Tag Archives: Winter pasture

July 6, 2016

on a wheel line sprinkler
beetle in bill

in the Sunrise

but Bull’s a-Moon-in’
and a-spoonin’
the cow, Flame,

“Come wiz me to de cowzbah!”
he chortles to his latest squeeze …
birds, and bees

The first maturing mesquite pods are turning color, the cycles of the years come around faster and faster and it is time already to keep the herd sequestered here or there so that the seeds are deposited where we’d like them to be, either in the path of the big rototiller come September (if it comes) or where the winter pasture a year from now will be laid out and cleaned of its erstwhile bosque-ette before that cultivation and seeding of grasses is done.

A pair of Great-blue Herons fly away from The Stockpond.

June 17, 2016

Suddenly many minute-sized black tadpoles fill The Pond, on the surface, in wiggling, swimming layers down to the bottom; I’ve never noticed these before though I’d heard many adults for the first time at this pond earlier in the season. One on the surface, of about one inch in length, has four well-formed legs and an adult-looking head but still waves a tail behind it, certainly tiny for being at this stage of about-to-leave-for-land, its body leopard-speckled in little round black spots, the little legs with dark bands. They can’t be Bull Frogs, the size at this stage of maturity seems to tell that these are native Woodhouse’s Toads, those wonderful singers we must hope never get pushed out by some other introduced creature. Another new sight, reminding one that there are phenomena that are to be seen on the briefest of days, or even hours, and likely not every year: the bank of The Pond while I’m watching the funny little tadpoles, is alive with many odd beetles, shiny blue-black with very bulbous abdomens 2/3rds their length and bright brick red. Will I ever see those again?

February 28, 2014

The night was warm enough to have slept without a blanket.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets are in the nearby giant of an Afghan Pine, giving out their oriole-like chatters and beautiful motets scaled down to miniature as befits the size of these friendly green sprites.

The oats and barley of Sam’s yet ungrazed winter pasture is already shooting out sprays of flowers, before February has ended.  This day will come to feel roasting in the 80 degrees of heat, which must signal to the cool season, “small grain” grass crops that they must produce seed before Winter skips right into Summer.  There’s been no rain, neither in this month nor last, none since Christmas, which demands of these grasses they bolt and drop seed before they’re turned into hay by drought and the bake of sun.

As I sit in the pickup and scan The Stockpond, the first fly of the year big enough to buzz annoyingly around my face and ears circles round and round inside the cab.  Venus the heifer sticks her head through the window, drops out a tongue that would alarm the rock band KISS, she thinks I’m her adoring head banger and wants to lick me as much as I’ll allow.  It’s hard to hold binoculars still enough to study a duck’s speculum while a cow’s tongue is wrapped around one’s wrist, and tugging.  Neither Cinnamon Teal is present today, but the pair of Mexican Mallards are, and the female Vermillion Flycatcher who is not wanting much to be in the treetop with the male in what he thinks should be a fetching scarlet hussar’s tunic.  “How can she resist me in this uniform??”  She’ll have none of it.  “I’m not that kind of a girl!”  Or, is she the coquette?  Black Swallowtail Butterflies and Sulphurs are underneath, dancing, having a mud party.

Storm clouds! … high, blue and cream-colored, with layer cake tops reflecting as a circle in the pond late in the day, the Mexican Mallards’ dabbling making ripples go out from this brightly lit center to the edges, the water pale blue though Sun is gone.  Silver sky in the North, with throw-pillows of white clouds darkly, ominously edged on their sides, their bottoms thick, even blacker.

Anticipation and a joy that it is hoped is not misguided rises in Cascabel.  Under the Mae West Peaks, it’s going to rain!

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.

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!

April 13, 2013

A honeyed and calling fragrance in the air, sweet, drifting to the Stockpond from the direction of the San Pedro, which river wanders by close to the west. I presume it is from the clouds and sprays of pink tamarisk blossoms in the reaches of the bottomlands, where there is now a show of color that can be seen from Cascabel Road from enough of a rise.

The lone male Mallard still floats on the pond, he’d been kept company by an adult Black-crowned Night Heron until I drove up. Night Herons being a jumpy sort, it vanished quickly not to reappear. Was this the one that spent a few days here last June when in immature plumage but by now should have matured into an elegant adult bird? Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets (the name is longer than the tiny bird itself–is that true of the Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, too??) gave their wheezy, sneezy whistles from the bosque and later as I made rounds I could hear them all along the River; I guess they’d arrived together in the night. They can be called down from the trees if one wants to get a close look; I must’ve hit on their territorial call. This is another creature that in late years could be come across in every month of winter, but this season’s frigid air must’ve driven them far to the south, maybe completely out of Arizona. Their arrival in numbers should also in a “normal” year have come about two weeks ago but they were loathe to leave wherever they were.

The wrens began their usual flying up from my footfalls as I walked along the wheel line to open a hydrant, but this day they didn’t fly off quickly nor drop out of sight maddeningly. Several of them flitted off only a few feet, then landed on the spokes of the irrigators so close to me it was hard to focus in with the glasses, jumped around, looked for spiders and such in the corners of the aluminum. There were the white spots I’d been told about, but most amazingly, there were on each of their backs lines of pretty black stripes. I could hardly grasp this, because it identified these little mystery birds that are everywhere in the deep winter grasses we’d planted in October and December as the Marsh Wren!

We have in our way recreated long-vanished cienegas with these winter leafy pastures for the cattle, by bringing water up from 25 ft. under ground and spreading it over these acres. It may be that rather with the grazing schedule, the wrens move from one area of these winter cereals to another with the waterings, which make of them a marsh about a hundred feet wide that stays wet in the shade of the plants for a few days at a time, this cycling accomplished through all the acres over a week’s period. By now the wrens have become used to my tromping through and didn’t go so far off before slipping back beneath the grass canopy. I’d hope Iris Dement would approve of “allowing” the birds to show themselves in their own time like that. Letting their “mystery be” was a pleasure.

After a winter that had the Lark Buntings abandon us, they are passing back north through the pastures. Many females, many males in an eclipse plumage but not a few in their startling and sharp black-and-white courting outfits. I watched one of those fine males for a while, who was moving along the ground looking for insects and seeds in remarkably plover-like actions. Then he and several others flew up and arranged themselves artfully in a round young mesquite tree, and these immediately joined by other birds each competing in beauty: Lazuli Buntings as bright as blue reef fish, numbers of sorrel and white and black-pointed Chipping Sparrows in their full fresh spring plumage, a single Vermillion Flycatcher for a tabasco splash, unfurling pastel mesquite leaflets a foil for all these colors of a Mexican tin Tree-of-Life come brightly to life.