This week I spent a couple days and nights in one of southern Arizona’s sky islands checking and setting new camera traps. The vegetation included oak woodlands and pine forests at elevations ranging from 5000′ to 8500′.
Here’s a selection of photos showing the range of beauty in the area:
The camera traps caught a few interesting animals. First, a group of wild turkeys. Watch with sound on:
Only one black bear came through since the last camera check a month ago. This one chose not to relax and wallow:
In all, it was an enjoyable two days away from all that’s not right in the world right now. Nature and wildlife are the best medicines. Zipper had a great time too, including naps:
It’s the time of year between winter rains and the summer monsoon season so natural sources of water for wildlife are running dry. In my backyard I’ve had the pond going for about 7 years and recently I put out a simple small water bowl in another pat of the yard. The water bowl is really the top of a birdbath and works well for the purpose.
This morning I checked one of my camera traps and was happy to see it captured a sow and cub as well as a “cinnamon” black bear. According to Wiki, a cinnamon bear is a subspecies of the American black bear. Either way, it was so good to see a black bear cub and also a different color morph of the American Black Bear:
The little western screech owls fledged last night. After documenting them in their nestbox every night and some days for over three months I feel a bit sad and will miss them. They are now out in the wild world and will, hopefully, have successful careers as owls. They’ll still be fed by their parents for a little while longer as they learn to hunt and fend for themselves.
The western screech owl pair have been busy feeding three hungry owlets. The nestlings appear to be nearing the time to leave their nest. Last night both parents made over 16 feeding trips which included grubs, geckos, and a small packrat.
On previous nights, prey items also included a small bird, western blind snakes, spiny lizards, moths, and even a hummingbird. Seeing the dead hummingbird getting eaten by an owlet made me sad as hummingbirds are dear to my heart.
The young screech owls have also been spending time checking out their daytime word:
A few months ago I put up two screech owl nest boxes in my yard. Each box has a 3″ diameter hole which is within the size recommended to accommodate screech owls. Within a week an owl found both nest boxes and would randomly appear sitting in the entrance to one for a couple months. It wasn’t long before breeding season began and a second owl appeared. They paired up and chose the red nest box which was in a shady protected area in a false willow tree.
Both adults began hunting foray’s to feed hungry nestlings. It appeared that the male would catch prey and give it to the female who was, early on, incubating eggs, then later, feeding the nestlings.
A few days ago I decided to take a short video inside the nest box using a tiny borescope inspection camera. I wanted to see how old and how many owlets there were. I waited until after the female left the nest box in the early evening and was able to capture this video, confirming 3 downy nestlings:
Seeing the nestlings and their size made sense given how many prey items the adults were bringing into the nest box. The prey has varied from small moths and non-native geckos to a small passerine bird, a large Western blind snake (pencil-size diameter, maybe a foot long) which escaped, and a couple kangaroo rats. Here’s the video from last night’s action:
As many of us living in southern Arizona know, it’s been a comparatively dry monsoon. Normally, in my neck of the desert, Bear Canyon creek is running from all the rain dropped in the Catalina Mountains by summer monsoon storms. As of today, it is dry as a bone from the trailhead crossing on up to the last remaining pools.
However, a storm system is moving our way from the south (remnants of Lorena) and the forecast is 70% rain Monday and 80% Monday night. I’m so hoping for a localized drenching where the washes flood and Bear Canyon creeks flows again. Here’s an aerial I took of upper Bear Canyon at Seven Cataracts after winter rains earlier this year:
Camera traps are one of the best ways to observe wildlife behavior that you’d likely not see because it’s either dark out or your presence would alter the animals behavior. I bought my first camera trap around 2005 and was instantly addicted. I had no idea there were such shenanigans happening when I wasn’t around.
Now, in 2019, I have about 10 personal cameras set up in the desert around my home town, Tucson, including my backyard. I also have another 10 cameras set up at Audubon’s Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch near Elgin, Arizona. We use these cameras for long-term wildlife monitoring, recording which animals and how often pass through the research ranch.
In this post I’d like to share some backyard wildlife action my cameras recently captured.
The Queen and Monarch butterfly season in my pollinator garden was pretty subdued this summer. Not sure if it was the dismal monsoon season with very little rain or other factors. I did manage to catch a couple stages of metamorphosis of a queen butterfly.
First, watch a queen caterpillar turn into a chrysalis:
And the next step is the fully developed butterfly emerging from its chrysalis: