Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Species a Day, Week 3

Check out Week 1 and Week 2!

Day 15: Great-horned owl

A great-horned owl, Bubo virginianus, and her owlet. I was pretty excited about these. They might be the most widely distributed "true owls" (non-barn owls) in the Americas, but I have seen only a few in the wild ever, and certainly never a parent/owlet pair. If you're in the area, these two are (for the moment) residing at the Apache Junction Public Library. Go to the entryway, and look up and to your right, on the stucco ledge. If you see droppings, you're in the right area. Be respectful. If they're not there by the time you get out, word is they've been nesting there for a few years now, so try next year. (I'm now officially The Person Everyone Tells About These Things. Fun times!)

Day 16: Pied-billed grebe

Pied-billed grebe, Podilymbus podiceps. A family! This is what I love about 1) photography and 2) taking my son on nature walks. Until I did those two things, these (and a million other water birds) were just "those water birds that aren't ducks, geese, or coots." I think knowing about coots still put us ahead of most people we encounter, but it's amazing how much variety is out there and how naturally you get to know the different kinds, if you just pay attention. Trust me. If there are any two people in the world worse at paying attention than my son and me, I've yet to meet them. But when we slowed down and looked around, there were the pied-billeds and hundreds of other species just waiting for us to get to know them, the better to facilitate both animal appreciation and pompous pedantry at those fools who can't even identify a coot.

Day 17: Convergent lady beetle

It's kind of a family joke. When I was younger and obligated to play in baseball and softball games, and other kids were obliged (to their perpetual chagrin) to include me on their teams, I was exiled to the outfield to minimize my damage. (There was a brief but unfortunate stint as a pitcher, and an even worse turn as a catcher; both of which ended with me getting injured and berated by my dad/coach. I prefer not to think about those times.) While in the outfield, I could survey the whole game. Our team yelled to each other, flashed signals and looks. The other team screamed and cheered for whoever was at bat. Dirt flew. Bats cracked against balls. People did whatever it is people do when they're able to competently play team sports. My dad yelled himself hoarse. Everyone went nuts.

And I ... collected ladybugs.

It really wasn't the best thing for me. The outfield was swarming with ladybugs. I was so excited the first time I discovered them. The next time, I studied and counted them, reckoning how best to get a few to take safely home. The third time, I smuggled a container to the field, in which I'd drilled tiny air holes.

I missed dozens and dozens of balls. It never occurred to me to be on my toes, despite my dad yelling for me to GET YOUR DANG HEAD IN THE GAME. I mean, what? Pay attention the whole time? I think the other team usually had one girl who was too prissy to really play, so it balanced out.

These guys are known variously as ladybug, ladybird, ladyclock, lady cow, lady fly, and probably some I'm missing, but the preferred name used by scientists seems to be lady beetle. There are various species of ladybugs in Arizona (and throughout the world -- there are over 450 species in North America alone), but the most common around here is the convergent lady beetle, Hippodamia convergens. They are so named because they, well, converge, in huge groups, to hibernate.

Lady beetles lay their eggs early around here, and we've already got the red-and-black larvae inching about our weeds garden, as well as mature and immature adults. If you can picture tiny larvae looking a little bit like alligators, that's them. They grow up to delight kids everywhere, to occupy otherwise-depressed centerfielders at elementary schools, and to eat aphids. Hooray for lady beetles.

Day 18: Tree lizard

Tree lizards, or Urosaurus ornatus, are also called ornate tree lizards, and they look much more ornate from beneath, where you can see the vivid blues and orange-reds on their bellies and throats. They love our yard.

See? Look how happy he is.

Day 19: Blue dasher

The first dragonfly I got to really know was definitely the blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis. (OK. Go ahead. My husband and son laugh every time.) Super-plentiful at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve and near water holes everywhere around my home in central Arizona, and a little less wary than some other dragonflies. (Roseatte skimmers, for example. Those guys are like Bugs Bunny to my Elmer Fudd.) They're one of the first dragonflies to return around here, and we're already spotting them.

Day 20: Mourning dove

Ah, my love-hate relationship with mourning doves.

No; that's not fair. I don't hate them. It's their various leavings, invariably on my car, that I'm not so crazy about. Plus, they always used to seem so boring.

I know, I know. For an animal lover -- one who extols the virtues of decidedly uncuddly creatures -- that's harsh. Doves are cute, innocent, pretty-sounding. They have these perfect little tapered bodies. They have compact, precious faces with little obsidian-droplet eyes. They're universal symbols of peace, for crying out loud. Innocence. Purity. Grace. Nature's fragility. You'd think I'd eat that stuff up.

Meh. They aren't cool or particularly clever-seeming, like raptors, owls or corvids. They aren't iconic, like Arizona's roadrunner or even Gambel's quail. They don't let you come that close. They're drab brown and gray, not striking like cardinals or flycatchers or blackbirds. They're not rare. They crap all over my car. I always guessed that was their most prominent characteristic.

Slowly, they've wormed their way into our "cool animals" group. (Which, honestly, includes pretty much any metazoan ever in existence.) We watch them glide between the houses nearly every evening. We rescued a mourning dove. I had to hold it briefly, and I felt the tiny, rapid heartbeat beneath its warm, almost liquid-soft breast feathers. It was amazing. It fit in my cupped hand, and it spread to fill my palm like a nest as I carried it. The dove just sat there, but it looked at me, all pupil, like looking was an Olympic sport. The thing was infinitely fragile, yet strong somehow too. Wild.

But they're still stupid shit dispersers.

Day 21: Pipevine swallowtail

I've loved these guys since my son first discovered the red-black spiny caterpillar, and the adults are gorgeous. They're just so darn hard to pin down and photograph. Pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor -- found in much of the United States, but especially in southern half, and throughout Mexico, pretty much anywhere there are plants they like and a warm-enough climate -- flutter constantly from plant to plant for nectar, and flutter even once they've landed. Still, they're gorgeous enough that I keep trying.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Species a Day, Week 2

The second week in my Species a Day project. Check out Week 1 here.

Also, if anyone ever thinks I'm getting an ID wrong on these critters, by all means, let me know. I think I'm pretty good, but I slip up, and this is one of the few instances in which I'll gladly solicit criticism. I know half of these offhand, and the rest I can usually identify, but wild animals have an annoying habit of refusing to pose beside a field guide or my Google search results.

Day 8: Double-crested cormorant

Double-crested cormorants, Phalacrocorax auritus, in non-breeding plumage. Voracious gulpers of fish and chasers of one another. Distinctive face. How has no one made a cartoon character out of one of these guys?

Seen at water holes all around, but we especially like the ones at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve (they also have neotropic cormorants, but word has it that double-cresteds are more common, and that, along with the bill and tail lengths, cinched it for me, I think). These guys have personality -- cormorality? Whatever. They're hilarious. Instead of chirping or squawking, they have a kind of burping noise that they make at one another. And they make it all the time. If you go toward the back of the preserve on most evenings, you can hear them preparing to roost in some of the large trees; dozens and dozens of them, into the hundreds, maybe. Each time a new cormorant comes to the tree, it steals an already-occupied branch, sending the occupant careening to grab another branch, often another occupied one, and so on. There are usually free branches, but they rarely go for those. They steal and bicker, in an enormous chorus of irritated belches.

They act kind of the same when they're fishing, or even just standing around. I really kind of dig the perpetually glaring turquoise gaze and that grimace of a bill. (My son and husband theorize it's because I see myself in the derisive glare and constant scolding. To which I say ... Hey! Get off my seat!)

Day 9: Great egret

Ardea alba, also known as the Great White Egret, or bird way to gorgeous to make droppings the size of my entire body.

Love these guys. I miss about 95 percent of the shots I attempt, especially when they're flying, mostly because they're more fun to watch. Their expansive white wings and back carve a graceful arch through the air. Their long necks form tucked in S shapes as the sharp bills cut the air. Even their feet -- a little gnarled and scaly close up -- trail pin-straight behind them in a graceful black tail. When they brake to land, the feet pull up and the wings spread, and light bleeds through each overlapping feather, stark-white alternating with gray elliptical accents, like a series of ethereal Venn diagrams.

(It can't all be nature rhapsodizing. I'm still a dork.)

Day 10: Wolf spider (I think)

I'm the spider gal, but I'm not an expert at identifying them all. After all, my favorite spiders are some of the most readily identifiable, and I still run into quandaries.

This one was tough for me, but the eye orientation, legs, and general body structure and size on this one have me thinking it's a wolf spider in the Rabidosa genus. That means "rabid" wolf spider, by the way, and I think it's an apt name for really any wolf spider. I'm not scared of them, mind you. (I know. I'm nuts.) But that doesn't mean, if I have the lens nearly touching the thing and it decides to run for me at Mach 10, that I'm not going to jump back a few feet.

These live in our garage sometimes. Don't tell my husband.

Day 11: House finch

A male house finch, Carpodacus mexicanus, in a paloverde. I really should photograph these guys more often.

Common. But also gorgeous. House finches started as residents of Mexico and the Southwestern United States, but have been introduced and sold (illegally) throughout the rest of the country over the years. In most cases, they've settled readily, foraging for seeds and grains wherever they happen to be. Whether you lament the species they might have displaced or are happy to see the little guys, you've got to admit, as one online friend put it when I posted the picture: "Everywhere we go, from forest to desert, New England to Arizona, house finches are there. Nesting in eaves, nesting in chollas, nearly always singing ... this bird's got game!"

Day 12: Small milkweed bug

A small milkweed bug, Lygaeus kalmii, on my fingertip. I remember these as some of the first splashes of color I saw in the insects that shared our backyard growing up. I'd seen ladybugs before, and we had a ton of insects (and arachnids) that were variations of brown, gray, and black; but these were so pretty, with their vivid red Xs over the black and gray. I thought they were terribly exotic. For a while, there were black-and-red as well as black-and-orange milkweed bugs that would appear every year for a few weeks on a plant between my house and the bus stop. I would rush to check on them each day. It was one of the first wildlife obsessions I had, and it was just this common little bug. It's funny what inspires us.

I still think they're gorgeous. Specialized too -- the sap of the milkweed plant on which they feed is poisonous and gummy, and can wreak havoc with most things that try to eat it. Milkweed bugs have specialized piercing and sucking mouth parts (if my husband is reading this, you can stop snickering now) that avoid the bad stuff and get the good stuff. They also feed on other nectars, and have been known to forage when food sources are scarce. They lay eggs on milkweed plants in the spring.

Day 13: Anna's hummingbird

Anna's hummingbirds, Calypte anna, are abundant this time of year. I believe we have at least two nests of them in the trees around our backyard, and our hummingbird feeder is perpetually, well, humming. Their bodies are gilded in green with bronze highlights, and the males have flashy red heads.

Anna's are huge nectar feeders, and so are also important pollinators. They supplement their diet with tiny insects, which they somehow snatch out of mid-air with wide-open bills. They're feisty and aggressive -- I'm dive-bombed nearly every time I visit my own backyard -- and they sing, a lot, which is pretty unusual for hummingbirds. Their song is usually a series of raspy squeaks, but they do make a louder noise, which has been said to be produced by the tail feathers. It's during the courtship/territory display the male puts on. When a female enters his territory (which seems to equate to "anything I can see or might possibly feel like claiming"), the male Anna's climbs to almost 100 feet, until he becomes a speck in the sky and almost disappears. Then, he falls. Plummets. At the last second, right beside the female, he veers off wildly and lets out an explosive shriek. It's really something to see. Just try not to unwittingly walk right beneath the display, or 1) you'll have a very angry hummingbird; and 2) you'll look extremely foolish, fearfully shielding yourself from something that is four inches long.

Day 14: Black-necked stilts

Black-necked stilts, Himantopus mexicanus, are another common sight at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve. Whenever I see these guys, I can't believe how fragile they look. The spindly pink legs, the thin bill. Even their painted look and the prissy way they walk. They just look to delicate to be allowed. They certainly manage. Though they're hunted by some animals, especially feral cat colonies, their numbers are staying strong for the most part. They're common migrants in Arizona, but they also breed here.

I think they do catch small fish from time to time, but mostly, they forage. They stalk daintily through the shallows, scouting the water and mud for tiny invertebrates that I never see until they pluck them up.

Also, they're noisy. Courtship, territorial disputes, annoyance at bird watchers and photographers ... if you can't see any stilts, just listen. They're probably making noise right now.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Species a Day, Week 1

I've been floundering a bit lately. I have a few projects I want to do, I have an idea of where I'd like my career to go, and I have passions languishing on back burners. I never seem to have time to do it all how I'd like.

Because I'm weird and my brain generally works the opposite of what logic would dictate, making a new project for myself seems to have set everything into alignment. I don't know why. What I do know is 1) I've learned more about Arizona nature and especially Arizona's animals in the last few years than in all my animal-obsessed childhood years combined; 2) I am pretty good at nature photography; and 3) people tend to ask me about Arizona animals, and I enjoy being a know-it-all about them. So this week marks the first roundup week of my self-imposed "Species a Day" project: A different Arizona animal species each day, with previously unshared photographs and a brief writeup.

This past week's animals follow. What animals would you like to see? I'm game for anything, as long as it's an Arizona animal (though it doesn't have to be exclusively an Arizona animal, as in most cases).

Day 1: Cactus wren

Our state bird. Bold. Feisty. Fond of scolding anyone who crosses its path with loud, raspy, ceaseless vocalizations. You know, a typical Arizonan.

Nah. Wrens probably talk less often.

Cactus wrens, Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus, are the largest of our wrens, at 22 centimeters. They're the most striking, too, in my opinion: They've got bright white streaks over each eye, sort of like the freaky eyebrows on that juicer guy; and they have beautifully streaked and speckled breasts.

Cactus wrens are year-round residents across much of Arizona and are especially fond of (you guessed it) cactus country. Cholla are their favorites, and they tuck their nests inside the wicked branches of these most wicked of cacti. The ground surrounding every cholla (and thus every cactus wren home) is perpetually covered in cactus-branch land mines, which spent the better part of my childhood attached to various parts of my anatomy. (I had a branch lodged in my foot while taking these images, as a matter of fact. Not fun. Tip: Don't wear sandals while chasing cactus wrens.)

If you can manage to navigate safely through that, there's no way you'll reach the nest. Cactus wren nests are generally only accessible to cactus wrens. You'd think, then, that they'd be calm and secure. Not so.

Cactus wrens are freakishly alert, ever vigilant, and noisy. I approached one. Cha! ChaChaChaChaChaCha! It flew away. I slowly (after yanking a huge cholla branch from my ankle) approached again. ChaChaChaChaChaChaCHACHA! I watched it go. I sat on the ground and waited for it to come to me (after removing the cactus branch on which I'd sat). It returned. With a friend!

I excitedly got off one snap before getting it in stereo. CHACHASCREWYOU! Finally, I settled for not moving my lens, not moving my head, and locking my eyes on his home cactus. Eventually, after several minutes, he landed one last time, lacing his scaly toes through the cholla spines, and I got a few more shots in before failing to lace my own toes safely through the spines that were at my feet. I used the "comb method" to remove this branch (stick a comb in; yank really hard; curse), and as beads of blood welled and I got hollered at again by the wren, I called it a day. Birding is hard work, y'all. (Actually, I had a blast. Plus, this was the guy that inadvertently led me here.)

Day 2: Verdin

In the same area as the cactus wrens, I saw (and actually managed to capture) a verdin, or Auriparus flaviceps, perched on a staghorn cholla.

I'll share my husband's wisdom on the matter:

Husband: "What's a verdin?"
Me: "I think it's a type of tit."
Husband: "... (snickersnicker) ..."
Me: "Really?"
Husband: [Laughing like a 10-year-old]

It only got worse when I mentioned that it's related to the bushtit. We have this type of conversation often. You can imagine his appreciation of the recent animal-name hi-jinks on Jeopardy.

Seriously, I have the hardest time capturing verdins. They're these tiny sprites of birds (about 11 centimeters) that flit around in arid scrub, building little spheres of nests. They're gorgeous. And I never noticed them until I started purposely looking.

Day 3: Green lacewing

I photographed this green lacewing (Genus Chrysoperla, I believe -- anyone know the specific species name?) on my window in the morning. I love these guys. They're delicate and gorgeous, their eyes are iridescent, and they eat aphids. They're only a couple of centimeters long. They're attracted to lights at night like moths, except they're more jittery and fluttery than moths when they fly. (More jittery and fluttery. See how scientific I am?) Sometimes in the summer, they'll lay eggs on tiny hair-like filaments, with a miniature bubble of an egg at the tip of each fiber. My son commented that "they're like party balloons, only with insect eggs," which probably tells you quite a bit about how my family sees the world.

Day 4: Blue-eyed darner

Love these guys. This was the first dragonfly I remember ever seeing, and their eyes remind me of Fremen, so of course I'm pretty fond of the critters. For some reason, I have the hardest time capturing clear photos of these darners, which seem a tad more cautious than some other dragonflies in Arizona. Still, I liked this image.

The blue-eyed darner, Aeshna multicolor, is about 7 centimeters long. It seems to like perching on sage bushes and similar foliage. The female is marked similarly to the male, except with green instead of blue.

Day 5: Great-tailed grackle

Maybe kind of a cheat, as they're so easy, but I really don't think there's a "boring" critter out there, and if there was, it certainly wouldn't be great-tailed grackles, or Quiscalus mexicanus. These guys are a blast to watch. They're not, as some people think, cousins of crows, but they still seem pretty darn intelligent. A male grackle will sit up in a tree, seemingly waiting for his harem of females below to scout out potential foraging grounds.

These are some of my son's favorite birds, and I think it's because they're so dang entertaining. Their mating "dance" is hilarious: The male will sort of stiffen and vibrate/jiggle himself about, like a broken wind-up toy, with feathers puffed out, while the female feigns indifference. (So, not so unlike people, I guess.) They squabble. They're fiercely opportunistic. Once I spilled a bag of cat food in the grocery store parking lot. I was set upon by an energetic cacophonous cloud. They're awesome.

Day 6: Curve-billed thrasher

Growing up, we had a water dish in our backyard that was frequented, most often, by cactus wrens and curve-billed thrashers, or Toxostoma curvirostre. As I said above, the wrens were feisty and noisy and just seemingly crude. The thrashers, on the other hand, gave the appearance of a sort of haughty polish. Their sickle-shaped bills looked like some kind of cultured restraint, and they lightly loped about, calling out less often, and then only with a sweet, short, whit-weet. They seemed more polite, somehow.

I totally think I'm better than you.

This was an illusion. The thrashers would wait. They would stand about with their snobbish looks, prissily whit-weeting at the cactus wrens, and then, while the wrens were busy telling everyone how great they were, the thrahsers would move in, drink the water, and eat all the seed.

Curve-billed thrashers can be hard to tell from the closely related Bendire's thrashers. Curve-billed thrashers, at about 28 centimeters, also have lighter and more spotted breasts than the Bendire's, at about 25 centimeters -- and also, suprise, more curved bills.

Day 7: Great blue heron

If you've browsed this blog at all, you've almost definitely seen photos of this bird before. The great blue heron, Ardea herodias, begs to be photographed pretty much any time you spot it. If you live in the area, go to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, where you're bound to see a few zillion other bird species if the herons don't tickle your fancy. If you get there while there's still a decent amount of daylight left, hike to one of the inner ponds. Find a secluded spot at the water's edge. Just sit. And wait. They'll come.

Great blue herons live throughout North America, and are pretty adaptable to different locations, though they'll always be near a body of water, and usually nest in nearby trees. If, like me, your first encounter is an accident, and you learn the heron's alarm call (an abnormally loud, abnormally un-birdlike, harsh croak-grunt) as it flies out of a concealing bush like a pterodactyl, your first heron encounter might coincide with your first heart attack.

Also, they're awesome fishers. They stalk. Plunge. Gobble. And repeat. And I never tire of watching. (One last tip. Stay out from beneath them. OMG.)

The approach

The attack

The reward

And that's it, for this week. I'll post another species each day, and gather them up each Monday. I think I should be able to go at least a year. What do you think?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Everything happens for a reason ... sort of

My dad: He got cooler later in life, but not much.
My dad's been dead for half my life, and it really, really sucks.

It goes without saying. Or, at least, it should. But it never seems to, does it? "Time heals." "You're stronger for it." "Everything happens for a reason."

No, no, no. Especially the last one. Everything happens for a reason? Please. My father did not leave this life, extremely prematurely, for any reason. Or at best, as the result of stupid, pointless events. Still, nearly everyone, since the day he died, seems to want to tell me it happened "for a reason." The wost offenders usually include some variation of "Don't worry; everything sorts itself out" along with the platitude.

Before you think I'm a horrible, horrible person who secretly hates all your comforting words, let me explain. I do take comfort in the fact that so many people care, still, after all this time, and that's the main thing. So thank you, truly. However, I think it's more comforting to not assume reason and direction. I prefer to find it, or better, to make it.

If my dad hadn't died, I probably wouldn't have taken the precise career path I had, I wouldn't be married to my husband, and owing to the circuitous interconnectedness of things, my son probably wouldn't exist. Really, everything does affect everything that comes after it in one's life, to some degree or another. But you can go crazy assigning meaning like that. He didn't die so that these things could happen. He lived, and with my mom raised me, so that they could happen.

I honestly don't usually remember the anniversary of when my father died. I always remember his birthday. He lived for a reason, and it had nothing to do with predestination or guiding spirits. He lived for the reasons that he created every day. He was a father, son, husband, brother, teacher, coach, fantasy baseball commissioner, unabashed Beach Boys and Jim Croce lover, sarcastic joke teller, conservative, and pain in the ass. He did what he did, and to hell with anyone else and their idea of cool. (See that photo at the top? I never again want to hear you say "Oh, yeah, my family is full of dorks too," unless it reaches that level of dorkitude. I mean, seriously.) He was a whole ton of other things. And none of it just happened. He was, determinedly and perpetually, the reason.

He was never big-time into nature, but I am. Yesterday, I was chasing birds. It was early enough that the date hadn't really registered. After an hour or two of attempted birding, miles and miles off course, I pulled to a stop beside his baseball field. Yesterday would have been his 53rd birthday.

The birds didn't guide me there. There wasn't a mystical force pulling me. I probably already remembered in the back of my mind what day it was. But it has meaning anyway. It happened for a reason, and by "it" I mean my recognition of the moment. I assigned meaning to the moment. I couldn't stop smiling, all the way home. The radio seemed to play the most pleasingly cheesy songs I'd heard in ages, and I thought of him as I bellowed along with the lyrics.

I returned to the field last night with my son. We brought crayons; paper; cameras; a really old, really dorky photograph; and an old clarinet.

David plays the clarinet now, and that certainly happened for a reason. One other thing that my dad was was a clarinet player, and a good one (his failed attempts at circular breathing notwithstanding). My son now plays his old clarinet. I couldn't possibly be prouder. David played the clarinet at Brian Hosey Field, we did some rubbings of the plaque, and he ran and ran around the field until he could barely breathe and the light had faded entirely.

My father, whatever and wherever else he may or may not be, most definitely lives on through us. He's behind my humor, love, aggravation, creativity, strengths, and weaknesses. It really has been a while now. We have, of course moved on, if not gotten "over" anything. I'm honestly startled sometimes to realize it's been days and days since I've really thought about him. And then I stop. And breathe. And think. And maybe write; or sing, loudly and badly; or read a stupid comic book; or vociferously argue a point about which no one cares. No one tells me to. No one makes me do it. Possibly, no one's watching over me. I choose to do what I do. But he did teach me.

He didn't die for a reason, but he's gone, and we deal. It's made a little easier by the fact that he lived for so many reasons, and we nurture those every day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dr. Seuss books, one take each

In celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday, my son filmed the following tomfoolery.

1. I look stupid. My face is stupid and my arms are fat and I slouch and bite my lip.
2. I sound really stupid. I have no idea why I read the title of On Beyond Zebra like some kind of fake cowgirl. I was getting tired.
3. The cats and kid were constantly trying to distract me. (Cat butts make periodic appearances -- see the first seconds of the bottom video.)
4 I used to be much better at this.
5. We had fun anyway.
6. Tell me how funny I am, rather than how my face and arms do too look fine. I'll only disagree with you otherwise.
7. No, you can tell me I look OK too. But really, I'd rather be fun. My son cracked up for half an hour straight, so I'll call it a win.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Backyard bird count numbers

Like I said the other day, we decided to participated in this year's Great Backyard Bird Count. My son kept the tally, from the Gilbert Riparian Preserve:

Great-tailed grackle: 13
Mallard duck: 22
Ring-necked duck: 9
American coot: 3
Black-necked stilt: 4
Red-winged blackbird: 14
Yellow-headed blackbird: 2
House sparrow: 5
Hybrid duck of some kind: 2
Great egret: 4
Northern mockingbird: 1
Anna's hummingbird: 6
Pin-tailed duck: 2
Canada goose: 21
White-crowned sparrow: 6
Mourning dove: 2
Great blue heron: 1
Northern cardinal: 1

We stopped counting somewhere around there, because he found a bush positively packed with hummingbirds. He sat beside the bush as still as possible and just waited, a "Jane Goodall but with hummingbirds," he said. They began to surround him like buzzing, hovering emeralds, and we paused -- a moment of peace within a momentary respite. Citizen science for the win, y'all.

Some of the birds from our count (sadly, I can't include "hybrid duck of some kind," but the rest are in):
Great egret

American coot

Anna's hummingbird

Bonus heron, with fish (or ex-fish)

Red-winged blackbird

Black-necked stilt

Canada goose

Did any of you participate? Tell me what you saw! If, like me, you put things off until the last minute, remember to get over to the site and post your results today at the latest.

Expect to see some more of these guys in coming days/weeks/months. I'm starting a new project (I started just after midnight, but I'm considering it February 28 because it was still before bed for me). For as long as I can, I'm posting a photograph of a different Arizona species every day. Hopefully animals, for as long as I can keep it up. After each week, I'll collect the photos here for a critter post. That's in addition to my usual mucking around and animal shenanigans. What do you think? Any animals you'd particularly like to see?