Colorful Barrel Cactus Flowers

Barrel Cactus Flowers

We were at the west end of town today checking the PO Box and shopping a day early because of an appointment with the dermatologist tomorrow. While Bob was getting the mail, I walked around and took some photos of some of the landscape and flowers near the Post Office.

I found a barrel cactus behind the bank that had eight beautiful flowers open. I took the photo above of one side of the cactus. Click on the image to enlarge. The link highlighted in the first sentence of this paragraph takes you to the whole cactus.

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Argentine Giant Flowers Encore

Argentine Giant Flowers

For the second time this spring, our Argentine Giant Cactus (Echinopsis candicans) had two flowers open. They were out last night, but I waited to take this photo until this morning when they were fully open and the light was good.

This is a single stem cactus at present, but the species can spread out by producing more stems and can occupy a large area. In its present location, we can’t allow it to spread too much, so we will remove and replant other stems should they occur.

I’m not certain, but we may be getting a third bloom in a while since there seems to be another fuzzy patch that may develop into another flower. That would be nice. The flowers are are beautiful and fragrant. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Thrasher Tending To The Nest

Thrasher Tending to the Nest

Not much going on here today other than a little badly needed rain. Went to the supermarket for some stuff while it was pouring and when I got home it dried up. We went out to the courtyard with the camera and managed to catch this photo of one of the Curve Billed Thrashers just coming out of the nest with the six eggs.

There is a lot of activity around the nest and Damsel and I wonder if there could be more than one pair of Thrashers that laid eggs there. Six seems a lot for one bird. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Ocotillo Flowers Opening

Ocotillo FlowersMany of the little flower buds in this cluster on our ocotillo are now open. We saw them coming, but now they’re here. We have waited for quite some time for flowers since this specimen replaced the dead ocotillo last year.

This is one of three flower clusters currently opening on the ocotillo. There are seven or eight “canes” or stalks, but only two are showing flower clusters. The other cane with flowers actually has two clusters, one growing on a separate branch near the top of the cane.

Some of the more mature ocotillos we see around town and in the desert are showing flowers on nearly every cane. We’re hoping that our plant will follow suit in a year or two.

This picture was taken about mid morning when the light was fairly good to capture this view of the flower cluster. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Putting All Your Eggs In One Basket

Six Eggs

Damsel and I saw three eggs in this Curve Billed Thrasher nest earlier in the spring, but when we checked on them later, they were gone. We don’t know if the nest was raided or if the parents tossed non-viable eggs out. We did find a thrasher eggshell on the road nearby, cracked open and empty.

Now, however, it seems that the parents are serious about covering the odds of one or two survivors by laying a half-dozen eggs in the nest. I walked by the cholla cactus where this nest is located and saw blue in the nest. I got this shot by holding the camera out at arm’s length and pointing at where I thought the nest was located. I didn’t want to get stabbed by the spines. It was a lucky camera shot, it seems.

For now, we will give the Thrashers their space, not wanting to disturb nature in progress. If we’re lucky again, perhaps we can photograph some chicks in the nest after they hatch. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Saguaro Buds Update

Saguaro Flower Buds

The ‘big guy’ out front has more flower buds. This is a small section of one of the upper arms where the buds get bigger each day. I tried to count the number of buds, but lost count when I could not quite see what was on top of the arms of the cactus. I got to about two dozen when I gave up.

This photo is of the same area on the same arm of the cactus I posted last week. I’m sure we will have dozens of flowers this year. Maybe we will get on the garage roof when the flowers start to open to get some photos from that vantage point.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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The Camera Mode Wheel

Camera Mode WheelI have been in possession of my Canon EOS Rebel SL1 since last December. Damsel has had Canon EOS Rebels for years, but this one is my first semi-serious DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera.

Since I had little experience with DSLRs other than borrowing Damsel’s from time to time, I bought and read “Canon EOS Rebel SL1/100D for Dummies.” The book helped a lot in that it pointed out all of the special features of the camera including the menus plus all of the modes available on the wheel and a few more beyond that.

In this post I will discuss what the Canon manual describes as “creative modes,” which are P, Tv, Av and M seen in the image enclosed by an arc and braces on the upper left side of the wheel in the image. I won’t go into all the other modes available other than to enumerate them. Starting with the green box “A” on the left going counter-clockwise, the fixed modes are as follows:

  • Scene Intelligent Auto
  • Flash Off
  • Creative Auto
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Close-up
  • Sports
  • and Special Scene Mode with a variety of kitschy settings available (snow, beach, fireworks, etc.)

Now for the creative modes:

P is for “Program AE,” which automatically selects aperture and shutter speed for you. If you select ISO AUTO, then this mode is more-or-less completely automatic with the exception that if you want the flash to fire, you must deploy the pop-up wink light manually. The latter is true for all of the creative modes. “P” is the mode I use the most.

Tv is for “Shutter Speed Priority.” Set the shutter speed to get the effect you desire. Long exposure time to blur motion and short exposure time to freeze it. Aperture and other settings are automatic. I have this mode set to a very fast shutter speed for normal use in case I see something moving that I wish to freeze. Switching modes is almost instantaneous while in the field.

Av is for “Aperture Priority.” Use a narrower aperture for greater depth of field. I have this set to a wide aperture to be able to capture objects with a blurred background. It’s good for portraits of people and photos of critters in the desert with attention focused on the subject and drawn away from the background.

M is for “Manual Settings.” The photographer can select both aperture and shutter speed settings. I keep this set for the occasional solar filter photography I do: very fast shutter speed and wide aperture seem to work best with the solar filter I use.

In the few months I have had this camera, I have tried to delve into the myriad functions and modes, but after this short time there is still much to be discovered. Regardless of that, I am very well pleased with the camera.

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Replacing the Compost Bin

Compost Bins

“Nothing lasts in Arizona,” was the warning given to us by one of the guys installing stuff when we first moved here. Sure enough, the old compost bin installed in 2011 is, literally, coming apart at the seams. Even though this location is in the shade most of the day, the UV and other damage has taken its toll.

Enter the new compost bin; we don’t expect this one will last any longer, but it will replace the decrepit bin tomorrow. We will lift the old bin off of the heap and put it in the recycle bin after disassembly. The new bin will fit the footprint of the old one within a couple of inches. We may have to rake the compost toward the center of the heap before putting the new bin over it.

Despite the triple-digit heat in the summer and the frosts in the winter, our compost worms continue to thrive. A quick dig into the heap reveals many, many red wigglers doing their thing. We take a couple of quarts of composted soil out now and then for various of Damsel’s garden projects.

UPDATE 28 Apr 2015: As I said we would do, I replaced the old compost bin this morning. The footprint of the new bin was slightly smaller than the old one, so I had to shovel the compost edges into the wheelbarrow and shovel it back in to the new bin once in place. Dress up the edges with some of the one-inch red gravel and it looks great!

Replacing the Bin

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Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

I went outside this afternoon with the telephoto lens on the Canon SL1 to try my luck at capturing images of some of the local wildlife in their habitat. Damsel and I have already observed a couple of quail herding their spring chicks around but I had no such luck today.

I did see this cactus wren nibbling on the seed bell. I waited until it got off of the human-provided feeder and into this mesquite where it perched briefly for me to secure the shot. Click on the image to enlarge.

The cactus wren is the state bird of Arizona and, according to Wikipedia, has these additional attributes:

The cactus wren is the largest North American wren, at 18–23 cm (7.1–9.1 in) long. Unlike the smaller wrens, the cactus wren is easily seen. It has the loud voice characteristic of wrens. The cactus wren is much less shy than most of the family. Its marked white eyestripe, brown head, barred wings and tail, and spotted tail feathers make it easy to identify. Like most birds in its genus, it has a slightly curved bill. There is little sexual dimorphism.

My guess is that last dimorphism bit means that one cannot easily distinguish between males and females as is the case with many other birds. Why not just say that in the first place?

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A-h-h-h, That New Camera Smell

Beethoven’s Nose

I just came back in from the courtyard where I had been taking some pictures of ’stuff,’ when I got in the house I was greeted by ‘Beethoven,’ our five year old min pin. He seemed very interested in the camera, so I let him sniff at it.

I guess I pressed on the shutter release just as his nose was up to the lens guard. I thought this was an interesting and humorous view of the curiosity of a small, but very loveable dog. Click on the image to enlarge.

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