Friday, July 16, 2010

Life in the Sonoran Desert

Living out here in the desert far from any town or city provides us the wonderful opportunity to view a lot of wildlife, especially in summer.

A family of Kit fox moved in sometime in early spring, Mom, Dad, 2 youngsters. This is one of them.  I felt fortunate that after a few days of seeing me every day they let me get close enough to take this not-so-very-good picture.

Just look at those ears - the better to hear you with, my dear. :-D.

It was already 100 degrees in the shade by 8:30 this morning. I had gone out and refreshed all the outside water containers for the critters - both wild and domestic. I then came in the house to watch from my kitchen window as the drama unfolded. A family of Roadrunners arrived - Mom, Dad, and two youngsters.  Then came a large family of Gambel quail followed by the Cactus wrens and many smaller birds all seeking the fresh water and shade of our backyard oasis.

Young roadrunner - not quite as big as Mom and Dad.

This is our Beagle mix, Molly (above).  Molly is only about 6 feet from the Roadrunner (couldn't get them in the same pic. - yet).  They both knew the other one was there but neither of them knew quite what to do about this situation.

The roadrunner youngster hunched down - afraid - and not sure what to do next.

S/he finally remembered she had learned how to fly and up to the top of the fence she went.

You have to look closely at this pic. taken through my kitchen window. Right in the center of the picture is, what appears to be, an opening (tiny cave) in Big Mama Rosy. At the upper left of the opening you can just make out a black line. This is the tail of one of the adult Roadrunners. Just to the right of the tail you can just barely make out the bird's head (tiny black line with light line above). To the right of the tree trunk on the flagstone you can make out the corner of one of my watering "troughs". This roadrunner was after both shade and water both at the same time.

I counted no less than 18 adult quail and numerous youngsters - all moving almost too fast to get a good picture. I did get some slightly blurry images though which I will post tomorrow.

Never a dull moment :-D


Monday, July 12, 2010

Desert Critters: July 12, 2010

Life here in the desert is not all about snakes although two of my recent posts may have suggested that.

In a previous post I mentioned our Dove Family raising no less than three new families each summer in a big Mesquite tree in our backyard oasis.  

Baby Doves in Mesquite Tree

Our cat, Ayla, spends much of every summer day sitting on the front window sill (indoors) playing with a collared lizard who lives on the other side of the glass (outdoors). I honestly believe he is well aware that she cannot get him and he spends his days on that windowsill looking in teasing and taunting her. I know this because I can see the gleam in his eyes and the smirk on his face. :-D


For the past three days I have been assailed by a horrible smell coming from my freshly cleaned and painted laundry room. What could this mysterious odor be? This room, although it shares a roof with the house and carport is its own separate space, not connected to the house other than by the roof.  When I am working out there or doing laundry I leave the door propped open, always being careful to close it when I am done.
Today I carefully searched for the source of this smell and found this fellow - a petrified toad - laying motionless and quite dead in a back corner of the room. I swept him up and rather unceremoniously dumped him in our desert front yard. I doubt that either the resident Turkey vultures or the crows will eat him but I am quite certain the army of big black ants will make very good use out of his lifeless form.

These toads, known around here as Colorado River toads,  spend their summers in the desert eating zillions of bugs. They release a toxin through their skin which protects them from would-be predators which means we have to hope our dogs never try to catch one as this toxin can be lethal. When the toads are deprived of water in which to spend part of each day soaking and drinking they shrivel up and die. This is what happened to this poor unfortunate granddaddy toad who inadvertently got caught in my laundry room and thus met his demise.

The Sonoran Desert in summer may be hotter than !@#$%^ but it is never boring.  


Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 10, 2010 and 110 Degrees - in the shade

This afternoon in the garden I found this lovely little king snake. You can see her eyes in this pic. S/he is about 3' long and was, at the time, taking refuge from the heat under the shade of Big Mama Rosy. Big Mama is my largest Rosemary bush and she is definitely spreading outward as she ages. She is about 5' tall and a good 10' across.

While photographing Ms. King Snake I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. When I turned I was delighted to see this visitor . . .

Mr. Roadrunner is perched on the fence under the shade of a very large Mesquite tree in our "backyard". This yard area is a fenced in portion of our 5 acres of Sonoran Desert. We provide plenty of fresh water, shade, shrubs and two large Mesquite trees for the wildlife. Our dogs use this area as well but do not seem to ever bother the wildlife. Every summer this oasis in the desert is home to snakes, roadrunners, many smaller birds, hummers, collared lizards, bees, and of course, the ubiquitous rabbits. We have a dove family that provides us with no less than three full sets of babies every summer. We are currently watching the first set learn to fly while Mama Dove is redecorating their tiny, flimsy, and most precarious nest for the arrival of set #2.  As it turned out, Mr. Roadrunner has a mate who showed up a few minutes after I took this picture. When I tried to get a pic. of the two of them together (I was inside the house but they saw movement) they became agitated and one of them took off.  If you look closely you can see the Mesquite pods hanging from the tree.