Friday, May 17, 2013

Mid-May Anomalies and a Rattlesnake

It's heating up in the desert, but there is still plenty of beauty and interest at Tohono Chul Park. Today I saw the following:

A desert spiny lizard disguised as a tree lizard (these guys are usually found on the ground);

An agave stalk that seems to be part corkscrew;

And a beautiful diamondback on one of our main trails. He (or she) could not at first decide whether to cross the path. Eventually, the snake made the sensible decision to turn back and disappear into the dirt, rocks, and desert plants, where it no doubt lay in wait for its next meal. I am mesmerized when I watch these amazing animals flow along the ground, so graceful and deadly.

In case you're wondering how they manage to move so sinuously, the short answer is that their ventral area is covered with scutes, which are large scales. The edges of the scutes catch on projections on the ground, or rock, or tree, and their very muscular body muscles work with the scutes to move the snake along. Also--how to tell a western diamondback from other rattlesnakes? Look for the black and white striped bands just above the rattle. (The Mojave rattlesnake also has black and white bands, but the white bands are noticeably wider.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Psychedelic Fish, a Roadrunner Nest, and Baby Quail at Tohono Chul Park

We are in the late Spring/early Summer part of the year now—starting to get really hot, but with cool mornings. The wildflowers are mostly bloomed out, but the cactus blossoms more than make up for them. Here are a beautiful yellow trichocereus and some rosy-red staghorns:

Mrs. Roadrunner, her watchful eye visible here on her secret nest, has reportedly hatched three voracious babies.

The desert pupfish, an endangered species we keep, under the supervision of the Game & Fish Department, are enjoying the weather as their thoughts turn to love. The males become fluroescent-blue when they are ready to mate.

And here are a family of Gambel’s quails, foraging in one of our wildflower beds.