Monday, February 25, 2013

Cactus Wrens Courting on a Crested Saguaro

After snow, ice, severe winds, and very cold temperatures, spring started to reassert itself today in the Sonoran desert. On my rove at Tohono Chul Park this morning, I saw these beautiful early wildflowers: Arizona blue bells with a few Gooding’s verbena mixed in.

Bluebells and verbena 2-25-2013 9-04-26 AM 3556x2473It was gloriously beautiful out on the desert trails. The saguaros on this hill seemed to glow in the beautiful warm sunshine. The saguaro on the extreme right is a rare cristate saguaro. These saguaros (and some other cacti, such as barrels) have suffered a change or injury to the growing tip and no longer grow from a point. See this link for a fuller explanation, and look at the video below for a closeup of the crest.

Saguaro hill 2-25-2013 9-32-05 AM 3216x1664

I climbed the hill to take a closer look at a very vocal cactus wren that was perched on the saguaro’s crest. While I watched, another cactus wren landed next to the vocalizing bird, and both fanned their tails in what I took to be a very provocative display. I believe they were courting. Here is a brief video of their behavior, up to the point where the second wren flew off.

Cactus wrens courting atop a crested saguaro

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Great Tucson Blizzard of 2013

It snowed here yesterday. I mean major snow, not like that I chronicled in  a recent post. Big, soft, wet flakes fell thickly through the air, starting around noon and not ending till sometime in the evening. In parts of the city, including mine, the snow accumulated, creating phantasmagorical shapes and patterns on the desert plants. Here are a few of the photos I took around my house and my neighborhood.

Snowy Saguaro2 2-20-2013 1-04-14 PM 3272x2689


Palo verdes in snow 2-20-2013 6-05-05 PM 3616x2073 - Copy   Palo verde trees weighted by snow

Study in snow with grapefruit 2-20-2013 6-06-36 PM 3616x2712 My bird garden covered in snow—see the grapefruit?

Saguaro snow glow 2-21-2013 7-31-40 AM 372x823 A snow-frosted saguaro arm glows at sunrise

Dawn Snow2 2-21-2013 7-22-47 AM 3616x2712

The rising sun illuminates snow-covered peaks and clouds

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Desert Snow

We’ve had two wet cold fronts pass through lately, leaving rain in the valley, snow on the mountains, and misty fog everywhere. As a companion piece to my posts about blue skies and clouds, here is what it looked like at Tohono Chul Park.

Bestest snow Park 2-9-2013 8-44-20 AM 2048x1536

And on a wetter day, this was the view from our house:

Snow Jan 13 2-12-2013 7-28-08 AM 3607x2261

snow and fog 2013 2-12-2013 7-28-13 AM 3253x1641

Friday, February 01, 2013

Desert Clouds

Although our skies are often dramatic, it is unusual for a Tucson day to actually be cloudy, especially in the morning. Such a day occurred on my last rove. When I arrived at Tohono Chul Park at 8 AM, the sky was churning with clouds. It had rained over the weekend, and everything smelled damp and delicious. The cold, moist air seemed literally to caress my skin as I walked along the Desert View Trail, watching and listening to birds and looking for jackrabbits.

morning clouds 1-28-2013 8-06-56 AM 3264x2448

Evidence of the weekend’s rain could be seen all along the trail.

Damp trail 1-28-2013 8-08-23 AM 2590x1088

desert trail panorama 1-28-2013 8-09-17 AM 7616x2332

As I neared the end of the trail the clouds closed in and I could see only a tiny dot of blue sky.

A dot of blue 1-28-2013 8-17-25 AM 2448x3264

Just after I left the Park, the clouds opened up and it began to pour, a surprise for mid-January.