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The Big Yard: Notes from a Pajama Birdwatcher
April 19, 2023
The metal roof shakes. Windows rattle. Drifting juniper pollen seals sinuses and coats corneas.
The season of wind and fire.
As if it were fall in New England and not the foresummer drought of southeast Arizona, the oaks turn golden and shed cornflake leaves, which the wind lifts and funnels through the canyon like a giant Worx Turbine leaf blower.
One spark and all will be ash.
Last weekend, the Banning Creek community met for our annual Firewise gathering. We felt the urgency. Nine days before, a purple plume of smoke twisted into the sky near the San Pedro River a dozen miles to our southwest. The brushfire blackened 500 acres and gutted two homes. Gusts measuring 45 mph fanned smoke into the canyon activating our phone tree. I got the call as I watched the blaze from the highway at the river.
The season of wind and fire required a community refresher. But the best part was meeting a neighbor who also saw last summer’s nightingale-thrush! (Which gives me a perfect excuse to post its photo here one more time—thanks Taylor!)
As dry as the canyon is, the oaks respond by setting out fresh canopies and tasseled catkins with acorn expectations. Winter moisture was sufficient this year. No brooding dark and naked branches waiting for the monsoon. This morning, warblers respond as well, darting through the trees in search of caterpillars and aphids.
Tiny beaks needling flower and leaf. Despite the red flags and wind.
Thanks for subscribing! Much more to come as spring migration heats up!