Sunday, April 12, 2015

Whispers of Wonders

The traditional seasons in Arizona are not always visible to our visitors. In the US, most states celebrate a distinct fall, winter, spring and summer. If you've lived in the desert for awhile, you begin to pick up the subtle beauty of the Sonoran desert.  Some people describe our seasons as "hot or not as hot".  And while that may be somewhat true, I'd like to present our version of spring this week:)

Hedgehog Cactus
The "summer" birds begin to arrive into Southern Arizona while others are in the middle of nesting. Cacti begin to bloom.  Butterflies begin to show up in greater numbers while the "Snowbirds" (the human and bird kinds) begin to leave:) Reptiles begin to hang out on rocks. Snakes slink their way across roads and into Herpetologist's hearts.

Elegant Earless Lizard
And the owls.  I love the owls the best.  It's one of the better times of the year to find owls near their nests....or just find owls period:)  Our Great Horned Owls were successful again this year raising 4 owlets!  Along with another teacher, we monitor their nest each day to make sure they are developing as they should.  With over 2000 people on our campus, it's amazing that the parent owls return each year to this site.  But we're glad they do.  It's also a great way to educate future birders.  Soon they will leave this make shift nest and bounce their way into the nearby Ironwood Trees.

4 Great Horned Owlets
While monitoring my ebird work patch, I found this soon to be leaving White-crowned Sparrow taking a dirt bath.  The bird didn't seem to mind me watching. 

White-crowned Sparrow
As it warms up, the birds begin looking for a companion to begin their nesting process. Some nest within the holes of these massive Saguaros below. Others prefer nesting within the Cholla cactus(center)

From left to right.  Saguaro Cactus(large upright cactus), Tree Cholla(reddish blooms), Palo Verde Tree(yellow blooms)
This is also a great time to visit southern Arizona. It's not too hot or cold and there's lots to see!  While on my treks this week, I spotted a Cooper's Hawk feeding.  Normally I don't see them banded so I did some follow up.  When I don't know something, I throw the information out on the google machine and Facebook. I am always thankful for the positive feedback I get from people.  The University of Arizona is conducting a study on Cooper's Hawks.  These birds are numerous in the Tucson area and their population appears to be growing. In fact, the Old Pueblo has one of the highest counts in the US. This may also explain why our Inca Dove population has almost completely disappeared from the area.  

A 8 year old male Cooper's Hawk
Anyhow, I found the right person and he emailed me back straight away. Here's the info he gave me on this bird. 
"Hi Chris:
The bird you saw was a male and was banded as a nesting adult on 13 June 2007. He was nesting on Silverbell Golf Course  (just south of the wetlands) at that time and has been seen there each year since. Your photo lets us record that he is alive and back in the same area again this year.  Thanks!
Bill Mannan"

If you find a banded Cooper's Hawk, you can report your sighting and pic to this email.  
Until next time......

Tree Cholla Cactus Bloom


  1. Helo Chris, another awesome post.. I love the beautiful blooms. And the owlets are so cute. Wonderful photos, happy birding!

  2. I like birds, flowers cacti, and of lizard. Owls in the basket is a great picture. Regards.

  3. Gorgeous photos! The cactus blossoms are amazing. I love the owlets and the lizard are cute.

  4. Wonderful images and an entertaining account, Chris. As you know, I love owls. The young owls that you show here definitely fall into the 'cute' category! I guess it's the basket that adds the final touch to that impression.

    Best wishes for the week ahead - - - - - Richard

  5. Wonderful country, so well shown. I know what you mean about seasons-

    ALOHA from Honolulu,

  6. Love seeing the cactus bloom and those owls!

  7. I was planning a trip out there this spring but got sidetracked. I have a friend near Pheonix. The owls just make me smile. I have big one out here but I don't see it too often. I know it still comes around because I can hear it hoot. Im looking orward to hearing it again now that winter is over.
    Your picture of that little fuzzy is fantastic!

  8. Spring definitely puts on a show in Arizona. And though I love the cactus blooms the owls steal my heart. I'm so glad they've accepted their 'nest' and return each year for you to share with the students and future birders.

  9. How cute is that first photo :) Lovely to see signs of Spring in your area Chris - the photos are stunning. So pleased to hear the news about the Great Horned Owls successfully nesting again :)

  10. That's a great sequence of the White-crowned Sparrows taking a dust bath. Pretty soon they will be passing through here on migration.

  11. Nice set of shots - I think I am glad I visited Arizona in the non-hot season!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  12. Great photos, my favourite is the Lizard, fantastic Chris.

  13. Well I've heard of "Chicken in the Basket" but not this. Like you say Chris, birds are such creatures of habit and do return to the same place to breed. The basket must have a lot going for it, likewise the many other sites you know of. That Cooper's Hawk is in fine condition after eating all those wholesome doves (and other goodies). A man's gotta live.

  14. Spring in the desert is such a special beautiful time. Hopefully next spring will find me back in Arizona! I love that photo of the owlets peeking out of the basket!

  15. What a wonderful post. The cacti are so vibrant. And the owl nest is adorable. I feel like I know what spring is like now in your neck of the woods.

  16. love the cactus blooms. and love the basket nest for the owlets! so cool they use it! great lizard shot, too.

  17. Fantastic post, the owls are amazing.

  18. Hi Chris.. This is wonderful. I remember those beautiful pink cactus flowers from when we wintered in Tucson. And how I loved learning that birds nest in the cactus plant. The Owls are beyond adorable and the hawk and sparrow bath too ... Love this, thanks for sharing.

  19. Thank you so much for this wonderful Sonoran Desert spring post! Thank you also for your awesome response to my posting as well, and suggesting we get out to the Saguaro Ntl Forest....we haven't been out there (east or west) in quite a while, and it's a great idea. Mostly we've been just driving unpaved roads with homes spaced far apart just north of us. I love the owl photos! How awesome! We saw one on one of our drives but were unable to get a photo...he was pretty big. I have no idea what kind. And the Cooper's Hawk used to be a common visitor to our yard, and I would often find dead dove feathers and innards, even on the back porch, but they haven't had a kill in a while, even though I do still see them sometimes. They swoop through and I hear the flutter of dozens of pairs of wings as the birds scatter. A couple of weeks ago one was in the tall pine on the edge of my yard, but he kept hopping around with branches in the way and finally flew off. Again, no picture. Beautiful spring photos on this post. We have been thoroughly enjoying the spring, especially the gorgeous cactus blooms right now. Love the sparrow...he's a favorite of mine and one I want to get a better photo of, ever since you ID'd him for me. I also am stalking the vermillion flycatcher at my nephew's school (I posted his picture a month ago, and would love to have more!) Thanks again for always being such an inspiration! All my best--


  20. Great photos! That basket of owlets is the best!!!

  21. Great to see your dessert waking up to spring, wonderful set of pictures. The owlets are so cute, what a great opportunity you have to observe them, seem quite at home in that basket.
    The cactus flowers are beautiful I think they would make great paintings.
    Happy birding,

  22. I stopped by to check out your latest the other day and didn't make time to leave a comment... but, here I am back again to say...the little owl.... what a face! It would be my kind of guy to stitch up with a wonderfully soft furry/hairy type of fabric and call it a bear of some sort....

  23. Spring sure is beautiful in the desert! I didn't realize white-crowned sparrows visited Arizona!

  24. Yes indeed!!!! For those that have never experienced the Sonoran Desert [in any season actually] have missed out in a life time adventure of beauty, harsh monsoons, wildlife that is so unusual....everything!!!

    Your photos prove just that. It's a perfect picture post card entry for your blog today. Thanks for sharing this link [with your bird images] at I'd Rather B Birdin'

  25. Olá Chris!
    Essa fotografia estão fantásticas, um trabalho excelente. Um Sussurros de Maravilhas!
    Adoro as corujas, são bem curiosas. Os cactus deram uma beleza na fotografia. Deve ser um lindo e uma época maravilhosa para visitar sul do Arizona.

    Parabéns pelo trabalho!

    Deixo um abraço!

  26. As always, great shots and story Chris

  27. The owls in the basket are adorable! Great shot of the Cooper's hawk.

    The cactus blooms are gorgeous.


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