Sep 1 2014

Invisible

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Desert dwellers are accustomed to the monsoon season and the rain it ushers in, a glass of water raised to cracked, thirsty lips.

We also know that with rain, the normally dry riverbed near our home begins to ebb and flow, its banks rising with churned-chocolate liquid. And while we understand that this sudden arrival of water attracts animals who’ve yearned for the wet stuff – suffered without it – rarely do we have the opportunity to see them dipping their toes (and hooves) into the water, dropping their heads gently to lap the cool sustenance.

Water in the riverbed. Click to enlarge.

But don’t let the wild’s cloak of invisibility fool you. This time of year more than ever, the existence of the wild becomes tangible, immortalized – if only for a short time – in the riverbed floor.

Enjoy the evidence hubby and I discovered during our recent visit to the now-receded riverbed (water actually flows underground throughout the year, making this part of Arizona home to one of the largest mesquite bosques in the world. That band of deep green beyond the river in the above photo is the mesquite bosque).

This is, unarguably, THE largest mountain lion print we've ever encountered. Consider that my size 13-shoe-wearing, six-foot+, large-handed hubby is the "hand model." Four of my thumb prints didn't even fill one toe pad indent! Click to enlarge.

These are 'big kitty' scratch marks, covering urine. And let me tell you: we could still smell it, so these were fresh tracks. If you look closely, you can also see a raccoon track in there. Click to enlarge.

Speaking of raccoons... Fresh imprints (which I had HOPED were coati tracks, but I don't believe they were). Click to enlarge.

Roadrunner tracks. Meep! Meep! Click to enlarge.

Lizard trails (I think). Click to enlarge.

We even saw these: barefoot human prints (ironically, RIGHT next to the giant mountain lion tracks). Click to enlarge.

While we understand that footprints may be invisible throughout the remainder of the year, we will be reminded, these photos as evidence, of what walks among us. We’re happy they share their desert home with us.

Other sightings around the ranch:

I admit to complete euphoria when I saw this American badger shoot over the hill behind my house while I was doing some rooftop reading and research. This butt shot was the best I could manage before he loped away. Click to enlarge.

My first-ever glimpse of a Vermillion Flycatcher near the river. Click to enlarge.

And on a sad note, an update about my last post regarding Mama Oriole and babies… One egg fell to the concrete before hatching, and then both babies suffered the same falling fate. We’ve only seen mama twice since then. I hope, next year, she’ll make a deeper nest for her young ones. It was heartbreaking to discover them, so small and featherless.

TO THINK ABOUT…

For Readers, For Writers: Animals in the wild offer a case study on subtlety, on magic, on fortitude. For the most part, they don’t want to draw attention, their movements subtle and often cautious. When we consider their ability to camouflage – we often walk right past them without seeing them – they offer a sort of magic (never mind the soul-awakening, magical effect they can exude on humans). And then there’s their ability to persevere, often against all odds. When you read, what parts of a story engage you the most – subtlety, magic, strong characters? Are you attracted to writing that includes nature as a character? When you write, which of these “wild” areas challenge you the most – subtlety, magic, fortitude?


Aug 20 2014

New Nesters

Melissa Crytzer Fry

For years, we have watched hooded orioles attempt to build in our LED lights. And for years, strands of building ‘materials’ dangled unfettered with no real progress. Each time, the orioles moved on.

But this year, things changed. Take a peek at the phenomenal nest-building process, and visit our Oriole Cam for real-time, periodic snapshots of mama with her babies.

July 30. This is the most activity we've ever seen by mama oriole.

August 1. Look at that build-up. Click to enlarge.

August 16. I had been away from home for two weeks and came back to this! Click to enlarge.

August 16. And look what's inside: speckled eggs! Click to enlarge.

August 17. Mama oriole checking on the kids. Click to enlarge.

August 18. Looky! Babies hatched (we think we see two) right after I returned home. Click to enlarge.

Enjoy Oriole Cam over the next few weeks as the babies grow. I know I will!