Escape to Gilbert

Mexican Amberwing on Amaranth

I escaped my quarantine the other day, in the late afternoon, for a couple of hours. I went to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve where I go about once a year. I should really go more often as there is an extreme diversity of all sorts of birds…water birds, songbirds, raptors, and always a rarity or 2. I went in pursuit of a rarity this time. I had seen literally hundreds of photos of a Roseate Spoonbill that has been there for a few weeks in my Facebook birding group. Most of the photos were so pretty, up close, so you could see its pink feathered fluffiness in detail. Well, I didn’t get there until about 4pm and I heard it had left for the day so I walked around looking, to no avail, but saw a lot of other birds. About 6pm, as it was getting dark, disappointed, I headed back to my car and saw it in a different pond than those it usually frequents! It was out quite a ways and it was getting dark so I didn’t get those pretty, detailed photos that I had seen from other people. But I saw it and it was awesome and it was a new life bird (lifer)! And I have proof:

It has giant black feet! This is not a bird that you find in Arizona normally. It likes Florida and Texas and other Gulf coasts. Actually, right now there are also 3 more of them at Glendale Recharge Ponds, too, on the completely opposite side of town. I would love to go see them and if it ever cools off here before they leave, I am going to go look for them, too.

But here are a few more of the birds I saw before finding it…

Great Egrets

Great Blue Herons

Green Heron

Snowy Egret

This beautiful red amaranth was all over; I had never seen it there before.

Mallard in Amaranth

Now for some songbirds…

Yellow-rumped Warblers (last photo indicates source of name)

Say’s Phoebe
White-crowned Sparrow
Vermilion Flycatcher, immature male, SO CUTE!
Orange-crowned Warbler
Townsend’s Warbler

Different than my yard birds! This makes me want to get back out there birding after this intense heat we have had, much longer than usual, and this horrible quarantine we’re in!!!! It was nice to have a change of scenery…

Sequestered

Thanks to my cousin, Deborah, for describing these times as “sequestered,” so I could use it for this title.

Anna’s Hummingbird, male, and yes, nature called in the last photo.

Abert’s Towhee

This is the stalk from an agave that my neighbors gave me as I wanted it for a photo perch. So…this is the only bird I have seen use it briefly! Still hoping for a little more action.

Verdin, immature

The above photo is of a Gray Hairstreak, not a particularly good shot, but you can see how the markings on the hindwing mimic antennae and eyes so that a potential predator may attack there rather than the head.

I had one more socially distanced visit with my friend, Maggie, in a park the other day. It has now become so hot in Phoenix that it is doubtful we can do that for a couple more months. Saw a couple birds:

Black Phoebe
Northern Mockingbird
American Kestrel
Almost full moon on July 2

Here is something else I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on lately. It’s something of a “Vision Board” or “Dream Board,” hoping that it will manifest if I wish it so. It’s a composite photo with several layers of symbolic/representative elements added:

This was the original photo that I used, taken on the Apache Trail:

Some of the elements added were taken from the internet (most of them) and a couple were from photos I’ve taken, including the tiny hummingbird in the upper left.

I’ve also spent many hours collecting some 19th century photos and writing fact-based, fictional stories about the subjects and further hoping to include them in my road trip. In fact, on the road trip photo above, the box of photos is pictured on the lower right hand side. So I want to do a Road Show within a Road Trip. Yes, I know I sound nutty: sequestering can do that to you.

if you would like to see the vintage photos and read their stories, I have linked it here on my blog as a PDF. You can download it or just read it here: Fanciful Facts.

More of the Same

Since March 13, other than going to stores only when necessary, I have seen 2 people…a friend I’ve met in a park about 4 times and my husband. I’ve briefly spoken to a couple neighbors from a distance and waved at a couple others. That’s been my boring life and, now with Arizona having a huge spike in Covid-19 cases because of reopening too soon, I guess that’s all I’m going to be doing for quite a while. And now it’s too hot to meet my friend in the park so that’s over. The above 3 photos were from when I met her the other day.

Everything else is from our yard which is also very hot now but it’s my only outlet. Things suck pretty bad here but I’m glad some of these guys drop by.

Inca Dove

Female and male Gila Woodpeckers

Female and male Anna’s Hummingbirds

Verdins, adult and fledgling

My companion, Ferguson
Northern Mockingbird fledgling
Curve-billed Thrasher
House Finch, immature

I hope your life is more interesting than mine unless you’re in a Covid hotspot…then I guess our lives should be boring. Maybe someday it will improve…doesn’t seem like it can happen for a loooong time, though.

Quarantine Times

One of my quarantine projects was to make Chocolate Mint Infused Vodka. I steeped the leaves in vodka for a week and thought it would make a tasty drink. I was wrong. It was not very good. However, I poured a bunch of Torani Dark Chocolate Sauce and a little simple syrup into it and it actually is quite a good liqueur now. Would I do it again? I don’t think so…

But it turns out that Chocolate Mint Tea is quite tasty: minty and refreshing on a hot summer day (which is what Phoenix is now having). Also amazingly tasty, with a light floral taste, is Geranium Tea:

Both of those will become regulars as long as I have leaves to harvest. Disclaimer: only geraniums that have scented leaves are edible. If they don’t have a scent, don’t use them! I also found a Geranium Cake recipe and tried that:

Tony made a delicious lemon glaze to put on the top. It’s really quite a good cake; you can subtly taste the geranium and the lemon complements it nicely. The basic recipe I used is here. It’s a nice, light cake but I’m not sure I would do it again. It’s good but there are other cakes that are better. Next I may try a chocolate cake with a hint of mint: by baking the leaves like I did for the geranium cake.

Tony also has been cooking and baking. He’s a far better cook than me and here are a few things he has done during the quarantine.

Lasagna, Pizza (he makes his own dough), and Pizzelles!

Gotta do something to kill time during a quarantine and it’s fun to try to harvest things I have growing in the yard. So, in that vein, I bought a raised planter online (from Home Depot).

It’s made of resin, has a drain plug, a water level gauge, a removable seed tray (which I probably won’t use much), a shelf below. It’s nice, here’s the link. I just hope the cats don’t try to jump into it. I have it on our uncovered patio where it will get sun for part of the day but we also have an umbrella in case the Phoenix sun gets too intense. I know summer may be difficult for some of these plants but, hopefully, they will bounce back in the fall. So far I only have Spanish Lavender and 2 small Basil plants in there. I’m hoping the lavender will get really large. Then I can make Lavender Tea, too, and maybe Lavender Cake although it’s apparently hard to get a cake that doesn’t taste like soap…yum. Maybe some sachets would be better…

And that’s what I’ve been doing. Stay home, save lives.

Social Distancing

My outdoor office

So here we all are, self-isolating, quarantining, social distancing. Here are a few of my backyard friends keeping me company.

Queen, Giant Swallowtail, Painted Lady, Fiery Skipper, Bee

Ferguson
Northern Mockingbird, displaying
Yellow House Finch, unusual coloring
Verdin
Abert’s Towhee
Orange-crowned Warbler
Curve-billed Thrasher
Gila Woodpecker

Anna’s Hummingbird, female

Baby House Finch
Rosy-faced Lovebird

And that’s about all I do. I also watch a lot of news and Tony and I have been watching “Parks and Recreation,” which we missed the first time around…about the only laughs we get now. I had a virtual Happy Hour with 2 of my friends the other night so that was fun. What are you up to? I hope you are all listening to Dr. Fauci and other experts and keeping safe.