Monday, March 13, 2017

Hope for 2017

They said it couldn't happen. Wouldn't happen. Until it did. One day, a tiny gray bird named Lucy unexpectedly made her nest in a decorative little bird house in one lucky Tucsonan's yard.  Despite her declining habitat, Lucy had, until then, steadfastly refused to rear her young in nest boxes. Lucy prefers the holes and crevices found in trees - mesquites, thank you very much - especially those of the dense stands found in riparian areas. Make no mistake: it's just these types of areas and trees that are in rapid decline.  Poor Lucy.  Consider her the next time you are tempted to buy mesquite charcoal.

Truth be told, I've become a little bit of a "crazy bird lady" recently.  I thought it was prompted by my having to cut down my old chinaberry tree/starling apartment complex this fall (both invasive, for what it's worth), but Pilot Guy reminded me of this strange day, and the haunting dream I had about both my mother and the yellow bird months later. No matter the reason, I've enjoyed watching, listening to - I'm a flutist, after all! - and photographing birds ever since.  (Here's a haphazard selection of some of my early attempts.)

So today, the Ducati and I - noses high in the air, inhaling the orange blossom and sweet acacia scented morning breezes - headed east, to volunteer for the Tucson Audubon Society's nest box project.  Our task? Install 100 nest box "replicates" to aid in determining just what sort of box, with what sort of height, and/or orientation, Miss Lucy might, if we're lucky, decide to patronize.

The boxes are almost as light and delicate as Miss Lucy herself. Until you try to push a wheelbarrow with 50 of them (and your lunch) through deep sand under an uncharacteristically hot March sun, that is.

Ducati No-Fly Zone (Yes, this is a river.  A desert river.)

Two teams installed, in random order, five different types of boxes in each of 20 sites, recording their GPS coordinates, height, arrangement, and orientation along the way.

Which one will Lucy prefer? I'll ride out for Audubon from time to time this spring, in an attempt to answer that very question.

The five "replicates," installed just in time. The migrating Lucy's Warblers are beginning to arrive in Tucson this very week.  (The first photo in this post is an extra credit box in the mesquite in my back yard. I'm hope, hope, hoping...)

The installation site is delightfully close to the base of Mount Lemmon, but my reward run up the mountain was slower than Sunday. The ascending traffic, a long snaking line of cars so slow it was nearly outpaced by the sweating, panting bicyclists, left me wondering if today was a holiday.  The smart rider stops for a sandwich constructed of Bosnian leftovers and enjoys the view.

Windy Point, Mount Lemmon

The return trip? I may have done a little - just a little - flying myself.

With our nation poised to leap backwards into an abyss of ecological apathy, if not downright assault, consider volunteering an hour, making a choice, planting a plant, or writing a check for a bird, bee, or tree near you.

April 24, 2017 Update!
I've checked the boxes twice, with no sign of activity, (I'm going back again tomorrow), and I don't know what other volunteers have seen (or not seen) at the other two sites, BUT...
I have a friend with a decorative bird house in her tree. Guess who moved in?

Photo courtesy of FastWinn Photography

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