Roadrunner in Tree!

The Greater Roadrunner, of the cuckoo family, is found in southwest USA and Mexico. I often see them running across a road or hunting for small lizards.  A roadrunner pair will form a lifelong bond. A few months ago, I had a chance opportunity to watch their courtship steps, tail flicks and mating. These roadrunners are not like the cartoon character, but instead can kill rattlesnakes and outrun humans.

Roadrunner

They can run 19 miles per hour and only when in danger or traveling downhill do they fly. On this day the roadrunner must have sensed danger as it was airborne for a few seconds and onto a tree limb when I noticed his silhouette. 

For a couple of minutes the bird remained in the tree. It is summer now so I know it was not raising a brood, nor did I see a nest. Their next breeding here in Arizona will be in August or after the monsoon rains so the bird must have felt in danger. Soon it was off the branch and running down the path.

Off to somewhere else!

I continued my walk through the park. About 25 minutes later I discover another bird, or maybe the same roadrunner, jumping into a tree! What a surprise! I quickly grabbed my camera, moved into the tree branches from different angles and tried to capture a photo or two with poor results.

A few minutes later, this roadrunner was leaving. I continued my morning walk around the park and saw no roadrunners!

Off it goes!

Hawks on a Pole!

Most mornings I see hawks sheltering to one side of a telephone pole, no doubt out of the sun and hiding to watch for movement below. Rabbits have been scurrying!

Red-tailed hawk at rest.

One morning I noticed a hawk nestled in the pole’s shade while another hawk came flying in and was noisy. It was squawking up a storm and it would not stop! The hawk looked above at the squawking hawk and again when it was right next to it. I wondered if there was a territorial dispute happening between the two.

First above me, now next to me, and noisy!

The hawk originally on the pole took off while the other looked surprised to see such action being taken!

Took flight and left the other one with an interesting look on its face!

The hawk flew to another telephone pole only to get into a squabble with a raven as it flew in to perch on the pole this hawk selected. Before I knew it, the two were in the air with the raven pestering the hawk. In a minute or so, the hawk flew to another pole, now alone from raven and the squawking hawk. What this hawk had to do for a telephone pole and quiet!

Raven wins this pole.

All birds now seemed content on their own pole. Nature, I just love it!

Lucy’s Warbler Nest Boxes

At Isabella Lee Natural Preserve, I saw five Lucy’s warbler triangle-shaped nestboxes at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 feet above the ground on a tree. Tucson Audubon set these up to find out which nest box the birds prefer since they ordinarily nest in woodpecker holes or bark crevices of old mesquite trees. Those trees are often removed for their valuable wood so this project is to encourage the Lucy’s warblers to remain in the Tucson area, especially if they do not find the tree of their choice.

I saw no activity in any of the nestboxes today; however, there were numerous hummingbirds, a couple of vermillion flycatchers, a red-tailed hawk flying overhead and signs of horses being through the area. This was my first time at the preserve which encompasses the confluence of Agua Caliente Wash and Tanque Verde Creek. Expect to see snakes, javelina, coyote and wildlife since it is a wildlife area also for them.

A spot to see the seasonal changes … come back again.
Lucy’s warbler nestboxes
All the info you need on this poster.
Rules will be enforced.

Riverbeds: Passageways for Wildlife

I was bicycling on one of many bike path miles in Tucson, AZ and this particular section paralleled the Rillito River, and then the Santa Cruz River. Fascinated by the number of birds I saw, I also realized this is where the coyotes and javelina run through at night. I have heard coyotes; they are awesome and a reminder wildlife is nearby!

Riverbed where you'll find wildlife, but unfortunately plastic bags and shopping carts!
Riverbed where you’ll find wildlife, but unfortunately plastic bags and shopping carts!

While some people may shutter from such a thought, I welcome it. I love seeing the young hawk on the bike railing as I approach it on my bike. I had one hawk swoop away from me and fly 50 feet, to discover I was traveling in the same direction, so it chose to swoop away again, another 50 feet down the path…finally flying across to the other side of the riverbed. A white heron caught my eye while I was riding when I noticed it in a stalking position. Sure enough, it captured a grasshopper! Poor thing was caught in the heron’s beak, bounced around in various positions before the final gulp! Or the roadrunner darting in and out of bushes along the bike path. I am never fast enough to hop off my bicycle, grab my camera and focus on a roadrunner …someday.

Stalking heron seen along the bike path.
Stalking heron seen along the bike path.

The riverbeds as passageways for the wildlife are important. The rains will come, there will be snow melt in the springtime, the riverbeds will take on water and attract other wildlife; I will be here to see them all, whether they are simply traveling through or choosing to stay.

Salton Sea, CA… What is its Future?

Last week I visited the Salton Sea, about one hour south of Palm Desert, CA. I had seen a Sunday Morning television program discussing the importance and the hopeful future of the Salton Sea, thus when I was in the area it was important for me to check it out.

My first stop along its water’s edge was at a campground that had a coastline a half mile long of seabirds comfortably landing, swimming, eating, and with no concern about the people watching them. Fortunately in many places there was greenery growing so we could hide behind and let the birds do their thing. (Interesting to see the various people watching the birds too…some photographers had amazing lenses on their cameras, but the reality is one simply needs to observe.)

birds at Salton Sea
Many birds land at the Salton Sea!

The Salton Sea is an important migratory flight path for the birds that travel north and south. Without this water the birds would not survive. They need the water, the tilapia (a fish that seems to do well in the salty water), algae and other food within the sea, and a place to land comfortably.

It is true the sea is getting smaller because there are three inlets and no water leaving by way of an outlet, but its water is evaporating. The sea is located in an area where air temperatures can easily reach 100 degrees plus in the summer, and in the winter it never gets cold….except at night when the sun goes down! Thus the water’s edge has been diminishing and you will see fish carcasses and skeletons when you walk closer to the water. Even though the water is 50% saltier than the Pacific Ocean it is only 1/3 the saltiness found in the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

You will find dead fish at Salton Sea.
You will find dead fish at Salton Sea.

Many people study the sea; many are passionate about its importance for birds; many are happy to be living almost off the grid in their small communities around the sea. Agricultural entities have produce grown and shipped around the world. I had never seen so much hay in my life….piled high with numerous trucks driving it out. There are also 11 geothermal plants using the energy from deep within the earth.

An alternative energy: geothermal...making use of the earth's heat from deep within.
An alternative energy: geothermal…making use of the earth’s heat from deep within.

I spent all day driving the entire distance around the sea, with the first stop being the best to see the birds. There are excellent educational exhibits and films to see so one can learn more about the sea, its future, and to talk with people who care about it. If you have a day to visit the Salton Sea, consider a visit!