I try to join Ned Harris and his naturalists tours in Sabino Canyon at least once a month. It's nice to be in like-minded company, even though I usually don't last very long in the group because I stop too often and too long for insects that are too small for most participants' eyes or camera lenses.
This time, my first stop (before I met the group) was devoted to the resident Roadrunner. When I found the nest, very well hidden in a Chain Fruit Cholla, I got a glimpse of some chicks and some as yet unhatched eggs. Roadrunners begin incubating right after the first egg is laid so the chicks are as different in size as organ pipes. Many birds with nestlings that are born blind, featherless and dependent on their parents (altricial) follow this strategy. For the youngest ones, this can be perilous. Their only chance of survival is a year with plenty of food. Under poor conditions the parents can decide to raise only the older, stronger siblings to ensure at least their survival. There seems to be a tuft of fur from a bunny or a rock squirrel tail in the nest. So this pair is bringing in rather big prey. That probably means good chances for all the chicks.
When I checked again on my way back, I was greeted by the angry stare of one of the parents. Altricial chicks are rarely left alone, and that means that in many species both parents share the nest duties.
Two lonely, very young Mallard chicks were dabbling in the small pond by the dam. They were contently feeding on the willow seeds that drifted into the water. Very different from roadrunners, ducks are precocious birds. The female only starts incubating after she has laid the whole clutch. So the chicks all hatch on approximately the same day even though some eggs are up to 2 weeks older than others. The chicks hatch with feathers, open eyes and ready to go. And they have to. The family, which means mother and chicks, the father is not involved, leaves the nest and the dangers of sedentary living and moves out right away. The two in the picture seemed actually to be on their own, no mother in sight. And yet, they still have a chance to grow up.
|Rhagoletis sp. (Maggot Fly)|
|Dufourea sp. male on Brittle Bush, Encelia farinosa|
|Dufourea sp. female|
|Red and yellow Trichodes ornatus|
|Trirhabda sp., probably T. geminata|
|Lema daturaphila eggs|