I have been begging the monsoon thunderstorms to come gently to my yard…to no avail. In that yearning I began to read about the history of monsoons in the valley. I learned some interesting things.
I learned that using the word monsoon to describe the rains was a meteorological no no. It comes from the Arabic word “mausim” meaning “a season”. The onset of the season was originally determined by the occurrence of three consecutive days of dew points above 55 degrees, but recently the arbitrary date of June 15 was assigned as the beginning of the monsoon with the official ending being September 30th.
The retreating of the jet stream to the north appears to allow the movements of low pressure systems into our desert. Apparently scientists aren’t totally sure if the moisture that accompanies this wind comes totally from the Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf of California or is a mixture of both. Much research is being done to determine this. What I do know is that it usually results in the influx of first year pelicans into our desert. The immature birds seem to get wafted up into these winds and aren’t experienced enough fliers to escape before they are plummeted into the desert….often on a road or parking lot that might look just like water from where they are aerially speaking. Once down in the desert, the difficulties of the turf make it almost impossible for them to return home without a little help. We end up with many of them that we stabilize and fly to the coast by our very experienced winged partners at US Airways/American Airlines….our pelican pipeline for many years.
With this intense atmospheric destabilization comes thunderstorms, but also a great deal of dust and wind making the conditions challenging. Flooded washes can provide a very dangerous situation for anyone trapped or silly enough to enter them…just stay away. The winds tear down trees, tip over cars or trailers, rip off roofs, or trade yard detritus with neighbors. The dust is just plain nasty, insinuating itself in your pool, fountains, and the cracks in structures…all to be dealt with when the winds and rains recede. Grrrrrrrrrrr!
In our valley, Arizona’s “second spring” is great at turning things verdant providing food for wildlife and water for spade foot toads to start their life cycles, but it doesn’t do all that much for our ongoing drought. The water comes fast and furiously and runs off just as quickly. With the intense heat the water readily evaporates, and transpiration in plant use results in little storage that is needed to lessen the drought. We do usually get one third of our yearly average of rainfall during the monsoon. The wettest monsoon was in 1984 where we saw 9.38 inches of rain and the paltriest occurred in 1924 with only a meager 0.35 inches.
Unfortunately I have had no monsoon thunderstorms at my house so far. It might have something to do with living in the shadow of the mountain… a phenomena for another blog….but right now I have decided to take the big step in luring rains to my yard….I am going to wash my car….works every time!
This Week at Liberty
The intake total for the year is now at 3629.
Non-raptors released on 7/10/2014: 41 doves, 3 ducks, 37 quail, 7 rabbits, 2 great blue herons, 10 black-crowned night herons, 5 geese.
As we close in on surpassing last year’s total intakes, the monsoon is picking up steam. A large storm yesterday led to several arrivals which will be covered next week. In the meantime, projects are taking shape and animals keep coming in, some small, some injured, and some unusual. Plus we get a new crop of people interested in joining the ranks of Liberty volunteers! Let’s see what happened recently…
Although the message on our hotline states clearly that we do NOT take in dogs, cats, or other pets or domestic animals, last week somebody dumped this not-yet-weaned kitten on our intake counter. The box was just left near the window with no note or notice of what was inside. Luckily one of the volunteers saw it before the temperature climbed into the 100+ range. I suggested calling him “Bob” so we could say we got in a “bobcat” but before the day was out, a volunteer had adopted him and he went to a welcoming home. People, we are NOT the Humane Society or the Animal Welfare League. These groups do a wonderful job caring for unwanted pets and are set up for taking them in. Liberty is only chartered to aid native Arizona wildlife. PASS THE WORD!
And while we ‘re on the subject of pets, we were the recipients this turtle last week. I am told this is an ornate box turtle but if anybody has a more definitive ID, post a comment and let me know. A non-native to Arizona, the box turtle is an inappropriate pet under any circumstances. They require very specific care and are susceptible to a wide range of environmental hazard in terms of habitat and dietary requirements. Before you acquire a “pet,” do some research into what species make good companion animals and what they will require in terms of care and feeding…
The routine intakes – meaning native species – continued as well as this baby jack rabbit joined our collection of orphaned cottontails and other small mammals. The small yellow-streaked Townsend’s warbler is one of several migratory warblers that pass through periodically on their way south or north, depending on the season. GHOs come to us all year and last week one of our newly trained R&T volunteers went out to rescue one in a local backyard abutting a preserve. And kestrels also seem to come in all year and the monsoon usually brings in several “orphans of the storm” requiring fostering at Liberty.
Quail arrive by the hundreds and even this late in the season, we get in eggs and babies. Though they are some of the most plentiful arrivals, they are also among the cutest patients in the Orphan Care area.
The arrival of a baby gallinule (or Moorhen) caused a lot of interest from the volunteers. In the rail family, this strange looking little bird will grow up to look somewhat like a coot and will be released into an appropriate habitat when the time comes. Until then, he is being fed in the OC area and is amazing the volunteers with his strange “claw-like” wings, gangly feet, and interesting coloration.
As the year rolls on, we are continually recruiting new volunteers for all the critical areas of the operation. Since the busiest time of year coincides with people taking vacations, a deep “bench” is always a necessity. Volunteer Coordinator Carol Suits presents the orientation information and a brief tour of the facility so people can decide what they might like to do for us.
This picture might be somewhat misleading. This little (just a few inches long) night snake was another victim of a glue trap somebody set out to catch – who knows what. The problem, as always, is that these traps are non-species specific in their targeting and snare any animal that happens to come in contact with it. Fortunately, this little snake was rescued, removed from the sticky trap, and released back into this normal habitat.
And for the “Cutest picture of the week” category, Claudia sent this in. She took this in the screech owl enclosure showing the “two-by-two” nature of these social little owls . The pairs seem to get along fine with no encouragement from the volunteers. All they seem to need is the proper amount of space and a good supply of food.