Sunday, May 31, 2009

Queen of the Night

single blossom 5-30-2009 4-43-06 PM 1104x1067

Last night we went to “Bloom Night” at nearby Tohono Chul Park. This event is held every year to celebrate the once-yearly, one-night-only bloom of the Night-blooming Cereus, an otherwise unprepossessing cactus.

I will have more posts about our adventures at Tohono Chul. According to the Curator of Plants, plants have a “chemical intelligence” that allows them to communicate with each other. There are several hundred cereus in the park, and they need to bloom in unison so they can be cross-fertilized by the sphinx moth, their only pollinator. Not all the cereus bloom on the same night, but most do; others will bloom, also in unison, on one or two more nights during the monsoon.

They start blooming at sunset and continue into the night. After an hour or so they emit a heavy, almost cloying scent. When it’s not blooming, the cereus looks like a weed:

nonblooming cereus 5-30-2009 4-00-43 PM 2304x1728

Please check out the Tohono O’odham legend of the cereus, which the curator read to us. The very touching story, “The Legend of Old White-Haired Woman,”  is about two-thirds down the page:

gorgeous trio 5-30-2009 5-02-46 PM 1031x703

pink foursome 5-30-2009 4-53-01 PM 1296x779

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My scummy pond

scummy pond 5-25-2009 5-37-48 AM 2028x1251

My pond gets overrun with string algae, and there’s not much I can do about it. It’s worst in the early summer when the sun shines all the time.

algae cu 5-25-2009 5-38-15 AM 2304x1728

The algae look as if they’d be slimy to the touch, but they are not; they are soft and fibrous. The only way to get rid of them is to remove them manually. Every morning I spend a few minutes raking the pond.

rake 5-25-2009 5-38-55 AM 2304x1728

Monday, May 25, 2009

Smart birds!

card feeder crop 5-25-2009 5-37-03 AM 2304x1728 I have a cardinal feeder that is weighted so that only birds of a certain weight—cardinals and pyrrhuloxias—can feed from the perch.  The bird lands and the perch drops to just the right height, opening the feeding window. Heavier birds like doves cause the perch to drop too far, while lighter birds like finches and sparrows can’t get the perch to move at all.

The other day I saw that a pair of house finches had figured it out. Somehow they learned that if BOTH got on the perch at the same time it would drop to just the right height. It was a little awkward, and required some fluttering of wings to maintain balance, but they repeatedly mounted the perch, taking turns feeding.

finches 5-25-2009 6-07-13 AM 997x691 

House finches (above); pyrrhuloxia on feeder (below)

pyrr on feeder 5-25-2009 6-38-09 AM 1345x1083

Monday, May 18, 2009

Gorgeous Desert

It’s getting hot early, and soon all the vibrant colors will be gone. So here are a few looks at what I’ve been seeing lately.CU P Verde good 4-30-2009 8-08-26 AM 2304x1728

Above is the palo verde in our front yard; below is a view of the neighborhood from our back yard.

Desert colors, wilted saguaro 4-30-2009 8-09-49 AM 2304x1728 I realize that saguaro looks as if it could use some Viagra. And finally, a white-wing dove on a saguaro at sunrise.Dove & Saguaro at dawn

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Major Bird News

Baby Quail 5-16-2008 9-58-26 AM 514x357 Well,  the big thing is that the baby quail have started appearing. I have one family of five or six, in which the chicks are all kindergarten or first grade, just starting to get their mohawks. Another family only has one chick, a little bitty thing that looks as if it hatched maybe a couple of days ago. I wonder what happened to the rest of the eggs?

I haven’t seen the mockingbird again, but yesterday morning I had a beautiful orange male Bullock’s oriole (it had a mask like The Lone Ranger) and  parent and chick curved-bill thrashers have been on the porch and at the quail block. The adults have amber-colored eyes, while the babies have grey eyes. They are almost the same size, but the chicks are fluffier and constantly begging for food.

I have not seen the hawk ONCE since we put up the shade over the quail block.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


urban_lion …or maybe not. We got home from errands this morning to find a flyer in our mailbox:


  • 26 lb dog killed on Thurs Apr 30th
  • Sighting Sat morning while walking
  • Officer from Game and Fish came out and found coyote, Javelina and Bobcat tracks.

There was also a photo of a mountain lion (like the one above, from the AZ Game and Fish Dept.) and contact info.

I was really excited at first, but then I started thinking. A 26 lb dog is not all that big, and I’m pretty sure that one or two coyotes could kill one. The officers from Game and Fish found coyote, javelina, and bobcat tracks—which makes sense because those animals are very common around here. But no mountain lion tracks.

I think someone saw a large bobcat and let her or his imagination run away. But… it’s possible. Mountain lions have been spotted in this neighborhood in recent years. Our street, Camino de los Padres, is only about 1/2 mile long, so maybe if there is one around I’ll get to see it. Hopefully from a safe distance.

Monday, May 04, 2009

What Else Is Blooming

Mexican BOP 4-18-2009 8-48-39 AM 1863x1171

Mexican Bird of Paradise

       Orange bells 4-18-2009 8-48-00 AM 916x1198

Orange Bells (related to Yellow Bells and to Cape Honeysuckle)


Pink-flowers bush (I don’t know its name but it is in the back yard.)

geranium 4-18-2009 8-50-20 AM 1410x1237

Hanging geranium.

And last, but not least:


Purple prickly pear (at the neighbors’ house)