Six Minutes With One Bird!

I heard there was a tricolored heron in the neighborhood. (In actuality it was a 20 minute drive from my home. Close enough.) Off I went to find the bird since this would be a new sighting for my life list of birds!

From one side of the lake I see a bird, and quite possibly the tricolored heron. I walk around the lake to get a closer look and hopefully a photograph too.

Tricolored heron

I walked closer and closer to the bird, wishing I had a different lens on my camera, but thought what fun to walk quietly and actually see how close I could get to it! Not bad! The bird took time to ruffle its feathers.

Then it was time for the bird to fly!

It flew across the lake. I decided to let it be. Instead I checked out the park.

Statue at El Hoyo Barrio

While at the firefighter’s statue last week near downtown Tucson, I also saw a plaza nearby with another statue I needed to check out. The City of Tucson Fire Department dedicated this plaza as a memorial to the Barrio El Hoyo which was displaced during the 1960’s downtown redevelopment.

People living in the barrio enjoyed social solidarity, ethnic pride, bonds of kinship and neighborliness. It was a poor neighborhood where people knew and helped each other. In 1921 on Meyer Street, there was a mixture of Jews, Syrians, naturally many Mexicans, Chinese, Lebanese and everyone spoke Spanish.

Mrs. Solana M. Sosa was born in the Leopoldo Carrillo house where she raised her daughter and died in the house after living 111 years, 1795-1906. The 8 acres of land known as the Carrillo Gardens had trees, flowers, different roses from around the world, huge cottonwood trees, a little zoo, small lake and pavilion for dancing.

The barrio was named El Hoyo, which means “The Hole”. In the 1940/50’s hard rain flooded homes by 2 – 3 feet since this barrio was on land lower than the surrounding area. Drainage pipes and culverts were eventually put in to divert the water, but eventually houses were torn down. The northern 2/3 of the barrio is where we find the Tucson Convention Center and the Central Station Fire Department. It was heartbreaking for many people as they built these homes with their own hands, but downtown was to be redeveloped.

Information for this post is from plaques at the plaza where this statue is, along with my own research. We should feel fortunate the history of this area is saved for others to learn about and understand the sense of community once here.

Mourning Dove Gives Birth!

They’re back, much to the chagrin of my partner. This year mourning doves built their nest in the same location, same gutter as last year, but on our mesh-topping that was to discourage their laying a nest in that spot this year. Ha ha, we did not discourage their use of that spot at all! Nope; birds – 2, humans – 0.

Dove builds nest right here!

Mourning doves are interesting birds. I started watching their nest building activity a few weeks ago; not the prettiest bunch of twigs thrown together on that mesh, but maybe they had to improvise. Once built, eggs must have been laid as it seemed a bird was always on  the nest. Yet one night, after midnight as I was working at my computer, I heard a couple of doves at the nest. I now know there is always a bird on the nest during incubation time; male on daytime shift and female on night shift. 

I understand it’s possible for one to not even realize if eggs were laid or young were hatched. I can attest to that. I always wondered what stage all was at once there was always one adult on the nest. Are you laying on the  eggs or the hatchlings? Every day I walked about 6 – 10 feet from the nest to my backyard. No adult ever worried about me in the area. They knew it was a safe place to be, but could they give me a hint of what is happening?

Mourning doves are known to lay 2 eggs and incubate them for 14 – 15 days. Once the young hatch, adults brood them continually 4 – 5 days. I finally saw a squab, a baby dove! Actually there were 2 squabs!

I hoped to see some feeding activity. Doves produce pigeon milk, which is not really milk, from glands in the crop of the adult. The parent opens their mouth wide allowing the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food for a few days. Then the squabs will eat regurgitated seeds for about a month. I watched some of that activity from a bedroom window.

They have flown the nest! I saw the squabs hanging out on their own at the nest for a few days and an adult would fly in for a short time. Then it seemed they were gone! What a wonderful opportunity to watch all of this unfold these past few weeks! I love nature and was satisfied with the work these adults did in caring for their young!

Truth in a Statue in Tucson

Near downtown Tucson, I noticed a statue of a fireman, so I stopped to learn why it was there by the Central Fire Station. It is a memorial and recognition of firefighter’s “ultimate sacrifice”. 

The past few months, numerous firefighters have been fighting the Bighorn Fire in our national forest and state park. No structures or people have been lost with almost 120,000 acres burned. Seven fire fighters had non-fatal injuries.

Truth be told, we are appreciative of every firefighter. Carrying their gear, climbing the mountainside, working on the fire line, tenting at night, and caring about the people and buildings in the area all in very hot, varying elevation and weather conditions … a profession many people do not run to train and be active in. I greatly appreciate those who do choose this work and relieved when I know all survived. Thank you!

Due to the charred areas not being able to absorb water and the upcoming monsoon season, the areas will remain closed till about November 1. Before you head out, check Pima County website to know if you can hike in certain areas. Be safe.

Quickly Wake Up!

I wandered to the window this morning to check for any birds at my feeder. Expecting the usual ones, I knew my coffee would soon be enjoyed by me along with breakfast. It was a late night last night, early morning, due to my volunteering on a crisis hot line. I was half asleep as I checked on the birds and expected nothing unusual.

What! Wake up, what do I see? Where’s my camera and tripod? Am I really seeing a ground squirrel pulling at my prayer flags flying below the bird feeder? Ok, this is not a usual sight. I need to take a photo as I believe I am seeing this happen and I will want to share this activity with others.

Ground squirrel at prayer flags

The prayer flags have been left to blow in the wind and I have seen birds take a piece, no doubt for nests. But this I have never seen. Soon the ground squirrel was into a full-on pull of the line with definite use of its thigh muscles!

After much time tugging, the ground squirrel relaxed on the wall and paid attention to something happening on the other side of the wall. I have no idea what caught his attention, but I did realize I woke up quickly this morning due to his activity!

Moment to relax

Then back at the prayer flags after a few minutes of distraction. The ground squirrel pulled at a few more before finally taking off to other areas of the backyard.

I quickly went for my coffee maker to make coffee and have breakfast. Wow, what a way to wake up in the morning! Quite the jolt to my system and so different from caffeinated coffee! Yet nice to have it all happening!

Thrasher & Finch Morning!

I am new to bird feeding. Eventually I will learn what type of feeder design and type of seed will prompt a variety of birds to come and also return to my feeders. Now it is a bit of a guessing game, but I am happy with surprises also!

My morning began with a curve-billed thrasher sighting as one sat on our back wall. We know these birds are in the neighborhood as we often hear their loud whit-wheet! call.

Curve-billed thrasher

I love looking at their bright orange eyes and long, slightly curved bill; however, once the bird was at the feeder this morning I noticed how it used its long tail. Another moment I caught a glimpse of the seed within its beak.

The curve-billed thrasher seemed so excited about locating this feeder with delicious seed it started to call others. It called from the top of the feeder and from trees in the backyard, except it finally gave up after about 3 minutes. No thrasher seemed be listening.

Once the thrasher left the feeder and no longer calling for others, my usual house finches returned! The female was the first to fly in to eat and then relax.

Finally to complete my morning, the male house finch stopped by. These house finches are residents here at this location. I am convinced they are the same ones I see day in and day out! And that is okay by me!

Male house finch

Monday Memories: Solo Bicycling Trip

I decided I was not getting any younger, and I was reading about people in their 60’s bicycling across the USA! Could I do the same? I did not know, but I decide to attempt some distance.

Yes, in June 2018, I did bicycle 600 miles from Prescott, Wisconsin to Rensselaer, Indiana by way of many small towns following most of Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route. After a heat spell, I continued on on New York State’s Erie Canal trail for 100 miles before meeting friends in central NY.

People asked why I chose that area of the USA to bicycle ride. Since I typically fly over it, I thought it a good idea to actually see it. I saw many windmills, fields of corn, artwork and rolling hills.

There were sights to see. An Eagle Center, National Farm Toy Museum and the famous Field of Dreams to mention a few. I also stopped at activities roadside, such as this dog competition where they collect the bird that was shot. When I heard about saloon bars similar to an AZ bar, I checked it out as I did often stop in churches for a reflective moment.

Most nights I stayed at bed and breakfast, or motels, and did camp. My goal was to survive so I wanted comfort at the end of the day, especially since you never knew if the next 40-60 miles per day was going to be in the heat or a drenching rain. There is nothing worse than bicycling in the rain; stopping to check the weather radar to discover how many hours you may be sitting and waiting out the weather. Some places were entirely for myself and I would wander into the town to find dinner, and other places I spent hours talking and eating with the owner of the place. I always love connecting with people when I travel. All of my accommodations were wonderful from Motel 6 to some really nice bed and breakfast places!

One of my most fun places was at an old jailhouse. The woman helped me hoist my loaded bicycle up the five steps into the place, invited friends over to have a beer with us, and cooked delicious dinner and breakfast for me. She offered me an additional night, yet I decided to keep on my plan since the weather was good.

Enthusiasm for bicycling is beginning to take off in the USA as we develop the US Bicycling Route System to be added to many Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Routes and Adventure Cycling’s Routes. I did see a bicycle campground and I rode a bicycle path where each rider pays a fee. Men drove on the bike path to collect the fee from me and were pleasantly surprised when I could show them I had my receipt of payment.

I ate plenty of snacks, which I carried in my bag, and always a lunch. I loved Casey’s General Store located in many small towns. I was hooked on white cheddar cheese popcorn, until I broke a front tooth – later repaired in Buffalo, NY. I also bought Arizona green tea and Gatorade to supplement my water bottles. I love chocolate and that meant a Snicker’s bar too.

I discovered I was close to Route 66 so I decided to ride a portion of it, especially since I did not know if I would ever ride its entire distance from CA to IL. Lots of history along that route! The road was so busy at one point there was a passageway for people to walk under the road! Of course, there are still some old gas stations in the area, and portions of the road are grown over with grass in its cracks.

I met many other bicyclists on the road and all going from east to the west coast (I was going west to east). There was only one other solo female bicyclist, yet every single person always stopped at the bottom of a hill to say hello, check-in on how I was doing, and offer ideas of what was coming up in the next town or two. I really appreciated the camaraderie! One guy told me he was sleeping in ditches at night after cycling about 100 miles a day. Another guy told me of a free place to set a tent. A mother and daughter team had stayed at the lodging I was heading to on my 70 mile day. Other people at stores, bars, and their homes were very generous. One family offered their swimming pool to me as I laid on their front lawn, under the only shade tree I think in the county! Another guy brought out bottles of cold water for me as I sat by a church he was renovating for his family home. Another guy stopped in his pick-up truck and asked me if I was okay, and if I knew how hot it was that day. Yes, wherever I could find some shade, I spent time there. I could tell you more, but I think you got the picture!

The heat did me in! To hot to go on, dehydrated and with concerns of heat stroke, I decided to take the heat wave in the US seriously. Unfortunately I have been in hospitals needing fluids pumped into me other times when on hiking and bicycling trips. I knew I did not want that happening here. With the help of great people in Indiana, I rented a car a few days after getting my fluids back to where they needed to be and headed to Buffalo, NY. Along the way and there, I had wonderful friends allow me time to recuperate before jumping back on my bicycle to cycle the Erie Canal trail to central NY where I met other friends. Yes, I shipped my bicycle home and relaxed before planning my next trip. What an adventure this was … and cannot wait to do some bicycle travel again!

Don’t Move … Thanks!

This desert spiny lizard was not lively at all. It simply stayed on the tree limb and watched as two photographers tried to capture the perfect photo!

I see you and I am staying right here for a moment or two!

I was sort of wondering what this lizard was thinking about while the two of us with cameras tried to jockey around for a photo. Its reptilian brain knew this was a safe spot in the park and there was no need to move till it was time to hunt for food: ants, spiders, plant material, and/or caterpillars. And so we enjoyed watching and photographing this colorful lizard!

I loved the colors of this desert spiny lizard!

It’s A Tarantula Hawk?

I learned something new today! A tarantula hawk is a spider wasp, colored blue-black and about 2 inches long, that preys on tarantulas which are large spiders. Earlier in the month I came across tarantula webs at a local park and I hoped to see and photograph a tarantula; so far I have not seen one. I have continued photographing wildlife with my latest a tarantula hawk!

Tarantula hawk on wildflower in our backyard.

The tarantula hawks have been buzzing around, enjoying this particular wildflower pictured above, and not bothering me. Tarantula hawks are docile. I guess if I started swatting at them would they sting me which would cause intense pain and numbness around the bite. (Not interested in that experience!)

We can be thankful we are not tarantulas. This spider wasp hunts for its food of choice, a tarantula! Tarantulas are one of the largest spiders, yet a bite from the tarantula hawk leaves the tarantula paralyzed and being eaten by wasp larvae. Now that would be something to see for real, and there is always YouTube, so check it out there until you see the battle between the two in real time!

In 1989, New Mexico named the tarantula hawk their official state insect. Thanks to elementary school students for being interested in adopted state insects. Ballots were mailed to all schools for a statewide election with three possible insects considered. Tarantula hawk wasp was the winner!

Just Passing By!

Yes, this small mammal may be passing by your neighborhood too.

It’s a very common wild animal; some people will love this house mouse. (Or is it a rat?) I was not taken with any love for it. I thought it should be shy and at least out of my sight! But no, right out there for all to see.

Mouse, or rat, climbing exterior column of business.

I could envy its wall climbing skills! My wall climbing is in need of great help, thus I am always harnessed in at the climbing wall in my town. Off it went; may pass your neighborhood soon!

If you can identify this animal, let me know…. thanks!