Sunday, December 25, 2011

First sighting - Black-throated grey warbler

I spotted this flitting in one of the trees in the front of the house snacking on something.

He usually winters in Mexico so I'm assuming he was passing through the neighborhood.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's not home without a heron

Herons have special meaning to me. No place ever seems quite like home without one nearby. I even have two herons tattooed on my back!

So imagine my surprise the first time I discovered a Great Blue Heron at our neighborhood pond in Redington Ranch.

This one seems to have taken up residence here. You have to have good birdar (bird radar) to spot him, but he's almost always there when I walk or drive by.

Heron Redington Ranch, Tucson
Look among the rocks on the far bank. 

Heron Redington Ranch, Tucson

Heron Redington Ranch, Tucson

Heron Redington Ranch, Tucson

Heron Redington Ranch, Tucson

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yet one more breath-taking sunset

I shall never grow tired of watching the desert sunsets.

Sunset over the Tucson Mountains - Tucson, AZ

Sunset over the Tucson mountains, Tucson, AZ.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Views along my rollerblading route

After more than three years of searching, and a move to the other side of town, I now have perhaps the most gorgeous rollerblading route a gal could ever dream up.

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson
A view of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Most people I see rollerblading skate like an automaton. They lumber on wheels. For them, a sidewalk in a city park is fine, and there are plenty of those around here.

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson

For me, a good skate involves fast speeds and glute-burning hills. A road needs to be wide enough to handle a wide stride, and be relatively smooth. And this last requirement is probably the most challenging part of the equation.

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson

Heavier traveled desert roads have a much higher ratio of rock to asphalt otherwise it would be a goopy mess in the heat of the summer. That leaves for a bumpy surface which I don't find very much fun. (I'm spoiled by smoother surfaces back east.)

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson
The Rincon Mountains in a shroud of clouds.

But these roads I found are blissfully low in traffic so the asphalt is almost what I'd see back east. Not quite, but close enough.

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson

People do come here to walk their dogs, and access the Agua Caliente trail, but for the most part, these are quiet desert SMOOTH roads TEEMING with birds!

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson

Anyone who says "nothing lives in the desert" clearly has spent no time in the Sonoran Desert. Not all deserts are created equal!

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson

I don't rollerblade for exercise. I rollerblade for therapy.

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson

Rollerblade route - Rincon Mountains Tucson
You can see my shadow where I'm standing on the road taking this picture.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Broad-billed Hummingbird - another backyard visitor

Another visitor to my backyard feeders is the Broad-billed hummingbird. The males are easy to differentiate from other hummers because of their bright blue throat and bright red bill.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Calliope Hummingbird - The smallest in the U.S.

My feeders are positively swarming with hummingbirds right now as they migrate through to warmer climate. Southeast Arizona is a riparian highway, and this time of year is great for catching a glimpse of those weary travelers.

I have four nectar feeders hanging around the house right now, and on more than one occasion I've counted 11 (!) hummingbirds flying around one feeder. (Trust me, you have to count fast!)

Last week, I saw my very first Calliope hummingbird which is the tiniest breeding bird in North America, and the smallest long-distance bird migrant. Now, I see them regularly at the feeders as they pass through.

It was a sad day when one of the female Calliopes smacked into one of the windows and didn't recover. I put her tiny body out on the patio for the sneaky Roadrunner. She was gone that evening. I'm hoping Mr. Roadrunner ate her, and left my other birds alone for another day.

Stellula calliope

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Who needs a calendar when you have white-winged doves?

I don't notice right away that they're gone. It usually takes a few days. Because there are so many mourning doves the absence of the white-winged doves (a.k.a. the Mafia birds) doesn't register right away.

Looking back on previous years, however, they always arrive in Tucson around April 15, and they leave around August 25. It's like they follow some universal travel schedule.

White-winged doves

Monday, July 18, 2011

In Pursuit of Silence

We live in a noisy world. Almost by definition, "modern" living is synonymous with having a personal noise machine (cell phone, iPod, etc.) pressed into our ears. Houses that used to have one TV in the living room now have three or four (or more!) so that the blathering can be heard from every room.

I seem to be a kindred spirit with George Prochnik, author of In Pursuit of Silence. As I write this blog post, by most people's accounting my house is silent. But it's not really silent. I hear the air conditioner turning off and on, the occasional plane overhead, the refrigerator motor, my PC fan, the gas pilot light in the fireplace, the traffic two streets over, the crickets in the yard, and the timer ticking on the side table lamp. I hear all of these sounds because of its silence.

This observation cuts to the point of Prochnik's book. We have become so accustomed to noise that we hear very little. Searching for silence doesn't mean you want to hear less. It means you want to hear more!

As a society, we seem to fear silence, and the ensuing stillness that forces an inward look at ourselves and our thoughts. The book didn't explore this philosophical point as much as I'd hoped. Instead, it was more focused on the history of noise, the science of it, and how people react to it.

All of this was interesting, and not surprisingly, little gems of wisdom emerged. For example, if you're having trouble in your home life, turn off the noise and the stress will fade!

However, it would have been an even more enticing book if there had been more exploration into the "why" of our noisy existence. Despite not delving deeply into the philosophy, Prochnik does provide an excellent quote from Soren Kierkegaard from The Lily in the Field and the Bird of the Air.
"How solemn it is out there under God's heaven with the lily and the bird, and why? Ask the poet. He answers: Because there is silence. And his longing goes out to that solemn silence, away from the worldliness in the human world, where there is so much talking, away from all the worldly human life that only in a sad way demonstrates that speech distinguishes human beings above the animals. 'Because,' says the poet, 'if this is the distinguishing characteristic--no, then I much, much prefer the silence out there.'"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Great Blue Heron - First sighting in Tucson

I saw my very first Great Blue Heron today in Tucson. I used to see them all summer back in the 'burgh.  I'd almost forgotten how BIG (a six foot wing span!) they are.

Great Blue Heron (1)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Green-tailed Towhee - spotted again

I was just talking on Friday about the Green-tailed Towhee, an uncommon visitor to my yard, and lo and behold, I saw one all day on Sunday eating the thistle seed off of the ground under the feeder. Isn't that weird how that happens. It's almost like I willed him to the yard!

He was more shy than the white-crowned sparrows who are still "wintering" here. I'm surprised they haven't already left for the summer. Of course, I'm surprised the Towhee is still here too!

Green-tailed Towhee 2

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things I DO NOT miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order)

Things I DO NOT miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#4 No spring

Although southwestern PA can have a glorious fall (and it rains a lot in the fall too) it seems to completely bypass anything close to a spring. Oh sure, there are a few days when the incessant snow (!), sleet, rain, and overall gloom let up enough to remind you of the warmer days to come. But overall, this is one season that would be better named "flood."  

Pittsburgh flooding

Saturday, March 19, 2011

First 2011 sighting of the Hooded Orioles!

As is usually the case, I heard the Hooded Orioles first. I've been watching for them now for a few weeks because it's that time of year when they reappear in Tucson to nest over the summer. When I ran to the window, I saw two males scoping out the hummingbird feeders. I'm convinced it's the same family that returns every year because they seem to know EXACTLY where the feeders are, and they know EXACTLY how to precariously hang on them to sip nectar. March 19 -- this is six days earlier than I saw them last year.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Steelers fans will be depressed for weeks

Things I DO NOT miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#3 Steelers Mania

The Steelers lost Superbowl XLV today. I'm sad. But not like they are in Pittsburgh where they will be depressed for weeks.

Pittsburgh Steeler fans 11 Sept 2005

Pittsburgh lives and breathes Steelers football. There are plenty of Steelers fans in Tucson, but the mania--well, it's best to keep that back in the 'burgh.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spring in the desert

Spring is definitely upon us in the desert. There are new leaves budding on the Palo Verde tree in the back. Plus I saw blooming brittlebush and ocotillo on my motorcycle ride today.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Anna's Hummingbird

A male Anna's hummingbird visited the feeder that I have attached to the window of the office. They're common in southern Arizona, but I had never seen one before. He's come by twice this week that I have noticed.