Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Urban Nature Report

I am nursing the wounds of being an unwilling bachelor this week. The girlfriend is off on an excursion back east, which would explain why I am up at this ungodly hour, fully dressed and almost coherent despite the sun barely peeking over the Rincon Mountains.

The back yard has become the early morning roost of choice for a noisy coffee klatsch of house finches. It took several mornings of lying in bed half-awake to sort through the offset cascade of calls before I was able to extract a single identifiable phrase. They seem to start their songs a half-second apart, resulting in a rippling sound that is more like a maniacal giggle echoing through a canyon than the benign twittering of a couple dozen five-inch birds. It was kinda disturbing until I figured it out.

Once the sun comes up, the gaggle disperses somewhat and the individual songs come through more clearly, now joined by the three descending notes of the verdins and the occasional squawk of a Gila woodpecker. The thrashers keep to a more civilized schedule than these smaller birds, waiting until later in the morning to start knocking their beaks through the dust in search of breakfast. They neatly lopped off the first sweet peas to sprout in my garden a few weeks back, but have so far ignored the second batch of vines, as well as the three tiny tomatoes warily peeking out from inside their cages.

Wildflowers are scarce in the yard this time around. A few globe mallows have straggled in on the edges, but only one has flowered. Every year about this time I remember that I forgot to scatter seeds in the fall, and make a mental note to do better next fall. Then the note promptly falls off the bulletin board in my brain and joins the collection of other reminders like fix the screen door and call your grandmother that are gathering dust under the fridge or whatever other large appliances I may be keeping in there.

Despite the lack of flowers, I am heartened by the apparent health of the two little volunteer mesquite trees in the front yard. The wretched, hateful acacia trees are at least showing signs of growth, meaning they will now be shading roughly nine square feet of dirt apiece, an improvement over their previous useless, hateful existences. Seriously. You can't get close to these trees. In fact, don't even look at them or think about them too hard when you're out there or you'll find yourself stuck in the little bastards.

The thrashers have started their whee-wheet calling, which is my signal that it's time to go to work.

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