Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nearly Summer!

We’re two days from May, and summer is nearly here. The days are starting much earlier—it’s light enough to see by 5 AM, light enough to walk by 5:30. The days are hot—we’ve already had two days in the low 100’s—and the mornings are still cool, though that will change in a very few weeks. The palo verdes are still blooming, but most of the spring flowers are on their way out, except for the cactus blossoms, which are just getting underway. I know that summer means stifling heat, swarms of bugs, scorpions and so on, but I LOVE IT. In my opinion, summer is the whole point of Tucson.

I’m slowly resuming my walking schedule of doing a couple of miles around the neighborhood. This morning I saw a ladderback woodpecker and heard a road runner make a call I’ve heard often in the Park but wasn’t able to identify. But now I can. Here is a picture of a beautiful road runner from the Park.

beep beep 10-18-2010 8-18-15 AM 3616x2712

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My beautiful bird garden

This spring has been so beautiful. The whole northern part of Tucson and much of the rest of the valley is a sea of yellow, from all the blooming palo verde trees. Right now the main ones in bloom are the more numerous foothills palo verdes, which have a lighter, less yellow aspect (because one petal of each flower is white). We have a storm, with wind, coming, and within a week I expect they will all be gone. Here are two early-morning pictures from my backyard bird garden, showing palo verdes and some other wild plants including the incomparable Mexican Bird of Paradise.

Bird of Paradise

Monday, April 16, 2012

A beautiful April day at Tohono Chul Park

It’s getting warm, but everything at the Park is so beautiful. Baby birds, nests, young squirrel families, and flowers everywhere you look: wildflowers, flowering trees, cactus flowers…. you can’t help but smile.

                         New hummer mom

Newhum mom 3-27-2012 9-45-59 AM 1107x891Ocotillo blossoms

ocotillo 4-16-2012 8-58-08 AM 3616x1982 Perezia and Passionflower

Paresia, or brown foot 4-16-2012 9-25-31 AM 1484x1900Passion Flower 4-16-2012 10-45-08 AM 2118x1961DSCF1698Raspberry TrichocereusRose-colored prickly pear bud 4-16-2012 9-26-09 AM 2596x2247Rose-colored prickly pear budStaghorn cholla buds 4-16-2012 10-09-20 AM 3616x2712Staghorn Cholla blooms

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Under the mistletoe

Cactus wrens are known for their large, untidy enclosed nests, often built in chollas or desert trees like Palo Verde or Mesquite. The nests are sometimes decorated with found objects, such as tissue paper, cellophane, or bits of yarn or colored thread, resulting in a rather antic-looking nest that seems to suit these bold, sassy desert birds.Cactus wren on cholla 10-18-2010 8-14-04 AM 1108x908                               Cactus wren nest 8-29-2011 7-54-56 AM 1884x1934 8-29-2011 7-54-56 AM 1884x1934

The other day at Tohono Chul Park I was amazed to watch a pair of cactus wrens working on a nest INSIDE a huge clump of desert mistletoe that hung from the branches of a flowering sweet acacia tree. When they had finished, you could easily see the bottom of the nest by standing directly under the mistletoe, and I have since watched the birds flying in and out of their hidden aerie.

                    Here’s the mistletoe:                               

              mistletoe 3-24-2012 9-03-06 AM 1710x2482   

And here’s the nest, hidden inside it:

                                                    nest in mistletoe 3-24-2012 9-02-34 AM 3616x2712

I have also since learned that this behavior is common out in the desert, and that many birds besides cactus wrens and phainopeplas build in, under, or on mistletoe.