Monsoons Arriive- A Flight of Fancy?

So, the rains return in early July, as commonly observed. About 3.7" from July 1 to now. Just outside our house, in an oak woodland previously photographed, we have a Nest camera. It records several days, with IR lights at night. On Monday July 16, from about 11:54 pm to 12:15 am, it recorded this scene. There was no fog, so I assume the central fog is due to thousands of wings.

      I suspect flying ants, or maybe June bugs, but not sure what insects were involved, as none were present on the porch floor or nearby grassland the next day.
      For comparison, here is the scene earlier that evening. A single moth flies by, leaving a bright trail of reflections in the IR. Otherwise, quiet.

Spring Leaf Fall         So, April burns into May and once again the Emory oaks have simultaneously dropped leaves, sprouted flowers and soon new leaves will fill in the bare views through the branches. The oaks are a pale green-yellow against the hot pale sky. Our local USDA conservationist has advised that the oak trees around the houses should get about 3" of watering (once) to add to the 2.5" of winter rain. Once the oaks have about 4" of winter or spring (?) rain, they should get through the coming dry season. My post on April 16, 2017 has a chart showing the leaf phenology for Emory oaks. Nice word, that phenology. Use it in a crossword today!

And there are a few warblers gleaning the buds and new leaves.....caught getting a drink.

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.