Archive for Photography

Saguaro Cactus Flowers and Gila Woodpeckers

Saguaro Flowers Gila Woodpecker Browsing Flowers for Nectar
Mama Emerging Mama Aloft

Today was our grocery shopping day and, as usual, we stopped at the post office box to pick up the mail. While Bob was in getting the mail, I noticed that a large saguaro cactus across the parking lot had open flowers, some of the first of the season. When we were both back in the truck, we drove across the lot so I could get some photos of the beautiful open flowers on the cactus.

As we got close, we saw a Gila Woodpecker perched by the bunch of flowers on one arm of the cactus. I began snapping shots of the male bird as he browsed the flowers. Shortly after that, the woodpecker flew up the side of the cactus and perched there until the female woodpecker came out of the hole in the side of the saguaro. I was fortunate to get the shots above as the birds did their thing.

Wikipedia has this about the Gila Woodpecker:

The Gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the desert regions of the southwestern United States and western Mexico. In the U.S., they range through southeastern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.

They build nests in holes made in saguaro cacti or mesquite trees. Cavities excavated by these woodpeckers in saguaro cacti (known as a “boot”) are later used by a variety of other species, including the elf owl. There, they typically lay 3–4 white eggs, although as many as 6 or 7 have been noted. 2–3 broods are laid a year. Both sexes incubate and feed eggs.

Click on any image to enlarge.

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Cherry Red Cactus Flowers

cherry-collage.jpg

Last October, Damsel and I separated the individual stalks from our Cherry Red (Trichocereus Grandiflorus) cactus and planted them in various pots with the hope that they would survive and produce more of the wonderful hot pink flowers that the original produced. Well, we are pleased and amazed that nearly every one of the pups and the mother all have flowers or flower pods this weekend.

Judging from the number of immature flower buds, we should be enjoying Cherry Red flowers for days to come, if not weeks. This cactus (even though we may have overpaid a bit for it) has been a joy in that it reliably produces the attractive flowers each spring. Click on the image to enlarge.

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First 2019 Argentine Giant Flowers

Argentine Giant Flowers

After being in the ground out front for over seven years, this cactus is finally showing signs of being as prolific as some of the other Argentine Giants in town. These three flowers opened late this afternoon. There are numerous more flower buds on the cactus that should also be opening soon.

There are also buds near the bottom of the cactus that will be new cactus limbs, not flowers. There is plenty of room for the cactus to expand where it sits, so we’re glad to see it starting to take off. This cactus, native to Argentina, has an unusual growth habit for a cactus. It does not get any taller than about two to three feet at maturity and has sprawling limbs that grow just as wide as the main plant.

More about Echinopsis Candicans:

Echinopsis candicans is a species of cactus from northern and western Argentina (Monte Desert). It has large fragrant white flowers that open at night.

The cactus has a shrubby growth habit, with individual stems up to 60 cm (24 in) tall. The plant as a whole can be as much as 3 m (10 ft) across. The stems are light green, with a diameter of up to 14 cm (5.5 in) and have 9–11 low ribs. The large white areoles are spaced at 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) and produce brownish yellow spines, the central spines being up to 10 cm (3.9 in) long, the radial spines only up to 4 cm (1.6 in).

Click on the image to enlarge.

UPDATE April 17, 2019: As mentioned in the post above, the cactus is showing a great amount of activity and growth. There are over a dozen new flower buds that look as if they will be coming out soon and all at once.

Coming soon

UPDATE April 23, 2019: Almost all of the rest of the flower buds on the cactus opened this afternoon. It’s like a bridal bouquet with a dozen open flowers.

Bouquet

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A Serious Pollinator

A Serious Pollinator

Now that the cactus flowers have started to open here at the homestead, the bees are out in force. I took this shot of a honey bee with its head, thorax and wings buried in the stamens of a hedgehog flower out front. The bee was burrowing down to gather nectar at the base of the stigma, I guess. Click on the image to enlarge.

Damsel and I have been out in the yard over the past couple of days taking photos of the recently opened flowers on both the beavertail cacti (opuntia basilaris) and hedgehog cacti (echinocereus engelmanii). There are flower buds forming on other cacti in the area and we will look forward to getting more images of those when opening.

The weather is quite pleasant this afternoon with light breezes and 93° temperature. The forecast is for more of the same tomorrow and then cooler at the end of the week with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. Gotta love the Arizona springtime weather!

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Spring Weather Finally Here

Turkey Buzzard Antelope Ground Squirrel

A sure sign that the weather will be getting warmer is the reappearance of Turkey Buzzards (Vultures) after their winter migration to Mexico is over. There have been Buzzards overhead for a few weeks now, but they now seem to be circling more frequently over our little parch. I photographed this one as it swooped over our house this afternoon.

Another more subtle sign of spring is with the squirrel above. If you click to enlarge the photo you will see that her little teats are swollen as in she is nursing her offspring hidden away in some tunnel nearby. She was venturing up to see what could be foraged underneath the bird feeders out back when I spotted her and took the photo.

As for the weather itself, Wickenburg and Arizona in general have been experiencing a cooler, longer winter this year as is most of the country. Our daytime temperatures have finally risen to high 70’s or mid 80’s with warmer temperatures to come soon. Nights are still cool, however with lows in the low 50’s.

We actually look forward to the summertime high desert temperatures. That’s one of the many reasons we moved to Arizona. :)

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Classic 1935 Ford Sedan

Classic 1935 Ford Sedan

Damsel captured this photo of a classic old Ford V8 this morning on our way back from the “environmental services” facility (a.k.a. dump) on the west side of town. I saw this guy the other day when I was getting ready to leave the chiropractor’s office. I had a camera then, but the classic went by before I could grab and shoot. I’m glad that we saw it again today. It’s a beauty.

We went to the dump to dispose of a mattress that we bought when we first moved into the house. The mattress was our first place to sleep until we took our time to acquire the house furnishings as the first year here went by. Now, the 8-year old mattress has seen better days and needed to be replaced with a new one.

The new mattress is similar to the one we got for the RV last year. Same brand but a queen instead of king size. The new mattress is intended to help me get over the lower back problems I have been having since mid-February. The visits to the chiropractor have helped a lot, but we’re still not a hundred percent on being able to function normally.

I’ve had back problems since I was a young man, but it usually would heal quickly and get back to normal, Not so, as a septuagenarian. It takes time and visits to the chiropractor now, but it will get better soon. And a new memory foam mattress will help too, I’m sure.

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Rosemary Farm

Bee Gathering Nectar

When we originally had the landscapers plant our yard along the back slope above the RV drive, they installed about fifty or sixty one-gallon rosemary shrubs with an irrigation system. The shrubs have been there for over seven years now, and have grown to mostly cover what once was bare slope behind the house.

I took this photo (click to enlarge) of a bee browsing some of the tiny flowers on the shrubs which have been blooming most of the winter. I can’t hear the buzzing anymore (tinnitus), but Damsel says the bees are quite loud as they busily gather nectar. Now, when the hummingbirds come by to do the same thing, I can hear them just fine.

When we need herbal rosemary for a recipe, we have no further to look than out behind the retaining wall on the north side of the RV drive. Damsel will send me out there with a pair of shears to snip off a couple of the freshly grown stems from one of the many bushes. I take the stems inside, wash them and pull the needles from the woody part. Damsel will either mince the needles or use them whole, depending on the recipe.

More on the Rosemary Herb from Wikipedia:

Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region.

It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name “rosemary” derives from the Latin for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), or “dew of the sea”. The plant is also sometimes called anthos, from an ancient Greek word meaning “flower.” Rosemary has a fibrous root system.

Rosmarinus officinalis is one of 2–4 species in the genus Rosmarinus. The other species most often recognized is the closely related, Rosmarinus eriocalyx, of the Maghreb of Africa and Iberia. The name of ros marinus is the plant’s ancient name in classical Latin. Elizabeth Kent noted in her Flora Domestica (1823), “The botanical name of this plant is compounded of two Latin words, signifying Sea-dew; and indeed Rosemary thrives best by the sea.” The name of the genus was applied by the 18th-century naturalist and founding taxonomist Carl Linnaeus.

My only observations regarding the text above is that (a) we’re a long way from the sea and (b) we don’t get much in the way of dew in the desert. I guess that the Rosemary herb likes it hot (it does get hot here), tolerates mild cold (rarely below freezing) and depends on the irrigation system we have here for moisture. And, clearly, the bees and hummingbirds pollinate them to their mutual benefit.

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