Backyard Wildlife

Pam Boedeker

SaddleBrooke Nature Club’s meeting room is closed but that didn’t stop us from having Doris Evans show us her photography of the critters in her yard. She is our favorite speaker and closes out our season every year. This year she came to us on Zoom.

Doris has a growing collection of cameras purchased for her hobby of photographing unsuspecting critters as they go about their daily tasks. Her long-time favorite is a cube camera. It isn’t motion activated. Doris places it in a rigged up Altoids tin, starts it rolling then checks the hour or so footage when it’s done. Sometimes she just gets pictures of the water dish in her yard. Other times she captures animal behavior no one has ever seen.

A Western screech owl, hooded oriole, and Cooper’s hawk were the first critters we saw captured on film at Doris’ water bowl.

Then there was a quail family. In our area the only quail we have is the Gambel’s quail. Usually they lay about 12 eggs. But some mamas dump their eggs in someone else’s nest! Doris told of a nest that had 20 eggs.

An indention of loose dirt in Doris’ yard is also popular with many critters including an entire family of javelinas. Birds and ground squirrels love to take dust baths. Sometimes they stretch flat out in the dirt to cool off.

There are three different species of ground squirrels in our area—the rock squirrel, Harris’ antelope squirrel, and the round tailed ground squirrel. They are sometimes mistaken for chipmunks but there are no chipmunks in our area.

A brave little rock squirrel with three babies was caught by Doris’ camera. Into view came a diamondback. The little mama puffed up her tail and started wagging it to make herself look bigger. With her babies out of sight she even kicked dirt at the snake as it slithered away.

Doris’ neighbor complained of noises coming from her roof so loud at night that she couldn’t sleep. A quick check found a mama bobcat and four kittens to be the source of the racket. Our stealth photographer climbed a ladder and strategically placed her camera with LED lights. Caught on tape is the tired mama resting on the roof while the little ones scamper all over the solar panels, skylight, and roof.

Doris was given a desert tortoise just hatched at the Sonoran Desert Museum. The tortoise is now 40 years old. We were amazed at how fast it could move when the fruit of a prickly pear was on the patio. It’s bright pink messy face came right up to the camera.

Many more delightful images of our amazing wildlife were enjoyed by those of us who attended this Zoom meeting.

Plans are being made for future Nature Club meetings. There will be a meeting at the lavender farm in Oracle and a presentation about SaddleBrooke’s water supply to start the season.