Evergreens hunched against the wind . . . the haunting laugh of a canyon wren . . . a canopy of blue sky over the burning desert. This is wilderness a place that offers a superior kind of pleasure, where nature remains untarnished and undepleted . . .

Saturday, April 9, 2011

April 2011

“Be still and the earth will speak to you” --- Navajo proverb

Using all our senses we “listen” to nature speaking of spring. We smell the blooming plants, look for migrating birds and hear the mating call of the resident birds.

Well spring has sprung even without the spectacular wildflower show of last year. But there are plenty of other indicators.

Prickly Pear Flowers

Ocotillo Blossom

If we are looking for a flower to herald in spring the Ocotillo will bloom in April, even in the driest of years. The Ocotillo is a resident that can be relied on to bloom annually, even without leafing in particularly dry springs. Other spring blooms in dry years will include the yellow blossoms of the Palo Verde, Cat claw acacias and Mesquite trees. Also look for the blossoms of the Prickly pear and Cholla cactus. Toward the end of the month the blossoms of the Saguaro will appear luring in the White-winged dove.

Try standing quietly in the desert and listen as the Gambel’s quail which have broken up into mating pairs. During the rest of the year these gregarious birds join together in groups known
as coveys, which may total 20 or more individuals in fall and winter. They produce a location or assembly call, "ka-KAA-ka-ka," to locate a mate or other covey members, issuing the call most often in midmorning or late afternoon. They emit a distinct "chip-chip-chip" when alarmed. Once the female is on the nest you will see the male sitting on a perch in the vicinity issuing an “all clear” every 15-30 seconds.

Gambels' Quail

Of course you will hear many other birds staking out their territories, sounding alarms and advertizing for mates. Spring is a noisy time.

Another late April resident that becomes observable is the Round-tailed ground squirrel. First the mother pokes her head up to make sure none of their predators are about, and then the young come out to explore and play

The Round-tailed ground squirrel is most active during mornings and evenings, avoiding the most intense heat by retiring to its burrow at midday or seeking shade under a plant. It will climb into bushes not only to obtain leaves, but also to get out of the sun and off the hot sand. This species hibernates from late September or early October to early January. Its burrows have been found among shrubs, and occasionally in landscaped areas. They communicate using whistles. Their warning is a single whistle and causes the other animals in the area to run to their burrows and then look around.

Round-tailed Ground Squirell

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About Me

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Saddlebrooke (Tucson), Arizona, United States
I am a retired school teacher from Monterey Bay Area in California. I now volunteer as naturalist at Arizona State Parks. I also work with a wildlife rehab center and I present natural history programs to the public.