When southern Arizonans travel during the warmer months of the year, they get looks of sympathy when they reveal their homeplace. "Isn't it hot down there?" "Isn't it hard to live without seasons?" But Sonoran Desert dwellers know they have one up on the questioners, with two distinct seasons during what the rest of the country calls summer.
In Sonoran Desert
Summer, John Alcock captures the wonder and the science behind the
lives of wood-boring beetles, zebra-tailed lizards, round-tailed
ground squirrels, elk owls and saguaro cacti, among other species,
during both the desert summers: sizzling, cloudless dry days of May
and June, and the intermittent thunderstorms and downpours of the
late summer monsoon season.
In his book,
hummingbirds vie for the nectar of a flowering saguaro but drop out
of aerial combat if the food source isn't rich enough. Gila
monsters, orange and black, venture out for brief morning periods
from April through June, in pursuit of their diet of birds' eggs
and baby quail; the rest of their lives is spent in underground
burrows, which explains why they are rarely seen by humans.
Alcock, a zoology professor at Arizona State
University, has avoided technical writing. His vivid personal and
historical accounts of scientific research play out as
mini-mysteries. Sonoran Desert Summer, released in 1990, recently
has been published in paperback, as has his earlier book, Sonoran
The University of Arizona Press,
1230 N. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719. Sonoran Desert Summer: 188
pages. Sonoran Desert Spring: 135 pages. Illustrations by Marilyn
Hoff Stewart. Cost of each is $15.95.