Around The Corner Cholla Cactus
This summer I watched a pair of curved-billed thrashers raising their brood in a beautiful, tall and healthy cholla cactus. The plant was growing in a patch of dirt between a sidewalk and a house that had two barred windows whose panes were covered by shabby curtains. This cholla was probably 8 feet tall. The thrashers built two nests there. The best one was used to raise their family. One day I discreetly showed the nests to a friend of mine. When we were standing a foot away from the plant, we saw a fledgling that was waiting for its parents to return with food. A minute later they arrived, perched on the cholla and fed the young bird as if we didn’t exist. Nobody else was around. After admiring the thrashers’ dedicated parenting skills we left the family alone and walked away. Every time I rode my bicycle by the cholla I would glance at it to find out how the family was doing but every single time I had no luck. Eventually I concluded that the birds must have flown off and didn’t use the nests anymore. The birds left but the cholla cactus decorated with those two nests stayed. It was a joy to look at it even if the birds were gone.
A couple of weeks ago I rode my bicycle next to the cholla again and I was shocked to see that that familiar armored “bird house” wasn’t there anymore. Someone neatly cut the base of the cactus and took it away! I couldn’t believe it. I was speechless. Later, I tried to rationalize that act of vandalism against Nature. I thought that the owner of that house wanted to landscape that patch of dirt with different plants. But a small cholla and prickly pear cacti were growing near where the large cholla once stood. The weird thing is that those cacti are still there and there are no signs of any landscaping work being done at the site. I know that in New Mexico folks collect the “skeletons” of cholla cactus to decorate their homes. This cholla was alive, green and protected by spines. There are a lot of large cholla cacti in my neighborhood so it’s pretty strange that, for some unknown reasons, this one was targeted. In fact, its disappearance is even more mysterious considering that, in a different street, there was a second cholla cactus that had a nest with a second fledge that was so exposed and visible from the sidewalk that anybody could have reached out and grabbed the bird if they wanted to. Well, that cactus is still standing and the nest is still there!
What’s your mystery iNatter story?