Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

and so we came to bisbee   11 comments

Posted at 11:11 am in Arizona,birds,insects,loss,mammals

Sabrina looking out over the garden wall towards town at the beginning of our first day in Bisbee

Six weeks after setting out on our journey, Sabrina and I arrived in Bisbee. Before leaving eastern Ontario, I had made arrangements to rent a house on the outskirts of the town. It’s perched on the side of one of the round-topped hills in the Mule Mountains, surrounded by live oaks and manzanita. The place was ideal for us. It had a flat garden where Sabrina could roam about. In her (at that time) somewhat debilitated state, she couldn’t handle stairs or steep hills. For myself, it proved to be a peaceful place filled with interesting plants, insects, birds and mammals. Within a day of arriving, I had already shot dozens of photos of the butterflies, grasshoppers, bees, flies and other insects visiting the flowers in the garden and on the surrounding hillside.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Although all turned out for the best, our arrival was not without some stress. On the way up the steep lane to the house, the transmission of my limping van gave out — requiring replacement of the torque converter at a cost of about Cdn $1000. However, I tried not to let such things bother me — after all I had been through over the past year, a broken down van seemed like nothing more than a mere blip on my radar screen. It was just good to be in a quiet place surrounded by nature.

Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus)

Within a few days of arriving, I filled some bird feeders and soon had about 15 species of birds coming to the garden each day. The Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) are a favourite and there were two pair visiting on a steady basis. The little Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) were our constant companions, even through a few snowy days when I would see them coming and going from their cover within an Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana) just beyond the garden wall.

Javelina (Pecari tajacu) on the hillside beside the lane

Almost like clockwork, a small herd of Javelina (Pecari tajacu) wandered along the outside of the wall by the kitchen window each evening while I prepared dinner. At first there seemed to be five, but their numbers have since increased to eight as three young appeared soon after my arrival. At first, Sabrina didn’t know what to make of these strange creatures, but she has since become accustomed to seeing them trot past the yard.

If you wonder how I came to choose Bisbee as a place to rest, it was an easy decision. Don and I had always wanted to spend some time in this area after visiting once back in 2001. While enduring his series of chemo and radiation treatments, Don would often sit with my laptop, looking at possible rental properties in the southeast area of Arizona. It was our hope that, if the EGFR inhibitor drug he began in August worked, we would be able to escape to the south for at least a little while. Unfortunately, that treatment failed and he passed away in early September. However, the dream of spending the winter in Bisbee did not die — and so Sabrina and I came to be here. All in all, this has been a good place to rest for a time. It’s with some regrets that I will soon be leaving to return to eastern Ontario as we have made friends and learned to love the land here. However, we are certain to return, but more about that later. For now, I will be writing a few posts about some of the places we have hiked, and the flora, fauna and geology we have seen.

But speaking of flora and fauna and the desert, the second edition of Carnival of the Arid is now up at Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing Be sure to pay a visit and check out some of the wonderful writing, art, and photography.

on the road to arizona   14 comments

Posted at 3:27 pm in birds,california

After spending the previous day resting and exploring in the Ridgecrest area, it was time to move on. My goal was to arrive at our final destination in southeast Arizona on November 15th, so two more days of travel ahead of us. I can probably speak for Sabrina in saying that we were both tired of being on the road.

Before departing from Ridgecrest, we stopped to eat breakfast in a park on the east side of town. Almost as soon as we sat down in a tree-shaded area, we were accosted by an unkindness of ravens. In fact, all of the trees in the parks were filled with similar groups that croaked and kraaked at us. The boldest dropped down onto the nearby pedestal barbecues, or to the ground to march up to make their demands known. Clearly, they expected some form of tribute. Sabrina was slightly intimidated by their aggressive behaviour. She would turn her head to look elsewhere as they cocked their heads and ogled her from a few feet away. Unfortunately, that just encouraged them to move in closer. She would then quickly turn her head back to see how far they had advanced. The closest might hop back a step or two, but soon marched forward a few more paces.

I came across several references to Common Ravens in the Mojave region. Apparently, there has been a great increase in their numbers over the past couple of decades, with large numbers of birds hanging out in urban areas or around dump sites. There is concern over risk of raven predation on desert tortoises in the western Mojave Desert. They do seem both plentiful and aggressive, so I would think they could pose a threat to any small creature.

After breakfast, we packed up and headed south to catch 395, where we promptly hit a patch of road construction and sat in the van long enough to experience how quickly it could be transformed into a Mojave-style easy-bake oven. Continuing south, we passed through the village of Red Mountain, which seems to be home to an eclectic mix of found-art creatives. About the middle of town stands what I’m guessing to be a Yucca bearifolia.

Leaving Red Mountain behind, we continued south towards Kramer Junction where we would pick up Hwy 58 to head east toward Barstow. Just before that junction, there is a massive solar concentrator installation. It can’t really be photographed from the ground, so refer to the above link, or google “Kramer Junction solar concentrator”. As in my last two posts about the Searles Valley with its mineral extraction, and the military weapons ranges, etc.. at China Lake near Ridgecrest, it’s impossible to ignore how the deserts of the southwest are becoming a hotbed of industrial activity — without doubt, to the detriment of the considerable flora and fauna. For a more complete background on this topic, do check out this and other related posts on Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing.

To an outsider such as myself, it was somewhat jarring to find the ubiquitous assortment of service vehicles, filled with survey or work crews, scattered almost everywhere as I crossed the Mojave. I can’t help but wonder if all of this activity is flying under the radar screens of the many as….well….the common perception of the desert is that it is “just a big empty space, isn’t it?” I admit to having experienced a brief twinge of that notion during the first day of my first visit to Arizona about thirteen years ago. However, that illusion soon melted away as I began to appreciate the incredible biodiversity of the desert. In fact, after visiting the desert several times over the years, I can say without hesitation, that deserts are among the most fascinating and active places on earth — this from someone who has done quite a few surveys of flora and fauna, and a good deal of nature photography, in a wide range of vastly different habitats.

On this day, my plan was to drive through to stay at a motel in Lake Havasu. I would have preferred to camp the last leg of our trip to southeast Arizona, but Sabrina and I were really hitting the wall as far as energy was concerned. We were now reduced to just driving, sleeping and trying to find some kind of edibles to see us through to our final destination. Also, I was beginning to experience a lot of fatigue – both physical and psychological. One of the most difficult things to deal with was the growing sense of isolation that I felt while traveling. I have touched on this a bit in previous posts. Traveling alone with my dog, I couldn’t help but notice that almost everywhere I went, others traveled as pairs, or with friends. At rest stops, they would get out and wander around, picnic, switch drivers, and then carry on. The only solitary travelers seemed to be the long haul truckers, and even many of them were traveling with their spouses. At the above rest stop along I-40, a trucker climbed out of his cab, gave his wife a hand down, and then lifted their white toy poodle to the ground. Such was actually a fairly common sight throughout this trip.

No doubt, the following observations have to do with my overly sensitized state, but I seemed to encounter signs of “couple-dom” in every direction that I looked. At Trona Pinnacles, it was the message in stones. At this rest stop, it was a debarked tree trunk (above) upon which were scribbled countless proclamations of so-and-so loves so-and-so. Further along from this rest stop, there were many big cupid’s hearts and initials, formed of arrangements of black volcanic rock, on every little hillside facing the highway. Recently, I’ve read the writings of other bereaved men and women who have described much the same feeling — that after the death of a partner, it appears as though the world is the territory of couples and families, and not so much for those who must, or choose to, journey through life alone. Such does seem to be the case. I suppose that those of us who are forced to carry on alone, must search for our own icons and messages. Among all the tree graffiti, there was one that seemed meant to speak to every traveler.

From Lake Havasu, I traveled to Tucson, and then on to the southeast region of Arizona, where I have been spending the winter. My next few posts will be about some of the places I have hiked and photographed nature. In a few weeks, I’ll be leaving to gradually make my way back north to Ontario and then probably on to Nova Scotia. I’m hoping that the weather will be a little more cooperative. After a winter of good food and plenty of hiking, Sabrina is in much better condition and should be up to doing more hiking than on the trip south. More about southeast Arizona and my rather nebulous trip plans coming up very soon.

Written by bev on February 21st, 2009