Monday, April 14, 2014

Pipevine Life Cycle

I have told you before about the beautiful Pipevine swallowtail butterfly (see Butterfly Sex Notes) that lays its eggs on leaves of the pipevine.

pipevine flower 5-7-2010 8-10-35 AM 1000x1045

Soon the eggs hatch into a beautiful, though toxic caterpillar (it picks up toxins from the pipevine leaves).

Pipevine 3 9-3-2010 8-17-43 AM 868x935

Eventually, the caterpillar matures and creates a chrysalis in which to pupate. This is so cool! First, it places some silk on the twig (or in this case wall) as a base, then it spins the chrysalis, attaching the top part to the wall with a noose made out of silk!

Pipevine chrysalis 8-17-2013 2-26-38 PM 866x1191

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Jackrabbit encounter

Yesterday my roving partner, Sue, and I had a special treat. While walking on the Desert View Trail, we saw a jackrabbit that didn’t see us, and were able to watch it for about five minutes. It was eating creosote—first standing on its hind legs, and then crouched on the ground. As always when I see a jackrabbit, I was astounded by how big it is and how HUGE those ears are. Jackrabbits (which are technically hares, not rabbits), are among a very few animals that can eat creosote, because their kidneys are adapted to handle the poisonous oxalic acid in the plant.

jackrabbit ears 1 8-10-2013 1-04-46 PM 1798x2070

Later on, we saw an unusual, double-decker verdin nest—one nest built on top of an old one. These are great times to be in the Park!

verdin nest double decker 8-10-2013 2-14-52 PM 1597x1828  verdin nest double decker side 8-10-2013 2-15-07 PM 3070x2306

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Wood Duck

For a few years the only item on my bucket list was to see a male wood duck in person. A couple of weeks ago I fulfilled my dream and saw and photographed a very calm wood duck on a pond in a nearby park. I have no idea what he was doing there, but I’m so glad to have met him! I can’t imagine a more beautiful bird, even though he is not native to the Sonoran Desert. Here are four views of my wood duck, including the rear view below that shows off his beautiful purple mullet.

Wood duck mullet

Wood Duck Head 1 7-15-2013 2-08-36 PM 4608x3456 7-15-2013 2-08-36 PM 1944x2182

Wood duck Sit 1 7-15-2013 2-06-31 PM 4608x3456 7-15-2013 2-06-31 PM 1974x1179

Wood duck whole 7-15-2013 2-09-11 PM 2575x1716

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Changes in the Park

The whole front of Tohono Chul Park is being re-done. I previously wrote about the new Palm Canyon habitat on the left side; here’s a look in-progress at changes on the left (south) side, where the old entrance used to be.

It is a little hard for me to picture what it will look like when it is finished, but so far, though I miss some of the desert vegetation that has been removed, the new walls and walkways seem to open things up, and somehow the front of the Park is now looking much bigger than it used to.

bucket in wall 7-27-2013 12-55-30 PM 2545x2559

Buckets with drip lines have been placed in many of the walls; presumably beautiful plants will grow in them.





Below are a new curvy wall and the old path, both west of the Overlook:

New curvy walls 7-27-2013 12-56-02 PM 4608x3456

old path 7-27-2013 12-56-19 PM 4608x3456

Other new things in the Park:

tricho in greenhouse 7-20-2013 12-51-14 PM 2362x2377

The first trichocereus of spring, in the Greenhouse






First whitewing of 2014 7-27-2013 1-45-32 PM 1333x1650

The first white-winged dove of spring; so happy to see my beloved white-wings are returning!







And finally, a sweet mama hummer in the nest she built underneath a lamp on the Bistro patio!

hummer in lamp 7-27-2013 2-48-58 PM 1698x1745

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Saguaro Globe and Those Crazy Finches

The beautiful large saguaro at the end of our driveway has sprouted a perfectly round globe on the top of one of its arms. It will be interesting to see if it becomes oblong, and if it flowers.

globe1 3-23-2014 8-28-59 AM 1057x2018

In the meantime, perhaps knowing that I am fascinated by nests, a pair of house finches has been spending the last two days trying to build a nest on the rear spoiler of my car. No matter how often I remove their nesting materials, they replace them. They are using mostly creosote and Texas ranger. Here is what it looked like this morning:

nesting material 3-23-2014 8-25-52 AM 3222x1370

This afternoon, they had amassed the pile into a much more nestlike structure:

More nestlike 3-23-2014 2-20-49 PM 2642x2189

I will of course remove this as well, and I do need the car to go to Tohono Chul Park tomorrow. I wonder when they will give up? Or will I have to give up driving?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sandhill Cranes

The magnificent sandhill cranes return to southern Arizona every winter. They mostly hang out in the area around Willcox, including Whitewater Draw, an artificial wetlands that also attracts other water birds.

Standing cranes large 5-29-2013 4-14-46 PM 4561x1964

This is the second time I have seen the cranes as they fly back from gleaning the Willcox fields for a daily siesta. They come in great numbers, wave after wave, from a few to several dozen at a time. The air fills with their insistent calls. There is something primal and spiritual about them, something I feel through my whole body as I watch their eerie alien beauty.

SandhillCrowd4Garrwald[2]This beautiful photo of Sandhill Cranes landing was taken by Bob Garrett..

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pre-Christmas Rove with Diamonds and Birds

I have written frequently about Roving, which is among my favorite things to do as a Tohono Chul Park docent. Now that it’s winter, we have very chilly mornings, warming quickly to lovely cool and clear sunny days.

Good morning, pre-Christmas 4-22-2013 12-00-09 PM 4596x2547

This morning it was actually cold—in the high thirties when we started--so my roving buddy and I went for a brisk walk on the Desert View Trail to warm up. It was so incredibly beautiful, I wish everyone reading this could have been with us. The air was so crisp and fresh! And all the plants, especially the creosote, held droplets of dew that sparkled like diamonds. These photos will only give you a pale inkling of how beautiful it was in real life.

Sparkles 2 4-27-2013 1-13-53 PM 1102x1509Sparkles 3 4-27-2013 1-13-16 PM 1355x2194

Along the trail, and later in the Park we saw lots and lots of birds, all of whom seemed to be enjoying the beautiful morning too as they warmed themselves by basking or chasing each other. We saw a few rarities, and got great looks at some of the more common birds, like this Abert’s Towhee, which was hanging out by a finch feeder.

Abert's Towhee cold day 4-27-2013 2-11-16 PM 2705x2135

Here is a list of the 21 species of birds we saw either in the Park or over it: Harris’ hawk; red-tailed hawk; lesser goldfinch; house finch; phainopepla, verdin, Costa’s hummingbird; cactus wren; Gila woodpecker; northern mockingbird; cardinal; curve-billed thrasher; Gambel’s quail; Abert’s towhee; rock wren; house sparrow; hermit thrush; spotted towhee; and Anna’s hummingbird. There are many other birds that are usually in the Park that we didn’t see.