Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Late-August Week in the Park

These are the uncomfortable days of late summer—hot but not scorching, and very humid but mostly not rainy. Still, Tohono Chul Park is always a very special place to be.

Tree Tragedy

Monday morning, the big news was that a huge old palo verde tree in the Sundial Plaza—the center of the Park—had broken in half during the night. It was clear that the center of the tree had rotted, and heavy winds had done it in. Our grounds guys cleared most of it away from the path within an hour.

Palo Verde Down 8-20-2012 8-28-45 AM 3616x2712


Friday, I had a bird walk. When it began, the visitors and I noticed a desert spiny lizard behaving oddly inside a ramada. When we got closer, we saw that he was standing by a long line of small red ants (not leaf-cutters), and methodically eating them one by one, bobbing his head as he zapped the ants with his tongue. It looked as if he were playing a video game. I failed to get a photo of this remarkable behavior, but am recording it because I have never seen it before.

Here’s a desert spiny lizard: just imagine him playing Super Mario.

 Desert spiny 4-11-2011 10-43-45 AM 945x825

Birdless Walks

My bird walks on Monday, Friday, and today were pathetic—birders for each of them, but virtually no birds. Too hot, and too much new plant growth to see anything.

But all was not lost. I got to see some of our new sculptures. Here is part of a javelina family group in front of the small pond behind the Exhibit House.

                                                                javelina statues 8-20-2012 9-44-33 AM 3616x2712

Are you Cereus?

And a rare sight this morning: beautiful fruit of the night-blooming cereus.  Our head botanist collects these fruits for their seeds, so I was very lucky to see these before he got to them.

Cereus Fruit 8-25-2012 8-34-47 AM 3616x2712


  1. I think that lizard was playing Pac Man. Does sound interesting. I am still wondering how the little lizard got into my house.

    1. Yes, Pac Man. The commonest way for lizards to get into the house is if you aren't paying attention when you open a sliding door, sometimes it gets in between the doors. The next time you open it, it goes into the house. Or it just goes underneath the weatherstripping if yours is dried out.

  2. Anonymous5:02 AM

    Sounds like birding in Wisconsin. I have not even tried this summer. I do enjoy listening to the chick a dee dee's. SO sad about the Palo Verde, looks like it was the Mexican one. S

  3. There is so much foliage everywhere in the Sundial area that it isn't missed. I don't know if it's the Mexican one. Paul said it might come back depending on how far down the rot goes.

  4. There is a You Tube video out there somewhere of someone's pet lizard "eating" a trail of ants as the march across a computer screen. But you got to see it in 3-D!

    Didn't another tree in that same plaza get knocked over by winds in the past year?

  5. I posted the video to that on YouTube. But these are REAL ants!

    No trees, though we lost some two summers ago. This year, in early July, the top half of a saguaro fell off on the Desert View Trail. Photo and discussion at

  6. That must have been neat to see the lizard zapping up the ants!

    1. It was very neat, especially since I had seen that video of a lizard zapping imaginary bugs on an iPad screen. Here is the link: