It's been quite some time since I last sat down at the computer to write about life here in the Sonoran Desert. There's not really a good reason for my absence other than to say I felt like I needed a break from the blog and I wanted to get involved in something new. Knowing that at some point I would return to the pages of Sonoran Connection I have concentrated on improving my photography, volunteering, and just plain enjoying life here in the desert.
In August 2013 I began volunteering at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute in the Ironwood Gallery. I chose the gallery because it would afford me the opportunity to meet and work with people involved in educating others about the Sonoran Desert. I am filling a number of roles as a volunteer including assisting with the set up of new exhibits which I enjoy immensely, working the Sunday morning shift as a gallery attendant and as luck would have I have been tapped to photograph the galleries exhibits and museum events. The current exhibit is "Art and the Animal" which is a traveling around the country from Vermont to Georgia. Art and the Animal is a project of the Society of Animal Artists and you can read more about them here: http://www.societyofanimalartists.com/info.html Also as part of my work with the gallery I have been involved with a project of "The Sonoran Desert Florilegium Program" whose mission is to promote and preserve botanical illustrations of the Sonoran Desert region. You can find the project at www.sonorandesertflorilegium.org .
One of the benefits of volunteering at the Desert Museum is that every Sunday before my gallery shift I get to walk the grounds with my camera. For those of you unfamiliar with the museum it is a world class facility that includes a zoo, botanical gardens, art gallery, educational facilities, an aquarium, as well as aviaries and research projects. Currently I am working on a portfolio of photo's exclusively from the museum including animals, birds, and plants.
Another project that I enjoy takes place right here at the house. It is my hummingbird feeding stations that I keep on both sides of the house. In early January I spotted my first nest in the oleander near the carport. The nest could be easily observed from inside the house so I was able to watch as the Black-chinned female fussed over the construction, laid her two eggs, fed and raised them and finally as they fledged. The two little ones hung around for a while before moving on to their new unknown territories.
At the present time I have two more active nests close to the house. One is located in an oleander on the opposite side of the house near the front door and the other is located in a Palo Verde tree on the west side of the house. Right now I feel bad for the two Mom's who are sitting on their nests riding out a rain and wind storm that just blew in. We are going to have rain on and off for the next 24 hours so I'm hoping that the day is not to hard on them. Sometimes nature is very difficult to watch but my guess is they will be alright.
I wanted to mention that if you are planning to provide feeders for the hummingbirds please don't use the commercial red food dyed mixes you see everywhere. They are not healthy for the hummers who should be fed a clear 4 parts water 1 part sugar mix that is changed out every two or three days. I boil my mixture for a couple of minutes and let it cool to room temperature before bringing in the feeders and cleaning them with Dawn and hot water.
It's important to note that the weather here has been for the most part very warm and everything seems to be early including nesting activities. I'm not actually sure just how many hummers there are here in the yard as it varies from a few to as many as 8 or 9 at a time. The most likely visitors are Anna's, Costa's Black-chinned, as well as an occasional Magnificent and Rufous. Some stay for extended periods and some are migrants. All in all it's quite active and extremely entertaining.
It's been a seemingly endless wait but just now I spotted the mother feeding at least one newborn chick in the nest located in the Palo Verde tree out front. Yesterday was an unusually windy day and I worried that the nests could be disrupted at a critical time but I see no evidence that this was the case. Hummingbird nests are fortified with spider webs which is one of the reasons our yard is so popular We do not use pesticides so there is lots of this critical building material readily available.
I also witnessed the other mom defending her nest from a sparrow that landed too close. She confronted the sparrow repeatedly darting in and making contact with her beak and at one point she knocked the sparrow to the ground. That would be like a person confronting a bear and winning.
I'll post a picture as soon as I feel comfortable getting close enough to the nest. The females are used to my presence in and around their territories but I try not to intrude too often.
I spotted for the first time today a second little black bill sticking up out of the nest in the Palo Verde. This makes 4 chicks so far this season. The nest in the oleander is still active but no sign of hatchlings.
We now have at least one nestling in the nest in the oleander as I saw the mother feeding a youngster. Sometimes the eggs hatch several days apart so as soon as I know for sure that there are two in the nest I will report that here. The two in the Palo Verde are approaching fledgeling stage and I expect that it won't be too long before they leave the nest. There is nothing more satisfying than having a hummingbird land on a feeder while it's still in your hand which happens a lot to me as I change the liquid every 2 or 3 days.
UPDATE 3/23/14 Definitely two in the nest in the oleander out front.