A New Smorgasbord of Old Favorites

By Dan Weisz

Here is a variety of creatures that live amongst us in the Foothills:

The Western Screech Owl family has moved in to my back yard nest box again for the third year in a row. Here is the mom getting some sunlight while she naps. The behavior of the couple now indicates that she is sitting on eggs in the nest. Their vocalizations at sunset are now much quieter and shorter. She is not leaving the nest box after sunset and the male owl is delivering food pretty quickly after dark and through the night.

One recent morning I was walking down the driveway and wondered who had thrown a dark shirt into the palo verde. As I got closer I realized it was a swarm of bees. This is a group of worker bees and a queen on their way to finding a location for a new hive. They just stopped for the night to rest. For some chatty information about this activity, see https://www.buzzaboutbees.net/swarmingbees.html

And a close-up. The bees left later that afternoon.

A friend let me know about a nesting Western Screech Owl in a wash in Tucson. That owl sure blends into its environment.

Look at how those colors and textures match!

I’ve been saving this photo for a few weeks, but this is one of the raccoons at Sweetwater Wetlands out for a walk.

And earlier this week I drove by a spot in the Catalina Foothills where bighorn sheep are occasionally visible. I was lucky to see two rams far up the slope. The one that I almost cut off in this photo was likely born to the herd in the Catalinas. He doesn’t have any ear tags or collars. The success of this herd is very exciting. Ram #33 was transported to the Catalinas as a two year old in November 2016, so he is doing well also.

And then, from a hundred yards away, I was noticed.

In the fall, Bighorn Sheep rams compete for ewes by having butting contests. They charge each other at speeds of more than 20 mph, cracking heads. The tips of this ram’s horns indicate that he’s been in some tough battles. This big fellow seems to be very healthy although he shows some scars on his neck from some rough action in his past.

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