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First hole at Painted Mountain Golf Course

When I was growing up we didn’t think much about golf in our family – it was a rich man’s sport and we weren’t rich.  We knew some people who played golf, and some of the boys in my circle of friends caddied on weekends (which made me very envious, because they got $5.00 a round, much better than baby-sitting paid in those days) (girls couldn’t caddy).  There was a lovely golf course in our town, the property of the small liberal arts college there, but we were not members.

Later, when I was a young adult and well into adulthood, I thought golf was the stupidest game in the world.  For starters, you didn’t hit a moving ball – what fun could that be?  Then there was the enormous waste of space – think of all the people who could live on those lovely greenswards.  Criminal!  Later still I reviled the game for the waste of water and energy to maintain the courses, and for the chemicals that are liberally applied to keep the grass so thick and green.  On a much more superficial level I found the clothing worn by golfers hilarious.  White shoes and belts, men in pink trousers (Sheriff Joe would love it) – definitely all fashion ‘don’ts.’

Now I’m an old fart and a seasoned golfer of some three years and I’ve changed my tune.  Speedy, the cause of my descent into the world of golf, and I usually walk when we play; after all, it is meant to be exercise, and a round of golf gives us a good four mile hike.  The game is much more challenging than I ever imagined, and much more fun (on the days when it’s not infuriating). Here in Arizona all the golf courses are watered with ‘reclaimed’ water – not stuff you want to drink.

But best of all, for me, is being outdoors for a four-hour stretch, looking at the flowers, the trees, the water (as long as I’m not looking for my ball in the water) and most of all, the things that fly over and around our golf course.  I won’t even bore you with the jets landing at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport – they are a near constant, though still high enough that their noise is not intrusive; or with the numerous helicopters that fly around – MD Helicopters and Boeing both manufacture whirly-birds, which are frequently given test runs above Mesa.  Of more interest are the historic planes that fly from nearby Falcon Field where there is a museum operated by the Commemorative Air Force.

B-17 Flying Fortress (Sentimental Journey)

Here she is on the ground at the Air Museum:

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This last is not housed at Falcon Field.  The Metlife blimps don’t have permanent homes, but rather stay near the events they are covering. (You can read all about them here.)

But I love the birds we see around the golf course even more than the flyers with engines.  As I began to prepare this post I realized that I’ve got far too many photos of golf course birds to put here, so I’ve made an album which you can see by clicking here (then click ‘slide show’).  I’m not even remotely confident about my bird ID’s, so feel free to correct me.

The two birds I love seeing the most are the peach-faced lovebirds which are native to arid regions of Africa and the Phoenix area.  They are popular pet birds, and some most have escaped around here; clearly they’ve been successful in adapting to Arizona life.  They are colorful and congregate in groups; they are tremendously chatty.  It’s not at all unusual to be lining up your golf shot and have a lovebird zoom in front of you about three feet away. Doesn’t this guy have an impish expression??

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My other favorite to watch is the Great-tailed (or Boat-tailed) Grackle. The female is a rather dull brown-black in color, but the male is glossy black and proud of it.  They stalk around in a show-offy kind of way, and frequently stop and put their heads up in the air as if they were smelling something (if it’s Painted Mountain and 5 p.m. they’re smelling BBQ).

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This week I got to see what I take to be the mating display of the male. He sat on a tree branch as normal as could be.  Then he ruffled out all his breast feathers, as if he were taking a deep breath, which he then held for a moment as he opened his beak.  At last he spoke – or rather sqawked, because that is the sound they make.  He alternated between the usual squawk and a sort of whistle.  The Cornell Ornithology Lab has a terrific web site where you can hear a lot of different birds, including the grackle – but I have to say, I think the ones on our golf course have a lot more raucaus call than those the lab recorded.

Here are a couple of other bird pictures which I hope will encourage you to look at the rest in the web album.

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The coots are very entertaining as well, mostly because they are called coots, and when they get in your way you can say, “Watch out, you coots!”

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Is there any place in the world where mallards are not at home?

Things that fly – the sky is full of them, and so are the golf-course ponds.  There is always something wonderful to look at to distract you from actually playing the game.

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