By Jerry H. Appel
Last week I found three dead, uneaten, juvenile white-wing doves on my property in Thunderbird Valley, one on the front patio, and two in the back yard as I performed my poop patrol. Both of my rescue dogs, an English pointer and black labrador, left these carcasses undisturbed, which was not a good sign.
Thunder Canyon is just up the hill from me, saved from development by the community, and we often see mule deer, coyotes, silver fox, chipmunks, and ground squirrels walking the streets or patrolling the steep slopes of mesas or traveling the storm sewer highways to Mesa Street.
After two pretty wet years, last year was average. But 2021 was the third wettest year in recorded history, so I expected even more wildlife to show up. That has not happened. Quite a few of the usual spring visitors have not shown up, especially the birds and the bees.
While several bird species have not shown up in my area this year, and some have dwindled in the 34 years I’ve walked this area, I have noticed an increase in feral cats, which is why I was heartened by a recent coyote expedition that reduced the cat population, in addition to feral cat trapping efforts.
For weeks my hummingbird friendly front yard and feeders have been unvisited. My blooming desert plants sit silently waiting for absent bees to show up. Swallows and kingbirds also are absent, which means having to deal with more flying insects, which the evening bat flights are doing their best to dent.
My wife and I miss our black-throated hummingbirds in our area, but they have been there for weeks at Don Haskins PK-8 school, where she is the principal.
I miss the sound of happily humming trees clouded in bees harvesting nectar to make honey. I miss the aerial skills of kingbirds and swallows consuming their weight and more in flying insects. I hope to not miss the usual August migration of Rufous hummingbirds, but it seems there will be no aerial jousting at the feeders this year.
Is it an avian flu outbreak? I do not know. I recently heard a great horned owl, but that was just one night. A few years back we had a mating pair in the area that I used to see silhouetted against a moonlit sky during my nocturnal dog walks.
The owls are missing, the kingbirds are missing, the hummingbirds are missing, the rabbits are missing, and the bees are missing.
Hope is not missing.
We have seen the renewal that can take place in Yellowstone after the fires in 1988, which I witnessed first hand. Nature regenerates given a chance, like the return of dolphins to the East and Harlem Rivers in New York City.
I look forward to next spring and the return of missing friends.
Jerry H. Appel is a retired public school teacher in Texas and New Mexico, born in New York City, raised in Brooklyn , moved to El Paso in 1978, and a retired journalist.