Coues whitetail

The deer in the photo below is not a mule deer, as I reported below. It is a Coues whitetail, a smaller version of the species than we have in Minnesota. There are twenty-some varieties of white-tail in this country, according to the proprietor Reed, who is a walking encyclopedia of animal information from birds down to ants.

The Coues coloring is also more gray than red. They are small. Saw the first buck this morning in the dawn's early light, but it was too dim to photograph. Last night after dark, I had a close encounter with a gray fox, one of two who haunt the yard here at Cave Creek Canyon Ranch.

Right now I am sitting on the porch of the main office, near the bulk of the bird feeders. All you can here are birdsongs, in great variety, and the constant whir and flutter of wings. Although the temperatures fall near freezing each night, when the sun comes over the cliffs at 9 a.m., it warms immediately. The other day, I could have sworn it was 80 degrees, but yet there was still frost in the shade. And my car thermometer sat stubbornly at 53 F. 

Cave Creek Canyon is a wildlife paradise. It draws biologists of every stripe to study its vast array of bats, birds, snakes (39 species), lizards, frogs, and, believe it or not, ants. Next week, an archaelogical dig starts for the remains of civilizations from thousands of years ago. Cave Creek Canyon ranch is one place many of the academics stay. 

According to locals, Portal and Cave Creek canyon have a lower population of humans at present than at any time over the past five thousand years!

Due to the high elevation and lack of light pollution, astronomers flock here as well. In fact, 25 professional astronomers live in the area. Yesterday, I drove a small country road north of Portal and saw a lane called Skyview. Along it I counted nine planetarium-type domes for telescopes. It has been a new moon this week, so the viewing has been spectacular. 

As the sun sets against the cliffs, the people staying in cabins gather quietly on the porch of the office to watch the birds gather in the trees for nightfall. Eventually conversation turns to the day's adventures, which for bird nerds are mostly tales of odd species sighted. I am not so much into that, but prefer to just listen to their expertise. 

Total darkness by five-thirty on this edge of Mountain Time.