Tag Archives: birds

Unplugged

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.
(Not written by, but made tearfully famous by Eric Burden in 1965)

Changes. They’re harder when we get older but are often worth the struggle. I just got back from a week in CT, my home state. A family member I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years called because she needed me. I did not hang up on her, I got on a plane. A highly emotional reconciliation and physically demanding visit followed. It was wonderful. I have been telling people all my life I have no family but now that has changed, and a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. She had me ROFL when she said, in all earnestness, “well you know you come from a long line of over-reacters.” Ha ha, like you don’t? I laughed so hard I fell off the couch.

I spent the week ‘unplugged,’ my first since the beginning of the computer age. No email, no google, no Trayvon, no bitter news to keep me in a constant state of agitation. (First thing I read when I got back though was this unholy alliance between Hollywood and Washington. It’s always been there, but this spectacle splashed all over front pages everywhere makes me sick in a whole new way—two professional groups of liars teaming up, a powerful fusing of the sordid with the corrupt. America, running on a currency of lies and coverups is now one big hateful reality show. Incontinent conservatives, please stop! You’re HELPING him!) But my hiatus was freeing, and had begun before I left. Too ashamed to dispense my moody posts, too involved in my own demise to comment on others. I apologize to my friends for neglecting you, but I do not sparkle with wit and humor, I crackle with confrontation and cynicism.  My friend Harry from The Fool Folds his Arms had these wise words:  I sometimes wonder if the Internet was invented to keep people occupied and passive while the powerful continue to chip away at what little they don’t control already. Well put Harry.

When I got home I learned of two shocking deaths here in AZ. The first was an older woman I adored, cancer. It happened fast and I didn’t know and I still can’t believe it.

The second was the untimely death of a young man whom I had struck from my life because of his cruelty toward his animals. I grew to hate him. I will not miss him but I am not glad he is gone. Like wishing for revolution and getting it, then cowering as the new regime inflicts more aggression and brutality than the last, I can’t know what will replace him. His (very nice) family is dumping the house cheap. Is it wrong of me to feel in my heart it’s about to get worse? No, it is merely experience speaking for me—I can’t unknow the past. Does the deletion of a selfish person add balance to the world? Absolutely not. It doesn’t work that way.

Here are a few pictures from around town this week.

I tried to research this bird but could not be sure what it is. Can anyone help? Saw him along the San Pedro River.

We don’t get many bluebirds in my neighborhood so this was a treat. He hung around for a few days and now he’s gone. But the exotic orioles are beginning to arrive, and they too, are just passing through. Time to buy oranges. The swallows are back and rebuilding their porch light nest with great dedication and style.

Funny young pigeon watching me at a customer’s house. I was so flattered how close he let me come to him.

These new solar panels in the historical part of town have got everyone’s panties in a twist. Irate letters to the local papers abound…’the town wouldn’t let me put a carport in because it wasn’t historical!’ and ‘why didn’t you make them put the panels IN BACK OF the inn?’ etc., etc. Now I learn they are selling the power generated from these back to the power company. What do you think?

Look familiar? Although not the exact model as “Christine,” they used several models in the movie and this ’59 Plymouth Savoy was one of them. I love the flag on the antenna. Don’t see many American flags around here.

 

The Week in My World 8-31-11

A harrowing, adrenaline-charged midnight rescue of a starving chained dog in my neighborhood…another neighbor with an old camper in his yard reports harassment by drug cartel members…so hot you can’t breathe…oh who the hell cares? Put the razor blade down and look at some recent six word stories and pictures from my world.

Autodidact’s delusions at least self-taught.

Noxious aura radiates from negligent psychic.

Dignity gone. Queasy dawn. Agreement withdrawn.

People’s revolution. Virtuous intentions. New oppressors.

Antisocial butterflies invited to somber soiree.

Forked road. Left, elimination, right, bereavement.

Don’t worry be happy. Lobotomy included?

Please amputate right leg this time.

Exfoliated angst shards predicted. Better duck.

Polluted hydrologist burst into brackish tears.

Beautiful, meticulous, handcrafted artwork. Price reduced.

Amo, amas. In extremis. Ante bellum.

Suicide hotline, on hold. Elevator music.

Every year during monsoon the nectarivorous Mexican long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae), come at dark to drain the hummingbird feeder. Bats are major pollinators and/or insect eaters and there is no reason to fear them. Plus, they’re really cool!

Long-nosed bat drinking sugar-water at the hummingbird feeder.

A big flock of them come every night and drain the feeder within half an hour. It’s definitely worth buying extra sugar to support them!

Beautiful, mysterious long-nosed bats love nectar and sugar water. Both their roosting sites and their main source of food, the agave, are being destroyed by people and fires.

 

 

The second brood of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) have been born, raised, and fledged. There will be no more this year. This series of pictures starts with newborns.

3 days old. It takes about two weeks for the swallow babies to reach maturity. Like most birds, both parents are extremely attentive.

For the first week after the babies fledge, the parents continue to watch, feed, and guide them. The babies still return to the porch light nest every night for several more weeks.

Hey, you on the end! Listen up! I have important stuff to tell you!

During monsoon blasts of rain pour down in one part of town but not another.

We are at 5,000 ft., so we are actually IN the clouds. Picture taken from my street.

The Monument fire destroyed my favorite refuge, Coronado National Park, and the road in is closed due to destruction by flooding as there are no trees left to stop it. But the San Pedro River is lush and full, and the animals don’t care that the water is muddy.

Raccoon prints along the San Pedro, which is teeming with wildlife seeking water.

Victuals and Vapors

We went out to dinner tonight. No, not Outback, Applebee’s, or Red Lobster. We went to the Homeless Shelter in Tin Town, a small neighborhood in Bisbee. The shelter helps a lot of people—they have a paid board, volunteers, and bunks for women and men. The homeless folks staying there are expected to help out too. Every Wednesday night they throw a huge supper and about 60 people come. You get a plate and hand it to the cook and he loads it up. Tonight we had chicken cacciatore loaded with fresh vegetables over pasta, soup, salad, bread, hard boiled eggs, and brownies. The food, prepared by a friend of ours who volunteers every week, was first-rate. There are long tables set up and you find a seat with friends or strangers. It’s free, but there is a donation jar to which we added $10. They also packed us up two more of these delicious meals to go. They get the food from food banks and donations, and you can sign up for free boxes of donated food.

Tin Town Homeless Shelter in Bisbee, AZ

People start lining up early, they open the doors for dinner at 5 pm. We met people we knew, and made some new friends.

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It’s hot and my car’s overheating. I worked in a couple houses this week with no coolers, so I’m overheating too. Most people don’t have air conditioning here, we have evaporative coolers, known as swamp coolers. A swamp cooler is a large box with vented sides attached to your house, usually the roof. It contains a blower, an electric motor with pulleys, a water pump, and evaporative cooling pads made from aspen wood fibers. The fan draws hot dry outside air through the vents and through the damp pads. Heat in the air evaporates water from the pads which are constantly redampend by the pump. Cool moist air is then directed through ductwork into your home. Moist air is blown in and cycles through the house by an open window at the other end of the house.

They’re wonderful in dry climates and cheap to run (80% cheaper than AC). They are so efficient that even hospitals here use them. Their one drawback is that they obviously lose efficiency during the humid monsoon season.

Many of the old converted miners’ shacks here don’t even have coolers much less AC, they just have ceiling fans. People who have lived here for a long time are totally acclimated to the heat—but I bet they don’t do aerobics in their houses in the summer, like I do when I clean.

Oh Great Swamp Cooler, We Praise Thee. We bow before you and beseech you to give us comfort in our time of need.

Swamp cooler pulley side. That thing way on top is a spider pipe assembly, two units deliver water to each of the four pads. The motor on top right runs the pulley. The bottom of the cooler is full of water and level-controlled by a float. The white tube on the left goes to your main water line.

Swamp cooler pump side. The submersible pump on the bottom right feeds water to the spider assembly.

Diagram of how swamp cooler works.

You'll often see birds perched on the sides of swamp coolers, trying to get water from the pads. I wish everybody would put water out for the birds and beasts.

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Some friends gave us a loaf of bread yesterday from Mexico. I’ve never heard of Bimbo Bakeries (pronounced beem’ bo) so I looked it up. Established in Mexico in 1945, it was sold and resold and is now a huge company that owns Friehofer’s, Arnold, Boboli, Oroweat, Thomas’, Entenmann’s, and many more. The parent company, Grupo Bimbo, acquired these century-old brands in the 1990s. The word “bimbo” doesn’t really mean anything in Spanish, but obviously would be offensive elsewhere.

Bimbo Bread

Tanagers and Chats, Arizona Style

Birdseed is a luxury expense I can’t afford, but I’ve found ways to enjoy having birds in the yard that are inexpensive and attract a wider variety than housefinches and sparrows, who will chow down a bag of birdseed in days. I buy marked-down fruit, and suet is on sale everywhere now. I get free bread from the senior center (which we eat too of course) but it is often already stale (they receive unsold bread from the supermarket). The birds love it and I love them.

Male western tanager at the oranges

Male western tanager with piece of bread

Male western tanager. You can see they have different shapes, which seems odd to me.

Male western tanager showing his little butt

What? I'm not fat, I'm fluffy!

Male western tanager---look how slender this one is.

A treeful of tanagers!

Time to replace this orange half.

Tanagers always come with their mates: female western tanager.

After the birds have taken a bit of fruit or suet, they rub their beaks back and forth on a branch or other surface.

Female western tanager. Female creatures are usually less colorful than the males, this helps camouflage them when they have babies. But they are just as beautiful.

Yellow-breasted chat, the largest of the warblers.

Yellow-breasted chat, the male and female look very similar.

Yellow-breasted chat

Yard Birds of April

These are some of the birds that have been coming to the feeder to fatten up for breeding season. I gave up buying birdseed a few years ago because it’s too expensive and they chow through it so fast. But they seem happy with what I’m offering—suet, chopped apples, breadcrumbs, and a big bucket of fresh water. Soon there will be babies. The swallows haven’t arrived yet but the porch light, prime swallow real estate, awaits. If I’ve misidentified any of these birds, please correct me.

Male blackheaded grosbeak, showing his tummy

Male blackheaded grosbeak and male house finch

Male Bullock's oriole

Male Bullock's oriole standing on a fresh orange half. If you put out oranges, they will come.

Female Bullock's oriole

Male blackheaded grosbeak at suet feeder, with male cardinal peeking from around branch

Male pyrrhuloxia, similar to the cardinal and fairly common in the US southwest

White-crowned sparrow and male pyrrhuloxia

White-crowned sparrow

White-winged dove

Cactus wren, unknown if it's male or female

Cactus wren hanging on to feeder

Curve-billed thrasher, unknown if it's male or female. The thrashers are big and sometimes chase smaller birds off the feeder.

I think this is a female Anna's hummingbird. We planted a tiny chinaberry tree a few years ago, and not only did it survive the February freeze, but this is the first year it's flowering. I'm excited that it's attracting the hummers.

Female Anna's hummingbird, I think

That Wraps Up the Nests

Hummingbird nest with two eggs in mulberry tree

Baby season is over for the local birds. I have a big window in my office so I feel privileged to be able to observe the mating, nest building, egg laying, and nursery care for several species. Two sets of swallows have fledged from the porch light, and two sets of hummingbirds from the mulberry trees in the yard. It’s a team effort between the mother and father—I like to think I’m in on it but I’m sure they’re helping me more than I’m helping them.

The hummingbirds build their nest on the flimsiest of branches during the height of monsoon storms—it never looks like they’re going to make it. We call the babies “riders on the storm” and they do get tossed around. But the parents choose their site with a purpose, the bigger birds would have a hard time landing in there on a tiny branch. I went out there and threw pebbles at a pair of cactus wrens a couple times. Cactus wrens are common in the desert but this is the first time I’ve ever seen them in the yard—I was all excited until I realized they were harassing the hummer nest and the little mother was going at them with all she had. Such is nature. All’s well with the hummer babies,  but there were a few fatalities with the second swallow brood. I hate the death part, but only the strong are going to survive and carry on.

Baby hummingbirds just hatched

Baby hummingbirds one week old

Getting bigger

Growing up fast

Ready to fledge!

The Week in My World 8-27-10

The 2010 monsoon season will be tapering off soon, though no one wants to see it end. The storms have been occurring almost daily, replenishing water tables and turning the high desert into a lush, green, nurturing world. We have been fortunate.

 

Daily thunderstorms with heavy rain

 

 

Rain and rainbow, backyard

 

 

Magical sunset after storm

 

 

Arizona the drama queen

 

 

The dogs love a nice salad

 

 

The yard after finally being mown

 

 

Full moon rising after stormy day

 

 

Second brood of swallow babies on porch light

 

 

Hummingbird in her nest at house in Bisbee

 

 

View from house where I worked today overlooking Tombstone Canyon

 

 

A length of ocotillo fence along Tombstone Canyon this afternoon

 

 

A living ocotillo fence is a wonder to behold, especially after the rains

 

More Mysteries of the Swallows

swallow nest with horsehair streamers

The swallow parents have been making repairs to the nursery in preparation for 2010 Brood #2.

Horses are popular where I live, and various equines reside in my neighborhood. The swallows will collect long mane or tail hairs that are shed and carry them back to the nest. They weave the long wirelike filaments into the mud to reinforce the nest.

The parents fly in and out of the nest about a hundred times a day. Last year the mother became entangled in one of the strands and though we were able to free her, it was not pleasant for anyone. So now, when I see the streamers flapping about, I go out there with a pair of scissors and cut the damn things off so the swallows don’t hang themselves. Wouldn’t you?

I’m bemused by some of the birdbrained building plans of this swallow family. Why? Why would they use an ingredient that is very likely to be dangerous? I don’t know. But I will continue to care for my precious little charges to the best of my ability. There is no better natural insect control than birds and bats, and swallows are at the top of the list. And even if they weren’t I would do it anyway.