Spring Buzz in the Sonoran Desert

In the Sonoran Desert spring is often like early summer in other locations in the United States with the temperatures often in the mid-70s to mid-80s. We often refer to this as the “sweet spot” since we don’t need heat or air conditioning for the most part. We do know what is ahead of us, but we enjoy this respite while it lasts.

Along with spring, we have some interesting developments. Our neighborhood has a number of horse stables and about two weeks ago, a young colt was born. Like many other babies, he can be very energetic one minute and flat out tired and sleeping the next.

Here is a short video of the youngster running around.

Today I passed the corral on the way home and the colt was nursing, but when I exited the car, he stopped. I decided to take a photo anyway.


The colt is on the left. The mother often stays rather far away, but was next to him this day.

The horse “next door” came over and I decided he needed to have his picture taken as well.



Another sign of spring is the plethora of bees we have on the few plants that are now blooming. We have a Mastic Tree (Pistacia lentiscus) that is loaded with very small flowers.



The morning I walked by the tree, the buzz was loud and persistent. I decided to record it, but it is only a shadow of the real sound as the iPhone has limitations. You can hear the bees in the sound clip below (raise the sound on your computer/device).

Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me and I couldn’t capture the mass of bees all over the tree. They were flitting about too quickly for iPhone capture.

A couple of days later, I was able to take my camera outside in the afternoon, but the bees were not as numerous. I did take a few snapshots anyway.


The bee is hard to see, but it is inside the red oval.

I was able to capture another view with the pollen sack showing although once again, it is hard to see.


The head of the bee is by the yellow arrow. The pollen sack is at the tip of the red arrow.

We have already begun our spring/summer gardening chores and we are looking forward to sharing some of our experiences with JBRish readers. I hope your weather is looking more spring-like!

 

Read more miscellaneous stories HERE


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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2018 – JBRish.com



Photography Quote — 20170904

Today’s Photography Quote


“If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.”
– Jay Meisel
– Original Photograph ©Jeffrey B. Ross –

 

NOTE – As residents of the Sonoran Desert who like hiking, encountering snakes is nothing new for us. This photograph was taken in Cave Creek, AZ along one of the trails at the Jewel of the Creek preserve. shortly after this sighting, we came across another rattlesnake and turned back because we had young children with u.s

Jay Meisel’s quote reminds us that if you are interested in photography, you have to be out there taking pictures to find interesting subjects and events.

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Photo Meta Data

File Name: IMG_1960.CR2
Capture time: 3:13 PM
Capture date: March 30, 2015
Exposure: 1/500 @ f5.6
Focal Length: 83.27mm
ISO: 200
Canon Powershot SX50 HS

*Edited: Lightroom with text added in Preview (Apple Software)

 
See previous STATUS QUOtes Photography Quotes HERE


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All content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2017


otographs

Argentine Giant Cactus Flower – Photograph

Photograph of the Argentine Giant Cactus in Bloom
at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

Argentine Giant Cactus, Echinopsis candicans
Argentine Giant Cactus, Echinopsis candicans

I am a member/volunteer at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ. It is the second most visited attraction in the state after the Grand Canyon. On my way to the Seed Room where I work as a volunteer, I passed an Argentine Giant cactus that was still in bloom. It has been my experience that they generally bloom earlier in the season, but this particular specimen was in a location that enabled it to be in flower now.

The flower is not the most attractive cactus bloom I have seen, but it is very pretty and the size is huge. The flower can be as large as a person’s face. Unfortunately, these blooms only last a day, but what a day it is!

 

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

 
See previous posts about life in the desert HERE or gardening HERE.

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Hiking the Peralta Trail, Gold Canyon, AZ – 20160623

NOTE – Keep in mind that we took this hike and these pictures represent the trail as we saw it in December, 2009. The trail may have changed a bit since them and some of the flora may no longer be exactly where we are reporting, but this is a good representation of things you may find along the way. Perhaps you will find even more intriguing highlights.

Of course the large rock formations and mountains will remain largely unchanged.


Saguaros greet hikers along the trail
Saguaros greet hikers along the Peralta Trail

As in most areas where hikers might want to trek in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, there are a significant number of saguaros along the Peralta Trail and they appear in clusters as well as individual specimens.

They seem to “greet” hikers as they ascend the trail to the saddle or beyond. Also notice the interesting shadow play of the saguaro in the foreground.

Read more about the Peralta Trail HERE.

Previous posts and photographs in the Peralta Trail series in chronological order:


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JBRish.com 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: – https://cactiguide.com/cactus/?genus=Opuntia

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.


JBRish.com 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

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


JBRish.com originally published this post

 
See more JBRish gardening and desert gardening posts here HERE

In the Desert, Its Beginning to Look Like…

As most people can imagine, there isn’t too much in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona that would innately remind the casual visitor of the overall Christmas/Winter Holiday Season. It does get cool during the late fall and winter evenings. We hit temperatures in the forties many nights during the end of November and through December. We can also get more rain this time of year, but generally not as much as January.

So residents of the Phoenix area use their creativity to devise ways of decorating for the winter holidays.

Here is a photograph of a variegated agave we had in our landscape at one time. The plant has thick leaves with sharp edges and each leaf has a sharp point on the end. That is how it survives in the desert. Without all those sharp edges and points, it would be eaten to death by rabbits, javelinas and other denizens.

Agave with sharp edges and points

People have discovered that those sharp tips at the ends of the leaves have another good use!

Gold colored Christmas balls create a crown-like appearance on top of this agave in the front yard. They play well against the green of the agave and the rest of the residential desert landscape.

Gold balls on a green agave

If solid gold is too regal for you and you want more of a standard Christmas color scheme, a variety of colors would work just as well.
Colorful variety of Christmas balls on an agave

Colorful variety of Christmas balls on an agave

The increased color palette (above) plays well with other holiday ornaments such as the foreground cactus with Santa hat.

Instead of plain poinsettias, how about faux poinsettia leaves attached to the branches of the Ocotillo?

Ocotillo with Poinsettia leaves

(BTW – If you want to see what an Ocotillo looks like during the active growing season with leaves and without fake ornamentation, click HERE)

For a more subtle spot decoration, smaller colorful Christmas balls can be uniquely placed in planters.

Planter with small, colorful Christmas balls


Yes, it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Sonoran Desert in 2016!

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.

Elderberry

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

Monsoon Desert Bloom – Mammillaria

For those who are unfamiliar with the Sonoran Desert around North Phoenix, let me explain what happens during the heat of the summer through the middle of September.

The desert often creates strong dust storms and rain storms. These are customarily referred to as “monsoons” although technically they probably do not meet the necessary criteria for such a designation. Read more about our desert monsoons HERE!

During these storms, the Sonoran Desert receives much of its yearly rainfall. This past week, we had some very strong storms with winds and much rain.

When the “monsoon” storms arrive, there are desert plants that respond by soaking up the moisture and using the opportunity to bloom and produce seeds.

The picture below shows one such plant across the street from our house which is basically “the desert”.

desert plants after a rain 

Plants in the desert after the rain


The large plant in the center/top of the photograph that looks like it has antlers is a cholla. This is one plant that people try to avoid because it is segmented with a multitude of needles. The needles grab on to clothing, skin, leather or almost anything and a segment then breaks off and goes for a ride with the bearer. This is one way the cholla propagates.

In front of that large pant is a smaller cluster of cacti. This is a mammillaria and it produces a variety of pinkish flowers that nearly look artificial. They are very attractive and seem as if they would be at home in a tropical drink at the local brew pub.

Here is a closer look…

mammilaria blooms from above 

This mammailaria cluster has dozens of flowers which create a colorful bouquet

This is a non-cultivated plant that grew on its own. We do enjoy having it in our neighborhood!

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 LuxuryDesertHideaways.com 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.”