Jinxed on the Mountain

You can see the forest reflected in the squirrel’s eye.

Arizona Gray Squirrels (endemic to eastern AZ and northern Mexico)

Last Thursday, September 13, we headed back up to Willow Springs Lake on the Mogollon Rim. Last time we went, which happened to be on July 13, it rained a lot and Tony fell into a creek, necessitating a trip to the Payson ER. This was going to be a do-over. As we drove north, our new-to-us SUV’s a/c quit functioning and, as we were still in low elevations, it was pretty uncomfortable. We were coming up on the Mt. Ord turnoff and decided to just go there instead. Last time we were there, we took our car and I had vowed to not go up the winding, rutted 6 mile road again until we had a SUV. No problem, right?

Well, we went a little over 4 miles up and an ominous warning appeared on the dash, “Transmission Failure. Service Now.” That kinda spooked us since it would be really bad to break down up there with no cell service and no easy access for a tow. So we stopped and walked around for a while. When we started the SUV again, the warning light wasn’t on anymore so we headed back down to an area referred to as the “saddle” with a corral and a cistern with running water where there should have been a lot of birds.

Lesser Goldfinch

Acorn Woodpecker

Bridled Titmouse

We met this guy, coming for a drink:

There are several up there. There were also many butterflies! A few held still long enough for photos.

Arizona Sister

Mournful Duskywing

Bauer’s Giant-Skipper

I also got a lifer bird, called a Hutton’s Vireo, but the photo is pretty bad. After spending a couple hours roaming around the saddle, we decided we should head back home since we were still concerned about the a/c and transmission.

Much of the forest road is not this nice.

As we were leaving, a man in a pickup truck stopped and came and talked to us. He was very friendly and chatty. Turns out, he has lived on Mt. Ord since 1992 (as there is private property in amongst the forest land) and he regaled us with colorful mountain tales of bears, lions, rattlesnakes, and other critters. We learned that hunting is legal up there and it is now hunting season (I had guessed that from seeing a couple guys in camouflage with bows). We learned there are plenty of black bears, that mountain lion meat is tasty, that there is all sorts of interesting history on the mountain, involving Spaniards and miners and more.

Okay, he didn’t quite look like that (I wish) and it’s still a little hot to dress that way but you get the idea. He had removed the “F” from the back of his Ford pickup so that it read ORD. Meeting him made me realize, again, that as much as we like going to all these places and hiking around and thinking of ourselves as outdoorsy nature buffs, there’s city folk and there’s country folk, and they’re not the same.

Turkey Vultures

Next best surprise of the day was that our a/c worked just fine and the transmission light never came on again. Nevertheless, the SUV (not Ford-tough) is going in for a checkup Monday and we are not going to attempt any more trips on the 13th of any month, any day.

 

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Earth-based Faith

Like many other people, I’ve been constantly monitoring the last two U.S. hurricanes (with a 3rd and 4th coming) and their damage on TV as well as reading news coverage about the forest fires in Montana and Oregon and the earthquake in Mexico and wondering why there are so many natural disasters lately here and throughout the world. Some of it is definitely human-caused in the form of climate change and carelessness. Yes, there have always been hurricanes and earthquakes and forest fires but the increased frequency, size, and intensity are from climate change, the climate scientists agree. It’s sad what is happening to our planet.

I’m sure many of us know people in several of the affected areas and are concerned for their well-being. We have a friend who lives in Puerto Rico now who is okay but is without power and that could last for several months. The U.S. and British Virgin Islands are decimated. Cuba is currently being pummeled. Texas will be recovering for a long time. I have a cousin who lives on Florida’s gulf coast and, although he isn’t there at the moment, he is concerned about his house as so many people are. I have another friend who evacuated and is in Mississippi until Irma passes through, also hoping he has a home to return to. I have a blogger friend who is actually fighting the forest fires in Montana and a friend who was supposed to go to Portland to visit her kids today but decided against it when they told her there was ash floating everywhere.

Last night, just coincidentally, we went to an event sponsored by the Grand Canyon Trust where a Navajo woman spoke eloquently about her earth-based faith and what the land on the Navajo Nation means to her, how she respects it, how water is power, how the spirits of her ancestors still reside there, how she goes there to seek peace all while developers are trying to coerce the Navajos into letting them build resorts there. The U.S. government is considering reducing or eliminating existing National Monuments so we can have more development and less nature.

I’ve been trying to document Fibonacci spirals demonstrating nature’s perfection but this is as far as I’ve gotten:

Virgin Murex

Fiery Skipper

West Indian Fighting Conch

So for now, I’m sending prayers for those being affected by natural disasters…not just in the U.S. but throughout the world, including all the poor animals. We need to be better custodians of our planet while we still have it.

Northern Mockingbird, Florida and Texas State Bird

Western Meadowlark, Montana and Oregon State Bird

Crested Caracara, Mexico’s National Bird

Montezuma Well

Variegated Fritillary

Montezuma Well is part of Montezuma Castle National Monument in Rimrock, AZ (even though it’s in a location several miles away). It is a natural limestone sinkhole that has been home to many ancient cultures, spanning more than 1,000 years, including the Sinagua, Hohokam, and Salado peoples. By 1425, the people had migrated to other areas but the Well is still a sacred place for the Hopi, Zuni, Yavapai, Western Apache, and other Native American cultures.

The Well itself is 386 feet in diameter and holds over 15 million gallons of water. It is fed by Beaver Creek through a long, narrow cave (called the swallet) to reapppear on the other side at the outlet. The water contains arsenic and high quantities of carbon dioxide so fish cannot live in it but five endemic species have evolved here that exist nowhere else on the planet: amphipods, predatory leeches (not blood-suckers), water scorpions, spring snails, and a unique, single-celled diatom.

The people of the Sinagua culture began building the dwellings in the cliffs around the Well seen here.

These 125 steps, above, lead to the swallet. We went, instead, to the outlet which was only 45 steps down.

The largest sycamore tree in Arizona is down at the outlet.

Creekside

Along the creek at the outlet

I’m pleased that I finally broke my losing streak of ZERO lifers lately by finding one down by the outlet.

Summer Tanager, male (lifer)

We also saw the female but she was shyer and much less colorful. We also spotted a few other birds that we don’t see too often.

Bridled Titmouse

Brewer’s Sparrow

Western Wood-Pewee

There are ruins of other cultures scattered over the whole area.

Sinagua Dwelling

The ranger told us that we could probably see a Great Horned Owl if we went over to the picnic area. After much searching through the big cottonwoods and sycamores, Tony spotted him!

Okay, not really, but it had us fooled for a minute. We never did find the real owl.

Here is a short, minute-and-a-half video that the National Park Service did about the Well. This really is a strange and fascinating place.

 

 

Globe

House Sparrow

This handsome sparrow posed so prettily for me that I had to take his photo.

Lesser Goldfinches

We went on a day trip to Globe last week. Once again, a trip with no lifers or even very unusual birds. I had a goal to get 60 lifers this year and I’m at 43, I think, but have not had good luck the last few trips.

Vermilion Flycatchers, male and female

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Phainopepla, female

Besh Ba Gowah

Our main destination in Globe (other than trying, unsuccessfully, to find a good birding place) was Besh Ba Gowah, a partially restored ruin of the Salado people who occupied the site between AD 1225 and AD 1400.

First surveyed and mapped in 1883 by Adolph Bandolier, the ancient ruins occupied by both the Hohokams and the Rio Salado Indians beginning in AD 1600 came to be known as Besh Ba Gowah. It means “a place of metal” in Apache. Later in 1920, a local woman, Irene Vickery, supervised the excavation for the next 20 years and uncovered nearly 200 rooms and 350 burial sites. After her death in the 1940s, the site was left unattended.

But in the 1980s, a Globe councilman, Louie Aguirre, stepped in and rallied support from the city and local community to bring in the Department of Anthropology at Arizona State University to undertake a re-excavation and reconstruction of the site. Parts of it have been left in the excavated state and parts were reconstructed (which, apparently, is controversial in the archaeological world).

Anyway, it was interesting, inexpensive, the employees were very friendly, no one else was there but us for most of the time, and they had bird feeders. They also had a botanical garden and an ethno-botanical garden. They have some crops growing that are similar to crops grown when it was an active Salado community, including teosinte, an ancestor of corn and maize. It was also cooler than Phoenix with a nice breeze blowing…so, all in all, it was a good trip and a pretty drive.

Roasting pit

 

Melting/Molting

Curve-billed Thrashers

All the critters in our yard are either melting, molting or both right now. The thrashers dig holes and lay in them to keep cool. Notice the second one is drifting off to sleep, showing his nictitating membrane. We have a lot of shade and some water so they are able to keep relatively comfortable.

Abert’s Towhee, refreshing in bird bath

Anna’s Hummingbirds

House Finch, male youngster

Ash-throated Flycatcher (or Brown-crested Flycatcher)

I was surprised to see the above bird as I’ve never had one in the yard before. That is yard bird species #32. If it was a Brown-crested Flycatcher, it would be a lifer (bird never seen before) but when I asked the “experts, ” about half said it was Brown-crested and half said it was Ash-throated so I still don’t really know. It’s a juvenile, whichever it is.

Cicada Exoskeleton

Baby House Sparrows (possibly House Finches), I can’t really tell

The following 2 shots are in the “Things Only the Camera Sees” category. I didn’t notice until I looked at my photos that this Verdin was shedding a feather just as I was taking pics. It’s too bad it was behind branches and so dark.

Verdin

Stripey, preferring muddy rain water to fresh water.

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