Monday, April 30, 2012

Slytherin Part II

We have had ten different species of snakes on our property over the years. However, I don't want to give the impression that there are dangerous snakes everywhere you step. We only see two or three rattlesnakes a year; and, maybe 10 snakes altogether.  Yesterday, I talked about the Black Racer. Today, Bullsnakes. 

The first snake I came across on our property was actually during one of the visits leading up to our purchase. It was the largest snake I had ever seen -- outside a zoo. It looked to be about 8 feet long with a diameter of three inches or so. That's a big snake in the US. And, it was a Bullsnake. In the ten years since, we see one a couple times a year. We saw Big Bull a couples of times for the first three years, then found him dead the third year. Probably just old age. But, not being a forensic scientist or pathologist, what do I know?

Bullsnakes are sometimes mistaken for rattlesnakes and thus killed. (I must admit that I am not in favor of killing snakes -- even Rattlesnakes). Due to its coloration, dorsal pattern, and semi-keeled scalation; the Bullsnake superficially resembles the Western Diamondback Rattler which is also common here. The Bullsnake capitalizes on this similarity by performing a very impressive rattlesnake impression when threatened. First, it hisses, or forcibly exhales through a bisected glottis, which flaps back and forth producing a very convincing "rattle" sound. It will also take on a rattlesnake-like "S-curve" body posture, as if it is going to strike. The Bullsnake will commonly vibrate its tail rapidly amongst the brush or leaves, and flatten its head to make it take on a more characteristic triangular-shaped head of the rattlesnake. These defensive behaviors are meant to scare away threats, however, not sound an attack.

Snakes are a challenge to photograph due to their length. How do you get close enough to get detail in perfect focus for something 4 to 6 feet long. The quick witted answer is "very carefully" but the real answer is" not often possible." The best photos are usually with coiled snakes or snakes that are closely serpentined. I kept asking Big Bull to cooperate but, he was a stubborn old guy that just wasn't very interested in me getting a good photo. As you see below, I have a close-up of the head, a close-up of the body detail, and then a full length (or almost full length) photo. 

Bull Snake

Bull Snake

Bull Snake

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Slytherin Part I

April not only brings Wildflowers and Cactus Blossoms, it brings out the Slytherin kinds of animals. First up, the beautiful -- and speedy -- Black Racer. Black Racers are not dangerous snakes. Well, I guess they are to small birds, rodents, and lizards. The Quail start nesting in April and their eggs are very vulnerable. So the Quail become very protective and team up when danger approaches to make sure that snakes do go anywhere near their eggs. Christine once watched while several Gambels Quail chased a Black Racer down our driveway. 

Black Racer

Black Racer

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Blooming Trees

Wildflowers are still blooming, cacti are blooming, trees and shrubs are blooming. Lots of color right now in the Sonoran Desert. Who'd a thought? Here are the trees and shrubs:

Blooming Palo Verde Tree on Right

Blooming Oleander

Blooming Creosote 

Blooming Mesquite Tree

Blooming Pomegranate with Red Flowers

Blooming Pomegranate with Pink Flowers

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More Cactus Blossoms

Walked around today taking more cactus blossom photos. 

The first two, like those in the white flowered barrel in yesterday's post are a type of barrel cacti grown in nurseries. They are relative small ( a foot or two maybe)  but produce wonderfully colorful flowers. Yesterday's was white today a pink one and a red one:

The next, also from a nursery, is a type of "old man's beard" producing a very strange looking maroon flower. The flower never "unfolds". It remains as you see it until it drops off. Dozens of flowers per stalk.

Staghorn Cholla

Rabbitt Eared Prickly Pear

The Most Common "Engelman's" Prickly Pear

A Purple Prickly Pear about to Bloom

A Long-spined Purple Prickly Pear. Notice the red inside vs the more common Prickly Pear

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More Spring Flowers

The prickly pear is now blooming along with some of the cholla (Those photos tomorrow). The first Saguaro Blossoms have shown up, and one of our hybrid barrels too. Oh, and while I was out photographing flowers today about 10 Javelinas came by, including a couple of newborns. They were enjoying (eating) all the new growth:

Javelina with newborn piglet

Hybrid Barrel Cactus in Bloom

Saguaro starting to bloom. Yes Gila Woodpecker on the left Saguaro

Monday, April 23, 2012

Today at The Azure Gate

The Wildflowers have bloomed, although many Mexican Poppies still blooming. But now it is the Cactus and Agaves Blooming. So a few of those photos. Well, also as I was wandering around with my camera, a baby Sonoran Gopher Snake came out to say hello. So, a photo there as well.  It is a lovely time of year. 

"Baby" Sonoran Gopher Snake

Close UP

Agaves in Bloom

20 foot high Indian Fig (Mission) Cactus Beginning to Bloom

Close Up of the Mission Cactus Blossoms 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ash Canyon in Early Spring

Still not an abundance of Hummingbirds yet in the Madrean Sky Islands of Southern Arizona. The Ash Canyon B&B is at the foot of Ash Canyon and an excellent spot for birding including the best spot in the US for the Lucifer Hummingbird (which I have shown before). No Lucifer on Tuesday. In fact, not a lot of Hummers. There was a male Magnificent that came around twice; a few Black Chinned; a few Anna's, and a few Broad Billed. But, as usual the day was not lost.  The gorgeous Lazuli Buntings were there along with the playful Lark Sparrow and Scott's Oriole. Here are some of the photos:

Lazuli Bunting

House Finch

Lark Sparrow

Pyrrhuloxia Male

Rufous Crowned Sparrow

Scotts Oriole Female

Broad Billed Hummingbird

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Spring Migration

With Spring in Southern Arizona come birds of all kinds. Some just passing through on their way North; some arrive and hang out for the summer. The Tucson Audubon Society is doing their annual bird count for the next month. They count birds in over 800 locations in Southern Arizona. Although too early to tell, I suspect the count will be a little shy of what it typically is. I think the 1 million acres that burned last year destroyed a number of birds. Plus typically high birding spots burned, and although are recovering nicely may impact this years count. Nonetheless, there are still lots of birds to be found. 

A very quick trip to the San Pedro River yielded good results. I suspect had I been able to spend more time, would have provided excellent results. Here are just of few photos from Tuesdays trip:

White Crowned Sparrow

Yellow Warbler

Black Phoebe

A Vole of some kind

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Show Off

After Florida Canyon I checked out Madera Canyon just to see whether many of the migratory birds had arrived. The short answer is "not yet". However, there was a male Wild Turkey putting on quite a display. Here are a couple of those photos, plus a nice photo of a Broad Billed Hummingbird I took in Madera:

Wild Turkey, front view

Wild Turkey, rear view

Broad Billed Hummingbird

Monday, April 16, 2012

Florida Canyon, Arizona

A quick trip yesterday to Flor --- ee -- da Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains got me a little excited. I went because there had been reports of  Rufous Capped Warblers. These would have been a wonderful find. Like some of the small flycatchers, many of the warblers have very similar plumage and can only be correctly identified by their song. However the Rufous Capped Warbler is unmistakable. This is a rare visitor to the US with only occasional sightings along the Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico borders with Mexico.

It reminded me of the movie The Big Year (2011) which is about birders and birding. I could just see Owen Wilson hearing about the Rufous Capped Warbler and immediately dropping whatever he was doing, drive to the Minneapolis Airport, taking the next available plane to Tucson, renting a Jeep, driving to Florida Canyon, getting out of his Jeep, finding the Rufous Capped Warbler before reaching the trailhead, taking a photo, jumping back in the Jeep, driving back to the Tucson Airport, taking the first flight back to Minneapolis, driving to his office, and updating his bird finding list   --- all in the course of two hours. But, as any birder would tell you, IT'S JUST NOT THAT EASY!!!!!!!!!!! The Tucson Audubon Rare Bird list comes out weekly. There are other birding lists that are updated daily, but often a sighting is at least a day or two old -- maybe a week old. And usually they don't tell you precisely where the bird was sighted, or what time of day it was sighted. And, even if it did, birds often don't hang out in precisely the same spot every day all day long. They often move around and often move up canyon as the day gets warmer.

So, it wasn't the first time I went out looking for a specific bird and not finding it. Reminds me of another quote from the movie Zero Effect:  "When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you're only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them."

So, I didn't come home without any photo.  Here are a few photos from Florida Canyon:

Dusky Capped Flycatcher

Gray Flycatcher

Arizona Thristle

Ladderback Woodpecker

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Back to Patton's in Patagonia

With the B&B, it is hard to get away this time of year for an extended photo trip. So, it ends up being a half day trip. This time I headed off to Patagonia. Today, photos from Patton's in Patagonia.

The Hummingbirds are starting to arrive, both those that pass through and those that stay for the summer. At Paton's I found: Anna's, Black Chinned, Broad Billed, Violet Crowned, Rufous, and Calliope. The Calliope was a male but too brief to photograph. Here are the better photos from Patton's:

Broad Billed Hummingbird Male

Violet Crowned Hummingbird

Northern Cardinal Male

Northern Cardinal Female

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coatimundi V

Just a couple more Coati photos from my archives:

Coati from the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona

Coati from the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona
Pair of Coatis resting in Tree, Galiuro Mountains, Arizona

Coati, not sure whether to go up or down (Galiuros)

Hide 'n Seek with Coati (Galiuros)