My Backyard and Its Denizens
Immersed in a Fluid Equation
The Flocks, of sparrows, of Gambel Quail, of any of the avian denizens of our back yard, each act independently of each other and yet together in the task of scouring the quarter acre of fenced ground for vegetable debris we will occasionally leave for their attention. No waste, nothing we might still eat in the house but apples a bit long-in-the-tooth or fragments of bread left unbuttered and essentially untouched after a repast. No meat. The birds in our back yard won't eat it and others who might, Vultures (which we have seen roosting on our wall once) or hawks we don't want to attract. Offal will certainly attract coyotes. These are usually crepuscular but I still see them singly or in groups of two or three, walking along or crossing the road as I approach in my electric wheelchair and rapidly running into the undergrowth to vanish from my sight. At night they are awake and attentive and their attack on Gambel quail (which have limited flight) or on jackrabbits results in local cries and then howls of victory which spread in a seemingly circular fashion, like a ripple in a pond, spreading out into the darkness. A ripple of coyote bays and occasional dog barks and sometimes neighs of concern or loud brays from animals corralled at the ranch a quarter mile away and awakened from their sleep.
So our little world, immersed in the Sonoran Desert, far away enough from Phoenix and, with the North Mountains and the hills of the Dreamy Draw blocking much of the city light, lives with its pattern of mixed, moving live equations to get on with the business of Life.
We have seen, I have filmed, Javalina families creeping under our iron-rail fence leading onto the desert behind our veranda. These are our wild pigs, twelve to fifteen inches high at the shoulder and weighing up to fifty pounds of solid muscle. These are not friendly beasts but will avoid humans and should be Left Alone.They will root in garbage cans, I suppose, but we keep no rotting food in ours unless, like the cadaver of our Thanksgiving Turkey, it is securely wrapped and covered and soon picked up by the Garbage Men for disposal.
The javalina will spend ten minutes or so nosing about, then disappear again under the gate. Coyotes might arrange a nighttime raid against them, but why? These pigs are nasty and are likely avoided and are fully capable with their jaws and tusks of severely injuring or killing a canine.. There are so many easy treats available! Quail chicks, a line of nine or so following Mom, shortened to six, then three or so and finally one or two as they mature and weeks go by. The rabbits are caught almost daily. They scream and sound like human children as the coyotes make a dinner of them. This sound is ghastly. The coyotes will also grab a small dog if they can. My daughter and I were reading billboards of babysitters, house cleaners, house painters and handymen put near the collective mailboxes a few years ago. Among the bills was a plaintive call for anyone having seen one family's Pekinese or chijuaua. 'Coyote Chow,' said my girl, then ten or twelve but already a Desert girl. My Brother in Portland and his family almost had their little dog, weighing five pounds or so, picked up by a visiting Coyote then itself attacked by one of the Merry Maids so it dropped the Pet and vanished into the forest. Extremely Lucky.
Our swimming pool is about ten yards long and five wide. It is a 'diving pool', being twelve feet deep at one end and five at the other. I filled it, after its being built ten years ago or so. It holds 46,000 gallons and the pool man adds chlorine once a week, a job I took on for a few years before my Spinal Cord gave up the Ghost. Early on, it was an attraction to our backyard critters. Every night my son and I went out back and collected the drowning victims and hurled them over the fence. One evening, a rabbit floundered into the pool. My son rescued him, wrapped him in a towel, and laid him on the veranda near where he and I were busy doing some piece of home construction. In five minutes or so, he woke and lit off furiously into the Dark. Of interest, from then on, we have not had regular visitors or should I say, Victims, in our pool. A lesson learned by an animal of one group seems to have been spread to the entire Jackrabbit Family, both Nuclear and Extended and, indeed, to the other small groups of coinhabiting animals, ground-dwelling and flying both.This seems to be a tight-fitted group of individual Equations.
The Quail, Sparrows and Rabbits seem to us to be the main groups which visit nearly simultaneously in our back yard. They seem to abide by a strict, mutually-understood set of Rules. Everybody gets fed, everyone protected, no one bullied. The Sheriffs seem to be whatever Gambel Quail apex male is found within a given ten-by-ten-foot or so area of terrain, usually around a food find. If a piece of bread, the apex quail arrives and begins to peck. If the bread piece is large enough, he may share with one or two other birds. Sparrows, smaller and quicker, run in, grab something and run away. They are tolerated for a while as long as they are not too greedy. The apex quail is three times the sparrows size and quickly reestablishes order until he has had his feed, at least.
If an apple is available, and I have not taken a bite out of it before I toss it out, which I often do to break the peel and start the process of consumption, a rabbit, patiently awaiting his turn and not particularly interested in the bread, will start chewing the apple until the apex quail sees enough exposed fruit at which he intrudes and a body of birds approach and eat. The rabbit is pecked and moves back for awhile but returns when the avians are satisfied. What is left is plenty for a good rabbit meal.
The jackrabbits hear well, seem to hear better than the birds. They stay to eat but are the First Alert for the combined group. If they run away, everyone else tends to if they also quickly hear something. Sometimes they don't but the sound is a car or some other loud but Not Dangerous source and the birds quickly return to feeding and the rabbits, hiding just in the desert outside the rail fence, carefully return.
I think this is enough for now. I need to micturate and do some dishes!
A Few Backyard Photos
I think this topic is not nearly covered, might not ever be. Saguaros need to be seen as well as Rattlesnakes, King snakes, Scorpions, Tarantulas, termites, Gila Monsters and Many other Things.
Publish my backyard friends!
This blog is 'done'. Why was it sidelined? Also: how do I add a few lines to my picture so it can be an easily-readable bio? The instructions didn't do it for me.