Meanwhile, back on the Loop - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

January 5, 2021

Meanwhile, back on the Loop

Just a brief note, to mention that we’re back at our posts in Tucson riding the Loop again.  And to report on the richest day of wildlife sightings and lifetime firsts I can recall.  

We don’t want to get too far out of town with the bikes until we’ve given Rachael’s newly patched tube a better test, so we decide to stick to the loop.  I suggest that we bike out to Sweetwater Wetlands, which Rachael has expressed interest in seeing.  She wasn’t clear on just where Sweetwater was, so I volunteer to be her private escort.  Seven miles later we pull in to the parking lot and see a few folks lined up beside a small creek, their giant lenses all pointing the same direction.  They’re focused on a strikingly placid Cooper’s hawk sitting calmly in the stream.  He sits there for the whole time we stayed there observing him, perhaps five minutes, and is still there when we finally move on.

I hope the bird is OK.  I don’t know if this is normal, unusual, or distressed behavior, but another observer didn’t seem that surprised.  He said there’s a family of four Cooper’s hawks that frequents this area, and this is one of the juveniles.  Maybe they’ve gotten accustomed to the human traffic? 

I’ve never gotten a good look at one of these birds before. When I see them, they’re always dashing across an open field and disappearing into the trees,
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So is this normal behavior, or a sign of stress?
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Leaving the hawk behind, Rachael and I walk our bikes over to the viewing platform (bicycling is forbidden here) where I’d seen some red-eared sliders on my first visit.  She was confident that they’d still be there waiting for her to see them for herself, but no.  Turtles are slow, but they’re not rocks; and even a slow witted reptilian brain can get ideas.

So that’s a big disappointment, but there’s always the beckon of the open bike path to soothe what ails you.  Rocky walks to the exit, gets back on track, and bikes north along the Santa Cruz River far enough to satisfy the Team Anderson quota for the day.

I could go with her, but as long as I’m here at Sweetwater I decide to look around a bit longer.  Besides being hopeful of finding something interesting, I’m thinking that I may have misremembered where the turtles were so that I can guide Rachael to a more promising turtle-viewing spot in the future.

Not a hundred yards further I come upon another small cluster of folks, this time aiming their cameras into the middle of a dense mesquite thicket.  Bobcat, they whisper, and point.  You can see him there slinking in the shadows, working his way toward the dirt road on the opposite side.  I can see him in there, barely, a shadowy presence slowly creeping through the shadows.

If he’s moving toward the road, maybe I can round the corner and see him come out the other side.  I quick-walk the bike down the road, turn the corner, and there he is sitting in the road about fifty yards a way, casually looking my direction.  I watch him for a minute or two, and then those other folks show up in the distance, viewing him from the opposite end of the road.  Finally he’s had enough attention and slinks off into the brush.

Amazing. I’ve never seen a wild bobcat before, and didn’t really expect to ever see one.
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Bill ShaneyfeltAs much time as I have spent in the wilderness specifically looking for wildlife of all kinds, I have only seen one bobcat, and it was only for a split second! Lucky you, and nice shot!
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1 week ago
Gregory GarceauI THINK I saw a bobcat once,
I'm not sure though, cuz I'm a dunce,
It was pretty far away,
In the early light of day,
When one is in doubt, one punts.
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1 week ago
Bruce LellmanHe's very cute.
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1 week ago
Jacquie GaudetI've only seen a bobcat once, in someone's driveway on one of my usual walks in the Deer Lake area of Burnaby. In the city, in other words. We weren't home the time one was spotted on our street, but we did see photographic evidence.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetI think you’re the fourth person now I’ve heard from who’s seen a bobcat, exactly once. It’s sad that it’s such a rare, once I a lifetime kind of experience, but I feel very fortunate.
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1 week ago
Kathleen JonesI used to see bobcats fairly often in my park but the last few years they've been scarce. Part of the problem may be that people in the more rural areas around here put out rat poison, which makes its way up the food chain.
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5 days ago

This is so much beyond what I’d hoped to see here, but I’m still looking for those turtles so I keep pushing my bike down the wetland path working my way back toward the Loop.  No turtles, which is a bit disappointing; but a few other sightings make the time spent well worthwhile.

A poor shot of a common gallinule. I’m sure I must have seen a gallinule somewhere along the line, but I can’t remember when. This will at least help me remember what to look for next time.
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This isn’t the best shot either, but it’s a new species for me: an Albert’s towhee. A species confined to the Sonora Desert, it’s fairly common but not that easy to spot with its nondescript coloration and reclusive behavior.
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And, here’s another Cooper’s hawk perched in the mesquite, keeping an eye out for potential prey in th3 open field beyond. Not a very revealing shot, but it does show how long their tail is - one of their characteristic identifying features.
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We saw a shoveler a few days earlier, but this is a much better look. His long beak looks like a vacuum cleaner hose.
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Kathleen JonesI recently heard shovelers described as a bill with a duck attached.
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5 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen JonesI like that. Perfect!
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5 days ago
Our shoveler doesn’t stay fully visible for long. He repeatedly dips and dives, pops up again for about five seconds, and dives again.
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And one last sighting before we go: just another female mallard.
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I’ve probably frittered away half an hour at Sweetland Wetlands by the time I finally leave it.  Rachael is obviously far gone, but I decide to bike off in her direction, thinking we might cross paths on the way back.   I bike north for another seven or eight miles and I then give her a call to see where she is: she’s on her way home, maybe two miles off.  I continue on north but almost immediately encounter a couple standing in the bike path on a bridge crossing the river, their optical equipment leaning over the edge.

I stop to ask.  Jacana - a very rare bird, they tell me, and point at it plodding around in the shallows below.  Incredible - what a day!  I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen one, but if so it must have been in Belize when we were there on a kayaking tour twenty-five years ago.  In the states, it really is a very rare bird.  They’re only accidentals here, occasionally straying north to Texas, Arizona or Florida.

Incredible. What luck! I’m sorry none of my other photos came out so clear, especially one where its foot is lifted out of the water to show his improbably long toes.
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Bill ShaneyfeltNeat! I remember my Ornithology prof. saying that AZ is a real hot spot for vagrant species from Mexico. If you zoom in, you can just make out its improbably long toes. They look almost like part of the vegetation.
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1 week ago
Jen GrumbyI looked up a photo of the feet .. wow!
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1 week ago

With that, I decide I’d better just head home and let Rachael catch me or not.  I ride at a steady clip, helped along by a nice tailwind, and she never does catch me even though I have one last stop to make.  Because, as I’ve already stated, we stop for ALL roadrunners.

Yup. Same old bird. Somehow though they always seem worth a look. This one shows off the iridescence of its tail feathers.
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No turtles today, but does a rabbit count for anything? Maybe not, but it is a nice irregular pentagon to show and tell for Polygon Month.
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David HobbsHi Scott,
You must have learnt the Donald Trump method of counting!
Cheers,
David.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo David HobbsOh, how funny. Thanks, I needed that.
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1 week ago
And one more.
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Ride stats today: 43 miles (Scott: 30), 900’; for the tour: 1,683 miles, 58,300’; for the year: 4 riding days, 211 miles, 6,300’, and 1 flat tire

Today's ride: 43 miles (69 km)
Total: 1,622 miles (2,610 km)

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Bill ShaneyfeltNice bunch of nature shots today!
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1 week ago
Kelly Iniguez/var/folders/bk/d8x3bzkj7jg_3t56v1xsxgxc0000gn/T/com.apple.iChat/Messages/Transfers/DSC01094.jpeg

My new friend, Sharon, who suggested the Ebird site, sent me that photo after I linked your page to her.
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1 week ago