Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My Nomadic Inclinations

Arizona Gray Squirrel
As I hold in a pattern of wait before our next grand adventure, I hang out in my little cubby hole like the Arizona Gray Squirrel above.  

Black-headed Grosbeak
A lot of planning and work is going into the Las Aventuras summer and fall adventures.  Another exciting trek is also getting mapped out into a remote area of the world that many do not explore. There will be birds, culture, tequila and laughter. I look forward to that photo shoot. But for now....

Wild Turkey
Life is short.  One day you're a lizard eating an ant.  The next, you're food for a Mountain Pygmy Owl. 

Mountain Pygmy Owl
As I'm planning and budgeting the money, I'm keeping my birding local.  After all, this is Arizona birding.  There are so many opportunities to witness some of the world's most amazing birds close to home.  So in short, to keep the costs down, I've been birding locally. 

It's rather fun.  My challenge?  To keep my birding skills sharp as a knife.  But the other challenge?  To capture something truly amazing in that one moment.  It's one thing to take a pic of a bird; it's another to capture it doing something interesting. 


So what was this weekend's challenge?  Well, it wasn't as exciting as last BUT it was still fun.  Near the White Citadel(San Xavier Del Bac), our group received word of an uncommon Black-bellied Whistling Duck in a mysterious watering hole.  That piqued my interest.  So I headed towards the mines of Moria and the White Citadel near the edges of my Old Pueblo.  And sure enough.....there was water in a great hole in the ground. 

The bird life was incredible.  How long have I lived here and never known about this obscure place?  Well, it's on my radar now.  Mission accomplished....in both senses of the word "mission":)  As I fine tune my Pima County birding, I'm also getting a sense that the regular Pima County birders are doing the same.  We have spread a net over our area and I'm liking the team work going on.  Before it was 2 or 3 birders finding rarities.  Now, it's more like 10 or 12 excellent birders covering the area.  

And quickly from the Tucson garden.  Ever notice white fuzzy spots on your Prickly Pear Cactus?  If the answer is yes, you're hosting the cochineal bug, a scale insect.  While watering my garden this weekend, I noticed that the scale had gotten out of control.

So I took the hose and washed off my cactus pads.  People have asked me if the scale is bad for their cactus.  Most years, it doesn't present a problem but for some reason, this year it has been bad.  We had a wet winter but it was followed by a super hot and dry spring....which allowed for the scale to grow! And it was doing damage.  So I took the hose to it. 

Cochineal Bug...notice the yellow coloring.  Not good.
As the scale washed off, it looked like blood pooling up around the base of the plant. The Cochineal bug plays an important role here in the Old Pueblo.  The native people use this bug to dye their clothes.  Historically, it was also important in the world trade market.  Today, this carmine dye is used primarily as a food colorant.

Last but not least.  Warblers.  This year has been a sensational year for so many warblers in the state of Arizona.  The year isn't over but look who has come to visit over the past several months.  Las Aventuras will continue the search this summer.

Until next time.....


  1. Hi Chris. I'm captivated by your Mountain Pygmy Owl images. Thank you for correcting my perception as to where cochineal comes from. Whilst I knew it was a 'bug' I thought it came from India. Given that it's an affliction of the Opuntias, I'm surprised that I didn't know about it - in my younger days, for a while my main interest was cacti, and I used to have a collection of a couple of hundred or so plants.

    Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

    1. I thought you'd like the owl:) Luck of the draw with some of these owls this year:) It's like detective work. Yeah, the Opuntia group is a fascinating one. One species of Prickly Pear here gets covered in it. Normally, it's never an issue but this year it's bad. The scale is a tropical one that ranges slightly into Arizona as its Northern most range and is found From Arizona all the way down into South America. Hope you are well! Thanks for stopping by! My best! Chris

  2. It is always exciting to find a new productive birding shot locally :) Love all the warbler photos :)

    1. It was a relaxed and chill weekend for sure. I have so much stuff to get done that I need to stay close to home:)

  3. Love the top photo. Love the ability of all Sycamores to create wildlife (birds & animals) cavities. I'm doing another riparian restoration pice with several Sycamore branch end nest holes. I'd love to use this as another example.

    1. Absolutely. Sycamores, as you say, are life! Home to Elf Owls, nesting Gray Hawks, etc etc etc. Oh....and let's not forget those amazing Elegant Trogons!!:)

  4. I continue to be amazed by your images, Chris. I do wonder whether you have bird hypnosis powers so they stop and pose for you. Especially the one of the hawk (?) looking at its supper.

    1. Thanks Sue!!! The Owl was a big surprise for us. Such a cool bird:)

  5. Lots of great photos here today. - I really enjoyed stopping by.

  6. Wonderful photos! I love that squirrel!


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