Land of the Saguaro - Lost Dutchman State Park (campground area)

October 8, 2015

Maturing Saguaro

A mature saguaro (suh-whar-o) can grow to 70 feet tall and live for 75 to 100 years. It's found only in the Sonoran Desert. It can take up to 50 years for a saguaro to produce its first arm. This big cactus gets its start with the help of a "nurse tree" - a larger, faster growing spreading tree that can provide shade and wind protection to an emerging sprout of a saguaro.  Saguaros that grow without arms are often called "spears". Below, you can see several saguaro that have used the same palo verde tree to get their start in life. Since the saguaro live so long, it's likely that these will outlive or break down their nurse tree.

Birds find it perfectly all right to perch on its needles. 

Gila Woodpecker (male) using its tail sideways for balance as it perches on the prickly top of a saguaro

Distant American Kestrel also perched on a saguaro
Although the Black-throated Sparrows were very quiet today, the state park is loaded with them.  Below is one on a seriously sharp cholla cactus.

It's rare that these dapper sparrows sit still long enough to be photographed together.

It's also rare to find a Common Raven in a position to be photographed. At Lost Dutchman, I usually hear and see them flying overhead. Today, one was so involved in eating something on the ground that I managed a marginal photo of it in bad light.

Note the Common Raven's short nasal bristles on the top of its bill.

There's nothing I like more than "bird drama" when I'm out in the field. Today it was provided by a cocky Cactus Wren that tried to drive a Loggerhead Shrike from its perch on top of a palo verde tree. If you know anything about a shrike, that is a dangerous undertaking. It can carry prey in its feet or its bill (or both) and despite its size can handle more than large insects in the air. By perching up high, it can drop quickly to its prey with one good pounce. 

The Cactus Wren kept going toward the shrike which gave it the evil eye, plus a spread tail and scolding call.
Ended up with wren (well-behaved at this point) perched below the shrike!

The only other drama was when Lois, who was birding with me, called out, "Hey! Look at this!"  Only the second time I've seen an owl while birding Lost Dutchman over the past several years, this was a gem.  We stayed on the campsite from which Lois had spotted it and took photos as it appeared to us through all the branches, still very obviously a Great Horned Owl!

So, after several days of showers, cool weather prevailed again this morning with a light breeze as we enjoyed a fabulous day with the birds at the state park.

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