Tuesday, October 30, 2012


1. Boo-kab Boo!

2. Boo-kab Boo-o-o-o-o-!

3. Boo-kab Who?


4. Grave-kab Boo!

5. Moon-kab Boo!


6. happy-kab 


Happy Halloween!


7. halloween-kab Trick or Treat!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rattle, Rattle, Rattlesnake!

1. Saguaro NP-kab Saguaro National Park-Rincon Unit 10-26-12

Friday night was so beautiful here in Tucson that when Gus got home from work early I suggested we take a drive through Saguaro National Park before the sunset. I quickly grabbed my bins and camera, then we hopped in Gus’ convertible, put the top down, and headed for the park. I think we got in just before they closed the gates for the night. While Gus drove slowly around the 8 mile loop road I looked out over the desert enjoying the evening glow. While there were not many birds to be seen, I did notice what looked like a stick on the edge of the road as we rounded a corner.

2. rattlesnake-kab Black-tailed Rattlesnake in Saguaro NP

I have lived here long enough to know that the stick was probably a rattlesnake. So Gus slowed down, backed up, and looked in his rearview mirror. Sure enough it was a snake! I carefully and quietly got out of the car and reached in for my bins and camera. Keeping the car between myself and the snake, I snapped off a few pictures.

3. snakehead-kab Snake head and tongue


4. scales-kab Snake Scales

5. rattle-kab Snake Rattle

Though at first I thought this was a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake I was soon to discover that it was a Black-tailed Rattlesnake distinguished by the uniformly black tail.

6. patterns-kab Snake Pattern


7. diamonds-kab Swollen Rattlesnake Belly

I could see a bulge in the middle of the snake’s length and couldn’t help but wonder if it had eaten recently. We hoped the snake would get off the road by either finishing crossing the road or heading back the other way. At one point it seemed like it was going back into the desert, but then it turned back onto the warm road once again. If it had just eaten I suspect it needed the warmth of the road to help it digest its food, since snakes are cold-blooded and regulate their body temperature by their surroundings. They need to be warm enough for the digestion to function. In the end we just drove off and hoped that no one else would drive over the snake. We had passed one other car just before this. Hopefully they would drive carefully, aware of the wildlife.

8. rincons-kab Catalina Mountains to the North


9. Moonrise-kab Moonrise over the Rincon Mountains

It was the perfect night for a drive.


Friday, October 26, 2012

A Sweet Sunday at Sweetwater Wetlands

1. recharge basin-kab Recharge basin at Sweetwater Wetlands 10-21-12
Anyone who has ever gone birding in Tucson knows that one of the premier places to go birding is at Sweetwater Wetlands on the northwest side of town. When I lived here before it was one of my favorite places to bird. Now, here I am on a Sunday afternoon with my new friend, Chris, going birding here for the first time since my return in August. I cannot believe the thrill that runs down my spine as we pull into the parking lot. We start seeing birds as soon as we opened our car doors. A kestrel greets us in the parking lot, while other birds fly overhead or called from within the wetlands themselves. A warm, golden sunshine streams down on us and I find myself rushing to get my camera, binoculars and fanny pack with notebook, glasses, and cell phone all in place. My heart swells with anticipation of all I hope to see and all the memories of being in this place before.
2. chris r-kab Chris Rohrer photographing the kestrel
Chris and I start the walk over the little bridge and head down the east side of the ponds. I note that a lot of vegetation has been cleared out between the parking lot and the little stream.
3. kestrel-kab American Kestrel 10-21-12 Sweetwater Wetlands
4. bridge-kab Yet, as we cross the bridge I am surprised by how much vegetation has grown up in the ponds. I can hear birds within the tall wetland grasses, but I cannot see them. A Sora’s whinny rings out through the greenery. Chris and I both listen and marvel at the sound. We see and hear coots, while overhead a variety of blackbirds fly, speckling the sky with their black silhouettes. On a bit of scrub by the stream a black phoebe bobs its tail. Above the tree canopy the pair of kestrels fly from treetop to treetop and back again.
5. sign-kab Sweetwater Sign
6. Phoebe-kab Black Phoebe
7. teal-kab Blue Winged Teal
8. peeps-kab Peeps on the berm
Farther down the eastside path we come to the recharge basins to the east. We can see hundreds of ducks and dozens of shorebirds, but many are too far distant to identify. We try to take a few pictures, but the sun is all wrong and security fences keep us far away from the basins.
9. grasses-kab Sweetwater sky
Chris and I walk slowly along the east side, stopping here and there to identify birds or snap a few pictures. The light is fading faster than we both want it to. We arrived around 3:30 but are now wishing we had gotten here even earlier.
10. blackbirds-kab Blackbirds
11. ducks-kab Hundreds of Ducks
It is soon evident that the ducks have returned to Tucson. They are everywhere and in great numbers already. I cannot believe how many teals we are seeing as well as Northern Shovelers, widgeons and mallards. To our great frustration, we can see upwards of 30 tiny peeps down in the recharge basin, but none ever come close enough for us to positively identify other than the killdeer and the spotted sandpipers. Neither one of us has a spotting scope, so we move on.
12. grebe-kab Pied-billed grebe
Coots are in the ponds and the recharge basins. In one of the ponds we spot pied-billed grebes and ruddy ducks.
13. widgeon-kab ?, Coot, and American Widgeon
14. mountains-kab Mountain View
15. turtle-kab Red-eared Slider
A turtle lounges on a log and a pair of cormorants takes wing and flies away. Long shadows fall across the pathways now and we have only made it down one side of the ponds! We reach the farthest end of the pathway and as we make our turn to the west a Great Horned Owl flies out over the wetland and disappears in the cottonwood trees beyond.
16. nighthawk-kab Nighthawk!
As the golden sky fades to rosy-pink and lavender I spot the bat-like fluttering of 3 Lesser nighthawks! I cannot believe my eyes, for I thought they had all migrated south already, yet here they are over our heads and Chris and I are trying to snap a shot of them in the gloaming. It is very hard to get the cameras to focus on their fluttery flight in this low light but we manage to each get a shot or two of their distinctive silhouettes.
17. green heron-kab Green Heron
We are barely over that excitement when a Green Heron flies up into one of the nearby cottonwood trees and catches the last rays of gold from the setting sun. I point it out to Chris and he turns excitedly and starts snapping away. The Green Heron is a Life Bird for him!
18. moon-kab
Darkness falls rapidly once the sun has slipped beyond the horizon. Chris and I hurry down the northwest edge of the ponds. I know they lock the gates after a certain point and I do not want to get locked in. In spite of my hurriedness I am also feeling regret. We have been here for two hours and I know we did not see all the birds we could have! I now wish we had arrived earlier! All I can think as we head to the car is, “I need to come back here soon!” I can never get enough of Sweetwater Wetlands!
19. pond-kab
Note: In the end we saw 32 species of birds in the two hours that we were here.
Birds Seen at Sweetwater Wetlands on 10-21-12:
  1. Wood Duck
  2. Mallard
  3. Mexican Mallard
  4. Blue-winged Teal
  5. Cinnamon Teal
  6. Green-winged Teal
  7. American Widgeon
  8. Northern Shoveler
  9. Ruddy Duck
  10. Gambel’s Quail
  11. Cooper’s hawk
  12. Red-tailed Hawk
  13. American Kestrel
  14. Green Heron
  15. Black-crowned Night Heron
  16. Killdeer
  17. Spotted Sandpiper
  18. Pied-billed Grebe
  19. American Coot
  20. Sora
  21. Mourning Dove
  22. Great-horned Owl
  23. Lesser Nighthawk
  24. Black Phoebe
  25. Verdin
  26. European Starling
  27. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  28. White-crowned Sparrow
  29. Red-winged Blackbird
  30. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  31. Great-tailed Grackle
  32. House Finch
(We also saw additional peeps, 2 cormorant species, and Chris saw 2 avocets but I did not.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two Reasons to Celebrate!

1. Bride n Groom-kab Randy and Renee June 2011

Well, life likes to throw curve balls at you and keep you off balance. Yesterday was one of those days for me. After three years of being engaged my daughter and her fiancĂ© have decided to quit waiting until they have enough money for a wedding. She called me yesterday to tell me they are getting married in Colorado on November 3rd. They hope to get married at local park. She says “It is no big deal.” But it IS a big deal! So Gus and I are now making plans to attend and my mind is in a whirl!

2. kissing-kabRandy and Renee met each other 10 years ago when we first moved to Livermore Falls, ME. They were both seniors in high school and they graduated together the next June. We had a joint graduation party at our house there. When Gus, Renee and I moved back to Utah, Randy soon followed us there. The two of them moved into an apartment together and later moved to Colorado, which is where they currently reside. Now they have been together for 10 years! These pictures were taken 2 summers ago at their Wedding Shower in Maine. I have not seen my daughter since then, so these are the most recent pictures I have, but I’ll be getting new ones at the wedding in a week and a half! Congratulations Renee and Randy! I’m glad you pulled the trigger on this one!

3. Mom-kabMy Mom August 21, 2012, a Breast Cancer Survivor!

My other reason to Celebrate is that Mom just passed her one year anniversary of her breast cancer operation. Her newest mammogram shows no return of the cancer so she is currently cancer free! Congratulations Mom on your One Year Anniversary as a Breast Cancer Survivor! I am so glad that you are still here with me and I cannot wait to see your smiling face here in Tucson. I hope you can buy some train tickets to come see me soon!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Butterflies, Birds, and Dragons!

1. DSC_0105-kab Checkered Skipper on Desert Broom

Last week my wild desert broom blossomed at the back of the yard. It was covered in a variety of butterflies. While I am good at identifying birds, I have little to no knowledge of butterfly ID, so if you know what these are (Doug Taron,  Chris Rohrer or anyone else) please tell me! 10-24-12 Thanks Doug!

2. DSC_0108kab American snouts

3. DSC_0071 snout-kab American Snout

4. DSC_0092-kab Painted Lady


5. DSC_0090 snouts-kabImpressive snout!

6. DSC_0091-kabDifferent snout?


6. DSC_0131-kab While all those other butterflies were gathered at the desert broom, this swallowtail butterfly has made regular visits to the orange trees in my yard.

7. DSC_0132-kab I believe she is laying her eggs here.

8. DSC_0137-kab Giant Swallowtail

9. DSC_0139-kab Giant Swallowtail

Many Thanks to Doug Taron for the butterfly IDs!



10. LEGO_0084-kab Lesser Goldfinch

Of course, with all the butterflies, I am still seeing birds!

11. hummingbird-kab Immature or female hummingbird


12. kestrel-kab American Kestrel


Beyond this point, there be DRAGONS!

13. lizard-kab I have been watching this lizard since I moved in here 2 months ago.

I’ve been wanting to take its picture and try to identify it.

Finally it showed itself!

14. lizard n hummer-kab He crept down the wall,

15. behind feeder-kab and moved behind the feeders.

16. spiny fellow-kab We watched each other with wary eyes…

17. don't bug me-kab He didn’t know I was admiring him and all his beautiful colors and spines!

He is a Desert Spiny Lizard!

17. greedy finches-kab Meanwhile these finches are eating me out of house and home!

For those of you who read yesterday’s post about seeing the Tennessee Warbler in my back yard, well today I got another surprise when an actual Orange-crowned Warbler finally showed up in the yard! Yes, I checked! It did have YELLOW under tail coverts! That makes yard bird number 29! My yard list just keeps growing even though I only see about 6 to 8 regular species! For me, this is the fun of bird watching. I like the surprises.

P.S. I will update the info on species as I get it!