Monday, June 24, 2013

Super Moon Over Kitt Peak National Observatory

Kitt Peak National Observatory is located 56 miles southwest of Tucson Arizona in the Quinlan Mountains. I live more than 50 miles away from the observatory but I can see it from where I live. Kitt Peak is home to the worlds largest collection of telescopes including the Mayall 4 meter telescope and the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope.

McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope

I have made several trips to Kitt Peak for the amazing views and to be able to check out the telescopes and one of my favorite things to do while I am there is visit the observation deck of the Mayall telescope which is open to the public and affords a 360 degree views of the surrounding Sonoran Desert.

I highly recommend that if you are in the area you take a trip to the observatory. You can access a virtual tour of Kitt Peak National Observatory at: The entire trip from Tucson can be done in 5 or 6 hours and I recommend you take a picnic lunch and be prepared to see some spectacular scenery as well some very fascinating science.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Arizona- Sonora Desert Museums Newest Resident

Presently 6 1/2 months old this male was rescued in San Jose, California weighing only 15 pounds. The Desert Museum has provided the following information on it's new resident:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bird Watching at Cochise Lakes Willcox Arizona

We took a ride out to Willcox Arizona on business and to get a piece of apple pie alamode at Apple Annie's new country store and decided to make a quick stop at Twin Lakes to check out the birds. I've only been here a couple of times but each time there were plenty of birds to see. Black-necked Stilts were in abundance, perhaps 30 or 40 in all. According to the maps in Sibley stilts summer in a small area of south eastern Arizona and migrate throughout the state. I have seen many here in Tucson at Sweetwater Wetlands. Check out Black-necked Stilts at:

There were Kildeers and what looked like plovers but the lighting was very difficult so I can't be sure of an I.D. Also spotted a single White-faced Ibis feeding along the sand bar which can be seen in the photo below. Information on Kildeers:

The following is a description of the area by the Southern Arizona Birding Organization.

"At the northern end of the valley, on the east side of the city of Willcox, is Cochise Lakes (a.k.a. Twin Lakes) a pair of effluent ponds adjacent to the municipal golf course on the east side of the city of Willcox. These ponds, ranging from shallow and ephemeral to deep enough for grebes and diving ducks, provide habitat for a variety of migrant and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds. The ponds are deep enough to support diving species such as Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Common Merganser, and Western and Clark's Grebe. In winter, Sandhill Cranes can sometimes be seen loafing in the grasslands nearby in the afternoons. This is a very popular birding stop from August through May, but be aware that the route around the lakes is not paved and is treacherous when wet. The city of Willcox has recently begun to develop visitor access to this site; please sign in at the visitor register at the entrance.

As you can see the town has provided blinds for close up watching. The birds on the island are mostly American Avocets which also summer in a small area of southeastern Arizona. Read about American Avocets at:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Female Costa's Hummingbird Building Nest

It's been a busy week here in my Sonoran Desert yard. Some of you may already know that I live on the border of Tucson Mountain Park in Tucson Az. not far from Saguaro National Park West. It's been above 100 degrees here all week so I get outside around 6 A.M. to do my yard work and make sure that water is available for all my daily visitors. First I make sure that the bird bath which is placed on the ground is clean and filled. If it's starting to grow things I use bleach and a tooth brush to scrub it and then I rinse it exceptionally well before filling. Because we get so little rain this time of year I have a varied and a sometimes unusual parade of visitors hoping for a drink. As you can clearly see I live in a residential area that was carved out of the desert many years before I arrived here in Tucson. Nearness to the park puts us in a locale that has close proximity to wildlife so visitors like these Mule Deer while not the norm pay us an occasional visit. Today promises to be 106 degrees maybe more so it will be important to keep the water filled. I usually change it 3 or 4 times a day as needed.

It has been an unusual season for Diamondback Rattlesnakes having encountered two here in the yard and one at the Desert Museum. The two in the yard were very young perhaps from the same hatch so I suspect that their might be a den somewhere nearby. Young rattlesnakes can travel up to a mile from their den and adults up to three miles in search of food.
Gambel Quails have been visiting the watering hole for a couple of months in pairs and family groups and only rarely solitary individuals. This week they have started showing up with the tiniest of chicks in tow. I have seen 2, 3 and 7 chicks in different family coveys.
We have the usual assortment of Mourning and White Winged Doves, House Finches, English Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinches, Goldfinches, Verdins, Northern Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Gila Woodpeckers with occasional visits from Phyrraloxia, Phainopepla, Hooded Oriole, Bullocks Orioles, Cottontail Rabbits, assorted Lizards and a very disruptive Coopers Hawk. My favorite visitors are however the hummingbirds.

At this very moment a female Costa's is building a nest outside my workroom window. Females are really hard to identify and I have spent the last couple of days trying to decide if she was a Costa's or a Black-chinned. I finally concluded she was a Costa's for two reasons. She has faint spotting on her breast and there is a male Costa's hanging around who is not being aggressive towards her. Males are very aggressive toward any other hummingbird that is in their territory. There is a daily battle raging as other hummers try to get a drink at the feeders.
 Here in Arizona there are 17 different hummingbirds. Some are rare and localized and some are common depending on the time of year. So far I have managed to see 8 different varieties including a Blue-throated Hummingbird in Patagonia. There are at least five different hummers who frequent my three feeders here at the house and I have seen two other attempts to nest in the yard but both were unsuccessful due to high winds. Hopefully this time i will get to watch the entire process from nest building to egg laying and hatching and finally fledging. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Note: Sadly the hummingbird nest was abandoned with two tiny eggs after several days of temps above 105 degrees. Mama spent all day each day sitting in the sun keeping the eggs shaded but I suspect that it was too much for her as she just disappeared. It's possible that some other harm befell her but I will never really know for sure. Of the three attempts that I have witnessed of hummers nesting in the Oleanders all three have failed. I am beginning to wonder if Oleanders are unsuitable nesting sites perhaps because as they bloom they sag under the weight of the blossoms exposing the the nests to the elements.