For posts on local birding and conservation in Phoenix, there are none better than Peggy Thomas's blog Birding Without Barriers, which recently changed its URL.
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The word inspires many different thoughts and emotions. From spliced fruit trees to alternative fuel cars, the concept of 'hybridization' is neither foreign nor shunned in mainstream society. In the natural world, hybridization does not occur for better fuel economy, cleaner emissions, or a more intriguing fruit. Natural hybridizations occur for the mightiest reason of all. Two animals of different species decide to shun the normal standards and expectations, the pressures of their microcosmic societies to pursue love. Or maybe it's just one wild night, one moment of passion. Maybe they're just color-blind and/or deaf. Maybe (probably) it's totally stochastic.
Some birds are more famous for their hybridizations than others. Mallards and other ducks, along with western gulls, are some of the most infamous perpetraitors. Certain species of Hummingbirds and Warblers also indulge in that funky dance.
Of course, the curious, somewhat frustrating thing about hybrids is that, despite being necessarily rarer than either of the individual species making up the mix, the hybrid is not countable on any official bird-keeping lists. With some of the ducks and gulls this is less of an issue, as both of the component species are usually fairly common, but I felt the sting of the hybrid curse a few weeks ago down in Miller Canyon with this Flame-colored x Western Tanager, where a pure Flame-colored Tanager is quite the prize.
To be fair, Flame-colored hybrids are about as common in the southeast corner of the state as pure Flame-colored Tanagers, no doubt because of the greater numbers of Western Tanagers in that area.
I found this bird while actually exploring off the trail for a suitable restroom. It was foraging and calling from a mighty sycamore tree, each of us attending to our various needs.
The vibrance of the bird's orange seemed promising at first and in that light, but upon later examining photos I was disappointed, though unsurprised, to see that this bird was a hybrid.
While the orange is strong, it's not the near blood-ornage color of a pure bird. This specimen's upper wing bar/coverts also has a yellow tint, indicative of Western Tanager genes, and the back was too solid a dark.
In this regard, mainstream society is far advanced beyond official birding culture. When will our nerd society finally progress far enough that we might count hybrids among equals in the bird world? Our retrograde rules and institutions...don't they deserve the same rights, recognition, and list-ability as all the other birds? Flame on, Mr. Tanager.
On the other hand, how would one count a hybrid? As two species, as its own separate species? Some people just keep a separate list for hybrids they've seen. Separate but equal...no way.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
For this year's North American Migration Count (NAMC) I headed out to Alamo Lake in La Paz County, about 2 and a half hours outside of Phoenix. Fed by the Big Sandy, Santa Maria, and Bill Williams Rivers, Alamo Lake is a reservoir like many of the others in central Arizona. It's sizable, pleasant, and also a bit sterile. Its ample waters and its lush riparian habitats combine to make some great birding, and some excellent rarities, in the form of Mew and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, already turned up at the lake a few months ago.
As of May 11th, with many of the winterfowl now departed but for a handful of Teal and Mallards, the Western Grebes are now the dominant force on Alamo Lake. It took about two hours to count 274 of them.
Ever elegant, the Western Grebes are always a treat to see, especially with a couple Clark's hidden in the flocks, and they were accompanied by smaller regiments of the not elegant American Coots, and the in-between elegant Eared Grebes.
In the Alamo NAMC waterfowl department, a Common Loon was the highlight, even though it dodged away before I could photograph the thing. I spent a fair portion of time kayaking around the La Paz portion of Alamo Lake. The Western Grebes were problematic on their own, timing their dives and disappearances to perfection. We spotted the Loon while loading into the water, but by the time I was sea-ready it had disappeared, and thus I am still without photos of any Loon species. Only these more static onlookers remained.
It was unreasonable to hope that now, in mid-May, the Lesser Black-backed or Mew Gull would still be around the lake. It was preposterous. It was reckless. It was irresponsible. Just a tiny bit...I hoped anyway. Needless to say, vagrant Gulls of that magnitude were not to be found this time around and this time of year, but towards the end of next winter I will certainly be larus looking at Alamo. In the mean time, I had to make do with the usual stuff--Ring-billed and Franklin's Gulls--plus a nice, full cycle California Gull.
Though eBird flagged it as a rarity, the California Gull didn't come as a great surprise. They sporadically turn up in Phoenix during migratory months, and Alamo Lake matches any of the central Arizona water features. What made this sighting particularly nice was that, after first spotting the Gull on a distant fly-by, it landed pretty close to the kayak, was still on the La Paz side of the lake, and was in a mature plumage, unlike everybody else around him.
It ain't an Ivory Gull, nor even a Black-headed, but hey the state bird of Utah is no slouch. He was the biggest, baddest gull in Alamo, the Davy Crockett, if you will, and he bossed the subservient Ring-bills around quite magnificently.
In case you're wondering, yes, the California Gull is giving the Ring-billed a piggy-back ride. He is a magnanimous and benevolent Gull overlord.
With the great possibility of rarity sighting on the water, kayaking and surveying were great fun. However, the biggest attraction at Alamo Lake is, I think, the massive, thick, jungly riparian habitat in the northeast corner of the lake. To get here by car, one has to backtrack several miles and then take Park Road northwest towards a way station. It's a dusty, onerous drive, but when one finally clears the last hill the verdant expanse is breathtaking. With so many of the standard red and brown, dry cliffs and hills in the area, this strip of green amazes.
Tons and tons of salt cedar, tamarisk, willows, and cottonwoods cram around where three rivers--the Big Sandy, Bill Williams, and Santa Maria--all empty into Alamo Lake. The rivers weren't too high this time, but clearly this riparian area is well-watered.
The Alamo riparian forest didn't yield any Gray Hawks or eastern Warblers, the sort of rare vagrants one might hope for, but Yellow-breatsed Chats, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Bell's and Warbling Vireos, and Tanagers were making a cacophony I've only seen comparably emulated in a grade school cafeteria. With the foliage being so thick, the views weren't actually that great, but it was a great practice is ear-birding and a charming acquaintance with another big riparian tract, Arizona's most precious and fragile habitat.
Since it is relatively remote and, most of all, totally removed from any other attractions that might draw people to it, Alamo Lake is very under-birded. I can't say I'll make it a frequent stop, but certainly pulling through here once a year would a good move.
I have to mention a special thanks to my dad, Larry Butler, for all of his help in surveying through the heat and dust, as well as helping me lug around a bulky kayak and bush-crash through acres of scratchy salt cedar and tamarisk.
It will be very interesting and enjoyable to see all the final findings for La Paz county's NAMC, but one thing I found for sure is another solid birding spot in Arizona.
Friday, May 10, 2013
There are several famous sit-n'-spots in southeastern Arizona, where generous landowners and B&B managers maintain numerous feeders and lovely properties to keep the beautiful birds of southeastern Arizona concentrated in certain areas. Of course, this also attracts birders. Many of these sites--Paton House, Batiste B&B, Beatty Guest Ranch--have also established themselves as very reliable places to see some of the southeastern rarities. The Beatty place hosts Spotted Owls in Miller Canyon while the Paton House is visited by a Violet-crowned Hummingbird every day. If a birder is hoping to see these species, there are few places better.
Mary Jo's Ash Canyon B&B is another such establishment. Maintained by the very knowledgable and charitable Mary Jo Ballator, it hosts a Lucifer Hummingbird, along with many other pretty plumaged patrons, through the spring and summer. After our thorough birding in Miller Canyon early in the morning and afternoon two weeks ago, we spent some time at Mary Jo's in the hope that a Lucifer's Hummingbird would show itself. It's always easy to spend some time at these sit-n-spots, because there's a guarantee of plentiful, close-up views of many great birds, even if one misses the actual target (which we did. If you're hoping for Lucifer's photos, turn back now).
Lazuli Buntings occur in riparian areas in Maricopa County later in the spring, in conservative numbers and with a certain amount of trepidation. At Mary Jo's, one can sit only a few feet away as they forage, by the dozens, among her hedges and seed-scattered log piles.
Of course, there's a certain dissatisfaction in photographing of cool birds standing on feeders and artificial bird attractions, but the enterprising birder can find sites around the property where, even though though the birds are still sort of baited, they're not directly partaking in the unnatural attractions.
The roving Lazuli Buntings were joined by chipping and Lark Sparrows, along with the occasional, more uncommon Indigo Bunting. Seeing either one of these species is a great treat in Phoenix. Just a few hours down south they actively mingle and feed together in droves.
Many of the male Lazuli Buntings were not in their full plumage yet, and it was charming to see their patches of brown clinging to their caps like velvet on a young deer's antlers.
With the Lucifer Hummingbird proving to be a no-show, the main attraction around the Ash Canyon B&B property, for me, were the black, orange and white birds. This nifty color combination, in addition to describing Halloween, reaches across a few families of birds and, nicely enough, they're all stunningly beautiful.
Bullock's Orioles have made a big power play in recent years and are now, by far, the most common Oriole I see in Maricopa County. There were several of them in Ash Canyon, and even though they were outsized by some of the other O/B/W birds, they stood up for themselves well, and ultimately carved out a parcel of tree to be Bullock's boulevard.
Black-headed Grosbeaks were by far the most numerous of the O/B/W category. At one point, Mary Jo's seed trays had no less than eleven birds, many immature, clambering for a spot and a mouthful of crunchies. They have this massive beak after all. I believe they have an instinctive feeling of insecurity if they're not constantly crushing nuts. Watch out...
The plumage variations on Grosbeaks is quite amazing. Sure, it doesn't compare to Wood Warblers or waterfowl, but it's cool how there's Blue and Yellow Grosbeak, the ravishing Crimson-collared Grosbeak, and then this guy, who could easily fit in with a flock of Orioles if he just traded in the beak.
They're not particularly uncommon in the spring and summer months, nor particularly shy, but it's always exciting to see that bulky mass of orange, black, and white barreling through the air, or for that matter, perched in a mesquite.
The most resplendent of the O/B/W birds down south isn't actually orange at all, but a very striking combination of yellow, orange, and white (*editor's note: I'm purposefully neglecting Flame-colored Tanager from this mix, since it is not a mainstay).
Scott's Orioles used to be a regular occurrence in central Arizona, but I have not seen one in central Phoenix for some years now, and one of the few cosistent places to find them in Maricopa County is on the slopes of Mt. Ord. They were much more plentiful down south, not only at Mary Jo's but also in Miller Canyon and other areas around Ash Canyon. This unsatisfactory young bird was the first one which I got a good visual for the day, but there was better to come.
Especially in the desert, lots of birds adopt the 'economy of style' for their wardrobe, and make the most of various browns, grays, olive, and buffy hues to both look handsome and also blend into their arid environment. The whole Oriole group, much like the Tanagers and Grosbeaks, totally torpedos that idea. They're loud to hear and to observe; loud, but certainly not unpleasant.
Their scarcity in central Maricopa made the Scott's Orioles one of the trip highlights for me, though they were not a lifer, year bird, county bird, or even a month bird. We never get tired of looking at beautiful things or listening to beautiful music either right? I can see why Scott wanted to claim this bird to be his, this bird, and no other.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Last Weekend I made a trip down to Miller Canyon and the Huachuca Mountains for Crescent-chested Warblers, a pair of which were seen and heard there for two days, only days after a separate report of a CCWA (I have no idea if that's the code) in the Chiricahuas. That Saturday evening ended with a stake out at Ash Canyon B&B, where we waited for a Lucifer Hummingbird, the other potential lifer (along with the CCWAs) on which I dipped for the trip.
Between 4:00pm and 5:30pm though, there was not a lot of activity in Ash Canyon nor was the Hummingbird expected, so we were faced with a dilemma. We had some time--not a lot--to move to another location and try to buff up our list for the day, or we could just stay put in case it showed early. The Sierra Vista grasslands, lying adjacent to the Huachuca mountains, held the potential for a few more birds and were close enough that we could be there and back by 6:00pm, so we decided to leave our Ash Canyon post and try this new habitat.
There was not a particular site for the grasslands. Nice-looking and not-so-nice-looking neighborhoods spread out in Sierra Vista, and we drove around until we found a promising turn off, one that would put us far enough out into the tall grass and away from any grumpy porch-dwellers who were giving us the evil-eye as we slowly drove by their domiciles.
Almost immediately upon our foray we were rewarded with a Swainson's Hawk, at that point a new bird for the day and one that's always a pleasure to see.
The real target for the site was Scaled Quail, a tricky bird to turn up and one that would be a state bird for me, as I had only before seen them in Colorado. While driving around Sierra Vista we found a dozen Gambel's Quail, but the Scaled were proving elusive.
At the more promising pull off, next to an industrial warehouse and with plenty of space, three other birders and I spread out and advanced through the grasses, with eyes, ears, cameras, and binoculars at the ready. After about ten minutes, and two Brewer's Sparrow, one of the scaly little plumpers flushed up onto some mesquite snags. What a satisfying sight!
The whole plan to pursue this bird had materialized pretty quickly and spontaneously. With little planning or work, we had turned up a state bird a gotten very nice views. On top of that, Scaled Quail is a handsome subject, big enough and distinct enough to leave a unique impression. Since the ornery Lucifer's Hummingbird never did show that evening anyway, I'm very glad we made this detour.
When the Quail first flushed it seemed pretty anxious, but after a minute to regain its composure, the bird perched comfortably and even called a bit, though nobody answered back.
On our way back to Ash Canyon, we were then treated to improved views of Swainson's Hawk, with the earlier tree bird now bettered by another, closer specimen brazenly perching on a utility wire.
We were expecting this bird to flush as we drove back towards the highway, as it was posed right next to the dusty dirt road and we couldn't detour around it. Contrary to our expectations and normal behavior, it stayed put, posing with great confidence.
Everyone in our party of four was able to get great close-up views of this Swainson's light morph.
After satisfying our needs for close up raptor time, the bird then flew off to satisfy a need of its own. It made a beeline for the other Swainson's, which was still perched in its cottonwood. Without hesitation, the two began copulating in the tree, and we figured it was time to go.
The Scaled Quail was not a lifer, and the day's outing to Miller Canyon, along with a night up on Mt. Lemmon had produced plenty of lifers, but the Scaled Quail was still one of the highlights of the trip. It was a tricky/uncommon enough bird to make the find feel special, we had great views, and the bird itself is super adorable. With all that brigandine, this stout bird is really a Battle Quail, and it will definitely charge you with that Q-tip horn. Great bird.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Prescott and Yavapai county...lying only an hour and fifteen minutes to the north, they're the closest non-Maricopa county/region to central Phoenix, and they also have some nice, cooler, high elevation birding spots. One of my birding buddies is a big booster of the Prescott scene, and a few weeks ago I joined him for a half day of exploring around Watson and Willow Lake. These are two of the most well known and visited of Prescott's five central lakes, and in addition to boasting some nice riparian habitats, they also draw in some excellent waterfowl, both of which grabbed my attention.
The first critter of interest at Watson Lake was not a bird though, but this big and beautiful moth hanging out on the bathroom shed.
It was a cool morning but not chilly, though it had snowed only a week before. While walking through the Watson riparian area, American and Lesser Goldfinches made plenty of noise, and various Vireos vociferously voiced from the treetops. Tree Swallows reveled in the morning light, and the occasional Lazuli Bunting buzz broke out from the dense foliage along the creek.
The Watson Riparian area opens up after a short walk, and while the pathways on both side of the lake were frequented by cyclists, we still had some nice views and nice birding. Four Cassin's Kingbirds all in a row along a telephone line made for a quirky sighting, and this precocious Western Kingbird nipped from fence post to fence post, with a swarm of his breakfast buzzing in the background.
These sightings were a great way to get going, but we also came to Watson lake with some specific targets. The liminal habitat between the riparian washes and the open lake is prime Wood Duck territory, and a recent report of White-winged Scoter also piqued our interest.
The first of our target birds came from the southwest shore, when Tommy spotted a handsome drake Wood Duck in the shallow junk. It was too far for passing photos, but Tommy's spotting scope made for some great views. Apart from an escaped Mandarin, this is the most colorful bird one might find floating in or perched around North American ponds.
Walking a mile up the southwestern shore, we decided to leave the main trail, somewhat on a whim, to explore an inviting little inlet. With a few Redhead couples, it had some waterfowl not yet seen that day. Tommy then spied a large, brownish, generally dull feathery floaty thing. Perfect!
When the bird finally lifted its head, it was indeed the White-winged Scoter.
It's not Wood Duck; it's not even the most colorful Scoter, but White-winged is a solid find anywhere in Arizona, and one I was glad to record for the second time in the last couple of years.
The sleek Franklin's Gulls were another attraction at Watson Lake. These migrators are more numerous in the state now than they were several weeks ago, and even while they were distant, their handsome hoods eye-catching eye rings are always nice to see.
By the time we reached our second destination at Willow Lake, the wind had really intensified. We scoped out some Blue-winged Teal, along with a Lesser Yellowlegs and two Black-necked Stilts (all good finds for the area), along with the expected regimen of waterfowl, but otherwise the whipping wind kept the birding pretty muted.
On the plus side, fancy flyers like the Franklin's Gulls enjoyed the free lift, and we had much closer views than were afforded at Watson Lake.
A pair of California Gulls added some larus diversification to the mix, though they were both uglier and farther away. Hey, a year bird is a year bird.
We were surprised to see a Turkey vulture cutting through the Gull cloud, seemingly spurred with a purpose not as characteristic of the buzzards. As the raptor passed overhead though and the light became more helpful, the white tail bands allowed us to add Zone-tailed Hawk to our list for the day.
The windswept water of Willow Lake was not a deterrent for the Eared Grebes, whose numbers seemed bolstered in the breeze, by comparison, as many other birds sought shoreline inlets for cover. We didn't find the target Red-breasted Merganser here, though I found some at Glendale the next day and thus no hard feelings were felt.
We're cool; you be windy if you want to, Willow Lake.
The Willow Lake shoreline is a very interesting, impressive combination of sandy shale and wind-rounded granitic mounds. My proclivities towards bush crashing and impatience got the best of me; eventually I gave up the Merganser scouting to explore the miniature canyons.
Down in Phoenix, the Yellow-rumped Warbler population has dramatically decreased for the season. It's a shame how that timing in central Arizona works out, because few of the wintering YRWA get into their really sharp plumage before they leave.
They had bulging numbers in the Prescott area though, and they were pretty to boot. Tommy also had a nice Myrtle subspecies show for him, and I spent time battling this Audubon's variety with my broken autofocus. He ducked, bobbed, and weaved in a manner than would make both professional boxers and squirmy children proud. Magnificent bugger...
It's funny how when wind, rain, or general afternoon doldrums make for sparse birding, something so common can, and will, become a fascination. In part for lack of better birds on which to spy, I followed this yellow-chinned chicken around for a good twenty minutes, never coming away with anything better than the photo below, but nonetheless feeling very satisfied overall.
Cooper's Hawks aren't such big fans of soaring in the thermals, but I wouldn't have assumed they were big fans of awkward perching atop the tallest boulder by the trail. This weirdo just apparently forgot how to hawk or something, but after a minute's time for his amnesia, plus the realization that people were looking, he departed to find a more accipitery perch.
We recorded somewhere near seventy species for the half day and enjoyed some gorgeous weather, in addition to some gorgeous birds. With the commute to these Prescott locations being only slightly longer than many of the best Maricopa spots, this may well become one of Butler's Birds frequently frequented.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
One of Phoenix's main attractions, in addition to the excellent dining scene and cheap, plentiful alcohol, is that there are mountains right in the middle of the city. Sandwiched in between the SR 51 highway and Tatum Boulevard, the Phoenix Mountain Preserve showcases the marvelous combination of urban life and nature-scapes that Phoenix brings together so well. Just a few miles to the east, Camelback Mountain just east is one of the most hiked peaks in America. True enough, it's harder to enjoy these scenes when it's 104 °F in late April (come on!), but when I swung by the Phoenix Mountain Preserve in early April, it was an all round' gorgeous scene.
This is a nice place for hiking and mountain biking, but it's not normally on my rotation of local birding hotspots. It features great scenery and good birding, but an average day at Papago or the Desert Botanical Gardens will yield more species of the same genre.
However, in late March and early April, just for a few weeks, the washes in the Phoenix mountains provide temporary housing for migrating Long-eared Owls, a coveted bird anywhere in the U.S., and all the more so in the Sonoran desert. With these Owls in mind, I made several trips into the Preserve, one with fellow birders Tommy D. (who had more success than I) and Dominic Sherony, and another with a great birder, naturalist, and field guide author Duncan Butchart, from South Africa.
As far as the secretive Long-eared Owls go, below is my only sighting and only shot of the beasts. Yes, it's the dark, hazy shape in the lower center of the photo, ruining an otherwise lovely shot of some mesquite trees. If you came here for sweet Owl shots, you're in the wrong neighborhood!
The visuals I had on the Owl were better than the photo, enough to ID the bird by its size and flight, but it wasn't the most satisfying of sightings. The treks through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, on the other hand, were absolutely beautiful, both for the birds and the general desert wildlife.
The Long-eared Owls prefer the dense mesquite and palo verde trees in the many jutting washes of the Phoenix Mountains, and so into these shady, rattlesnake-infested gullies the daring birder must go. The explorer must have a nerve, and socks, of steel, for the cactus spines and dry grass prickers, along with non-stop flash mob rattlesnake attacks, can leave one worse for the wear.
Luckily there are enough feathery gems, like this shady Anna's Hummingbird, to make the misses very, very palatable. I bet if I'd gone searching deliberately for Anna's, I would've found Owls instead.
In between the sandy, brushy declivities preferred by the Owls, flat expanses of scrub grass, cholla cactus, and creosote span all through the mountain range. These desert-specialist plants serve as nifty perches for late migrant Sage Thrashers, as well as Black-throated Sparrows just starting to settle in.
The very thick tangles of brush form impenetrable webs of stickers and misery for any creature that comes to close. Any creature, that is, that's not tiny. Roving clans of Brewer's Sparrows find these bristling brush piles to be irresistible, and in fact they even seem to inspire song.
In the dull color vs. great vocalization ratio, Brewer's Sparrows are tops. Their lengthy song, a combination of chips, whistles, and buzzing vibratos is both recognizable and delightful, even if their preferred habitat must be enjoyed from a distance.
Ash-throated Flycatchers don't care for the prickly stuff so much, and they, like the numerous Say's Phoebes in the area, will take a clear perch atop a mesquite any day. This, below, may have been the exact view first enjoyed by the ornithologist who named the bird.
With their prickly perches, the Brewer's Sparrows bring some sting to the Sonoran birding flavor. Ash-throated Flycatchers, needless to say, bring some smoke, and the Say's Phoebe's, with their beautiful cinnamon wash and acrobatic, unabashed fly-catching, bring some spicy flavor. Like a nice pork chili verde, these desert birds, seen in their respective microhabitats, produce a dish that's not particularly rare or difficult, but one that is nonetheless a salivating feast, especially when one is starved of Owls!
Speaking of feasts, the Phoenix Mountain Washes did produce some interesting signs of Long-eared interest. This Western Fence Lizard (correct me if I'm wrong) would make a nice little snack in the twilight hour, and for the main course...
How about a nice, plump ground squirrel? This was left in the middle of one of the washes, no doubt as an intentional warning, from the Owls, against any paparazzi intruders.
Though they tended to dominate the Sonoran soundtrack, the Brewer's Sparrows didn't have a total lockdown on the little brown bird symphony. Rock Wrens and Curve-billed Thrashers chimed their pretty notes too, sometimes even from the same rocky perches, though in this case the Trasher was busy with nesting material. Two's company, but I made it three and that's a crowd.
The birds will always be of primary interest, but there are many other aspects of the Mountain Preserve to enjoy. Especially with the evening lighting, the blooming cactus are absolutely stunning. After more than twenty years of desert romping and roaming, I can (un)safely say that I've been pricked by every possible Arizona cactus in every possible place. Despite them making many tracts of landscape somewhat hostile, and making some yards totally inhospitable to soccer balls for unlucky boys, I wouldn't trade them for the world.
They can grow for months without water and even, apparently, grow out of solid rocks walls (or out of the tiny dirt margins in between the rocks. Like a fine zinfandel or malbec, the hardship that these plants endure does nothing to vitiate their color (or flavor), and actually seems to maximize their aesthetic.
The cactus also provide homes to legions of desert fauna, and not just the Brewer's Sparrows. Curve-billed Thrashers and Cactus Wrens make their massive, messy nests in the bosom of cholla bunches, while the massive Saguaro cacti house Gila Woodpeckers and Western Screech Owls in their cavities. The hinges of saguaro arms provide solid domestic foundations as well, not only for Mourning Doves but also, as I discovered, for Roadrunners, keeping the young safe and high off the ground, until they are grown and ready to terrorize everything that's smaller than they are.
As April has worn on, the sun set of my Long-eared Owl opportunities. They will be back again, and so will I. It is comforting that, while it will dry out and brown in the next several months, the rugged beauty of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve will stay a constant.