SOME KIND OF HAWK

So great to have more birds of prey in our neighborhood recently. I saw the local Cooper’s Hawk Red-tailed Hawk this past Friday on my morning trot around the 80-acre “block.” But…wait! Is it really a Cooper’s Hawk? One bird nut saw this photo on Instagram is insisting this guy is actually a Red-tailed Hawk. Is it really possible to tell from this photo? Anyone know?

Click on image to bigify…

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THE PREDATORS ARRIVE

Rain last fall, winter and spring changed the face of the desert. The drought was broken. Old plants grew bigger; new plants emerged; and wildflowers and grasses carpeted what had otherwise been nearly bare sand for years. The increase in vegetative matter meant more food for foraging animals. Insect, lizard, rodent and rabbit populations have exploded in size and variety. And that increase has in the last three months been followed in our neighborhood by the new, persistent presence of higher order predators (as well as increase in the coyotes that we always see, or more accurately, hear) that we had not previously seen.

A pair of Western Screech owls have taken up residency in our neighbor Miguel’s tree canopy, and often show themselves in daylight. Here’s two pictures from Miguel:

We’re also seeing a Cooper’s Hawk on patrol in the area in mornings and afternoons. Miguel was able to get this photo:

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DESERT BEES AND MORMON METALMARKS

Tiny butterflies (wingspan: around an inch) have been hanging out, with bees, on a desert broom bush in our yard. iNaturalist folk are saying they’re Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo). Never seen these guys here before. Really beautiful. (Note the bee in the photo below the video to get a sense of scale.)

Video and photo by Stephanie

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TURKEY VULTURES IN COMMITTEE

Last week we had massive groups of migrating turkey vultures at dusk and early morning on consecutive days. Here they are warming up in the dawn sun. Wild animals are the best — never gets old seeing them!

Wikipedia: “A group of vultures is called a kettle, committee or wake. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee refers to vultures resting on the ground or in trees. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding.”

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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VILLAGE ELDER

Local wild desert tortoises have been showing themselves lately.

This guy was under one of our vehicles, taking shelter after some rain the night before. Click on the photo to enlarge. Amazing gaze from this fella.

And a happy guest got this photo of himself with a (different) tortoise outside our Sunever cabin

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SUNNING

A roadrunner suns herself on the patio. She scampered off a few minutes later. A very intense sitch to come upon!

A follower on instagram added: “Believed to be a way to warm up without expending energy and to help dislodge parasites by baking em”

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SNAKES GETTING FRISKY

Two wild Coachwhips (aka Red Racers, or Red Coachwhips; scientific name: Masticophis flagellum piceus) mating. Filmed recently by a neighbor friend here in Joshua Tree; shared with his permission.

More info on this animal: http://digital-desert.com/wildlife/snakes/coachwhip.html

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NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN

Burrowing owls are back in our neck of Joshua Tree! Photo by neighbor Miguel.

Reminder that we rent out 2 of our cabins in this neighborhood to gentle visitors. Can’t guarantee a burrowing owl encounter, but…

What is a burrowing owl? Good piece on these little guys in The Desert Sun

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A MEADOW EMERGES

Scene from Wednesday morning’s daily dawntime run thru the local wash. All the fall/winter rain has given us a spring superbloom: wildflowers and other vegetation are in an abundance I haven’t seen since moving here in 2010. Prairie-like.

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LUCKY CHARMS

Starting to see this hyperviolet desert wildflower — Nama demissum, or “purple mat” — up around here. So pretty.

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