Western Screech Owls

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.

Female Western Screech Owl. Copyright: Greg Joder.

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:

Dry Monsoon

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 Trapping

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.

Mountain lion in the Sonoran Desert. Copyright: Greg Joder.

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.

A bobcat:

A coopers hawk:

A bat catching a sphinx moth at a cactus flower:

And a cute little western screech owl:

Queen Butterfly Metamorphosis

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:

Hummingbird Nest in the Patio

For the third year and second time this summer a Broad-billed Hummingbird raised a new batch of hummingbirds in a re-used nest in my patio. Both the first clutch and the second (seen below) from this summer had two eggs, but only one from each clutch was viable and successfully fledged.

Female Broad-billed Hummingbird. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Here’s a photo of the two nestlings from last summer’s clutch:

A female Broad-billed hummingbird feeding her two nestlings. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Here’s a male Broad-billed hummingbird I photographed at one of my feeders, fully displaying his sexual dimorphism.

Male Broad-billed hummingbird at a feeder in Tucson, Arizona. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Finally, here’s a video of the female feeding her one nestling from the last clutch of this summer:

Mountain Lions of 2018

While I am still in Costa Rica, I wanted to share a short video of many, but not all, of the mountain lions my trail cameras captured in 2018. Not sure how many individuals are represented here, though I’m thinking around 8 or 9, based off location and physical characteristics. Feel free to comment if you have a guess or know an easy way to visually distinguish individuals. Enjoy!

A Band of White-nosed Coati

This trail cam capture was a fun surprise, a band of white-nosed coati foraging in a creek-bed. I set up the cameras about two weeks earlier, hoping to catch bears or mountain lions. I was happily surprised to see the cameras had captured the action of this band of coati as they worked their way down the creek. Pay close attention to the youngsters as they climb up and down trees and explore:

Desert Bighorn Sheep & A Bear

I don’t want to mislead everyone that my blog is all about trail camera captures. It is much more than that, given time. Currently, however, trail cameras have been a focus of my outdoor life (I’m not a hunter, but rather want to protect wildlife). I have other adventures in mind that will not involve trail cameras. I hope you’ll stick with me to see those adventures. In the mean time, I have more trail camera action to share with you. First, is a video of scouting a new location to set up a couple trail cameras:

Second are two videos that represent patience and luck when choosing a trail camera location.

A Desert Bighorn Sheep:

A Juvenile Black Bear:

 

Hummingbird Nest in the Patio

This little Broad-billed Hummingbird is likely the same one that built a nest in my patio last summer. Either way, she was able to successfully fledge two youngsters. There were plenty of hanging-plant options on which to build her nest, but she chose the green hook.

During her time incubating the eggs and feeding the nestlings the temperature in the patio was between 100 and 111 degrees (38 to 44 c.).  She had her work cut out for her.

Here she is incubating her eggs:

Here she is feeding her kids a few days before they fledged:

Butterflies

On my way to check my wildlife cameras in the Rincon Mountains near Tucson I came upon these butterflies. Does anyone know what plant this is?

Butterfly. Copyright: Greg Joder
Queen Butterfly. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Pipevine Swallowtail. Copyright: Greg Joder.