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Sonoran Desert Notes May 27, 2009

Posted by Lindy in Uncategorized.
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There are two critters here in the desert that are not known to be particularly intelligent. One is the Round-tailed ground squirrel known around here as “those dumb suicidal gophers”.  These little guys are adorable and fun to watch. They dig ankle-breaking holes all over the desert floor – not so adorable. They also seem to be suicidal. We often see them sitting up on their little hinies next to the road – waiting! As a car goes past they run right under the tires. SPLAT! Is this a game? Do they need some excitement in their boring little desert lives while waiting for a snake to come along and slowly eat them so they play Russian Roulette instead with moving vehicles? Definitely a much faster form of death.

Round-tailed ground squirrel

Round-tailed ground squirrel

Yesterday as I was driving home one was sitting straight up on the center line. I knew what he was up to so I slowed down to a crawl – probably should have floored the gas pedal instead – and moved over as far as I could toward the shoulder. SPLAT! Under the left rear tire he went. Flattened like a pancake. I yelled at him. This is the 2nd time one of these critters has done this to me; makes me feel like a murderess.

The other not-so-intelligent critter is the Mourning dove. These are truly beautiful birds; soft gray with long slender necks and gentle pretty faces. They haven’t a clue how to build a decent nest nor do they know to build in a safe place. They may also possess suicidal tendencies as they sit in the road and do not move until they are nearly under the front bumper of an oncoming vehicle. Then they fly away almost never getting caught by that nasty monster.

Mourning doves: Mama and baby

Mourning doves: Mama and baby

This picture is the Mama and her baby in the Mesquite tree in our backyard. Mama had two eggs originally but she built her nest too small and one egg fell out. Another SPLAT! One egg survived and the baby has hatched but has not flown yet. They sit together – scrunched tightly onto a badly built nest that is too small for both of them. The nest is in a bad place – about 5 feet from the tops of our dogs’ heads. In fact, had it not been for the dogs staring intently at something in the tree I might not have known the birds were there. I am now keeping a close eye on this developing situation. I can’t keep the dogs out of their yard and I am worried that when that baby starts to fly he could become a snack. 

Mourning doves are so-called because of the mournful, cooing sound they make. They are not songbirds and they are most definitely not raucous but they can be rather incessant about their cooing. This mama does not make a sound and I have not seen her leave the nest since baby hatched. The ground beneath the nest is piling up with birdy doo 😀

Perhaps Mama built the nest too small on purpose? Perhaps she knew something we humans do not know? Perhaps “survival of the fittest” was at play in the Mesquite tree – and maybe out on the highway as well? Perhaps these animals are not as dumb as they appear to us humans to be? Perhaps I am the one with much to learn?!!!!!

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Wildlife in the backyard . . . May 25, 2009

Posted by Lindy in Critter Kids, Uncategorized.
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Bullsnake in backyard

Bullsnake in backyard

Bullsnake or gopher snake: Pituophis catenifer sayi

We have a resident bullsnake. My husband named him Sammy II. When we first moved here nearly 14 years ago we had a resident bull snake whom we named Sammy. This is not a picture of Sammy (I didn’t have my camera with me) but this guy looks like Sammy and appears to be about the same size – 4′ – 5′ long.  Bullsnakes are the good guys – they are not venomous although they will bite. They have been known to become pets for those who have a penchant for this kind of pet. Bullsnakes like to act like rattlesnakes when they feel threatened – they coil, strike out, and make a hissing sound very much like the sound a rattlesnake makes.

I was out by the back of our fence changing the water in the critters’ water pan. This is an old large pan requiring both hands to pick up when full of water. I had picked it up, turned around to dump the old water on a Rosemary when suddenly something rose up directly in front of me. I screamed and nearly dropped the heavy pan right on top of poor Sammy’s head. He had been napping in the shade and was coiled right at my feet – I had not seen him. I’m sure I startled him as much as he startled me. However, he must have decided I wasn’t a threat because he simple crawled past me and out the back gate probably looking for a safer place to take a nap.

We like having Sammy around as he eats rodents and with no rodents the likelyhood of rattlers coming around is lessened.

I found this picture at:   www.elaphe.it/pituophis.htm