Saturday, September 28, 2019

September Storms 2019

We had started to call this summer a non-soon because there was nearly no rain. I cannot remember that  the tough Creosote bushes ever turned that rust-colored.  Yet the ground is still covered by dead, yellow cheat grass - a remnant of an unusually wet early winter. But that was so long ago!

Mid September a number of Hurricanes and tropical storms  approached  Mexico from the Pacific, and some of those cells sent their pressure disturbances far into the Sonoran Desert. So it did not only finally rain, we even saw some spouts dip down from the heavy clouds: small, short lived tornadoes. One was visible from our house to the west, but while less than a mile from us 3 inches of rain came down in less than 5 min, we had blue skies, no wind, and only a few sprinkles at that time. Eventually we did get some nice precipitation and we weren't sad that the tornadoes missed us. Still found a leak in the roof though - at the seam of the patio roof.

One early morning after the rain,  Leaf-cutter Ants, Acromyrmex versicolor started their mating flights. Winged males and females left the colonies and flew to one of their traditional meeting points. A huge column of dancers rose next to a  tree in our driveway.  The cloud of ants wavered  in the wind. It would nearly disappear at times but always reorganize. Walking the dogs, we ran into many flying ants still on their way to join the party. 

While I was watching, the column move right over my head - they like an elevated focal point. But mated pairs, or rather females with several suitors clinging to them, keep sinking to the ground, or down on my head as long as I kept standing there. so keeping some distance is highly recommended.

Swarming ants and termites draw predators. we are far from the next water, but Saddle-backs and Gliders (Dragonflies) are cruising the desert.

Cliff Swallows are sporadic visitors to our area, but during the days after the storm they were constantly shooting through the partly blue sky. In the evening hundreds of them fell into a neighbors tree to roost. It's quite far from our house but their chirping was loud enough to bring me outside to find out what the noise was.
We have not seen as many Night Hawks as usual this summer, although their purring could be heard all night at the south end of our property. Now they don't just stream across our house at sunset to get to the Santa Cruz River, but glide and flap in wide curves and zigzags among the saguaros, obviously hunting.

Tiny Western Pipistrelles somewhat resemble in size and flight pattern a large dark butterfly, maybe a Pipevine Swallowtail though they move more swiftly. We see them all summer long at sunset, but at the moment they seem especially common and active. Probably working on the fat reserves that have to last through the winter. These are much smaller than the nectar bats that will show up when it's fully dark to raid our hummingbird feeders. A third of their size?.

Following smaller predators come fiercer ones. Large insects, but also lizards and small birds are prey of the Shrike. Around our bird feeding area, mobs of smaller birds but also the local Mockingbird keep the masked killers away. But for a couple of weeks  I've now hear the nasal, loud shrieking.

The sun setting opposite dark storm clouds brings out the brilliant colors of the desert. I drove through Saguaro National Park West - sadly it's not a loop-drive anymore because the connection to Picture Rocks Rd seems permanently closed. Still, the tour inspired a watercolor painting

1 comment:

  1. Hi Margarethe
    Wow, what stunning photos from the hurricanes, especially the one with the lightning. Looks quite terrifying and I'm glad to read that you stayed save. Yes, nature in Arizona is a little bit different from ours :). I traveled through Arizona in the year 1992 with my cousin on our way from San Diego to Miami in an old VW bulli ... guite an adventure, but so much fun.
    Have a nice day