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The desert is a place of quiet cacophony in the spring.  I stopped on the Lost Dutchman Trail the other day to listen, and this is what I heard.


First ~ the bird song.  The birds (and the bees) are doing what they’re meant to do at this time of year, and they’re being none too quiet about it.  The cactus wren perched on the saguaro above has a hideous call for such a sweet bird.  It’s a grating electronic trill/buzz, as if the bird had had a laryngectomy and needs to use an electrolarynx.  Not pretty.  But judging from the dancing in the photo above, it is effective. Other bird songs I heard included a high trill, a pee-weep, a medium trill,  a chip-chip, and a whistle. The gila woodpecker thinks it’s all hilarious, and has a call that sounds like a chiding laugh. Every now and then a Gambel’s Quail took flight to the sound of beating wings.


The insect world provided the basso continuo for all the bird chatter. With flowers just beginning to open and the temperature rising, the flies, bees and wasps are out in great numbers. The bee above is hard at work in a desert mallow. He buzzed off with yellow pantaloons shortly after this photo was taken.  The bees who aren’t working flowers at the moment make a lot more noise as they commute to their next job, a sort of en-yeow zooming sound, like a teeny race car going by on an oval track.  The flies content themselves with a higher-pitched steady whine; they are irritating as they like to land on people, probably only minutes after having landed on some animal’s poop.  Bah.

It was very breezy, and that added to the concert.  The palo verde  and mesquite trees are leafy, and the wind makes a lovely whispering sigh as it passes through them.

The last sounds are the chatter of other hikers.  It was spring break week, and there were lots of young people out, probably thinking about the birds and bees, though in a slightly different way than I was.  I overheard conversations on the economy (the end of capitalism as we know it!), weight loss (drink lots of water before eating!), and cookery (tomatoes!).  We courted a little differently in my day, but, as the cactus wren proves (in the words of the old Stones song), it’s the singer, not the song…