Posta Quemado wash on a sunny day.

Along a desert wash

I haven’t had the opportunity to get out much this spring, caught up in renovating my kitchen and other assorted household chores.  But I managed to break away last week to take the dog for a walk in a nearby wash.  This wash drains the nearby Rincon Mountains, and although dry most of the year, it flows during summer monsoons and heavy winter rains.  It is lined with a nice variety of desert riparian vegetation: thick desert willow, mountain ash, Arizona walnut, juniper, and desert hackberry.  Just outside of the wash, the slopes are thick with mesquite, palo verde, creosote and saguaro cactus.

On this recent walk, the sky was dark with clouds and the temperatures very mild.  After a very warm winter, the last few weeks have been unusually cool.  At the time when Tucsonans are preparing to estivate through the hot months, we’ve been greeted with lovely cool temperatures, with highs in the 70’s and 80’s, instead of upper 90’s and low 100’s.  The cooler temps have kept some of the spring wildflowers from burning to a crisp, and kept the trees blooming.  And they haven’t slowed down the birds from their business of making baby birds.  The house finches, house sparrows, and curve-billed thrashers in my yard are all on their second clutches.  I suspect some of the doves are, too, but I haven’t found any dove nests this year.

Desert willow blooming along Posta Quemado wash.

Desert willow blooming along Posta Quemado wash.

In spite of the heavy overcast, the wash was busy with birdsong.  I set up the recorder and mics, and moseyed on down the wash, keeping an eye out for interesting animal tracks.  I’ve found sign of bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, and opossums here before.  This time I ran across tracks of a large black bear heading up the wash, toward the Rincon Mountains.

Bear tracks in Posta Quemado Wash.

Bear tracks in Posta Quemado Wash.

The wash I was in, Posta Quemado, drains into Cienega Creek, which drains the mountains to the east and south (see Where the water ends).   Bear tracks have been found in these washes near I-10, including near and in culverts under the interstate.  Thus these dry washes provide critical and relatively safe corridors for animals to move from the mountain ranges south of I-10 to the mountain ranges to the north.  Black bears in southern Arizona are typically found up in the mountains, in the pine and oak woodlands.  The presence of the bear tracks indicated, to me at least, the importance of this wash as a wildlife corridor.

Mesquite, palo verde, saguaro - not typical black bear habitat.

Mesquite, palo verde, saguaro – not typical black bear habitat.

I turned back and walked up the wash, collecting my recorder on the way.  In 74 minutes of recording, 31 minutes included the sounds of aircraft.  But the remaining recording was filled with a lovely variety of birdsong, including a long diatribe of a mockingbird, accompanied by warblers, woodpeckers, towhees, doves, and sparrows, plus the buzzing of insects:

As I neared the car, I narrowly missed stepping on a Gila Monster.  Most Gila Monsters I’ve seen rapidly move away, but this one was nice enough to pose for pictures (although my cell phone did not take a very good photo).  I was glad to see that Shadow showed no interest in it; Gila Monsters are venomous, and can make dogs pretty sick if they get bitten.  They are generally quite shy and retiring, and its a treat to see one.  As long as you don’t step on it.

Gila Monster.

Gila Monster.

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