Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tortoise Eating Tuna

Another hot, humid, and beautiful day at Tohono Chul Park.
This is a desert tortoise:
Desert Tortoise 3-18-2013 8-39-40 AM 2580x2148
These are the fruit of prickly pears. Around here they are called TUNAS. Most birds and animals love them:
This video shows a desert tortoise eating a tuna.  YUM!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Camouflage in the Desert

Three weeks ago, my roving buddy and I were walking the Saguaro Discovery Trail at Tohono Chul Park looking for a nighthawk nest we had heard about. Suddenly,  a lesser nighthawk erupted from the ground and flew several feet away.

Where it had been sitting—under a cholla on the bare desert floor—was an olive green speckled egg.nighthawk egg cu 6-23-2014 9-06-43 AM 705x760

We did some research and learned that nighthawks usually lay two eggs. The chicks are semi-precocial, meaning that they can move about after they are hatched, but depend on parental care till they fledge, 17 days later. How can almost-helpless baby birds survive 17 days on the hot desert floor? The answer is that they are invisible!

nighthawk chicksB

nighthawk chicksA

These two amazing photos were taken by photographer John Durham and are used with his permission. He took them in the Altar Valley, somewhat southwest of Tucson.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

‘Twas the Day after Bloom Night

A cloudy, hot, humid day with much beauty remaining from the previous night’s night-blooming cereus celebration. Most of these photos were taken in the new front part of Tohono Chul Park.

postbloom pathway 7-12-2014 8-10-39 AM 3264x2448                                                             claret cup 7-12-2014 8-43-41 AM 2448x3264 

pb vista 7-12-2014 8-12-38 AM 3264x2448 pb wallflowers 7-12-2014 8-11-22 AM 3264x2448                                               mammalaria crown 7-12-2014 8-58-20 AM 3264x2448pb wallflowers cu 7-12-2014 8-11-28 AM 3264x2448                                                              

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Eight Baby Quail Feeding

This very large quail family has been showing up daily since the babies first hatched, about ten days ago. They started with eight, and still have eight, which probably means that the parents are very experienced (and lucky). This morning I spilled some Nijer seed on the floor of my back porch. As soon as the quail discovered it, they were after it. The baby quail at the extreme right of the frame are pecking at the brick wall--they may think it is a quail block.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Amazing dove parenting

This morning, standing at the kitchen window at dawn, I saw a cluster of four white-winged doves on the wall. At first I thought it was two adults feeding two chicks, but then realized it was one extremely patient adult feeding THREE very demanding chicks. I finally sorted it out, and believe it was mama or papa, two recently-fledged chicks, and one nearly full-grown chick from the previous clutch. I’ve always known white-wingeds were good parents, but had no idea they would continue to feed a fledgling until it was nearly full grown!

I do not have pictures of the incident, but here are nestling doves in the carport from a previous year.

White-winged siblings 5-16-2012 3-12-04 PM 1929x1331

These homely little guys will grow up to look like this beauty:

White-winged dove CU 6-27-2011 8-31-41 AM 1901x2105

Monday, June 02, 2014


It is supposed to get to 109 today, but was only in the nineties when I did my weekly Rove at Tohono Chul Park. My roving partner and I had a great time. Even in the heat of summer, there is so much beauty. Here, for example, is the coral bean that greets visitors at the front gate:
coral bean 6-2-2014 8-05-32 AM 1958x1621
We saw other beautiful flowers, and a number of birds, including “the usual suspects” (Gambel’s quail, cactus wrens, white-winged doves, verdins, and Bell’s vireo, common here in the warm weather). We also saw, at the top of big nest high in an ash tree, the fuzzy white head of a baby Cooper’s hawk. We’d been wondering if the nest was active, and now we know! In addition we saw desert spiny, whiptail, and zebratail lizards, and one smallish diamondback that was waiting patiently near a mouse hole in the ground. 

At the back of the Riparian area, a trichocereus was in bloom:
June 2014 Trichos 6-2-2014 9-31-14 AM 2671x2168
In the same area we cooled off by watching one of my favorite fountains, the Pot Wall.

Friday, May 09, 2014

3 Reasons to love the Sonoran Desert in Spring

I love late spring in the Sonoran Desert. There is so much beauty now. Here are three things in particular that I look forward to from year to year, and cherish every second that they are here:

1. Palo Verde trees in bloom. Throughout the city of Tucson and in the surrounding desert, everywhere you look there is a sea of yellow blossoms.

Palo verde cropped

Rillito palo verdes crop

2. White-winged doves on saguaros. The beautiful white-winged dove spends the winter in Mexico, then flies up here in springtime to feed on saguaro blossoms and fruit. The most iconic image of the Sonoran desert is a white-winged dove atop a saguaro. (In this photo the dove is accompanied by a Gila woodpecker and a bee.)

Gila and White winged dove 5-7-2010 8-17-55 AM 855x908

3. Baby Gambel’s quail. These adorable little guys start showing up in April and provide continuing entertainment and beauty well into summer.

Baby Quail 5-16-2008 9-58-26 AM 514x357