Birders On The Border

If you've seen one life bird, you've seen 'em all.

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Names: Tom & Sheri Location: Bisbee, Arizona, United States
We're a husband-and-wife naturalist team living and working on the Mexican border. If it walks, crawls, swims, flies, or photosynthesizes, chances are it'll get our attention, but birds are our main focus both personally and professionally. We lead walks, workshops, and tours, give presentations, write articles and books, band and count birds, scrounge for funding for our tiny nonprofit organization, and spend way too much time stuck in the office...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Howls in the night


I wish I had the ability to record the sounds outside our window right now and share them with anyone reading this blog. We’ve been treated to a spectacular coyote chorus tonight much earlier than their usual midnight concert. One of the things I love about living on the edge of town is the diversity of wildlife that visits our yard and adjoining desert. Coyotes are among of my favorite animals and although I know that puts me in a minority, you have to admire any creature able to adapt and co-exist so well. Humans have been at war with coyotes for at least two hundred years and all that our shooting, poisoning, trapping and persecution has accomplished is to eliminate the stupid coyotes and encourage the smarter ones to breed more. We’ve bred super-coyotes that prospered as the less adaptable wolves were eliminated from most of their range. And then coyotes expanded their range to fill the void. Mexican Wolves used to roam these mountains but they have been gone from southeastern Arizona for quite a while. Some day I'd like to go up to northern Arizona where they have been restored (a much better term than re-introduced) to listen for wolves, but for now I'll have to content myself with the coyote chorus. What sounds like 25 coyotes outside the door is probably 3 or 4, enjoying the unseasonably warm nights and just being coyotes. It’s easy to see why many Native American cultures revered coyotes as “the trickster” Oddly, Josie, our border collie, shows no interest in the howling going on outside.

She does have an interest in some of our other visitors-javelina. If you think squirrels at a feeder are a nuisance, try these guys. I put out a quail block for our local Gambel’s Quail and the javelinas KNOCKED PICKETS OUT OF OUR FENCE to get inside to the sweet molasses-based block. After a couple of hours of hand–to-hoof combat (in the middle of the night), I gave up and heaved the quail block over the fence and went for my camera. Josie had a bad encounter with javelinas, totally innocent on her part. She dashed out the door one night after alerting me to the presence of the beasts on the porch. Before she could react, one gave her a nasty gash in her side that necessitated an emergency vet run and several weeks of comical Elizebethian collar-wearing for our Princess. She now alerts me whenever javelinas are on the porch and then quickly retreats to the bedroom when I go out to shoo them away. “Go get ‘em Dad, I’ll just stay in here”. Javelina are not really pigs, they are our North American peccaries but their flat snout and pungent odor seem very pig-like. Their presence reminds me were living in an interesting corner of the world but I wish they'd leave our garbage (and dog) alone.

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