Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bird Netting Catches a California King Snake!

The excitement just never ends in the Thomas Animal Sanctuary (my backyard).  Thought I'd seen every part of the desert food chain over the last few years - big fat desert spiny lizards, roadrunners trying to eat the spiny lizards, cottontail rabbits, owls stalking the rabbits, rock squirrels, and the occasional hawk swooping down to eat the squirrels . 

Now I have frogs, and a California King Snake trying to eat them!  Poor guy got tangled up in the bird netting we had just put out to protect our tomato plants.  I called the Arizona Herpetological Association for advice and was told King Snakes are great to have in your garden, are non-venomous,  feed on rodents and snakes, and are immune to rattlesnake venom.  So we cut him loose from all the netting and he's still here, just waiting for a frog to hop by.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Last Friday evening it was Nocturnal Animal Discovery Night at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. The Rio Salado Park Rangers, the Arizona Herpetological Association, and Adobe Mountain Wildlife were all there sharing their expertise and did a great job. There were snakes, bats, a ring tail, a skunk, and we were all agog over the gorgeous Great Horned Owl.  If you still haven't been out to the new Audubon Center, tssk tssk, you really should go.  Inside is a gift shop area, wonderful displays, amazing photography, a lecture hall, and classrooms.  Large glass floor to ceiling windows look out to a demonstration pond/marsh habitat.  I had a hard time focusing on the lectures as the sun was setting, it was too tempting to look out at the marsh to see who might fly by.  Us birders can have short attention spans. 

The handouts provided were excellent, and beautiful posters of Arizona Rattlesnakes, and Bats of Arizona were handed out free of charge.  Afterward, we went outside with black light flashlights looking for scorpions.  As a followup event it would be great to go out on the trails on the north side of the Rio Salado at sunset for possible owl and nighthawk sightings, and with hopes of bumping into one of our nocturnal critters!.

Friday, June 25, 2010

One Bad-Ass Bird!

Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Its the male Great-tailed Grackle defending his turf.  Or maybe he's just peeved because he's wearing a pitch black feather coat in 110 degree weather.  With his crazed, maniacal, menacing look, he'd make a great side-kick for some dark goth-girl, or a black-leather-clad biker-chick, or even a wanna-be teen vampire.  Hmmm... I think the heat is getting to me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gila Woodpeckers Like Oranges?

Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)

I've been putting out oranges for the past several months to keep the cute little Verdins happy and recently have been hoping to attract Bullock's Orioles.  Lately I've had to move the orange hanger to different places to try to keep the ants away.   

Through all the relocating I haven't seen any Orioles or Verdins at the oranges, but I did see Gila Woodpeckers performing acrobatic acts just to reach one! I wasn't sure if he was having a little OJ with his ants, or oranges with a side of ants. Either way, the whole Gila family seems happy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Raven Attacks Remote Control Aircraft

Check out this amazing YouTube video of a "Raven" defending his airspace.  Country of origin for bird and video is unknown, but bird looks like a Hooded Crow, not a Raven.  Click HERE to go to YouTube, or click on video below.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lesser Goldfinches Still Nest-Building

Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria)

Its mid-June and our resident Goldfinches are still building nests.  The pictured nesting material is available at Wild Birds Unlimited.  DON'T use dryer lint!  Stay tuned for baby Lesser Goldfinches!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Common Yellowthroat at Granite Reef

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

Unseasonably cool weather has sent me out birding in June!!  While at Granite Reef Rec. Area along the Salt River, June 11th, I heard the Common Yellowthroat calling and calling and calling.  This time it was not down in the reeds, it was perched up in a mesquite!  Other birds seen included 2 pairs of Bullock's Orioles (one in photo on right), one Roadrunner, a few Ladderback Woodpeckers (photo on left), and lots of Lucy's Warblers who - in true warbler fashion -  refused to sit still and pose for my camera :-(.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Owling in the Desert

Usery Mountain Regional Park - All About Owls - Location: Nature Center. Date: 6/12/2010 Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM  What makes owls so different from other birds? Which owls live in our area? How do they survive and thrive in our desert? If you would like to know the answers to these questions, or any questions you may have about owls, then this one-hour presentation is for you! Bring your sandwich to the “Brown-Bag It” series inside our Nature Center as Ranger B shares some amazing facts about these rockin’ raptors. Entry Fee:  $6 / car

McDowell Mountain Park - Owl’s Eye View 
Date: 6/19/2010  Time:  6:30 PM to 9:30 (1 hour lecture followed by a 1.5 hour hike)  How much do you know about Owls? Learn all about the strategies these animals employ that make them such successful predators. After the program, stick around for an owl prowl at the Nursery Tank!  Go on the Owl Prowl with Ranger Amy - a moonlit hike to experience the desert like an owl. Look for owls and enjoy the cooler night air. Meet at the Nursery Tank Trailhead. This night walk is less than 2 miles total in length, and is on flat terrain on a wheelchair accessible trail.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Peach-faced Lovebirds are Back!

Peach-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis)
After being absent from our yards during March and April, the Lovebirds seem to have returned.  I wonder if they had a better food source in the spring months and didn't need to come to the feeders.  Or were they off to more remote locations to nest and fledge their young? 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What the Heck is THAT?!

Announcing a new feature on my Bird Blog - the Whatzit page.  Its a call to any and all of you to help me identify the birds in my photos.  Feel free to comment on any of the numbered Whatzits.  Here's a few recent photos that I need help with:
Taken in late May looking straight down the steep
embankment at Tempe Market Place habitat. 
 I know they are Swallows of some kind...?

Taken recently at Granite Reef Rec. Area in late
May 2010. 
Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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