We (Paul and Kitty Antonik Wakfer) had only been back at our house in the desert outside Casa Grande Arizona a very few days when while eating in front of our dining room window we noticed a road runner on the porch directly outside the sliding glass door. Kitty managed to get her camera (usually kept accessible on the kitchen table) on and aimed to catch a pic of the roadrunner as it scurried a few steps and then moved - in quick snatches as roadrunners do - around the area for a few seconds giving Kitty a chance to click off a few more.
Kitty ended up taking several photos of us on December 3 because she didn't know which would look best for our quarterly update. Pesky things like shadows and objects appearing to come out of either of our heads are an annoyance. It's so nice having a digital camera and being able to see the results immediately - no waits for film to be developed or having to conserve the number of shots taken due to shortage of film.
She settled on a crop from #4, directly to the left.
The sky - as seen from our front driveway - was a spectacular wash of color on December 5th.
And the change in shades just 52 seconds later is considerable.
We never cease to enjoy watching the critters in our "backyard" while we eat in front of the large window - and take looks other times when we've got a view of the area. Putting our food scraps (the little that doesn't go into Paul's smoothie :) out in the open facilitates all sorts of activity. These 3 series of photos taken between December 30 2009 and January 3 2010 demonstrate just that.
Gambel's quail travel in pairs unless they are still juvenile and have not mated (and probably if one has recently lost a mate). This doesn't mean that the individuals stay close together all the time.
Here one individual quail of 2 pairs (the 4th bird is out of camera range at the creosote base) is not with hir mate and investigates the scraps, but a lone dove has also taken interest in them. This initial quail is a female, having duller head and chest feather coloring. In the 2nd pic, the 2nd female has shown up - wandering between the 2 males who appear to be "conferring". Note the darker head and chest coloring of the 2 in "conference".
Now one of the quail pairs has wandered off; the same dove moves to the food scrap periphery and a rabbit stays even further away.
Now there are 2 pair. Are these the same from about 20 minutes earlier? Close examination of the feather patterning that appears to be unique to a bird may be able to discern this. However, Kitty is not sure that the patterns on a quail are identical on both sides and the photos do not always catch the same side of the birds in question. We often wish that we could individually mark "our" animals.
The following day saw a great number of quail come through the yard in the early afternoon as we ate. Paul had distributed a few handfuls of the remainder of the 20 pounds of rye flakes we had that day found that day to be worm infested and decided not to use - he did so in the closer shaded area. (The rye flakes had been tightly closed in its original shipping bags all summer in our basement after starting usage in the previous winter. Contamination of grains with moth larvae is a not uncommon problem for wholesalers and large quantities that are not kept cool and are not used fairly quickly very often are seen to have hatched worms.)
16 quail plus a ground squirrel (extreme right) and a rabbit (left center) can be seen in the small area caught in this pic.
Some of the quail have moved down to the rye flakes.
It's 2.5 mins later and where has the crowd gone?
Actually they are still there - but in motion. A close up shows the blurred quail. A single bird had bolted to the NW (upper left) and most of the others went in the same direction, within a fraction of a second. Kitty just happened to have her camera at the ready and caught the "tail" end of the ground "flight". (Examine previous pic for few other blurs near creosotes to right of palo verde.) What caused the panic? Nothing that we saw, but then we're not quail.
Interactions between quail pairs elicits numerous comments by Kitty who enjoys anthropomorphizing as she observes animals on our properties.
This female - no dark head or chest feathers - has taken a nibble at one of the outer cauliflower leaves that had been torn into pieces when included in the food scraps. Whether the pair is the same one seen in the following pics the next day cannot be determined as the wing markings are not visible for identification. Also note rabbit in background of some of these pictures.
This pair was photographed over nearly 6 minutes and one can easily imagine a conversation between them.Female has taken up good-sized piece of cauliflower leaf while her mate pecks around for typical quail food. One can almost imagine her saying (with a beak full of leaf), "Why not give a hand here with this interesting item?"
~2.5 minutes later after having made initial tears and nibbled some herself, she relinquishes the main piece when her mate appears interested. "Let's see what you think is so good about this stuff".
"Not bad.. not bad at all" as he wrestles off pieces, eats them and then proceeds out of sight into the creosote to the left of the palo verde, leaving his mate with a few scraps as he leaves.
The female works on the small scrap off the large piece of cauliflower leaf, likely muttering to herself, "He's really being obnoxious lately when it comes to food... hogging almost all of it..."
"Well, you're back", she says over the last of the leaf as he returns from between the branches of the creosote bush. "All I've got is this second little bit you left me." "I'm sorry dear, I just got carried away...", he pleads.
Picking it up for the first time, she realizes that the scrap is bigger than she realized. Relieved and taking credit for it, he beams, "See! I wasn't so inconsiderate. I was really thinking of you."
"Well, it all turned out OK," she acknowledges as they move off. "Maybe we'll find more of this in the future. Wonder what it is?" he briefly ponders and then forgets the entire episode.
A couple of pics of us in mid-January.
Paul made special effort starting in February to increase his lower body strength, maintain the upper body strength gained from wood chopping/sawing in Ontario and possibly increase his bone density, by adding weights to his body for a couple hours most days of the week. He wore this double pack arrangement (to distribute weight evenly front and back) and arm weights for a total of 30 pounds for ~2 hours while doing outside yard work, many indoor standing tasks and doing "steps (up and down to the basement, 20 roundtrips). He started with 40 lbs, but decided after a week that was too much for comfort and speed.
Cleaning up the back porch is no easy job when wearing an extra 40 pounds (no arm weights yet) - but he's still smiling.
Brush does accumulate in the desert - from our many (planted) trees, (always spreading) aloe vera and the numerous native creosote bushes. For many years it simply accumulated in a large pile that we planned to eventually mulch but now have turned into a natural fence. It will need regular additions in material to grow and maintain an acceptable height, otherwise the dogs we are trying to keep out will simply jump, or for the big ones step, over it.
When no outside yard work was beckoning or the weather was unfavorable, Paul still made use of the inside tasks requiring movement during which he wore the weights.
Food preparation is more cumbersome when the hand weights are positioned at the wrists, but that is where they are most effective for upper arm and shoulder strengthening.
Emptying the dishwasher every 3 days was not as difficult as raising a quart of thawed berries and scraping it into the blender for the smoothie.
The last "task" while wearing the weights is always "the steps" - typically 20 roundtrips down and up again from the basement. This is a good aerobic workout! Kitty does them also - 24 roundtrips - taking them double on the way up, but she is not wearing the weights. Paul did the same before wearing weights while doing it.
The middle of April presented a couple opportunities for camera critter catching.
Kitty can't be sure that this roadrunner outside our den/office window is the same one as she photoed back in November soon after we arrived (at the top of the page), but its curiosity is sure similar. We'd not seen one before as close to the house as this one has been. Wonder if it will be back in the Fall...
This flora "critter" is one of Kitty's favorites having purchased it in Tucson approximately 30 years ago. A few times it looked like this succulent - proper term for Bishop's Hat - was dying, but it has always revived and bloomed each late February or early March, often more than once before we left for Ontario at end of April. This time it bloomed 3 times while we were in Casa Grande, but Jack missed it every weekend he was down from Tempe - so Kitty took this photo for him and emailed it at the time.