North of Town

by Dan Weisz

Web Presentation by Douglas Everett @ Hummingbird Market

I visited two areas north of Tucson this week, taking a nice walk through the Honeybee Canyon Loop Trail and then finding a bridge further north that had Barn Owls roosting under it

The tenacity of life-forms in the desert never ceases to amaze me.  Here is a saguaro cactus that looks to be dead.  It’s trunk is brown, the outer skin has fallen off, several arms are lying on the ground to the right of the trunk, and yet one arm continues to thrive.  If you look at the arm resting on the canyon wall, you can see that only the bare ribs of the saguaro appear to be connecting that living arm to the “dead” trunk.  Somehow, sustenance is flowing through the center of those ribs and the saguaro lives on.

Signs of Humans:  Petroglyphs of the Hohokam people can be seen on one rock.  The Hohokam lived in that area between 500 A.D. to 1200 A.D.  There are a number of other unmarked archaeological sites nearby which, it is hoped, Oro Valley will continue to preserve.

A Rock Squirrel sitting on a rock surveys the canyon.

Signs of Humans:  On the east end of Honeybee Canyon, there are remnants of a dam that was constructed by sheep farmers around the early 1900’s.  The dam was eventually breached and the trail runs through it.  Will is a birder friend but I’ll bet those sheep farmers from 100 years ago would appreciate his beard.

East of the dam we ran across two Great Horned Owls roosting in a large mesquite tree.  They flew to the other side of the canyon to watch us go on our way.

I had heard about the possibility of Barn Owls underneath a bridge further north.  I drove to the spot and began my search.  The underside of the bridge offered very many open ‘squares’ that would seem to be great roosting spots for owls.  The whitewash confirms that owls had been present.

After a brief search, I found the owls.  The photos below are of one owl who seemed to sleep through my visit.  Barn Owls have the best high frequency hearing of any animals tested by humans, so I know that the owl heard my "thundering" footsteps in the soft sand of the wash.  However, besides giving a short peek, the owl did not seem to be perturbed by my presence.

A view of the owl’s other side:

Signs of Humans:  At one point, some clever young folks were somehow able to stick this sign to the underside of the bridge about twenty feet above the ground.  It made me smile!