Tucson, Arizona - We're still in the heat of summer, with plants struggling to survive an unusually hot and dry year. The summer monsoons are early this year and we're getting evening thunderstorms pretty regularly, but not enough rain to really help. Bats come out in the evening to hunt for insects. They're joined by birds, silhouettes visible in the fading light - White-throated Swifts, perhaps?
All our regular summer backyard birds are here, looking for suet, seeds, nectar and water. Although we've had hummingbird feeders in the past, this is the first year we've put out seed feeders. Hummingbirds sip nectar from the salvias and then come to the feeders. Lesser Goldfinches compete with a mob of House Finches for niger thistle or eat the flowers from the Butterfly Bush. Mourning and White-winged Doves spin the feeders, trying to shake seeds onto the ground. Gila Woodpeckers, Gambrel's Quail, Mockingbirds, a pair of Northern Cardinals, Cactus Wrens andAbert's Towhees arrive every morning. This year we have three pairs of Inca Doves - they're newcomers. Tiny as they are, these ground-feeders are holding their own with the other doves.
During the day, Roadrunners occasionally come by, but they stay in the back, hunting lizards and snakes. I hear Curve-billed Thrashers, but no longer see them. Grackles and Starlings are few and far between. Verdins and Phainopepla were spring visitors. The Phainopepla fed on the mistletoe growing in our mesquite trees. The Red-tailed Hawks hunted from the huge eucalyptus across the road where their nest from past years is still visible, but finally nested in a tree down the road (which has since been cut down - heartbreaking); they failed to produce young this year - one theory is that they won't produce in a drought year. Now they've gone. Fourteen Turkey Vultures, spectacular as they sailed lazily on the spring thermals, no longer fly over the house on their way back to their roost. The Black-headed Grosbeaks and Wilson's Warblers came and went within a week. The Mallards that showed up to swim in our pool in the spring have been absent this month.
All are most welcome for whatever time they choose to stay - long-term or short. I wish I had the time and patience to sit outside and just watch (and the stamina to do it in over 100 degree F. temperatures). I wonder how many I've missed.
Two birds that came into the patio this year were one-time visitors. These were "Oh my gosh, look at that ... grab the camera" events. In each case, by the time I'd actually found and focussed my camera, they were ready to move on.
Hence, I captured a blurred photo of a Vermillion Flycatcher (April 3) that no amount of processing with PaintShop Pro can remedy, followed by a photo of a sharply focussed empty mesquite branch (not shown here),and a washed out (through the kitchen window) photo of what I believe is a Black Phoebe (July 7).Saw the phoebe again later in the day by the pool and got an even worse shot:Even though the photos are poor, I was thrilled to see both these birds - the first time for me.