Monday, August 27, 2012

Mon-late Monsoons

We've had some fun weather these past couple of weeks in Phoenix, with the August heat punctuated by intermittent monsoon aftershocks. It's like living in Dallas again-- 100°F at 7 am and then thunderclouds by noon. Silly troposphere just can't make up it's mind. Funky weather makes for funky birding as the daylight alternates by the hour and throws off feeding times.

Whatever mayhem the funky weathers visits on the birds is magnified for reptiles like this Twin-spotted Spiny Lizard, perhaps the only critters in Phoenix this time of year who really appreciate full sunlight.

The European Starlings at the DBG like to tune their voices in the overcast evening light. Their beautiful plumage almost makes up for everything that these birds have going against their popularity. Without any larger context, this bird is an emerald and ebony gem. The luster starts to fade when one considers how common they are, that they're introduced, and that they displace other species. Oddly enough, European Starling populations are actually decreasing in Europe--isn't that a weird thought.

The funky weather really got to this Inca Dove. It just kinda froze in the middle of a gravel path and stood perfectly still, perhaps waiting for the sun to reemerge. From its gaunt physique, I'd say this is likely a first year bird, and one who does not yet have the necessary life experience to know what to do when the sun is gone by 4pm.

Other birds at the DBG have problem adjusting at all. This Great Horned Owl was plunked on up in a mesquite tree. From his concealed position, he kept tabs on all the little bunnies hopping around below him and contemplated violent things.

Just to make sure this was, in fact, a Great Horned Owl, and not some other bird in disguise, I checked off some tell-tale characteristics.

Large Eyes and ability to turn head 180°-- check 

Large, intimidating, zygodactyl talons -- check

Gruff personality and sense that this awkward biped is an affront to an owl's regal existence? -- check

While the tiger owl waited up high, this debonair Cactus Wren, strutted around down low. The largest and loudest of the North American Wrens, these towering troglodytes act like they own the place. Seeing as they are the state bird, they may have a case. I like the pose here, and feel like this Wren should have a flag waving behind him in the background.

I'm sure that by the time this post is up, the clouds will be gone. As we're still in monsoon season, they'll probably be back this evening. Here's hoping.