Posts Tagged ‘phainopepla’


August 10, 2017

First, watch this George Carlin video: carlin on stuff

A couple of weeks ago in the NY Times I read this commentary:  summer-bucket-listThe author, Bari Weiss, mentioned a Kondo closet, which I had to look up and found this article from a few years ago: Tidying Up.  (She also listed Buy Dyson hair dryer!  Had to hit that hot button.  They cost $400!!!)  I was intrigued.  Marie Kondo makes me look like a hoarder!   (OMG – there’s an American television series, Hoarders!)

Anyway, I got her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, from the library.  Before I’d finished the first chapter I began on my bookshelves and took three grocery bags of books to the library.  Then I started in on clothes, camping equipment and holiday decorations.  Four giant trash bags to Goodwill.  Plus numerous bags of recyclables and trash.  And I’m not even doing it right!  You’re supposed to start with your clothes and only keep ones that “spark joy”.  Now that I’ve finished the short book (and gotten her second, Spark Joy, from the library), I’ve learned to fold “properly” and the drawers that I’ve worked on are now only half full.  But it’s tiring…

Spurred by a comment in her second book, I started to throw on photos from albums.  Mostly buildings, such as ones I’d photographed in Mexico City.  Know the kids aren’t interested in them.  Then tossed out a few folders of student stuff from Pima.  And started in under the bathroom sink.  (Try it!) After than opened a few boxes in my third bedroom (AKA storage locker) and found the wrapping paper box I’d lost for a year, and some empty frames to donate.  Got my daughter to stop by to read old letters she had sent from her college year abroad in France so I could toss them.  Next she went through a pile of elementary school artwork.  Almost kept one gorgeous painting of a rabbit, but no, she’s got enough elementary school paintings by her own kids.

(Going to wrap up my son’s letters in one box and his elementary school paintings in another, and give them to him for Christmas.  Did that before – a number of years ago I had run out of room in my filing cabinet, so took two folders of each of my kid’s elementary school grades and awards, boxed and decorated them, and gave them to my son and daughter for Christmas.  My daughter had a hissy fit: Oh you’re trying to get rid of our memories, but my son read his, laughed about a lot of it, and then threw the pile away.)

Each time I visit my friends in San Diego, L & P, L asks me to help her clean out a room.  The last time it was her office, as she had retired as an attorney.  What I’m good as is triage – keep, donate, toss.  Because most of her documents were confidential, the shredder was working constantly.  We filled both the trash and the recycle bin, and even borrowed her neighbor’s.  To facilitate disposal, I even took four bags home to recycle them here.  (Scroll down in san-diego-continued for another project, Collection Triage, moving the chairs and bookcases in to the addition to their living/dining room, and “tidying up” in the process.)  L thinks I should hire out.

Seen in the past few weeks

There were four small bobcats in front of my neighbor’s garage as I drove past.  They heard the car and skittered under a huge red bird of paradise.  Not sure if it was a mother and three kittens, but when I took this photo there was some low growling.  When I checked an hour later they were gone.

This is the round-tailed ground squirrel that climbs the welded wire to eat my plants.  It’s trying to get away from me and my camera.  Cute as the dickens, but why we use that epithet is beyond me.  Dickens is a euphemism for  the devil, and why would a devil be cute?

I love to watch the mountains from the back of my house.  This photo at dusk.

A few unusual animals to see.  A red-headed lizard in my yard, probably a male collared lizard.  A (poisonous) Colorado river toad hiding from the heat in the corner of my daughter’s entry.  The hot gravel yards were no doubt inhospitable.

A defensive milky neurotoxin venom can be released from the parotid gland behind the eyes and similar organs on the legs. The venom is potent enough to kill a large dog, should the dog grab a toad. Symptoms of envenomation include foaming at the mouth, drunken gait, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, or complete collapse. There is no antitoxin.

A couple of police down the street from my daughter’s were watching an African spurred tortoise while someone was trying to find its owner.  They are much larger than our desert tortoise.  This article is probably about the tortoise on the lam:  Think Oro Valley is a bit slow on crime…

A silky flycatcher (phainopepla) has taken a liking to my birdbath.  Learned something new about them:

The Phainopepla, when pursued by predators or handled by humans, mimics the calls of other birds; imitations of at least 13 species have been recorded.

And my barrel cactus is blooming beautifully.


Coyote v. Javelina

January 13, 2011

I was on the phone, standing next to the outside door, when there was a crashing in the underbrush next to my fence, and a lithe coyote darted out, chased by a large javelina. When the javelina turned back to the herd, the coyote ran towards them again, no doubt trying to separate one of the little ones, and the javelinas scurried down the hillside into the wash.

I started my walk (sandals were a bad choice; I ended up with three blisters) and stopped to chat with a neighbor walking her two miniature (not toy) poodles.  She had curtailed her walk when three coyotes appeared down the road from them. She was afraid for her dogs. She said that she and her husband had sold their large house on the east side quickly, and were renting until they decided where to buy a smaller place. She said that she was too fearful here in the desert, for her small dogs, what with the coyotes and bobcats. My cat is no doubt warier than her dogs.

The Birds

I got a photo of the female cardinal (not a pyrrhuloxia). And for the first time at this house I saw a glossy black phainopepla, silky flycatcher, at the birdbath. It flitted away into the acacia tree and I didn’t get a very good photo of it; you can’t see his gorgeous crest. Quail are seldom seen in trees, but here the “guard” has chosen the acacia for his post.

Yesterday a roadrunner walked across my patio, to the interest of the cat inside; the day before, two quail traversed the patio. No other excitement.

More Critters

September 1, 2010

The yard was overfull of birds the other morning: quail, mom, dad, and five chicks, almost grown up, towhee, male and female pyrrhuloxia, a hummingbird at the yellow flowers on the creosote, a pair of goldfinches not at the birdfeeder, but flittering around in the sweet acacia, a flycatcher, a very fat white-winged dove at the birdbath, not bathing in it, only drinking, and a flash of orange, a hooded oriole or a black-headed grosbeak?

Today saw my first phainopepla (silky flycatcher) at this house. (Had a regular when I lived at my first house, next door.) Beyond my fence – too far for a good photo with my little camera; this photo is from the internet.


Silky-flycatchers, found mainly in Central America, are not at all related to the true flycatchers; and the main items in their diet are not flies, but berries. In the southwestern United States, the silky-flycatcher known as the Phainopepla is a specialist on the berries of desert mistletoe. Few other birds in North America have such an intimate relationship with a single plant species.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, of course, growing on the branches of trees, and it is “planted” there through the actions of birds. When birds eat its berries, the seeds often pass unharmed through their digestive systems; if the birds’ droppings happen to land on a suitable branch, the seeds may stick long enough to germinate. The Phainopepla, by specializing on the berries of desert mistletoe, is unwittingly planting its own future food supply.

A towhee actually took a bath in my birdbath this morning; most birds just drink from it.

Big storm last week, but mostly a tale of thunder and wind, no significant precipitation. Just a shadow of the previous week’s sound and fury; those winds broke a large branch off one of my acacias, and, in an attempt to tear the large painting off the wall of my deck, managed to break its frame! (Luckily the canvas was not hurt.) The outdoor dining table usually gets no rain, but the table runner was soaked. My basil, tombstone rose, and petunias got terrible wind burn – each leaf was half browned.

Damn! A young coyote just walked through the fence into my yard, and I didn’t have the camera on my bedside table. A very handsome one. Last week I saw him licking something outside the fence and thought that’s odd, coyotes chew, they don’t lick, and then I realized that he had pulled the drip line from my newly planted palo verde through the fence and was lapping from it.

Well, the cat saw him in the yard, so even thought the bobcats haven’t been around for a month or so, she’ll know to be cautious of him.

When I was sifting my compost today a large centipede jumped out. I herded it back to the compost pile, but was interested to look it up.

Sonoran Desert Centipede

Centipedes are arthropods that have elongated bodies with one pair of legs per segment.  The common desert centipede is 4 to 5 inches long.  While painful, the bite is not especially dangerous to humans.

Centipedes use structures called gnathosomes or gnathopods to inject venom into their prey. These are paired pincer-like appendages in front of the legs. The “bite” is actually a pinch. Centipedes are fast-moving predators that feed on any small creatures they can catch — mostly insects, but occasionally other arthropods, lizards, and even small rodents. Centipedes in the desert are strictly nocturnal and spend their days underground or concealed from the sun. They lack the waxy layer in their cuticle that other arthropods have, and are therefore more prone to desiccation than are other terrestrial arthropods.

Also thought I’d look up the gold scorpion that I see so frequently. (As I pulled the mail out of the mailbox the other day I noticed a scorpion on the ads. I shook him out.)

Bark Scorpion

DESCRIPTION: body (not “tail”) up to 2.75″ long. Distinguished from other local scorpions by its long, thin pincers (when you’re this toxic you don’t need strong pincers).

NATURAL HISTORY: Most venomous local scorpion (potentially fatal). Often the most common scorpion found in and around houses in Tucson. Prefers resting/ambushing from head-down position and is often seen climbing or sitting high above the ground.

But the most fun was a week ago, Sunday night. After my daughter’s family had gone, the cat wanted to go out. I felt so sorry for her – I’d kept her shut in my master bed/ and bathroom for the weekend so that the dog could use the dog door and have the run of the house – that I let her out. I closed the drapes, and left the door open to the garden closet with the dog door, so I wouldn’t have to get up again to let her in.

Not too much later I heard the thump thump of the dog door, and then I saw the cat in the bathroom, staring into the shower. I knew that she had brought in her catch. I limped over there with my walker, and sure enough, there was a terrified pocket mouse huddled in the corner, unhurt. I picked it up, but on the way to the door, tripped, probably because I only had one hand on the walker. I crawled the last few inches to the door, pulled open the screen, put the mouse out, and hobbled to the garden storage to shut that door so that the cat wouldn’t get out again. Whew!  Too much excitement for a night of healing.

Usually she eats the mice on the deck above, leaving me a tail, or a tail and those darling little pink feet, or those and the head. Why she had to bring in the whole creature, I have no idea. Such a present!