Thursday, January 24, 2013

Desert Skies

After record-breaking low temperatures last week (in the high teens), yesterday we broke the record high (low eighties). And today it’s cloudy and mild. The sky has been spectacular. Here are a few sky shots, including one from Sabino Canyon last Sunday:

Sabino Blue Sky 1-20-2013 1-00-32 PM 2048x1235

And from various locations in my yard:

backyard sunset 1-20-2013 5-44-33 PM 3236x1536

Saguaro sunset 1-20-2013 5-54-52 PM 2048x1536

pink mountains 1-20-2013 5-47-15 PM 2033x784

front yard sunset 1-20-2013 5-58-56 PM 1939x1144

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Blast of Winter

The cacti are still wearing their styrofoam “hats,” and will continue to do so for several days, as winter has made a big comeback. We’re at the beginning of a five-day hard freeze, nearly unprecedented in this area. The last such, though it didn’t last as long, was two years ago. This is possibly the result of global warming.

Tohono Chul Park was very cold but beautiful today. There were plenty of birds, among them: phainopeplas, white-crowned sparrows, mourning doves, goldfinches, Abert’s towhees, Gila woodpeckers, curve-billed thrasher, pyrrhuloxia, house finch, house wren, cardinal and Gambel’s quails. But we saw no hummingbirds; this weather is hard on them. It kills the nectar flowers and small insects they subsist on. I hope that this year at least a few survive, because two years ago very few did. The biggest surprise today was this ice sculpture in the riparian area:

Icicles 1-12-2013 9-00-25 AM 2372x2232

Friday, January 04, 2013

Cactus Hats and Hints of Spring

The New Year has brought cold weather to the Sonoran Desert. But because we’ve had some rain and because it was so warm through most of December there are pockets of wildflowers coming up here and there, as well as blooms by some flowers that won’t be stopped by anything but a hard freeze.

Marigolds-chiltepins better 1-2-2013 9-14-24 AM 1688x2058                                Bluebells 1-2-2013 9-14-02 AM 967x1971

Desert Marigolds and Chiltepin fruits                           Arizona Bluebells

In most of Tohono Chul Park, our plants meet more hospitable conditions than those out in the desert. We irrigate many flower beds, and surround them with wire to keep out rabbits and javelinas. And we cover many non-native plants on nights when freezing conditions are expected.

Horse and cactus with hats 1-2-2013 8-59-31 AM 3264x2448

These Mexican Fence Posts and other columnar cacti grow from the top of the stem, so it’s necessary to protect the delicate growing tip from freezing. We do this with styrofoam drinking cups. The next morning it is always a cheery sight, with the covered cacti looking something like a Shriner’s convention. (I personally think we should put tassels on the cups, but so far nobody has taken my suggestion.)

Fencepost cactus and cups 1-2-2013 8-59-03 AM 3264x2448