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.

Writing 10: what a sight!

image There is a beautiful national seashore in this area. Lots of green trees and shrubs, a variety of colorful wildflowers, and swampy dark-colored waters. Hikers, mountain bikers, people on horses can share the area with me today, but it is this crab that my focus concentrates on as it sits on a barnacled rock.

I think it’s cute, and if crab “looks” we’re on a scale of 1 to 10, maybe even a 10! It is colorful, and does not side step away as I slowly approach and have a seat on another barnacled rock. It has dark legs and also reddish colored claws. I think one of his eyeballs is looking at me, yet when I wave a hand nearby there is no blink!

I could have focused on a wildflower, but there were many. And so this crab, which there were many to, caught my attention. Don’t you think it is cute?

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.

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!