Monday, June 14, 2010

The Living Desert

I remember, back in the 1960’s, when my folks got their first color television set (yes, children, the ‘Cat is OLD), one my family’s favorite programs was Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. Two of MY favorite episodes were the consecutive Sunday broadcasts of the 1953 full-length True-Life Adventures film The Living Desert.

The Living Desert has been both criticized and honored down through the years, but there is one thing about which both its detractors and fans agree: it showed that the deserts of the American southwest are teeming with life, not barren of it.

Growing up in Arizona, hiking and backpacking here since I was a kid, I have always been aware of the abundance of wildlife. I remember riding my English Racer to school one week and almost running over two different rattlesnakes on two different days. At our current house in central Phoenix, we have encountered all manner of critters: from snakes and scorpions to spiders and squirrels. About ten years ago, I discovered a Colorado River Toad making his home beneath a dripping hose bib on the side of the house.

The most populous desert denizens are the birds, and I was reminded of that last Friday morning as I took a Dawn Starbucks Patrol.

There’s all the chattering of the sparrows, finches and other nameless small birds; the multi-lingual voices of the mocking birds, who will dive bomb the neighborhood cats; the cooing of the Rock Doves (better known as Pigeons or, to me, Flying Rats). The best sound of all, though, is the plaintive cry of the Mourning Dove, which to me is the signature sound of the desert.


  1. A mockingbird in full concert early in the morning is truly amazing. We had one that liked to imitate a car alarm. He also did a pretty good leaf blower. I also appreciate the wrack wrack wrack of a cactus wren when it's 110F. I noticed Hulu and Youtube have more and more old shows, maybe I can go check out The Living Desert. Good post, made me want to get out earlier.

  2. My neighbor has a parrot. Sometimes, they will leave their front door open, just the screen door closed, so he can talk to all his friends outside. The song duels he has with the mocking birds are absolutely hysterical.