Archive for Critters

Spring in the Desert

Beavertail Cactus Flower Pink Hedgehog Cactus Flower

For the past couple of days, some of our native cacti have had flowers open up. The one on the left is a flower on one of our beavertail cacti and the one on the right is on a hedgehog cactus. Both species are native and were growing here when we moved in over ten years ago (that long?).

Below are a couple of male House Finches who are engaged in their spring rituals of trying to attract the attention of female Finches with their spring songs and aerial dances. These are so nice to watch in addition to Cardinals, Doves, Thrashers, Woodpeckers and Phainopeplas doing their things as well.

There are many other species of birds and mammals running about this patch of desert in the springtime. It’s like having our own private zoo.

House Finch Singing House Finch on Rosemary Shrub

Click on any of the images to enlarge.

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Another New Camera Lens

SL1 w/New 250mm LensI posted here before about acquiring a 400mm telephoto lens for my little Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and that lens is worth every dime I spent on it. The only drawback is its size and weight when you want to go out into the desert to capture a few photos of critters. It is a bit clunky lugging it around on a walk up the road or for other events where you might want to get photos of subjects that may be dozens of yards away or perhaps more than that.

Image - Camera with the new EF-S 55-250mm Zoom Lens attached. Click on the image to enlarge.

The SL1, when I purchased it in 2014, shipped with the standard 18-55mm lens and an additional 75-300mm telephoto lens, neither of which were of really decent quality. The latter, after a couple of years, developed an autofocus intermittency and had to be scrapped. Plus, in 2019, we replaced the stock lens with a superior quality 18-135mm lens.

So, the bottom line is that I wanted a lightweight intermediate zoom lens for those times that I mentioned above. So far, since I received the new lens last Thursday, I am pleased with its performance. I took the cactus wren photo today at a range of about 35 feet and the lunar photo last Friday during the full February “Snow Moon.” I cropped both images down from the full-frame size to enhance the subjects. Click on either image to enlarge. I am especially pleased with the sharpness of the mountains and craters on the moon which is not bad for an intermediate telephoto lens.

Cactus Wren on Saguaro Snow Moon

I other news, I renewed my expired AZ Driver’s License yesterday. The expiration was covered by an extension due to the pandemic, but that extension ran out at the end of February, so I drove to the MVD and got my renewal. I should get the new license by mail in a week or two.

In other other news, our COVID-19 vaccines have not yet arrived in our area. There are two venues in town through which we can be vaccinated but neither on-line registration is yet available. We’re both eligible for the vaccines by virtue of age.

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Cabela is Twelve Today

Cabela is Twelve TodayToday, our elder dog, Cabela, is approximately twelve years old. I say that since when we adopted her from the Humane Society here in town, she was estimated to be about two years old but her actual birth date was unknown. That was ten years ago this month at the time we were having our Arizona house built.

Cabela is probably a pure bred miniature pinscher “blue” but we have no history on her other than she was found near the rodeo grounds up in Constellation Park here in Wickenburg. We figure she was cropped and bobbed by her original owners who managed to let her run off somehow. I pity their loss. At the same time, we feel fortunate to have this little dog despite her high-strung personality and a tendency to bark at most everything. She truly must think she’s ten feet tall and bullet proof.

At twelve, Cabela shows few signs of growing old. She is quite active, can still jump and run at full speed and when on a leash can drag “The Daddy” along to where she wants to go. Despite being headstrong, she can be a nice companion here at home and still sleeps on the bed with us, sometime stealing the covers. She is quite the character and we love her.

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Family Milestones and Other Events

Beethoven at 10 Years OldFirst of all, Happy Birthday to our beloved Beethoven (a.k.a “Bay Bay”) who is ten years old today. He is the youngest of the two Miniature Pinchers that run our household. We adopted him about eight and a half years ago and, needless to say, is a beloved family member.

Image - Bay Bay at Ten - Click to enlarge

Spring months bring a flurry of birthdays and such to our household and the family in general. Between now and the end of April, birthdays for all three of our granddaughters and one great granddaughter will occur. Moreover, we will probably have another April birthday this year as our middle granddaughter is expecting another little sister to her three year old on her 27th birthday. That will make a total of four great grandchildren. And tomorrow is the 24th birthday of our youngest granddaughter, who is engaged to be married at a date not yet known to us. Perhaps in June.

In other events, we are expecting a call from the Vision Center where both Damsel and I had our eyes examined and ordered new glasses. They typically are ready after a week or so and we will be making a second trip down to the valley (about 35 miles distant) to retrieve the new eyewear.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is being reported ad nauseum by the FakeNewsMedia© who blow it out of proportion mainly to discredit President Trump. The Media and Democrats (repeating myself) couldn’t give a red rodent rectum about the victims of a pandemic and merely use it to try and make the administration look bad - Trump Derangement Syndrome.

In the business news, the misreporting of the virus story has spooked investors to the point where our holdings in mutual funds have declined considerably, but not to the point of despair. We’re looking at it as an opportunity to eventually get back to where it was before because the distributions will now buy more shares at a discounted price. We remain solvent.

Our desert home is showing signs of spring already. There are flower buds appearing on many of the native and imported cacti around the yard. We were supposed to get some rain today, but currently it is sunny with no echoes visible on the radar in our vicinity. Although it will remain cool today thanks to a frontal passage, we will be expecting highs in the 70s later this week. We wish everyone (including ourselves) a nice, early spring.

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Open Season on Bark Scorpions

scorpio.jpgI just killed one of these in the garage this evening. They like to come out in monsoon season and infest under your “stuff” piled here and there. I sprayed Ortho all over the garage and at the entrance to the house. That particular brand of insect repellent/eradicator has done the trick here since we arrived in Arizona.

Bark scorpions can regularly be found all year long, but in the summer, especially at monsoon season, they are in abundance. We have seen them in sizes from less than an inch in length to over four inches.

They creep Damsel out a lot and I suppose they “bug” me a bit, too. They are fearsome-looking especially with the claws and the arched stinger tail in the strike pose. They appear to have eight appendages, but the “claws” are actually extended jaw parts for it to shove prey in its mouth. It’s not an arachnid, but an insect designated as Centruroides sculpturatus.

It’s the most poisonous scorpion in Arizona. Read more at the Wikipedia Article.

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Saguaro Cactus Flowers and Gila Woodpeckers

Saguaro Flowers Gila Woodpecker Browsing Flowers for Nectar
Mama Emerging Mama Aloft

Today was our grocery shopping day and, as usual, we stopped at the post office box to pick up the mail. While Bob was in getting the mail, I noticed that a large saguaro cactus across the parking lot had open flowers, some of the first of the season. When we were both back in the truck, we drove across the lot so I could get some photos of the beautiful open flowers on the cactus.

As we got close, we saw a Gila Woodpecker perched by the bunch of flowers on one arm of the cactus. I began snapping shots of the male bird as he browsed the flowers. Shortly after that, the woodpecker flew up the side of the cactus and perched there until the female woodpecker came out of the hole in the side of the saguaro. I was fortunate to get the shots above as the birds did their thing.

Wikipedia has this about the Gila Woodpecker:

The Gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the desert regions of the southwestern United States and western Mexico. In the U.S., they range through southeastern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.

They build nests in holes made in saguaro cacti or mesquite trees. Cavities excavated by these woodpeckers in saguaro cacti (known as a “boot”) are later used by a variety of other species, including the elf owl. There, they typically lay 3–4 white eggs, although as many as 6 or 7 have been noted. 2–3 broods are laid a year. Both sexes incubate and feed eggs.

Click on any image to enlarge.

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A Serious Pollinator

A Serious Pollinator

Now that the cactus flowers have started to open here at the homestead, the bees are out in force. I took this shot of a honey bee with its head, thorax and wings buried in the stamens of a hedgehog flower out front. The bee was burrowing down to gather nectar at the base of the stigma, I guess. Click on the image to enlarge.

Damsel and I have been out in the yard over the past couple of days taking photos of the recently opened flowers on both the beavertail cacti (opuntia basilaris) and hedgehog cacti (echinocereus engelmanii). There are flower buds forming on other cacti in the area and we will look forward to getting more images of those when opening.

The weather is quite pleasant this afternoon with light breezes and 93° temperature. The forecast is for more of the same tomorrow and then cooler at the end of the week with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. Gotta love the Arizona springtime weather!

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