On a Golf Course Southwest of Town

by Dan Weisz

Web presentation by Douglas everett @ Hummingbird Market

Golf Courses throughout the Foothills provide many resources for our desert wildlife.  If you spend any time near them I know you see a variety of wildlife.

I am able to do some birding monthly at the Sewailo Golf Course on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation, adjacent to Casino del Sol. Friends and I conduct bird inventories that we share with the course.  We worked through Tribal Council to get permission and we coordinate our walks with the Golf Course Pro continually.  It is always interesting to walk a site that is in the middle of the desert but that now includes almost 14 acres of ponds (thank you Central Arizona Project) and a large variety of vegetation, bushes and trees.  The wildlife can be outstanding.

Below are a few shots from our walk this week:

Roadrunners are regulars on the course.  This one has a tasty looking snack.

We always expect snakes but, surprisingly (and gratefully) rarely run across them.  This 12” long garter snake was sitting on the grass next to the golf path.  It is a (Marcy’s) Checkered Garter snake.  That red tongue and those red eyes are really something.

And a profile look at that tongue and those eyes.  Garter snakes are not venomous and will eat frogs, toads, insects, small fish, and worms.

And you can see why it is called a “checkered” garter snake because of the checkerboard pattern on its back.

This Red-spotted toad is too large now for the snake, but when the toad was smaller, or when the snake gets bigger, then watch out!  This toad is a Southwestern United States specialty:  https://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_redspotted_toad.php 

The exciting birds of the day were a flock of 19 White-faced Ibis that flew in to a retention pond right by the parking lot just after sunrise.  These birds are large wading birds that frequent marshes, and we don’t have very many marshes in Tucson.  We do see these birds during migration season, when we can see flocks flying overhead on their way ‘home’.  The adults have maroon or brown plumage.

White-faced Ibises are about two feet long but weigh only one pound.  Juvenile ibises are more metallic green.  Here is one preening.  The color is very different from the bird above.

And two birds side by side.  That long de-curved bill is about seven inches long, but looks so much longer.  They use that bill to probe in the mud for invertebrates to eat.