Yellow-billed Cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus) were calling from perches in the willows over my yard this morning. “Yellow-billed Cuckoos are slender, long-tailed birds that manage to stay well hidden in deciduous woodlands. They usually sit stock still, even hunching their shoulders to conceal their crisp white underparts, as they hunt for large caterpillars. Bold white spots on the tail’s underside are often the most visible feature on a shaded perch. Fortunately, their drawn-out, knocking call is very distinctive. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are fairly common in the East but have become rare in the West in the last half-century.” —All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
I am delighted the birds are present. Ornithologists from the Arizona Game and Fish Department will census birds here this Saturday. Cuckoos along with the Southwest Willow Flycatchers are the principal reason for the visit. Both species are on the U. S. Endangered Species List. Felipe Guerrero saw a fledgling Cuckoo last summer, a sure sign of nesting and more permanent use of our habitat. However, nesting then might have been a single occurrence. Fingers crossed that Saturday’s census discovers nests for both species.
Coldwater Farm butterflies have declined over the past few years. This year (2015) was the worst with many of my butterfly/bee flowers going untended. For instance, Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) were present only in late spring and early summer. In earlier years, the Mourning Cloaks were so abundant that I had nominated they to represent the Agua Fria River ecosystem. Perhaps butterfly numbers will rebound in 2016, but knowing nothing of the specific causes of the decline, I have no assurance they will. Click here for a checklist of the butterfly and moth species known to live in Arizona. Here are pictures of a few of the common butterflies and moths (Please excuse the fx experiments).
Tiny catterpillars on grape leaf
Two-tailed Swallowtail (AZ State Butterfly) on Butterfly Bush