Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Birds in our Yard - Two first-time visitors

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.

4 comments:

robin andrea said...

Thrilling to have those two visitors. Love that Vermillion Flycatcher. What a stunning color. I've never seen a Phoebe, but from the photographs I've seen over at Julie Zickefoose's site, that really looks like one. We had a Western Tanager here one day this summer. It took a nice bath in the pond. I was sitting outside, and the camera was in the house. End of story!

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Absolutely fabulous... We are also having a hot dry summer here with several wildfires... too many to count.

chiefbiscuit said...

The two birds even un-focused look great. I love the name Phoebe for a bird - and what an attractive shape. glad you are finding some joy in all that heat. (I wouldn't mind some of the heat!)

Pam in Tucson said...

ra - I'd love to see a Western Tanager. I believe they were listed on several people's Most Beautiful Bird memes. Often, I find that I like to just stay and watch a bird, even though taking a photo of it would be a real coup.

cynthia - I hope your wildfires are useful to the environment there and aren't causing too much harm. We've had quite a bit of rain in the past couple of days and the temps have been much cooler.

chiefbiscuit - It's so wonderful to see such birds. Sometimes I just like to sit and enjoy them and forget the camera.