Not Quite All, but Mostly Desert-based Feathers Once Again

by Dan Weisz

After many whale photos, and then some of ocean birds and then some folks in unusual costumes, I’m back to focusing on mostly birds once again.  Although, I confess to leading off and ending with non-bird photos.  Enjoy!

We have plenty of coyotes in the Foothills and we all see them during the day and hear them at night.  Our group birded the Sewailo Golf Course on the Southwest side of town one early morning.  The first sunlight cast a golden glow on three very healthy looking coyotes who were out looking for breakfast:

A Say’s Phoebe reminded us of the rich plant diversity that had been created to support wildlife on the course.  There are plenty of insects there to feed a number of Say’s Phoebes that we see there regularly.  Say’s Phoebes are common in the Foothills area where ever there is a open country to hunt in.  Open country may mean desert fields, school ball fields, dry barren foothills or similar environments and they are equally comfortable around human areas.

In Pinal County, I saw a new tenant in an old hawk’s nest.  Great Horned Owls do not build their own nests.  They may take over unused nests of any large species, or will use about any type of platform to lay their eggs in with minimal ‘home improvement’ which may only amount to lining the nest with shreds of bark, leaves, etc.  They are comfortable living amongst us humans as this photo demonstrates.  In the middle of the desert, hawks, ravens and others will build a nest in the only tall “tree” around.  Here, the owl has taken advantage of someone else’s previous work.  We certainly hear Great Horned Owls in the Foothills.  In Southern Arizona, these birds are already sitting on their nests by January.

And a close-up.

A Lark Sparrow perched and sang next to an agricultural field.  This species has a very boldly striped face.

A Red-tailed Hawk atop an old telephone pole looks like he is focused on hunting.  His red tail, long sharp talons, and sharp hooked beak look great.  Notice his typically light breast and then look at the red-tailed hawk that follows this one.  This bird and the next were both found in agricultural areas of Pinal County and Red-tailed hawks are common in the Foothills.

This Red-tail below has the same body shape as the one above, the same facial characteristics, the same bill and talons, and the same red-tail but has a much darker body color.  This is called Dark Morph/Rufous Red-Tailed Hawk.

Horned Larks are songbirds of fields, deserts and tundra.  Their horns (not visible in this bird) are black feather tufts that are raised at the back of their crowns.   This bird was along the fields in Santa Cruz Flats.  You can listen to one’s beautiful voice here:  http://tinyurl.com/jl6j7ng

And one final look back at the Sonoran Desert of Baja California.  Below are three unusual plants that typify the desert in that region.  The Boojum Tree, on the right, is endemic to Baja.  It is related to ocotillo plants and looks like an inverted carrot.  This boojum is in bloom due to recent rains causing it to leaf out much as our ocotillos do after rains.  The middle plant is a small Cordon cactus which looks like a type of Saguaro cactus.  And the tree on the left is an elephant tree.  Each of these plants are so unusual looking that the area looks as if it was created by Dr. Seuss.