Snow in the mountains

Cold and rainy in Tucson this morning. A low-pressure system from the Pacific overwhelmed the arid desert air, but only briefly. Now, only three hours after it was overcast, cold and drizzling, it is clear and in the mid-60s.

When the clouds lifted, they revealed snow-covered mountains to the north of Tucson. The snow adds depth to the mountain views; you can finally tell from the desert floor how high the distant mountains are in relation to the closer, smaller mountains. Without snow, they look all the same.

Yesterday I drove east on one of Tucson's main drags until it ended. A parking lot and a trailhead mark the end of most of Tucson's big streets, and East Broadway was no exception. Over the space of 12 miles, the street narrowed from six lanes, to four, to two, and finally ended with a dead end and a parking lot. I took a walk in a quiet portion of the desert and listened to the birds. I took the binoculars along and had good views of the mountains. It was Christmas day, so many cars snaked up and down the switchbacks, filled with people getting out of the house for a drive. I could see roads, hikers and horseback riders with the binoculars which were invisible to the naked eye. I felt like a spy.

There is a bird in the desert with a beautiful call, sort of a quick "tweeptweeeep," a little like a sharp wolf-whistle. I had never seen the actual bird until I caught one in the binoculars yesterday, on the arm of a big saguaro. Big chirp, little bird.

There are doves everywhere in Tucson. Their wings whistle when they take off. No mourning doves yet, however. It seems they arrive in droves in mid-January, and then their hollow, nostalgic coo permeates the early evening air.

I have yet to hear the coyotes screaming in the middle of the night. I must be too far into town. They sure make a ruckus, usually at about 11:30 p.m. And I have yet to see a roadrunner this trip. The strut of a real roadrunner is as comic as the cartoon. Boy, can they move.