Killdeer’s Empty Nest in our Front Yard

Mother Killdeer

Readers of JBRish know that we have been hosting a mother Killdeer while she incubates eggs in her nest. A couple of days ago, the mother was off the nest for a moment while we were working in the front yard and I noticed that only three of the four eggs remained.

This morning, I did not see the mother on the nest so once again I walked over to the nest to see that there were no eggs or remnants of eggs.

I think perhaps that the eggs were eaten by a predator since there were no broken shell pieces to be found. I looked for chicks, but could not find any. I will continue to search for baby Killdeer, but they may have become part of the “circle of life.

(The eggs were to the right and just below the single weed we let grow in deference to the bird. As is customary with Killdeer, she lined the nest with small pebbles; nothing soft)

Abandoned Killdeer nest

To read the other JBRish posts about our Killdeer visitors:

Birds of Arizona – Killdeer ( Charadrius vociferus )

Killdeer Eggs in Our Yard; Oh My!

For more information about the Killdeer’s rearing process, you can read The Precocious Killdeer. originally published this post
All photographs are Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved

See previous Life in the Desert posts HERE

See previous JBRish posts about birds HERE

Hiking Sticks at the Apache Wash Trail – Phoenix

In January, 2015 my brother-in-law was with us and we decided to go for a short hike. The recently opened Sonoran Desert Drive seemed a likely place to visit as we had passed the Apache Wash trailhead that looked inviting.

We enjoyed a short hike up part of the mountain trail and I was able to capture a couple of pictures of a Red-tailed Hawk, nothing great, but enough for an ID.

After we had finished our short hike (we did not do the entire trail), we headed back to the trailhead where I snapped the picture below of two hiking sticks. They must be hiking sticks if they are wearing hiking shoes; right?

Hiking Sticks - Humor

Anyway, I thought this was a funny picture and I wonder whether the footwear was ever reclaimed by its rightful owner.

Read more about the Apache Wash Trail originally published this post
*All photographs Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with all rights reserved.

Opuntia (Paddle Cacti) – Phoenix, Arizona

Opuntia - Paddle Cactus

“Opuntia is the most widespread of all genera in the cactus family. The genus occurs naturally throughout North and South America from as far north as Canada, through the Caribbean, and down into Argentina. With man’s help, however, this species can now be found world-wide where it has escaped cultivation and become naturalized even to the point of being classified as a noxious weed.”
Source: –

While much of the country is still in early spring, the desert is moving quickly through its yearly spring and toward what most would consider summer. As of this writing, we are still in the sweet spot of a bumper crop of blooms. The native desert plants are taking their turns in showing off.

Most of the year our cacti look like a pincushion holding onto its requisite supply of pins, but hidden in the DNA of each of these organisms is the promise of blooming beauty. Some of the blooms like our pink Opuntia (see photos above and below) look as though they would be more at home floating in a tropical drink.

Opuntia - Paddle Cactus

As pretty as these are, many of the cactus flowers have a prime bloom duration of only one day, but what a bloom it is!

You may know Opuntia cacti. They are the “paddle” cactus family. They have large, flat paddle-like growths that look similar to the ears of a number of Walt Disney characters. The picture below better shows the paddles with the pink bloom atop.

To the left of the bloom are “ladies in waiting,” so to speak. The buds will plump until nature tells them it is their turn to open and show off.

Opuntia - Paddle Cactus

A more common Opuntia would be the yellow variety. We have several specimens in our front landscape.

Opuntia - Paddle Cactus

The pile of paddles above is more than five feet tall and if the truth be told, it would probably benefit from a pruning.

This is a closeup of the flower. Note the buds in the corners of the photo.

Opuntia - Paddle Cactus

Some of the paddles have a cascade of blooms that open on the same day and form an amazing vertical line.

Opuntia - Paddle Cactus

While I am enjoying the wonderful blooms in our landscape, I hope to share more of them with JBRish readers.

You can read more about Opuntias and Paddle Cacti at the link above. originally published this post
All photographs are Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved

See more JBRish gardening and desert gardening posts here HERE

Birds of Arizona – Killdeer ( Charadrius vociferus )

We were living on our street for more than eight years before I noticed this very interesting bird visiting our neighborhood. At first I thought it was a shore bird that had lost its way, but I soon discovered there were several of these feathered residents.

Off to the books I went and I discovered that the bird was a Killdeer Charadrius vociferus ).


This morning two of them were in and around our yard so I began to stalk them with my Canon SX50 HS superzoom. They were very timid and didn’t want to stay in one place very long.


I was fortunate to get some pictures, but not all of them were as sharp as I would have liked.

Until I saw these photographs, I never appreciated the orange eye ring!


This bird probably thought it was hiding from me by burrowing in next to our somewhat elevated street.

Killdeer originally published this post
*All photographs Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with all rights reserved.

See additional photographs and posts about birds HERE.

Gardening in the Desert – You Dirty Rat

The Sonoran Desert of Arizona can be quite a challenge. It is hard to imagine that, at one time, people lived here without air conditioning. We normally receive between 10-12 inches of rain a year in our particular area of Arizona near Cave Creek. This isn’t a lot of rain and this adds to the challenge of gardening in the desert.

Add to that problem the competition with the natural desert denizens including snakes, scorpions, tarantulas and a host of rodents.

This is the time of year when I make a daily round to look at all of the plants in our landscape to monitor their condition. When temperatures can spike to more than 90 degrees, the tipping point for some plants is very small.

For several days, I noticed that two of our plants were being nibbled. They weren’t being eaten, just ripped and the detritus left behind. From previous experience, I figured this was one of our most prevalent pests, the desert pack rat.

Rather than set a killing trap, we try to capture them with a Have-a-heart trap and relocate them. Out came the trap and at dusk I set it and placed it where I had seen the nibbling.

My most successful lure in the past had been peanuts or peanut butter. I had no more of the nuts so I put some peanut butter on a saltine cracker. Sure enough, prior to bed time I checked and we had trapped a pack rat.

Left to their own devices, pack rats have been notorious for chewing through wires and other human necessities in search of nest building materials and food. While they definitely look like rats, they are a bit, and I emphasize the word bit, cuter than your average rat (see iPhone pictures below – apologies, but these were taken in pitch black desert).

The pictures show the pack rat just before we released him so he could take up residence in a more rural part of the desert!

You can read more about pack rats HERE.

Desert Pack Rat Arizona

Desert Pack Rat Arizona originally published this post

See more JBRish gardening and desert gardening posts here HERE

Spring Cactus Bloom in Arizona – The Claret Cup

We have had a wetter than usual winter and early spring and thus we are having a beautiful wildflower bloom. Our landscape cactus are showing their appreciation as well with a living bouquet for our enjoyment.

One of our courtyard features is a round planter that has hosted a Claret Cup cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) for more than ten years. At one time it had plenty of room, but as you can see below, it will need to be divided and replanted within a year or so.

Claret Cup Cactus

In years past, it wouldn’t have this many blooms open at once, but its stinginess vanished this year and we are being treated to a full orchestration of its floral beauty.

Upon closer inspection you can see the juggernaut of thorns it sports that will present quite a challenge when it comes time to move or transplant it. We have a long pair of tweezers or tongs that we use to remove spent blooms or any debris that gets caught amid the needles.

Claret Cup Cactus

In the photo below, the pollen can be seen on top of the stamens. While this adds color to the picture and pollen to the air, it also seems to attract woodpeckers. For some reason they like to eat the center of the flowers and my assumption is that it is because of the pollen. After inspecting where they have been, the pollen sacks are gone — who knew?

Claret Cup Cactus

You can read more about Claret Cup cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) by clicking HERE. originally published this post
All photographs are Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved

See more JBRish gardening and desert gardening posts here HERE

Flowers of Flagstaff, Summer 2016

Flowers of Flagstaff, Summer 2016

Followers of JBRish have seen a good number of flower pictures I have posted and many of them were desert natives or xeric varieties. One of the amazing qualities of Arizona is the variety of ecosystems and scenery the state has. Naturally there is the beautiful and very different Sonoran Desert, but we also have the high country which includes Flagstaff and serves as a summer retreat and winter skiing destination.

Last weekend we did something a bit different and very special as we celebrated the birthday of my best friend. It was a surprise getaway weekend that we planned with another very special couple-friends.

As we arrived at the door of the “birthday boy,” we saw a very interesting cactus in bloom in the front yard.

hot pink cactus flowerA cactus blooms after recent rains in the Sonoran Desert

I admit it is hard to believe that the flower pictured above is real, but it is. The color is so vibrant and “hot.”

Less than a few hours later we arrived at our northern destination and escaped the grasp of the 105 plus temperature for a much more moderate 75 degree atmosphere. This moderate climate enabled us to stroll the grounds of our hotel where we enjoyed the blooms of plants we don’t often see in the Phoenix area. I thought you would like to see some of them.

One of the first interesting sights we came across was a leaning evergreen tree.

Leaning Evergreen

It is difficult to conjecture why this tree is growing at such an angle. Perhaps it is the result of a rainy period followed by a strong wind storm that pushed it from its vertical posture.

Along the path Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan) had been planted which an insect found very appealing.

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)

Shasta daisies were putting on a show for passersby as well.

Shasta daisies

Ratibida or Prairie Coneflower enjoyed their home in the nearby meadow. I believe this variety is also known as Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera)

Prairie Coneflowers

Several Blanket flowers (Gaillardia) were basking in sunnier locations. This plant also feels at home in our desert environment with proper care.

Blanket Flower

The last floral display we saw as we left the wooded area was, what I believe, is a cultivar of
Sambucus canadensis known as Elderberry or Common Elder.


While the wildflowers and cultivated gardens were left behind, we did enjoy one more floral display later that evening.

Flowers in a vase 

A pretty floral display at Josephine’s restaurant, Flagstaff

See previous posts about gardening-related topics here HERE

Unique & Beautiful Boulder House, Scottsdale, AZ

I live in an area of the Sonoran Desert that is close to North Scottsdale, Arizona. The desert is a special environment and it lends itself to some unique architecture. One such building is known as the Boulder House.

The Unique and Beautiful Boulder House, Scottsdale, AZ

As you can see, the house, which is a national landmark, is built into and around the boulders. These boulders however are unique in and of themselves as they have petroglyphs on them.

The Unique and Beautiful Boulder House, Scottsdale, AZ

The house is currently featured on a number of realty sites and you can get a glimpse of more than just the exterior. Here is a quote from the web page which has some amazing photos of the entire building;inside and out!

“The Rare and Unique Boulder House in North Scottsdale, with the site and petroglyphs on the National Register of Historic Places On almost 9 acres of unspoiled desert called ”The most Original Home in America” by author Stanley Marcus in the book “Quest for the Best! Also included in “The Home Book” of greatest world-wide home designs which includes “Falling Waters” and the “Vanderbilt”!

The World renowned Boulder House-one of the only Arizona Architectural Digest Cover Homes, designed by Charles Johnson has been featured in over 30 publications and international TV including The Discovery Channel. This residence is integrated into a massive outcropping of granite boulders that make up over 60% of the structure. It’s also a horse property right in the middle of North Scottsdale, near the Boulders Resort. Surrounded by the famous and exclusive Whisper Rock golf course on two sides.”

You can see a Vimeo video The Boulder House and here is what Vimeo has to say about it:

“Called ”The most Unique Home in America” by author Stanley Marcus! The World renowned Boulder House-one of Arizona’s only Architectural Digest Cover Homes, designed by noted architect Charles Johnson and featured in over 30 publications, books and international TV. This astonishing residence, on almost 9 acres off undisturbed desert, is integrated into a massive outcropping of granite boulders that make up over 60% of the structure. It’s also a horse property. The land’s ancient petroglyphs chiseled into the home’s exterior, earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places. There is no residence like this in the world, and has a multitude of potential uses. Surrounded by natural and pristine desert and bordered by the Whisper Rock golf course.”

Surprise Pickleball Falling Behind

NOTE: The article below and accompanying video is being presented on the JBRish blog with permission from the originator, Rocket and the Pickleball Rocks Team. You can check out their website at the link below:

Pickleball Rocks

Thanks to Pickleball Rocks and Rocket!

The Surprise City Pickleball Courts In Danger of Losing Mecca Status

February 14, 2016 by Rocket

When you build a shrine to anything, there comes a certain responsibility.

In the case of the city of Surprise, Arizona, the Surprise City Pickleball Courts, since opening 4 years ago, have become somewhat of a shrine to the sport of pickleball. But the shrine may be crumbling.

The Villages of Florida is considered THE pickleball vacation spot in the country simply because there are so many available courts.

But as we travel the U.S., when you ask people where is the mecca of pickleball, it is overwhelmingly Surprise, Arizona. Everywhere we go, people talk specifically about The City Courts.

As a matter of fact, the Surprise City Courts have become so famous nationwide that most people just refer to them as THE CITY COURTS. When players mention The City Courts, everyone knows they are referring to the 8 courts at 14534 W. Tierra Buena Lane next to Dreamcatcher Park.

There is Yankee Stadium for baseball, Pebble Beach for golf and The City Courts for Pickleball.

But sadly, The City Courts are now so overcrowded that it is starting to become a negative.

It is hard to believe that the city of Surprise isn’t falling over themselves to expand that facility in order to maintain their brilliant, pickleball-tourist attracting reputation.

These courts are packed with people waiting to play. At just about any time, you can catch some of the best pickleball players in the world, including National Champions, Gigi LeMaster, Steve Wong, Mark Friedenburg, Scott Lennan and others, mixing in with men and women brand new to the sport. It is a wonderful experience that has become famous throughout the sport of pickleball and its two million plus players.

It is (or was) truly THE place to play pickleball when you travel to Arizona.

It is interesting to watch the surrounding communities now building pickleball courts at breakneck speed in order to capitalize on the mega growth the sport of pickleball is currently experiencing.

Hope the City of Surprise realizes it before it’s too late. Sadly, based on what we’ve seen, the mecca will soon be moving.

Just our observation,

Rocket and the Pickleball Rocks Team