Yellow…But not Mellow

Everywhere you look, you will see pops of bright yellow frantically bouncing around the yard. The Orioles are back in full force this Spring! We get several different Oriole varieties in Todd’s Backyard. All slightly different, however they share the same shrill chatter, as shocking as their brilliant hue!

Their chatter reaches all time highs when they are playing their high-stakes game, we like to call, Who-Can-Get-The ‘Oriole Glory Hole’!

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In this game, there are 2 prizes!

1st, their ‘watering hole’. They constantly fight over position on the hummingbird feeders to quench their appetite for their favorite sugary treat! Not only are they competing amongst themselves (or similar versions of themselves), but they have to fend off the ferocious little hummers!

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And the 2nd prize….or maybe this is the 1st prize…

oriole2The female  ‘Glory Hole’ if you will….eeehhhhem.

Anyway, the Oriole fun and games, be it a bit noisy, are always fun to watch! You can’t help but be a little excited when these spectacular specimens of  fine feathered fellows come back to Todd’s Backyard every spring.

Here they will stay until fall in all their ‘Glory’!

oriole6This is a Scotts Oriole.

And below is a Bullocks Oriole.

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orioleThe Hooded Oriole

Oriole, Oriole, sprightly fellow. Flitter about all brightly yellow. Have your fun, but don’t harsh my mellow!!!

Wood You Be Mine?….Or not…

It IS that time of year….a frantic buzz of excitement- the chirps , squawks and squeaks- the birds and the bees are stirring!  Spring mating time is noisy! One of the more raucous merry makers, are the quail. Their distinct “cacaaawww…cacaaaaaaawwwww!” is heard frequently. They have a funny little ritual of climbing trees to call out their potential tweet-hearts! Let’s say, they get high on love 😉

Late afternoon is when they particularly like to ‘get high’. It was at that time, last week, when we witnessed  a would be wooer going wacky!

Todd had installed an ironwood quail carving on the branch of one of our mesquite trees a while ago. I never noticed that it had ever drawn any attention from the local bird population. That is, until a lovelorn quail discovered it and was apparently enraptured.

He climbed to the limb above, that had been conveniently cut into the perfect perch. There, he would try to get his wooden maiden to notice him….When she ‘wooden’t’, he jumped down and climbed back up again….and again….and again…putting his male to the quail…to no avail.

The poor guy was so distraught that Todd had to take down the tree trapped temptress.  I had to set this sad love story to little music…..

And with that, my friends, we raise our glasses to this lonely quail’s attempt at romance- certainly a great ‘CaCaaaaaws’!

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees….

And the Clouds Up Above…. And a thing called Love….

I LOVE this Spring! The desert is bursting with blossoms and buzzing with activity. The unusually wet weather has made this month aMAYzing!! It usually doesn’t get this lush and green until mid July! And the Palo Verde Trees were spectacular with their brilliant canopies of yellow! I just love the Palo Verde Trees!

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 In fact, it’s been a monsoon-like this Spring…Just last week it built up in the afternoon. Big billowing clouds with distant rolls of thunder and a hint of rain wafting in the air. We love these kinds of days before the heat of summer has us in it’s grasp! Gotta Love it!!

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Yesterday, the temperature only got up to about 73! By this time of year it’s not unusual to hit the 100 degree mark. Needless to say, the flora and fauna are flourishing with the cooler, wetter weather!  In April the Cactus started to blossom and paint the desert with their brilliant shades of magentas, oranges and yellows…

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The Buckhorn Cholla. Love them prickles ‘n all!

 

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 The Pencil Cactus…Love!

 And the Prickly Pear  popped with a variety of  peaches and yellows…Love, Love Love!

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Some of the blossoms are bugged 🙂 Love…not so much!

The bounty of blossoms attract all kinds-

Even the beezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

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Um…..Love them????

A few weeks ago, we were shocked to discover the mesquite tree that sits right off of our porch, had been bee-dazzled by a huge swarm! We have never seen anything like this. I didn’t even notice them until my brother-in-law pointed it out! The dogs and I had been walking around the tree and sitting right next to them for some time.  These were, most likely, killer bees…or a killer bee hybrid which, I’ve been told most bees in this area, are now. I’ve also been told that they usually only get aggressive when they’re threatened by certain noises or smells. Luckily, we didn’t buzz them off!…We must smell and sound ok?  They disappeared as suddenly as they appeared, when it warmed up in the morning…Whewwww!

I’m pretty sure that the birds that frequent that particular tree were happy to see them go as well! I noticed while the bees were there, the birds, especially the humming birds were chased away by the buzzy bee guardians.  But after their abrupt departure, the usuals came back to their favorite hangout….

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The Orioles

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The Cardinals

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And the Humming Birds. Love them all!

But unfortunately…

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The dreaded Wood Pecker resumed his perch! Can’t say I love you dude!

Of course we have a huge variety of other feathered residents, but they tend to frequent some of the other trees in the yard.

We did have a different feathered visitor which we had not seen before in Todd’s Backyard….

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The Grackle.

But evidently, he was not impressed with the accommodations and left…haven’t seen him again. Hey…you’re mission’ the love! Oh, well!

So, life goes on in Todd’s Backyard and we are relishing this incredible Spring with the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, and the clouds up above…And a thing called love 😉

Spring Spectrum Spectacular

Spring has sprung in Todd’s Backyard!

Although the weather has been somewhat Spring-like most of the winter with the mild temperatures!  But now, with the arrival of the ‘true’ Spring, we are treated to the budding beauty of the desert awakening from it’s barren winter repose!  Bursting with wildflowers, budding leaves, new green cactus growth…. and lots and lots of pollen…..AAAAAHHHHH……AAAAAAHHHHHHH……AHCHOOO!…sniff, sniff.

But even watering eyes and stuffy nose can’t dim the colors! Believe it, or not, the desert is a living rainbow this time of year!…

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yellow

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blue

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A rainbow, that can be virtually psychodelic with enough allergy medication!…

Now where are the unicorns?   😉

The Bird’s Motel

The nature and desert serenity of Todd’s backyard should be the perfect setting to experience the beauty and joy of Spring. The trees and plants are lush with new growth. Buds are bursting out on the cactus and the smell of orange blossoms fill the air. Especially nice, every Spring, are the migratory birds that travel through the area! We see new faces ‘n’ feathers every year….but they don’t stay long. These travelers know a dark secret that most might miss amidst the flurry of Springtime merriment. And that, my friends, is…..murder! Yes…MURDER….

There is a sinister resident in Todd’s backyard, lurking among the spiny cholla, who set up the scene for murderous mayhem one twig at a time! Not quite a fairytale, her story is rather gory…

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It all started when the young bird carefully built her first nest, choosing an unassuming yet respectable place in a nice big cholla cactus.  She laid her eggs and waited for them to hatch…she was young and innocent then. So happy, when her chicks came into the world that spring day long ago! But, that very night, her beloved children were gone when she returned with food. All that was left, was one tiny leg and a pile of bloody feathers! Her heart was broken. So, she abandoned the first residence and she built another. This time, higher into the spines of the cactus…surely this would protect them from the evil that dwells in the night! But once again, her children were brutally killed, one before it even hatched!

birdhotel7The sites of the first 2 murders.

The grieving  mother’s sadness turned to madness! She must build another nest…and another and another if she had too! She told herself, she will have a child that will survive, and she will do everything in her power to see that happen!!  So she found another spot deep in the bowels of the cholla. There she built a fortress that could never be invaded by the forces of evil!

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She finally had a child, who she doted on until the day he left the nest. We will never know who committed those heinous crimes. But she does! Because now, unsuspecting young birds move into those nests and the monster returns to kill again!

And to this day, the mother still sits in her empty nest and waits…. and watches the horrors that come out at night, in Todd’s Backyard.

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Oh Baby, Baby!

Ok….bring it on! The heat  apparently snuck up on us and now Summer-in-the-Desert is in full swing. What happened to the Spring? It has been strange year. The orange trees missed their blossoms, the cool days lingered a bit longer that usual, and the baby animals seem to be making their appearance a little late this season. But now, baby critters abound! And, all of the baby cuteness has alleviated a bit of the disgust that generally permeates our mood as the Summer heat starts to become oppressive.

This little guy found  a little cool spot under the mesquite tree off of our porch. We don’t often see bunnies this little… alive. Unfortunately, they make good eatin’ for the hawks, owls, snakes, bobcats, etc. Todd would probably prefer it,  if predatory appetites would lean more toward the dirt monkeys…

Why!…..  Why!…..Why do they have to be so adorable? It’s so much fun watching the little ones play and explore- treading on tip toes, their little tails standing at attention,quivering with anticipation. And of course they love to climb trees….

Awwwwww…..Look at his little hand!….So cute, you could just eat him up!

Geez, I hope we never actually have to….you know, eat them…when the world goes to hell…

Ok, back to cuteness-

Little baby hummer….chirp, chip, I love you!

And next, quite possibly the cutest pic ever…baby quialage…

One of my favorite visions of Todd’s Backyard, is watching little swarms of these fuzzballs,  parent quails in tow. Their little legs move so fast you can’t see them, thus giving the illusion of floating clouds of fluff traveling around the yard.

Of course we have a real soft spot for the quail after raising a couple from abandoned hatchlings. We still see our girls every now and then with their families!

Oh babies!…They just melt your heart! Ok..maybe the 109 degree temps have something to do with it as well!

 Happy Summer!

The Birds and The Bees

Oh, the  facts of life! 3 things are certain for the resident’s of Todd’s Backyard…birth, death and rebirth. The cycle of life is incredibly apparent over the years of documenting the seasons with photos. The Summer heat, the Fall lush, the Winter freeze and the Spring blossoms…over and over again. Always something to look forward to!

The yard is rebounding this Spring faster than we have seen it in the past. The bees are going crazy…But something is different this March. The orange trees have not blossomed. And, it seems they may not this year, after loosing all of their leaves to the freeze. Poor bees!  Any hives around our place will be filled with ‘hummingbird food honey’.

Luckily, we haven’t had any bad bee encounters. I don’t know if these are Africanized bees, but no one has gotten stung yet. In fact, these bees are actually pretty friendly and entertaining to watch. (Lets hope they stay that way!) I had one fly up my pant leg, and he didn’t get mad…just gave me a tickle and flew back out!

The humming birds can still manage to  get a sip, as soon as the fearless little Rufous Hummer comes in to chase all the bees away.

The Elusive Rufous Hummingbird….

Don’t let his cute looks fool you. He is  a vicious little beast! As soon as he chases off the bees, he’s chasing off all of the other birds!

And the birds are thick! We’ve been able to capture a lot of new pics for Todd’s Backyard bird gallery…

The Cardinal

The Starling….. a new resident!

The Thrasher

The Oriole

Nests abound! The doves are in love!

Oh indeed! Hide your eyes!

Well, this is what happens in the Spring…. It is a ‘fact of life’….sometimes you just get screwed!

And as the old saying goes ….”The only things certain in life are birth, death and taxes.” I guess this pic pretty much sums it up for us! Alas, just as the desert is coming back to life, Todd and I have to face tax season. Ouch!!!

I can only hope that after this tax season we can rebound like the yard has! And life goes on!

Signs of Life

In the light of recent world events, it’s a good time to remember that out of bleakness comes brilliance. Renewal is one of the greatest miracles! Sometimes when looking at the bigger picture, hope appears futile. But focusing on the tiniest things, the smallest changes, can make anything seem possible!

In our little microcosm of Todd’s Backyard, we experienced the most devastating winter since we’ve lived here. Certainly not a dangerous, life changing event, but it did have significant effect on the plants and wildlife. With the advance of spring, the temperatures are warming and the days are getting a little longer. Finally we are seeing those small signs of life that will start to aleviate our winter woes.

Lantana buds are starting to peek out from under the frozen remains of last years greenery.

 

The barren branches are starting to bud. Hopefully, this summer, Todd’s kiwi (pictured above) will really take off!

And the bees are busy gathering nectar from the hummingbird feeders until the yard blossoms…

And it is blossoming!

One of the most exciting developments are the tiny fuzzy buds sprouting all over the Jactus!

We counted 13 buds…

And for anyone reading this that isn’t familiar with the Jactus, this is what we can expect in about 6 weeks….

And life goes on….

Wingin’ It

February in the desert. It’s that time between Winter and Spring  (I like to call Wing). Or perhaps ‘swing’ would be a better term, as Mother Nature is afflicted with wild mood swings! A few days of freezing cold, iced feeders and blanketed plants. Then a few days of wonderful warmth…all the critters lounging in the sun,  including us, as we don our shorts and flip flops.Then back to our jackets and fleece for another few days.  Every week seems to bring the same crazy temperature cycle. On those freezing days, we opine for the hot days of summer, easily forgetting how we opined in the summer for the cold days of winter! Whatever…we shouldn’t be complaining at all, after watching the national weather news. I mean, really, come on Todd….snap out-of-it! (Ok, I’m just as bad!)

Really, the kind of only depressing thing about this time of year is the rather dreary landscape. Most of the vivid colors have been sapped away, replaced by shades of brown and greenish-grays.

After the frost, the trees have dropped most of their leaves and the cactus are drooping….This is the first year the frost has actually effected the cactus. We hope they will bounce back, otherwise Todd’s gonna have fun clearing out tons (literally)  of dead cactus this spring!

The frostbitten aloe vera have turned into clumps of odd-looking alien plant life….

The barrel blossoms have petrified into spiney little pineapple-like pods….

And  the bones scattered across the yard have become more prominent in the withering landscape.

We should only have to endure our ‘unfavorite’ season for another month or so, but until then, we will keep wingin’ it, week to week! And we can certainly keep optimistic and inspired by the abundance of beauty that still surrounds us , even this time of year!