to the water I pour into a deep plant saucer (I try to make as much splashing noise as I can doing that, to alert the other Roadrunners), she’ll run in to drink as soon as I go back in the house, but Cecil is much more wary than that though his wariness in the end is overcome by his thirst if I don’t hang out right there. Cedric is another case, the young and disheveled and gangly bird if he knows I’m inside will come to the porch step and look in through the screen and clack his bill rapidly and give out a Roadrunner trill until I come out with the pitcher of water. He does not move off, but follows me over to where the saucer lies and drinks at my feet as soon as his dish is full. He won’t do this if the bees come in too quickly for him to have the water only to himself. I make a burring sound with my lips when he’s underfoot, and he crouches, and lowers and quivers his wings and lets out Roadrunner mews and burrings himself, then drinks his fill before the bees zoom in and scare him off.

July 2, 2016

When Monsoon after her opening fiesta lifts the hem of her skirt of clouds enough above her ankles to wade in the arroyos she’s left running, all this land lies drenched and steaming.

Over a half inch of rain begins High Summer and the temperature soars from the delight of a cool 80 degrees yesterday to well past 90 today. The smallest of effort to push myself into #3 Pasture to listen for Botteri’s Sparrows pulls sweat to wet and darken the work shirt. No, no Botteri’s–but yes, yes! for a second day comes the rich, descending, see-sawing whistles of Cassin’s. They may have been here already but they do not let go their songs until rain actually falls for if it doesn’t, why waste the swagger and the aerial dance of courtship? Will they stay even if the much rarer Botteri’s has abandoned us and apparently withdrawn to their more usual range closer to The Border? The presence of the Cassin’s Sparrows is exciting and deeply satisfying enough to us and the Forest Service and the pastures, now after so much work of the past few years has turned the wide almost sterile Burroweed flats into the kind of mosaic of those shrubs and the native grasses that this “Species of Concern” might want to call home.

Those overgrown “ducklings” of the Mexican Mallard pair head for the shore whenever the Silverado appears at The Stockpond, move up through the weeds away from me crouched almost flat to the ground, quickly and more like lizards than large birds that can fly off if they want to. Black Phoebes have appeared again in good numbers through the pastures but especially in the branches overhanging the open water, after having been absent most of the Foresummer and early Summer. Where do they come back from?

June 20, 2016

Oh Dolly, Dolly–how can you sing out from the radio, “Together you and I can stop the rain/and make the sun shine!” I hope she and Porter don’t come here, at least not now, the temperature yesterday having gone past the brink of 114 degrees and today, 109. Or is Dolly’s big hair of such continental massiveness that it can make its own weather, and would bring us rain no matter the words of her song? On second thought, maybe I should see if they’ll play it again.

The Ash-throated Flycatcher pair are on the double road gate at the north end of Mason’s, the male performing a whisper of a mating with his partner. She then pops through the large hole in the side of the heavy iron gate post a few feet above the ground and settles onto her nest within. This is the second year Alex and I have seen these birds occupy the place, which must cook with a Bessemer furnace-like heat! My clanging around her and cowboy drop-gate rebuilding there–the gate pivoting on the very post–has no effect on the bird’s behavior and she ignores me as she’s apparently smart enough to conclude that I am no threat, the same as she did last year. This casts doubt on the growing effort to see that all such pipes used in ranch fencing be covered, their blocked up to keep birds from getting trapped inside.

An adult Say’s Phoebe puts in a rare summer appearance, hawking out after bugs from the top of #3 Pasture’s wheel line. After a number of summers’ observation of them, I can only come to think that they leave the area to seek out the human-made structures now much preferred for nesting sites, the nearest of those being a distance away on ridges to the north.

February 20, 2014

It is already time to watch for departures of “resident” birds considered common year-round in southern Arizona, but which disappear from The River for months at a time every year: “Red-shafted” Flickers (and there was a wonderful pair of them today, jumping around on the ground going after ants), Say’s Phoebe, Phainopepla, Loggerhead Shrike; Mexican Mallards will be here for a good while yet, they go somewhere else during June, July and August … there is a pair of these ducks on The Stockpond today.

Brindle the Cow, at last at last! has made it through the long months’ recovery from the bite of (we think) Phat Phreddie the Rattlesnake, and she is skipping, joyfully running now with the herd when they’re all whistled into a pasture of welcome fresh graze.  In a couple of months she’ll give birth to something, more than likely a little mummy calf–or will it have fangs and serpent eyes??  If it is alive and thrifty, we should name it Milagro but if it’s not, we may wish that Death hadn’t spared Brindle over, too, til this other year.

January 17, 2014

Hiroshige Moon-set
on opposite horizon,
in dawn-pink sky
against bare cottonwoods,
and walnut,
above penumbral shadow
dark blue.

Just within the fence on Cascabel Road I finally have to stop digging out an old T-post and go search out whatever critter is calling from the canyon and mesa to the east a long descending trill and chatter. I presume it’s a bird I’m unfamiliar with, who knows, something newly arrived from Mexico and, ahem, undocumented, now the climate of Sonora heads north inexorably. A wren? I have no idea what the Sinaloa Wren–a species new for the United States found the more frequently not much south of here–could sound like, and this voice certainly has a wren motif, or should that be a wriff? After scrambling through two sets of fences and into the rough hillside of Catclaw and Saguaros, I arrive near the source of the odd notes as best I can figure just when the hoot of a midday owl silences whatever it is, and I don’t hear it again. I ought to resist the drive to find out every last fact about this place.

Gray Flycatcher, pumping its tail …

A White Tiger Moth comes over, slowly, passes on by. Twenty Javelina bring their babies to the cool and green winter #2 Pasture, and tuck into the vast salad bar.

The balmy air of late afternoon is full of bugs dancing, on what elfin mission? They move in the orderly bounces of a pinball, or zigzag back and forth and back and forth … Phoebes chitter on the posts, then dive and sail into the shimmering horde, the birds’ moves telling me they can outwit and out maneuver any of these insects that know so well how to evade me.

The day’s become so warm that it’s a pleasure to go back to work on the fence in the shade of the old and giant mesquite trees, where I’m somewhat camouflaged. I hope to hear the mystery trilling song again, from those slopes rising steeply on the other side of the road. While I dismantle the fence that Mycha the cow makes shortcake out of when she wants to get mesquite beans on the outside, there comes a huge Accipiter swirling and diving into the road but apparently missing its target. Gambel’s Quail in the sunset light behind me scatter, and purl excitedly as they flee the raptor even though they’re a thousand feet away from us. The hawk is big and brown, with the bright slash of a white eyebrow over the most intense of gazes, lands on an electric pole almost overhead of me: a Goshawk! Is it what had taken down the Cooper’s Hawk whose feathered remains were on the pasture a month ago?

January 15, 2014

Great Blue Heron in #2 Pasture’s winter grass startles me, it’s unafraid, looks like an ornament on some other green lawn in the Gnome Belt.  It moves leisurely to the other winter cow graze in #1 Pasture.

The Stockpond is completely frozen over in the morning, by noon completely thawed.

Northern Mockingbird …

Lesser Goldfinch …

I continue pursuing the Polka Dot Beetles, hoping someday to have one in hand for a real look, but they are so wary and their talent for escape nearly incredible.

A Peregrine comes from behind and, off to my right, rockets past in a horizontal only a few feet above the pasture I stand in, slices into the next through a narrow gap in mesquite, any Meadowlark in there won’t know what hit it.  It then circles high, high, out of sight of my naked eye, steel gray, like a Phantom Jet with an “Off I go, into the wild blue yonder!”

Say’s Phoebes have paired up, joyously chase each other up and down the hall, er, from one post or sprinkler head to another, even their calls lascivious.

Verdin …

Waiting on one leg in #1 Pasture is the companionable Heron.  It decides to follow me on my rounds into the bermuda grass of #2.  Maybe my footfalls flush out mice towards it?

Six Mule Deer, against the sunlit arcs of irrigation in the waning afternoon …

January 3, 2014

Or–can Winter be denied? A Bronze Dragonfly zooms over the water, past a single Green-winged Teal stretching its wings and flashing the radiant-cut emerald of a wing speculum. The duck doesn’t fly off when I pull up to the bank, which isn’t like this species that is normally wilder than wild.

The irrigation hoses are peppered with grasshoppers that are not so minute as before–they’re growing. The still unidentified Polka Dot Beetles fly and drop and zoom past, and even the little black spiders of Summer are come back to their perch on those hoses, oh goody, I can be nipped by them in January as well as in June! It is 75 degrees …

Bewick’s Wren sings, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet pokes about the mesquite branch tips. As the Galiuro cliff face catches the last sunlight and the rest of the valley around me falls into deep shadow, a welcome coolness comes in waves. Black Phoebe sings out tsip … tsip … tseep, on wheel lines where I empty water for a freeze that likely won’t come this night.

January 1, 2014

We were sittin’ round the ranch house some twenty
hands or more
most of us Americans but a few from Arkansas
one Dutchman from the fatherland one Johnny Bull
from Leeds
a Cornishman from Cornwall all men of different creeds
they were a sittin’ an’ a arguin’ busy as a hill of ants
how they’d get rid of the money they had buried in their
that they’d made by hard cow punching work all
the year around
from sunup until sundown an’ a sleepin’ on the ground
where at night the polecat saunters round the chuckbox
after grub
and in passing by your hot roll gives your head a friend-
ly rub
where the rattlesnake lies dormant his fangs are like
a lance
’twas with them that I attended The Cowboy’s New
Years Dance

–Mark Chisholm, pre 1908, “The Cowboys New Years Dance”

Big Mahogany Ants are in wild and mad, kettle-a-boiling wakefulness at their wide hole–something about which I’m not thinking I needed to have a care (it is Winter, right?) when I open the truck door and drop a foot onto the ground in The Lane where I seek out the first bird of an informal First Day of 2014 bird count, a Brewer’s Sparrow. The ants, which aren’t amused by my presence, are sending out gatherers on this warm, sunny, blue spectacle of a New Year’s morning. I will keep chores to a minimum today, only check over the herd and water these pastures for neither kine nor grass have a horse in my race of trying to relax as best the day allow or quietly reflect on this year beginning and last year seamlessly gone. Saltweed splashes its tiny green and purple seedlings under a fence.

Mesquite rows full of singing Lark Sparrows …
Chipping Sparrows …
Say’s and Black phoebes …

Sparrows uncountable, flying up in masses, I turn the truck around to have the sun positioned so they’ll show better–most are Vespers and Larks, but I may suppose Savannahs and Lincolns and Songs are among them …

Western Meadowlarks …
White-crowned Sparrows, abundant in thicker edges …
Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker …

Sixty or so Red-winged Blackbirds in those splendidly understated winter clothes of theirs, crowning a lone wide-spreading mesquite …

Red-tailed Hawk …
Flicker, red-shafted …
Mourning Dove …

Brightest of red House Finches, knocked off his perch by a male Phainopepla with drama and flourish; I have for a very long time seen precious few of these Silky Flycatchers and their almost impossible elegance …

Gray Flycatcher …
Cardinal …
Chihuahuan Raven …

Until a breeze springs up from the North when Sun brushes down on the ridge of the grand Rincon I am comfortable without a jacket through a day that itself brushes 70 degrees. Bugs are aloft, gleam in the last rays and many meet their end as a Gray Flycatcher stokes its belly with them to make the freezing night pass the more bearably.

December 30, 2013

It is so cold that even in late morning ice still edges The Stockpond, where a Black Phoebe and a Yellow-rumped Warbler are duking it out over something in the overhanging mesquite branches. The temperature in that last dark hour before dawn here likely had dropped to about 15 degrees.

Yet another large bird has been brought low, this one a now torn-apart Mallard whose remains I find in their wreckage field stretching out from the pool at The Cienega. Well, not remains really–whatever it was that got it took away completely the bone, flesh, beak and quack, and left only lovely feathers. Some are small and bottle green, and there are larger ones of iridescent aquamarine, each tipped with a round white spot which when arranged together across a line must have formed the blue speculum with its white bar. Peregrine on the lurk? Woe to the ducks! (I’ve witnessed in a past year one of those falcons’ most accomplished hunting feats when it chose a female Baldpate from the buffet at The Stockpond, then on a patch of bare ground in #2 Pasture dined in blood and drifting duck feathers only about a hundred feet from the windshield of the truck. Oh the luck of seeing that!) It’s been over a month since I’ve seen a Peregrine, though.