Montezuma Quail Paired

Montezuma quail have been around in a group of seven for a couple of months. They don't come to water every day, maybe once a week. In early December, the group was mixed and did not move or gather in pairs.
     Here is the group of seven at the new copper-plated watering pan Santa brought them.

    Today, three distinct pairs were the larger watering pan, and they moved off in pairs. No idea where number seven has gone, but this group of six had a long drink, rested and then slowly walked off in pairs as I tried to get photos.

    And then they wandered off.....

Javelina Young

Several visitors drifted by to get a drink of water. A herd of javelina, including several females with young and several large adult males have been regular visitors since December 9. Young javelina are shoulder deep in the taller grasses and remain remarkably underfoot, but the mother never stumbles.

A bit hard to see, but there two young...
Taking off now that I am trying to get a photograph..

Woodpecker City

These past few weeks have been busy with woodpeckers. We have had these species around the house (below) and I could occasionally get a photograph.

Arizona Woodpecker: (see below) with brown back. 1-2 off and on recently... Ladder-backed Woodpecker (see below): 1-2, all fall.  Acorn Woodpecker: (below)...2-3 birds generally present all year... Gila Woodpecker: (see below) 2-3 birds, recent.  Red-Naped Sapsucker: 3-4 birds, recent Northern Flicker: 3-4, recent Gilded Flicker: 2, just recently. 

Arizona Woodpecker Acorn Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker                                         
Gila Woodpecker

October and finally cooling off. This brings on the Plains Lubber (Brachystola magma), an interesting flightless grasshopper. One of the largest grasshoppers, at about 3". Note the tiny pink wings and elegant blue head. Nice touch. They are walking across the road, all over the grasslands.

While looking through images of birds taken by a wildlife camera at the shallow water puddle we maintain, one could see these lubbers walk up to the puddle and take a drink. One even walked through the puddle.

Most hummingbirds are gone, a few Broad-billed Hummingbirds visit. Otherwise, the winter birds:

Chipping Sparrows- 10-20                      House Finches - 5-10 (mob has moved on)
Lesser Goldfinch - 10-20                        Yellow-rumped Warbler- few
Mexican Jays- group of ~10                   Red-naped Sapsucker -2 ?
Northern Flicker- 2                                 Gilded Flicker - 2?
Acorn Woodpecker- 2.                            Gila Woodpecker- 2?
White Breasted Nutha…

Some Monsoon Flowers

The knee-high grasses include a variety of flowers, including these Echeandia flavescens (Torrey's Craiglily). The pistil emerges from a dark green cylinder, with six anthers tightly attached along the sides of the cylinder. 

Widespread, Evolvulus arizonicus, (Arizona Blue Eyes) flowers open in the morning and close later in the heat of the day. Individual flowers are strung out on a long vine-like stem and may only last a day or so. 

Oenothera spp. (Evening Primroses) have very odd chromosomes. Instead of tidy pairs, they occur as circles. The pistil (stigma/style) on this short-lived flower forms an X and is relatively huge. 

We Walk in Beauty

July 31, 2017. About 3 pm, views to south across the Sonoita Plain.  Santa Rita Mountains, Sonoita Plains Oak woodland. 
Whetstones, Mustangs and Huachuca Mountains, Sonoita Plains
Huachucas, Canelo Hills, Sonoita Plain, Red Mountain

Bats at Hummingbird Feeders

With the monsoons, we reduce the amount of sucrose mix we put in our hummingbird feeders so it only lasts during the day, but leaves a bit for the bats to finish off at night. Yes, the bats. There are two kinds of bats that come to the feeders. Both can hover very quietly, and if we walk near the feeders when they are present, they fly around us and never touch us. They are like gray ghosts, flying around our shoulders. Just a slight whoosh of wingbeats. Here is a movie clip from last night. They feed in "flocks" I guess you would call them. My trail cam took fuzzy images of them from about 9:30 pm to 1 am when the sugar solution ran out. One or a few bats every few minutes all night.

After many attempts, I got some photos. If Hoffmeister's key is good, the lack of any evident tail means these are the Mexican Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris nivalis ).

The white bar at the bottom of the nectar bottle is 30.6 mm across. By proportion, the forearms of the bats are small, 46 t…

Monsoons Arrive, Grasses and Oaks Green Again

July 2, 2017
     After a record number of wildland fires in the surrounding grasslands, reflecting the growth in population in the area, a soaking rain of nearly one inch in two hours was very welcome. Harsh white hazy afternoon light is replaced by the gentle afternoon sky of deep gray. And by July 14, the native grasses have filled last years leaves with water and chlorophyll and new leaves are emerging.
      After the rain, just before sunset:

   ...same place a week later.

Our Mexican Blue Oaks, along with Emory Oaks, dropped most leaves in March. While the Emory Oaks soon had leaves, the Mexican Blue Oaks  (Quercus oblongifolia) kept a few leaves, but only now break most buds, after the monsoon rains arrive. As in April, these buds attract the local warblers who are gleaning the flowers for small insects. 

Even in the yellow light of sunset, there is pink or red cast to the Mexican Blue oak leaves in bud and just emerging and enlarging. 

Jatropha macrorhiza

Emerging at the hottest, driest time of the year. Ever hopeful. Thank you again to Linda Kennedy at the Audubon Research Ranch for verification of the identification. Odd how names of people and plants you see only once a year seem to become more difficult to retrieve. Age or something, eh?

Jatropha macrorhiza. A common name might be Ragged Nettlespurge. The leaves get much, much larger. Shiny green pollinating insect is unknown. The plant has a very large root which allows it to emerge using stored water and carbohydrates from the root. If it rains, it will make up more food, and disappear for another year.

Here is the same plant, all new flowers, new leaves (BIG) on July 14 after the rains have started:

Long Term (1858-2017) Rainfall on Sonoita Plains

So, back in the 1980s at the Research Ranch, where we lived, I often heard that "you should have seen this country in the old days". It either was a swamp, a desert or anything but what it was then, particularly with regard to rainfall. Nothing was more discussed than the rainfall. But rarely were discussions based on data.

Earlier, I mentioned that David Ellis in Patagonia asked me about the water wells around here. Will they continue to provide water along Sonoita Creek? I turned to colleagues at the University of Arizona's Critical Zone Observatory. They are studying how rain percolates into ground water in the basin and range country of the southwest. Research on Sonoita Creek shows that rainfall can contribute to water wells, but that the larger source tapped by wells is ground water that can be quite old (Gu, A., F. Gray, C. J. Eastoe, L. M. Norman, O. Duarte and A. Long. 2008. Tracing ground water input to base flow using sulfate (S, O) isotopes. Grou…