Southwestern Monuments Monthly Report



Across the face of yonder storm-stained cliff
'Twixt earth and sky, a stranger to them both,
Of overhanging, building wall seems loath
To leave the firm, 'though high, support. But holde!
What shadow form takes shape within the gloom?
Can that be masonry? Those tottering piles;
Can they be walls of man-made vault and room?

Silent and still the eerie ruins stand,
A world apart; a world whose clock ran down.
A breath, and it should spring to noisy life;
The bark of dogs, a baby's wail. A town
Whose builders dwell in hope while, far below,
Their fields of beans and corn, a verdant lawn--
But what is missing here, 'tween then and now?
That breath; the breath of life forever gone.


(click to see original page in printed edition)


On September 2, Carl L. Hubbs and family of Ann Arbor, Michigan, paid us a visit. Mr. Hubbs is with the Museum of Zoology of the University of Michigan and is considered one of the outstanding authorities on fishes in the United States. In partial preparation for a text he is to write, he collected some fish specimens from the Verde River and Beaver Creek. There follows a list of the fish species he has identified from these two streams. Those names preceeded by an asterisk (*) are collected on Montezuma Castle National Monument while Mr. Hubbs was here.

Catostomidae - Suckers
   Xyrauchen texanus - Humpback sucker or [razor]?backed Sucker
   *Catostomus insignis - Gila River Sucker
   *Pantosteus clarkii - Gila River Mountain Sucker
Cyprinniaee - Minnows
   *Cyprinus carpio - Carp
   *Apocope oscula oscula - Dace. Tentatively, Soring Dace.
   Agosia chrysogaster - Dace
   Gila robusta robusta - Bony Tail, also Verde Trout, Gila Trout.
   Tioga cobitis - No common name, very rare, found on ripples.
   Meda fulgida - Meda Minnow.
Centrarchidae - Sunfish
   *Lepomis cyanellus - Green Sunfish, Perch.
Ameiuridae - North American Catfishes
   Ictalurus lacustris punctatus - Channel Catfish.
   *Ameiurus n. nebulosus - Mud Catfish.

Of the fishes above, the carp, sunfishes, and catfishes were all foreign to the region west of the Rocky Mountains until introduced by white men. The carp was introduced from Europe and Asia.



Apparently the Gambel Quail, which have been pretty well scattered during the summer, are in the process of bunching up for the winter. This condition was first noted here on the monument about September 13, but a small covey of 17 birds, led by one which has a crippled leg, has been feeding around Vah-ki Inn since the first of September.

The Squawberry of Tomatillo bushes (Lycium sp.) on the monument began leafing out during the first week in September. This shrub loses its leaves in the spring and remains dormant throughout the summer. The main crop of blossoms appears in December and January, but a few blooms were noted on local plants October 10.

A Western Mourning Dove, which was found nesting near the new shop building on September 10, has now vacated the nest. There is no sign of the two eggs which it contained, and it is doubtful if they hatched. We had thought that this was a bit late in the season for nesting, but perhaps this was an exceptional case.

Containing some observations made last month concerning the snakes feeding on the Casa Grande Ruin bats, none have been observed during the past month although something is certainly killing the bats. For the last two weeks, hardly one morning has passed without the guide finding from one to three bats lying on the floor of the ruins, either nearly dead or so badly crippled that they cannot fly. Whether or not those are injured by snakes is something that we have not as yet, ben able to determine. Teddy Baehr reports from eight to ten bat wings in the east doorway of the ruin each morning. Whatever kills the bats evidently has no use for the wings.



The water trap has been overhauled and placed in operation. The following 52 birds were handled:

Chestnut-backed Bluebird600
Pygmy Nuthatch1013
Rocky Mt. Nuthatch200
Evening Grosbeak600
Hepatic Tanager100
Pine Siskin1

One coyote skeleton and one female deer skeleton have been collected. A dead Arizona Hepatic Tanager, female, was found, and the skeleton cleaned and dried.



Heavy rains which have fallen since the last report have greatly improved the vegetation. The grass was revived by the first moisture and in a surprisingly short time it had headed out and a good crop of seed is being produced. Blue Gramma Grass and Side Oats Gramma are the most abundant, and at least ten other species are represented here.

The most conspicuous flowers are now blooming are the four o'clocks (Mirabilis multaflora), smelling sunflower (Verbesina encelioides), and a wild aster.

A plant which looks as if it may be a gourd is coming up in several places near Bonito. Wild gourds are common in the vicinity of Albuquerque, but none have been noted in this area. It is hoped that these plants will develop far enough so that they may be definitely identified before being killed by frost.



Green-tailed Towhee10 0
Canyon Towhee3


This month is the first time that we have seen the Green-tailed Towhees in the canyon. They seem to be quite numerous on the flats around Fahada Butte, but seldom venture close to the residences. We have several gold finches around the museum and house, but so far we have failed to trap them. I tried using bird seed, without success.

Chaco Canyon is pretty this month, with the purple and gold of the asters and sunflowers. The grass is heading out and countless birds may be seen feeding on the seeds. In the flat, the Chaco looks like a hay meadow.



I saw the first Gambel Sparrow on September 21, the first of the fall migration. It is time to get my traps out to catch the birds for banding. There are a few cats that need removing from the monument. They have been brought in by some of the CCC boys, from town or wherever they could pick one up.

We have a large increase in the population of grey squirrels, and they brown and striped chipmunks on the monument this fall. They are as busy as they can be gathering seeds from the cacti, gourds, and anything that they can store away for the winter.



There is a very nice crop of pinyon nuts this fall on the monument, and this will make splendid forage for the deer, squirrels, and birds. In years past, I have noticed that deer exist largely on the pinyon nuts and get very fat on them.


Have you ever noticed how quickly a mountain will put on fall colors? On September 21 as Cork. and I were going to town, we noticed one small patch of color. Within three days a good half of the San Francisco Peaks was covered with yellow, probably scrub oak and quaking aspen.

It is becoming quite a common thing for visitors and the CCC boys to report seeing antelope along the road into Wupatki. Cork. and I have seen quite a number of them ourselves. For three days in succession, we saw a band of six near Citadel Ruin. Last year at this time there were very few reported in this area. As a matter of fact, I saw my first monument antelope this spring although I was here for four months last fall.

Since the juniper berries are so plentiful this fall, I have had the CCC boys pick a few so that we can experiment with them in the bird traps. Now there is a possibility of banding a few Pinyon Jays which stay around Wupatki but which are so cautious about entering traps.



In the following brief compilation, I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Dwight Kelly of Los Angeles, California:

Some Data on Jojoba Nuts

Simmondsia chinensis, also listed as Simmondsia californica and Simmondsia pabulosa, but commonly called Coffee Berry, Buck Berry, Goat Nut, Sheep Nut, Wild Hazel, Jojoba, Brochia, and Simmondsia, is common in southern Arizona and northern Mexico, and is very abundant at Tonto National Monument. The bean of the plant is 50 percent essential oils which chemists working with the Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum have reduced to an oil identical to Arctic Sperm Whale oil. It is said that the oil from this nut was used by the Indians as hair oil. The leaves of the plant contain about seven percent protein. It is further cited that the early Spanish used the oil of the seeds as a substitute for olive oil and at one time an oil-extracting plant was started in New Mexico but failed due to the fact that the bushes failed to produce a crop of nuts every year. The Indians also used the roasted seeds to make a drink. There is a possibility that the bean may have commercial value today as it can supply the base for certain cosmetics and for a special type of paint.

Some Data on Mesquite Beans (Prosopis juliflora).

The pods contain from 25 to 30 percent grape sugar. The gum or dry sap of the tree contains pentose, a rabinose sugar which is very sweet. The gum also yields a yellow dye which is used by the Indians. A black dye was also obtained from the gum. The gum is somewhat similar to Gum Arabic, and the mesquite tree is relative of the acacia from which Gum Arabic is obtained. Mesquite beans formed a major part of the food used by many of the desert tribes such as the Pima and Papago. Analysis of the beans (pods and seeds) shows the following: Moisture, 5.96 percent; dry matter, 94.05 percent. This breaks down into crude ash, 5.20; crude celeulose, 32.53; crude fat, 5.12; albuminoids, 14.03; nitrogen free extract, 37.13 percent. The nutritive ratio is 1:5:8.

A leaking faucet at the parking area has been repaired. Hundreds of wild honey bees formerly drank from the wet moss growing beneath the drip and we didn't forsee the possibility that after their water supply was cut off they would descend en masse on our desert cooler situated on the back porch. Now the sequel to this is that visitors assume the cooler to be a hive and they inquire as to why I keep bees.



Moulting, the process of exchanging old feathers for new, was prevalent among the birds in August, and was of enough interest to warrant a brief discussion. Within the boundaries of Chiricahua National Monument, we have mainly passerine birds (an order of birds with numerous characteristics in common such as feet perfectly adapted for grasping, hind toe always present, young hatched weak and naked and, of necessity, fed in the nest by the parents, etc.) so we shall mention moulting in relation to this group only.

Generally, feathers are lost slowly and gradually. The replacement of old with new does not, as a rule, interfere with flight. For instance, wing feathers are shed simultaneously; one from the right wing, one from the left. Seldom is more flight equipment lost until the two first are either partially or wholly replaced. Birds' safety depends upon flight and nature protects his power. In almost all cases, moult does not begin until the duties of incubation are concluded, which is indeed fortunate. The effort required in nest building, incubating and protecting the eggs, and supplying the seemingly limitless appetites of the young, is more than enough to bring on shabbiness of plumage. During the rapidly cooling weather of fall and early winter, these old feathers are ahed and thickly replaced with new that serve well during the cold months that follow. This dress, in most cases, is retained until the domestic duties of the following year are completed. Among some species, however, there is a double moult. One moult, which is only partial, changes the plumage to a vivid courting display. With some birds such as the male tanagers, there is a post-nuptial moult which robs the birds of their gay colors and, in return, they set a drab dress similar to that of the females. It is difficult to lay down any definite rules of moulting, for even closely related species may differ quite radically in this respect. However, it may be said that all birds moult at least once a year; a process which keeps them beautiful and well fitted to carry on their active and helpful lives.


The fall migration has commenced! A definite influx of migrants is under way. First came the Northern Pileolated Warbler, then MacGillivray's Warbler, the Cassin Vireo, and the Least Vireo. Following came the perky Green-tailed Towhees and the drab Arizona Junco. The most unexpected arrival, a Western Belted Kingfisher, was first heard giving his unusual, unmistakable, rattling call, and later seen hurriedly flying by. Inasmuch as this monument cannot boast of running streams the year round, we may be certain that this rare visitor was not subsisting upon fish if he remained in this area for any length of time. Although the diet of this species consists almost wholly of animal matter, it is known that they eat wild cherries, which are quite common here. Recently a mail Anna Hummingbird was seen by me for the first time in this area. He displayed his exquisite gorget to perfection as he flew from flower to flower extracting the nectar. The only Rock Wren that I have recorded on this monument was seen recently at Massai Point at an elevation of 6,871 feet.

Still with us are the Western Robins and the noisy Arizona Jays. Band-tailed Pigeons are seemingly more abundant. Of course their numbers are greatly increased by the addition of this season's young; and too, their gregarious habit of flocking at the termination of the nesting period makes them appear more numerous. Now, these flocks are more often encountered among the rocky formations where they may be seen plunging, gyrating around the oddly shaped, rocky crags with much speed that they eye has difficulty in following their sleek forms. They make a wonderful sight as they plunge down through deep canyons, appearing as if from nowhere and, with wings whistling, pass within a few feet of the observer. Hardly is there time for more than a fleeting glimpse before they are gone. To those fortunate enough to witness it, such a sight will be long remembered.

Following is a continuation of the list submitted last month (numbers continued) and represents the species encountered during the past 30 days:

35. Warbler, Northern Pilleolated41. Hawk, Swainson
36. Warbler, MacGillivray's42. Towhee, Green-tailed
37. Flycatcher, Western43. Vireo, Least
38. Road-runner44. Kingfisher, West'n Belted
39. Poor-will, Nuttall45. Hawk, Sharp-shinned
40. Whip-poor-will, Stephen's46. Wren, Rock


NOTES FROM NAVAJO By Milton Wetherill

Birds Seen in September:

Red-shafted Flicker
Red-naped Sapsucker
White-breasted Woodpecker
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Wood Pewee
Spurred Towhee
Canyon Wren
Rock Wren
Woodhouse Jay
Long-crested Jay
Pinyon Jay
Gambel Sparrow
White-throated Swift
American Raven

Tracks of the red fox and grey fox were seen nearly every day and coyote tracks were seen occasionally. Tracks of mice (Peromyscus and Neotoma) were seen daily. Chipmunks and rock squirrels were encountered occasionally.

The following plants were collected by a Navajo Indian on September 23 for a sing to be held near Cow Springs: Douglas Fir, wild rose, wild geranium, broad-leaf yucca, Elm Root, Serviceberry, choke cherry, and willow. This Indian also had two long sticks of Water Birch which are used in the looms by the women. Plants collected on September 25 for a sing to be held in Tsegie Beko were: Douglas Fir, broad-leaf yucca, Skunkbush, brome, Scarlet Gilia, horsetail, and Penstemon etoni.



On October 6, a large, blue homing pigeon with side and wing injuries was brought to the naturalist office by Ralph A. Yaba of Coolidge. The injured bird, which was found in a cotton field, bore a leg band AU-38-B3273. With the aid of the secretary of the Racing Pigeon Club of Tucson, the name of the bird's owner was learned and it is hoped that the pigeon, which as become quite a pet around the office, may be returned to its home in Phoenix.

Several species of winter resident and migratory birds have been seen around headquarters during the month. House Finches are returning to their winter shelters in the ramadas; the first Rock Wren was seen on September 21; and the first Gambel Sparrow of the season was observed on October 12. This date coincides closely with those on which this species put in an appearance in previous autumns; 1935, October 10; 1936, October 13; and 1937, October 8. A heavy crop of seed on the saltbushes of Casa Grande National Monument is attracting many birds of the sparrow group of both migratory and resident species.


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Date: 01-Jun-2007