Southwestern Monuments Monthly Report


(With the beginning of a new fiscal year and with an ever increasing volume of nature observation reports coming in from the field, it has been decided to group all of this material each month and run it in the Supplement as a separate department. This constitutes the first appearance of the new "Supplemental Observations". We shall look forward to your comments and suggestions. - Ed.)


This is your night!
What magic word has swept the land
Of mesquite, cholla, salt-bush, sand?
What voice or spark, unknown to us,
Has waked such sleeping Cereus?
This is your night!
No sooner has the red sun dropped
Behind the mountains, granite topped,
Than on the desert near and far
Each many-pointed, perfumed star
Unfolds and spreads its petals white.
You've heard the call; this is your night!

And as the moon rises calm and high,
Unmasked by cloud, across the sky,
Your earth stars open, one by one.
In bride-like glory 'wait the sun;
For when the night has given o'er
And day takes up the race once more,
Each grey-green plant so plain, severe
Will fold its flowers for the year.
But while the hours of night prevail
You rule, oh blossoms fragrant, pale;
You rule with glorious, fragile might,
It is your right! This is your night!



During the last few days of May, guides and the ranger had considerable trouble keeping the young rough-winged swallows (mentioned in the May report) in their nest. From May 27 until June 2, two or three would be found each morning out of the nest in the center room and on the floor of the east room. One day the same three birds were replaced five times between 3:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. and were again out of the nest the following morning. In early June, however, the nest was deserted, as was that of the Say Phoebe which was in the east room.

Our family of Horned Owls in the roof above, the ruin seem to be suffering some from the heat. During much of June they have either absented themselves from the building for a day or two at a time, or have been seen perched down on the walls of the Casa Grande. On at least two occasions they descended to the floor of the center room, apparently to escape the heat immediately under the roof.

The Night-blooming Cereus, Peniocereus greggii, inside the patio west of the Headquarters building, produced its first bloom of the year during the evening of June 19. For the benefit of those interested, a complete record of the time element of the blossoming is included herewith. The green leaves opened wide at 7:20 P.M. followed by the cream petals which started to unfold at 7:34. These petals had opened to a cup shape by 7:54 and by 8:05 the lower petals had begun to lie out flat. The flower was completely opened by 8:25 P.M., and stayed open approximately 12 hours. The first sign of fading occurred at 8:40 A.M. when some of the lower cream-colored petals became slightly discolored and began to droop. By 10:00 A.M. the upper petals had folded up into a cup shape, while the lower ones were completely discolored and wilted. The entire flower closed at 10:40 and by noon was completely wilted.


Night-blooming Cereus, Peniocereus greggii


A grand show enjoyed by the Casa Grande and Headquarters personnel and "Doc" and Mrs. Gipe from Coolidge was staged on the evening of July 5 when the Nigh-blooming Cereus plants around the residential and administration areas flowered. Seven of the eight plants put out a total of 28 blossoms. The remaining plant, directly beneath the north window of the Casa Grande Custodian's office, apparently is not going to blossom this season.

That first flower to open was on the plant at the north window of the headquarters office. It began to unfold at 7:00 P.M., about twenty minutes before sundown. Other plants followed in short order, and by 8:00 P.M. all blossoms were well open. Heavy fragrance perfumed the air about the headquarters building. Eleven flowers glorified the big plant in the courtyard west of the headquarters office. This is the plant that produced the single flower on the night of June 19. For more than an hour headquarters folk wandered from plant to plant and enjoyed the beauty and fragrance of the fragile white flowers, while naturalists Steen and Dodge, aided by "Goodie", set up a complicated string of wires and light bulbs and made photographs. In the bright lights, Goodie's white shirt attracted a horde of insects that crawled into his ears and down his neck.

In addition to the many expressions of delight over the beauty and fragrance of the blossoms, the following comments were heard:

Isn't it interesting that such a drab, inconspicuous plant should produce such large, spectacular and fragrant flowers."

"Why should seven plants ranging in size and age with such a wide difference of location, exposure, and moisture conditions all blossom on the same night?"

"Why did the plant west of the office put out one flower on June 19 and save all the rest for the fifth of July?"

Records of the blossoming dates of the Cereus plants at Casa Grande National Monument for the past three years are as follows:

July 18, 1935: The plant in the patio west of the office bloomed--four large blossoms. They were not fully open at 10:00 P.M. and were closed at 7:30 the next morning. The night was rainy. D.S.K.

July 25, 1935: The small specimen 30 feet south of the S.E. residence bloomed. Blossoms fully open at 9:30 P.M. Night warm and clear. D.S.K.

July 15, 1936: Six blossoms opened during the night which was hot and windy. Apparently last of this year's crop. J.D.E.

July 6, 1937: The first blossoms of the season opened on the plant to the right of the path to the Casa Grande, just outside the gate. J.D.E.



Among the cottonwoods and boxelders of Frijoles Canyon, nesting birds were numerous during June. A nest containing four young robins, estimated to be about two or three days old, was found on June 7.

Two Long-crested Jays, just learning to fly, were caught and banded on June 11. Another family of these jays was observed on June 12.

Chipmunks became so numerous about the Sholly residence early in the month that they constituted a domestic problem. With the aid of one of the two compartment bird traps, George captured fifteen which he transported far up the canyon and released. However, the population about his residence did not appear to be much decreased and a second deportation was planned.

A five inch Eastern Brook Trout, returned to the waters of Frijoles Creek by a fisherman, was observed struggling in the grasp of a 15 inch garter snake. The snake held the fish just behind the pectoral fins, evidently squeezing as hard as possible. The struggling fish tossed the snake about but the reptile held on relentlessly, even when lifted out of the stream by the observer. Attempting to escape with its prey, the snake moved backward, feeling about for a path with the tip of its tail and throwing the forward loop of its body with the fish in its mouth back several inches, and then straightening out tail first. Apparently unable to find a safe retreat, it released its hold upon the fish and glided away. The fish, returned to the stream, floated off belly up.

A medium-sized bear, rather ratty in appearance, was seen overturning rocks, probably in search of insects, on a yellow-pine flat along Frijoles Creek on June 12. It was a brown phase of the black bear.

Numerous cougar tracks were noted in the soft mud of Frijoles Creek on June 12. The tracks were observed in several places between the west boundary of the monument and the Natural Bridge.


CHACO FLORA By Homer F. Hastings

The growth of vegetation in the monument was retarded by the lack of moisture and the dry winds which prevailed until the last few days in June. Brown patches now appear where an unusually heavy growth of wild mustard has gone to seed. The regular crop of Russian thistles is just beginning to come up. Primrose, sand puffs, pentstemon, and phacelia are just about gone, while four o'clock and jimson weed are beginning to bloom. The fruit of the yucca (goose apples as they are sometimes called) are full formed and appear to be larger than usual. One which we measured had a diameter of one and one-half inches and a length of three inches.

In addition to the plants reported last month,* Lydium pallidum (Wolf Berry) and Phacelia corrulata have been collected and identified. Lycium has been noted at several places in the monument. Some of it was started by the Soil Conservation Service and some of it has resulted from reseeding by native growth.

Numerous cottonwood seedlings, which were started by the S.C.S., are growing in the washes and along the dikes and, if they withstand the onslaughts of drouth and deluge, they will soon be doing their part to keep this monument from being washed away.


*(Homer's plant list was lost somewhere in the shuffle and, if another copy can be obtained, will be run in next month's Observations. Ed.)



Phoebe, Say300
Quail, Scaled960
Red Wing, Nevada100
Shrike, Northern110
Sparrow, English200
Sparrow, Desert Black-Throated100
Sparrow, Gambel100
Towhee, Canyon791


The towhee return was banded at Chaco Canyon by T. C. Miller on April 27, 1936. On June 13 we had the pleasure of meeting Natt N. Dodge, junior park naturalist. He explained the banding reports in detail and cleared up several difficulties. His help is certainly appreciated.

We made several trips around in the canyon this month looking for young owls and crows. We found several last year nests, but no nestlings. The Gambel Sparrows have gone. Before we began trapping birds, there were hundreds here on the monument. The Nevada Red Wing we banded is the only one we have seen in the Canyon. He stayed around all day, looking quite lonesome, and watched me bait the traps. Finally his curiousity got he better of him. The mocking birds wake us every morning with their songs. There are several pairs on the monument and they sing early and late. So far we have been unable to trap them so we've decided to change the bait in our traps.

In our bird manual we were instructed to kill all shrikes that we found destructive. The only one we caught was such a spunky fellow we lost our nerve and turned him loose. Two English sparrows met their doom before we could get them out of the trap. We have seen several young shrikes being fed by their parents but haven't located any nests. We watched a pair of Rocky Wrens building their nest in Pueblo Bonito. Before they had finished, repair work of the ruins was started and the wrens deserted their nest. No doubt they thought the neighborhood too noisy.

It was quite a funny sight the day Mac and Homer banded the Say Phoebes for me. We soon discovered that we had waited too long. They were ready to fly and, when we tried to catch them, they scattered in all directions. Mac put his hat over one and got his hand on another; Homer followed one thru two rooms and caught him. One we lost entirely. We've been wondering what sort of bait to use to trap a say Phoebe. They are quite numerous in Pueblo Bonito and along the base of Threatening Rock.



On returning from a trip to the monuments on June 23, the custodian encountered a skunk ambling across the sand on the floor of the Canyon. The beautifully striped animal was apparently not alarmed at the approach of the car and unhurriedly made his way into the willows at the side of the wash. This is believed to be the first skunk record from this monument.

While on a trip to Mummy Cave, Sally and Bill Lippincott discovered two infant rats (or mice) which had been set upon by a horde of ants. Removing the ants with some difficulty, the resource looked about without success for the nest from which the youngsters had been driven. Sally decided to adopt the refugees and has made a home for them with cotton batting in a hot-water-bottle heated box. She feeds them evaporated milk regularly with a medicine dropper which they have come to accept eagerly. In honor of the custodian, they have been named John and Will respectively until such time as they die or indicate that the name or names be inappropriate.



The young Golden Eagle seems about ready to leave the nest and a daily inspection is made to see if the youngster has taken his first venture from home. The young owls mentioned in the May report are doing well and visitors find them of considerable interest. However, as they grow up it was either a case of moving them outside in order to have room for the custodian and HCWP, or of our moving. The owls now dwell outside.

One dark night during the month something was heard to fail from the cliff with a dull thud and an investigation next morning resulted in the finding of a porcupine that was responsible. Porky was buried, but quills remaining where he fell interest the visitors, many of whom have never seen a porcupine.

During the month the den of a wild domestic cat was found and three kittens properly disposed of, though two more are though to be roaming the monument, one of them being the mother cat. What little wildlife we have is growing very tame--the rabbits and doves got in the way on the trails and have to be coaxed to move to one side in order that visitors may pass.



Twelve new plants were pressed for herbarium specimens. Thirteen mounted herbarium specimens were received back from Western Museum Laboratories. They certainly do a swell job of it.

On May 27 we saw a collared lizzard near the extreme southeastern boundary of the monument. These lizards are rare in the monument. They are quite spectacular and are noted for their cannibalistic tendencies. On June 4 the skull of a Black-tailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus molussus) was cleaned, and I attempted to mount it. Unfortunately, the party who brought in the skull had damaged it so the exhibit did not work out.

On June 10 I saw boss starting to swarm on a ledge about 40 feet above ground just west of the Castle. They didn't like this location so advanced about three yards down the cliff. Here, at 1:10 P.M., they started a new huddle. By 2:15 the swarm was complete covering an area of rock equal to about three and a half square feet. They were still in this swarm as late as 10:12 A.M. the following day. Then at 2:00 P.M., after this swarm had broken up, a new swarm about the size of a man's head formed a short distance away. We never found what site the bees selected. A few days later, on June 20, we saw a dense cloud of bees a couple hundred feet east and suppose they were preparing to swarm. We saw them because a strong wind carried them right into the midst of a party of visitors to whom we were talking.

Ed. Alberts saw a large bullsnake on June 11 just in front of the castle. This was the first big one we had seen this summer on the monument. We think it may be one of our big pots of last year. One June 18 Betty saw the first muskrat we have ever seen here on Beaver Creek. She couldn't identify it, but affirmed that it was of a small variety. Visitors are making comments about how tame our Ground Gray Squirrels are becoming. And we notice that the Cottontail rabbits are becoming very tame around our house. We never step out the door before 8:00 A.M. but what we see at least one rabbit near a door stop, and frequently they will stand six or eight feet away and unconcernedly nibble grass while keeping an eye on us.

Very few garter snakes have been seen here this year. This morning, June 24, we saw a three foot specimen in the yard.

We received instructions and photographs from Headquarters during a month for the use of demonstration ant nests. We made one out of moulding plaster and some old glass on hand at a total cost of about fifty cents.



The birds seen on the monument in June were: Arizona Cardinal, Yellow-billed Cucko, Mourning Dove, House Finch, Red-shafted Flicker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cooper Hawk, Desert Sparrow Hawk, Treganza Blue Heron, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Killdeer, Arkansas Kingbird, Cassin Kingbird, American Merganser, Western Mockingbird, Texas Nightahawk, Arizona Hooded Oriole, Phainopepla, Black Phoebe, Say Phoebe, Gambel Quail, Road Runner, White-rumped Shrike, Desert Black-throated Sparrow Cliff Swallow, Hopatic Tanager, Western Tanager, Crissal Thrasher, Turkey Vulture, Lucy Warbler, Sonora Yellow Warbler, Cactus Woodpecker, Baird-Bewick Wren, Canyon Wren and House Wren.

The Texas Nighthawks are back again this year. There are about six of them that arrived May 25. I haven't located the Hummingbird's nest this year, but twice I have seen him hovering over the creek, then darting away into the trees west of the tent.

I got all excited on May 31 at seeing a Phainopepla here. They are not supposed to get up to this altitude, according to Bailey, till after the breeding season. I had never seen one before. He was in the top of a Sycamore over the creek, circling out every now and then after an insect and showing his markings very plainly. While I was watching him, I heard a great chatering and Mrs. Flicker arrived at home with some food. I saw at least four little heads craning out. They have probably flown by now, though I haven't seen them, but there is another family of young ones now in a tree west of the museum. In the next are some young Cactus Woodpeckers--only about 25 feet above the ground.

Poor Mrs. Say Phoebe is getting old and nervous. I'm afraid. After settling over our front door again, as I mentioned in May, she didn't have the courage to remain on her eggs while anyone was around. She made attempts up to about June 5 but since then she's only been back occasionally, perhaps just to rest. Her four eggs are all greyish and spoiled.

The Hepatic Tanager was first seen on June 15 by Norman and has been around ever since. He's not easy to see like his cousin, the Western Tanager, who is conspicuous and proud of it.

I am jealous of Mrs. Caywood for her discovery of a road-runner's nest. I don't seem to be able to see ground nests. I've hunted and hunted and still haven't found even a quail nest, and we have a least 15 families of Quail.

The Vermillion Flycatcher was at last seen on June 1. I've been awaiting his arrival for two months.

On June 15 I watched a killdeer go through the queerest antics. I was swimming in the creek. I swam to about ten feet from where he was standing on the shore before he saw me. Then, instead of flying, he began to chatter his bill as he let out a high soft whistle and, apparently shivering all over, he turned his back to me, stepped a few paces away, then settled in a hollow between some rocks. After staying there about a minute in silence, he started his chatter again, got up on very shaky logs and moved off a little further. He repeated the whole thing several times only moving about three feet between hollows. When he thought he was at a safe distance, he let out his characteristic scream and flew on down stream a little way.

On June 22 Norman called out to see the Cuckoo which we have heard for about three weeks but haven't seen. That same day Ed saw a family of quail--about a dozen little ones so tiny that they stumbled every now and then. They were about two or three inches long.

There is a young mockingbird on the monument and several young mourning doves. The kingbird babies in the nest above the syzygy are about ready to fly now too. The merganser young ones are almost the size of their mother now, and all ten doing nicely.

I haven't seen any baby House Finches, but one family is starting a second brood and I saw another pair courting today. The bird I've been calling Rocky Mt. Orange--crowned Warbler is not one. He lacks the yellowish underparts. He is more like a Lucy Warbler, but still doesn't quite fit in the marking at the eye.

In doing the road work they had to take out a medium-sized "Soaptree" Yucca, which we transplanted into our back yard "garden". I don't know what she gets there, but every morning the female Arizona Hooded Oriole pecks around in and under its leaves while the male talks to himself in a nearby mesquite or greasewood.


TONTO TALES By Roland Richert

This ranger was appropriately initiated into the reputedly wild environs of Tonto on the night of June 6 when he was awakened by a blood-freezing scream eminating from the canyon, possibly 100 yards above the spring. Five or six successive shrieks were heard and then all was quiet. If we may believe the many reports regarding the scream of a cougar, perhaps the mountain lion that prowls here periodically was making his initial visitation. I have heard the same sound on subsequent occasions but each time it has been at a considerable distance.

Virtually all flowers have blossomed and are either bearing or have borne fruit. Two notable exceptions are the agave or Century Plant and the Sotol which are now in full bloom.

Birds are very abundant on the monument, especially Gambel Quail. It is a common sight to observe a pair of adults leading a family of from six to 15 chicks in search of food. Other birds noted at random are: Desert Blackthroated Sparrow, Cardinal, oriole, wren, vireo, raven, flycatcher, kingbird, dove, hummingbird, and roadrunner.



Animal life here is interesting. We have seen magpies, doves, larks, owls, flycatchers, a cliff swallow, night hawks, and others. Ground squirrels, large grey squirrels, chipmunks, jackrabbits, and lizards are numerous. One lizard, a near neighbor at Square Tower, is brightly colored green and yellow with markings of red, black and brown.



Water holes in the canyon, left from the overflowing of Lake Mary this spring, have gone dry so there is no water for wild turkeys this summer.

Tracks of a small bear have been seen several times by loggers at work just across the canyon. An old mountain lion has killed several sheep about one mile southwest of the ranger station.



Within the limits of the monument, no one bird seems to be especially abundant that is, omitting the species which may, for one reason or another, come in for a short time. For example, the Band-tailed Pigeons were seen in large numbers one morning recently. Except upon one other occasion, I have not seen a single bird of this species upon the grounds. The Phainopepla is perhaps here in greater numbers than any other variety; the Arizona Cardinal and Gila Woodpecker running a close second and third.

Offering a noticeable contrast with Casa Grande is the scarcity of Western Mourning Doves. The Western White-winged fills the gap in this family. However, this last is not common upon the monument--they prefer the shade and seclusion of the wooded area along the Santa Cruz River. A time or two while walking in the north east corner of the monument, the smallest of the dove tribe has flashed before me. This species, the tiny Mexican Ground Dove, was found nesting within one hundred yards of the east boundary. The nest is situated some four feet from the ground and is typical of this order of birds--a small, almost flat, frail, losely constructed mass.

The gaudy little Vermillion Flycatcher may be seen at 'most any time of the day and the utterance of the male often heard through the night. I was fortunate enough to see the start of a nest built by this species. While I watched, the male bird took no part in the construction work. The female took parts of three days to complete her task. The afternoon of the third day she was observed sitting upon the nest, apparently laying. On inspecting the clutch of eggs five days later, a fourth and larger egg was very much in evidence. The little flycatchers had been victimized by the parasitical cowbird.

Lucky Warblers are about 'most all the time. A nest of this species was found in a most unusual place, or I should say, the young; for the nest was built by another bird. The woodpeckers, at some time or other, had hollowed out the end of a 1 x 6 beam still used in the rof construction. Here in the old site of a past dweller, this warbler has chosen to raise its young. It is an unkempt, dirty site, not at all like most locations chosen by this bird.

Palmer Thrashers here are the most abundant of the family. Often through the day this bird is heard giving its shrill, spirited whistle. Occasionally, a Crissal Thrasher is seen. At close-by Alise Spring, birds are particularly varied and abundant. Of mentionable interest were the variety of Tyrant flycatchers recorded. Within an hour's time six species were counted: Arizona Crested, Ash-Throated, Olivaceous, Western Wood Peewee, Bearless, and Vermillion. Adding to this the Say Phoebe, among others found on the monument, we have a sizeable list of these birds. There is always a thrill awaiting him who follows Nature; there is always more to see, to learn. I had my first glimpse of the fast-becoming-rare Scaled Quail. A pair were observed in their chosen dry, arid environment, not far from the monument.

The monument is of such small size that the following list of birds observed within its ten acres does not adequately represent the avifauna of Santa Cruz Valley; Crow, Western; Cowbird (probably dwarf); Chat, long-tailed; Cardinal, Arizona; Dove, Mexican Ground; Dove, Western Mourning; Dove, Western White-winged; Flycatcher, Arizona Crested; Flycatcher, Vermilion; Flycatcher, Ash-Throated; Finch, House; Flicker, Red-shafted; Hawk, Desert Sparrow; Mockingbird, Western; Nighthawk, Texas; Oriole, Ariz. Hooded; Pigeon, Band-tailed; Pyrrhuloxia, Arizona; Phoebe, Say; Phainopepla; Raven, White-necked (possibly American); Towhee, Canyon; Thrasher; Vulture, Black; Vulture, Turkey; verdin; wren; woodpecker; and Lucy Warbler.

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Date: 01-May-2007