Archive for the ‘Supporter Submission’ Category

Diary of a Desert Identifier: Welcome to the Neighborhood or the Saga of the Clever Rodent

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By Gay Russell

Being a Desert Identifier means going through large files of photos captured on a disc from the desert cameras.  The photos have usually been taken over several days, usually a week to 10 days.  You quickly begin to see the site as the same as any neighborhood, populated by certain characters (species) and some visitors.  The neighborhood usually has some mule deer from the local resident herd, a herd of  javelinas, the occasional coyote, a lone grey fox, roadrunners, skunks, the lone bobcat, and other interesting characters.

Recently I was fascinated with the saga of a plump, clever rodent and a local grey fox who was determined to capture the rodent!


The grey fox appeared, sniffing and digging at the area—he just knew the rodent was there!




Each time, the rodent would reappear after the fox left the scene, still safe and happy.    



After watching several unsuccessful hunting sessions by the fox, another neighborhood character joined the scene—-a ringtail!




There were 9 attempts by the grey fox to capture the elusive clever, plump rodent.  The ringtail attempted 8 different times to enjoy a meal that would include the rodent—to no avail. After over 1500 photos and a period of 10 days, the rodent was last seen at photo #1500—-still triumphant!

The saga continues . . . .


(I’m still King of the Mountain!)

Field Notes: a nest of great horned owls

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By Gay Russell

During the over twenty years I have lived in Sun City Oro Valley, we have had several sets of Great Horned Owls nest within our area.  In 2017, a pair made a nest in one of two large trees next to a golf cart path on the edge of the golf course and close to a major street.   Because of the location, I was able to document the progress of the owls. 

One of the parents was spotted outside the nest.  The first shots of the nest revealed fuzzy shapes of owlets; but not the exact number.   A few days later,  a single owlet was observed, peeking over the top of the nest.




As the owlets grew, they ventured out of the nest and it became clear that there were two owlets.  Shots of what are apparently some of the first ventures out of the nest were captured.  A parent was always on watch!  And, later, good close-ups of the owlets were taken.



It was a privilege to see the owls develop.  Even though the location was very close to a busy golf cart path and a major street in our development, the owls seemed to realize that they were safe within the area and would not be disturbed.  I felt fortunate to be able to document the process.


Thank you, Gay, for sharing this story and photos with all of us! 

Amor from the Desert by Mely Bohlman

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This piece was written on the stolen lands and waters of the Tohono O’odham and Yaqui/Yoeme.

Imagine yourself standing in the Sonoran Desert on a caliente summer day. Let’s paint the landscape by adding deep blue for the mountains that emerge in every cardinal direction and strokes of brown that create texture on the ground, the structural limbs of plants, and fill every crevice on this landscape.

You may feel the dusty, sturdy earth beneath your feet, the same sweeping surface that clouded the vision of indigenous ancestors’ eyes as they navigated through these desert lands. You may observe the occasional desert breeze that moves through your body, swaying nearby palo verde trees and breaking up the lull of the endless heat.

As you take a step, you might have a gentle creosote bush tapping you on your shoulder with its branch. It is full of waxy leaves and fuzzy globes from its flowers resembling planets in an out-of-focus telescope. Down in the wash, a catclaw acacia may have pulled on some fibers from your backpack, leaving a mark from its thorns that will remind you to watch out for it next time. You may see the sprinkles of desert confetti left behind from the blooming party that was hosted by the yellow petals of brittlebush, the red torches of the ocotillo, the pale-orange drapes of the globemallow, and the pink rays of starlight from the fairy duster. You make eye contact with a broad-billed hummingbird darting across- maybe spotting a flash of vibrant blue-green and blue-turquoise hues on its’ body and neck.

You may notice with only your ears the sounds of the desert spiny lizards scrambling through rocks and fallen mesquite tree branches. The cooing of the white-winged dove becomes your steady metronome, giving you the tempo, rhythm and heartbeat of the desert as the day unfolds. White-winged doves, you see, are warm and feathered fragments of saguaro flying in the desert- as the white-winged doves synchronize their migration with the reproductive cycle of the saguaro and maintain an asymmetrical ecological interaction.

The sweat beading up on the back of your neck feels cool, despite the powerful Sonoran Sun, beating down on your head. You may decide to seek refuge by stepping into the long and narrow shadow of an elder saguaro.

Animal Planet – a slam poem by Laurie Jurs

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A big thanks to Laurie Jurs for submitting the slam poem “Animal Planet” below. 

In Laurie’s words:

I have lived in the desert on five acres south of Green Valley since 1987. This slam poem is about staying home and finding out new things about a place I thought I knew well. It will best be read out loud and kind of fast. Be sure to read the TALKING word letter by letter. Cascabeles diamantinas are diamondback rattlesnakes.  Colorado sapos are Colorado River toads, which are quite large and considered ugly by many. The last four lines are from a campfire folk song. If you know it, sing it! 


June 2020

Didn’t plan it but we do it
Now we got to live through it
Stay home
Don’t roam
Shelter in place
Don’t show your face

Thought I knew my home range after 33 years
Maybe all this was always here
Thought I knew my place
But it wasn’t the case
Turns out I only scratched the surface
And it is my monkey and it is my circus
What I’m learning is giving me purpose

Noah’s Ark
Theme Park
Dark skies
Animal eyes
Brand new world with each sunrise

If there’s keys to the kingdom
They’re not mine to give
The M.O. here is Live and Let Live

Siddhartha and St. Francis
Sit beneath a tree
Whether snake or toad or rat or bee
Gotta Have a Heart
And set them free

The rats go down on the Anza Trail
Benevolent deportation
There’s been so many these last weeks
Bet they’ve started their own nation

Y los cascabeles diamantinas
Play their part in the cuarantenas
And the Colorado sapos tan grandes tan feos
Psychedelic con neurotoxicos
And the swarms of bees, blessed pollinators
Needed natural relocators
And out on the road
The monster from the Gila
Lumbers along like a mini-Godzeela

It’s surround sound, theatre in the round
Totally stereophonic, supersonic
Donkeys bray to the east
Peacocks shriek to the west
And the song dogs are certain that they’re the best

And the ravens rave over the flora and fauna
And they all party on like there’s no manana

We live in the middle of this symphony, cacophony and harmony
Thank Gaia there’s room for you and me

*  *  *  *  *

All God’s critters have a place in the choir
Some sing low and some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!