Is It a Bird?

While weeding in our backyard I am often distracted by whatever living thing is moving around in the area. Often it’s a bird and I have wished my camera was available. On this day I decided to bring my camera out back where I needed to work.

I saw caterpillars and other crawling bugs among the weeds. In the air, plenty of yellow moths and colorful butterflies, but I was most interested in a larger flyer … a hummingbird moth! The couple of them flying around our desert willow tree, while I worked, enticed me to pick up my camera. An easy choice … time for a break and my camera was nearby! Perfect!

Here are a few photos of this hummingbird moth.

It looks like a bird, but it is a moth; technically named a white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata)! And now you know!

Is That A Bird Nest or What?

During my daily neighborhood walks, I look for plants and animals new to me. Recently I was looking for active bird nests for my possible participation in Nest Watch. With focused eyes toward tree tops, shrubs and cacti, I saw a hefty silhouette of something and thought it may be the start of some bird’s nest-building. Here is what I saw … look closely in the top quarter of the photo below:

As I walked closer to the tree, I observed it was not a bird nest. And what was in the space remained in place, not bothered by my approach. Upon closer inspection I observed a ground squirrel, sitting on the tree branch riding the wind as the branch bounced up and down, looking at me! The ground squirrel never moved as I took a couple of photos with my phone. These photos allow you to more easily see the ground squirrel:

Usually I see ground squirrels on the ground:

But the winning, most fun observation for me was when 9 months ago in our backyard I saw this ground squirrel pulling on our prayer flags! 

It is important to keep our eyes open, even during our daily neighborhood walk or looking in our backyard. There may be a fun observation to be made by you! What will you see? No idea until you get out there and look; have fun!

Who Else Is In The Woods With Me?

I love being in the woods, especially with no or few people around. I am always looking for birds to photograph; I know they love it when few people are around. Others animals enjoy the quiet and ease of walking around in the woods too. At certain locations in the woods, I always set my camera and tripod up and stand silently for a half hour or so. When the woods are quiet or when the birds start to fly around and not notice me, I discover other animals will do the same and possibly within my circle of view.

One occasion, I saw two deer visiting a stream, do doubt coming for a drink of water and then to return higher on the hillside. On my walk back to my car, I passed a picnic area and saw a coatimundi. Actually it was obvious to see as the young people there were standing on the picnic table to get away from the animal. (Please do not feed wild animals or leave food scraps behind when you are picnicking.)

Another day I had 3 animal sightings. Two deer eating along a hillside looked at me and then went back to eating. One spot where my camera was set, I heard some movement and noticed a coatimundi climbing up a rocky area. And in a rocky ditch by a bed & breakfast place that has been closed the past season, I saw a raccoon. As I watched the raccoon moving toward me I knew he was curious about my snack food so I decided to leave. 

It is a shame people walk quickly through the woods and miss seeing wildlife. Animals are around, most often near water, and away from people. There is no harm in stepping off trail, being quiet while watching and listening to see if anyone else is around. You might be pleasantly surprised who is also in the woods! Enjoy!

Life in AZ Heat; Who’s Out?

Few of us venture outdoors at 2pm in Arizona monsoon heat; humans are whom I am referring to. Humidity in the air with over 100 degree Fahrenheit temperature, yet wildlife are going about their day with varying degrees of activity, otherwise called survival. I am here at a local wetland to see what’s happening.

Birds sing from deep within the tree leaves, bullfrogs croak under the tall grasses, cicadas buzz from a place I never can see them, funny but all stop their sounds when I move to close to them. As a result, I saw no frogs, no cicadas, and few birds. But these were my observations before the monsoon rain started and I needed to leave.

Grasses, cattails, cooper’s hawk, pack rat, duckweed, flycatcher, mallard duck and roadrunner. Not bad for a quick stop at the wetland!

Time to Notice Wildlife

How many times have I seen small lizards running across an area? Many times. How often have I seen one of these lizards eat anything? Never.

It’s fun to observe wildlife, but it does necessitate our slowing down and taking time to notice them. That scurrying lizard does stop to eat, yet we do not typically see it happening. Here is a Sonoran spotted whiptail we observed at Agua Caliente Park, Tucson, AZ near the base of a tree and some dried organic material. At first I did not think anything about it because they usually move away in short time and I would be back on my bicycle for my ride.

Sonoran spotted whiptail

However, I noticed the lizard was digging up the sand and snatching food as it flew into the air. Once home I researched its diet and they do dig in soil around bases of rocks and feed on termites, spiders, beetles, ants, grasshoppers and other invertebrates. Very interesting …

I feel fortunate to have learned something about Sonoran spotted whiptails especially since they are only found in Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. You too want to learn about wildlife? Slow down and take the time to observe. You may be pleasantly surprised about something too.

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.

I Hope More of Us Protect Wildlife

A generation of young people may be attached to their video games and other technological gadgets, but there is no reason why the person can also not step outdoors every so often! It could be to simply see the crack in a sidewalk or a local dog park where one would find an insect or two, or a small reptile or mammal running by. With small appreciation for those critters, a person may venture further to a creek, pond or lake or a garden, field, or forest. Whatever it takes…a small step to simply appreciate wildlife, small or large, one or many…if more of us do not encourage others to notice and appreciate wildlife, there will be none!
You do know we lose many species per year; destroy vast habitats; don’t appreciate our forefathers who helped set lands aside for us all to now enjoy….I hope there are enough of us to understand why we need natural areas for our wildlife and to help protect the areas for multi-use while also allowing our wildlife a home.
I had hoped our country would be as progressive as Costa Rica where at least 50% of that country is natural. While we may never be to that percentage, let’s hope we can protect what we can. Humans need wildlife, I hope we never forget …I hope more of us protect wildlife.

New Year, New Start!

I am fully retired from working, but not retired from life!

My “work” now will be fun on a tennis court, riding a bicycle, learning how to use my camera, and volunteering for special projects around the world. And once again, understanding how to blog with informative written pieces about the environment, a photograph where I challenge myself to learn a new technique, or to just write a commentary about whatever because a thought possesses me and I want to share.

I like new years; I like new starts. It allows me to start fresh and so it will go with this blog! With my right effort, I hope to enjoy it all!

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.