Monday, October 31, 2011

More from Saguaro National Park

The saguaro is a large, tree sized cactus native to the Sonoran Desert. The saguaro blossom is the State Wildflower of Arizona. 
Saguaros have a relatively long life span. It takes 50 to 75 years to develop their first arm. The arms themselves are grown to increase the plant's reproductive capacity.The growth rate of saguaros is strongly dependent on precipatation; saguaros in drier wester Arizona like Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument grow only half as fast as those in and around Tucson. In the Catalina and Rincon Mountains, it may be 50 years for their first arm. In Organ Pipe or Cabeza Prieta NWR along the Mexico border it may be 75 years. In Saguaro National Park East it is not at all unusual to see Saguaros with 20-25 arms. Some specimens may live for more than 150 years and can can grow anywhere from 15 to 50 feet. They grow slowly from seed, and not at all from cuttings. Whenever it rains, saguaros soak up the rainwater. The cactus will visibly expand, holding in the rainwater. It conserves the water and slowly consumes it. 

Saguaros can not self pollenate. Large quantities of pollen are required for complete pollination as there are numerous ovules. A well-pollinated fruit will contain several thousand tiny seeds. The ruby red fruit ripen in June. Each fruit contains around 2000 seeds plus sweet fleshy connective tissue. The fruits are highly edible and prized by local people. The O'odham tribes have a long and rich history of saguaro fruit use. Native birds such as Gila Woodpeckers, Gilded Flickers, Purple Martins, and House Finches live inside holes in saguaros bored by the woodpeckers. Flickers excavate larger holes higher on the stem. The nest cavity is deep, the parents and young entirely hidden from view. The saguaro creates callus tissue on the wound. When the saguaro dies, and soft flesh rots the callus remains behind, a so called "saguaro booty" which was used by natives for storage.

The major pollinators are bats, primarily the Lesser Long Nosed Bat, feeding on the nectar from the night-blooming flowers, which often remain open in the morning.  Doves and bees appear to be the primary daytime pollinators. 

Here is a Saguaro with about 20 arms.

View from Saguaro National Park looking north toward the Catalina Mountains

A few of the dead Saguaros, which provide wonderful skeletons:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On to Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park has an East Side and a West Side. The East side is larger and has many more trails. The Saguaros are older and have more "arms" (fire on the West Side some 90 years ago). Since the East Side of Saguaro Park is just five - ten minutes from us, it's the one we go to. We had a very early "continental" breakfast the other day, so went out to the park for a hike after breakfast (round 7:00 am). What a delight! We were first met (on the Shantz Trail) by three large Black Tailed Jackrabbits. They delighted us with their antics for a good 10-12 minutes. They were interested in eating the pods from a less common species of Mesquite Tree (red pods). So, they would stand on hind legs to reach the pods. Every once in a while they would wander around -- or, chase each other around.

Black Tailed Jackrabbit getting Mesquite Pods

Here's another one.

One was sitting by a Saguaro which I thought made a good picture.

As I was snapping photos, another one came running right in front of my camera.

This one I just had to add. It shows the difficulty sometimes in Wildlife photography -- same with sports photography --  of getting the moving target in the frame. What a great --- okay --- ALMOST great photo, though.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Agua Caliente, Arizona - Part VII

And, now for some of the birds photographed at Agua Caliente:

Vermillion Flycatrcher

Western Tanager

Male Gila Woodpecker

Female Gilded Flicker

Great Tailed Grackle

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Agua Caliente, Arizona - Part VI

In preparing for today's blog on Agua Caliente, I realized that there are so many ducks at Agua Caliente that I haven't taken a lot of photos of them. I guess after coming from the Northwest ducks become like quail and doves here. So, out of habit, I walk right past them looking for something more unusual.  But, I did pull out a few that I particularly like. The first is my favorite:

That's our grandson, Noah taken about 5 years ago.  He was so thin that putting a belt on him would be like trying to put a belt on a pencil. (You'll have to click on the photo to enlarge ).

Ring Necked Duck

Mallard Close-up

Mallard Chicks

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Agua Caliente, Arizona - Part V

Continuing coverage of Agua Caliente, a "Warm Springs" and Park about four miles from us, there is the occasional raptor. Typically, I don't go to Agua Caliente to photograph raptors. It's normally waterbirds and flycatchers. But once in a while:

There is a Cooper's Hawk looking for one of those flycatchers, or the more common desert ground birds (doves and quail).

Osprey at rare to Southern Arizona, but this one found a fish dinner at Agua Caliente.

There are a pair of Great Horned Owls that seem to nest in the large palm trees each Spring.  This is probably the mom.

And, here is a very young Owlet in the nest.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

agua Caliente, Arizona - Part IV

And, now the Great Egrets from Agua Caliente:

This one is my favorite -- and one of my favorite photos  period!

Here is a Great Egret with a fish he just caught.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Agua Caliente, Arizona - Part III

Now for the Green Heron at Agua Caliente:

I was very fortunate to be able to get very close for these last two photos. I took them lying down on my stomach using my elbows as tripods:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Agua Caliente, Arizona - Part II

Here some of the Black Crowned Night Heron photos from Agua Caliente:

First, the juveniles:

And, now the Adult Black Crowned Night Heron:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Agua Caliente, Arizona

Agua Caliente is a small "recreation" area about four miles from us.  This 101-acre park features a natural warm spring and pond that is home to an exceptionally rich mix of plants, wildlife, and historic features in the backdrop of the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains. There are several historic buildings that have been renovated and are now used as a "visitor's center." There is a mesquite tree estimated to be about 300 years old. The spring itself lies within a grove of palm trees, at the east end of the park, near some picnic tables.  The spring bubbles out of the ground at about 87 degrees F, crystal clear. The water flows downhill in a small creek, surrounded by dense palm tree growth. Within the water live several types of fish, and a variety of water insects. The water eventually flows into a large pond, frequented by several ducks and other waterfowl. Below this largest pond, the water flows into two more ponds. Trails link all these ponds together. 

Here is some of the History:

5500 Years ago.  Archaic projectile points found within the park boundaries suggest that the site was used by hunters and gatherers.

1150 AD.  A Hohokam village, referred to as the Whiptail Site, was established. 

1853-1870s.  The spring was used as an army encampment following the Gadsden Purchase. It became a stagecoach stop on which came the palm trees; which are now 150 years old and big enough that it takes five people to get their arms around one.

1875.  James P. Fuller purchased "Agua Caliente Rancho" and established an orchard and cattle ranch on the property.

1880s-1980s.  Various owners operated the ranch as a cattle ranch and resort.

1984.  Local businessman Roy P. Drachman donated over $200,000 toward the purchase of Agua Caliente.  The donation provided the incentive for Pima County to proceed with the acquisition.  Agua Caliente Park, a Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Facility,  opened on January 19th, 1985.

July 9, 2009.  Agua Caliente Ranch Historic Landscape was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. 

Over the years I have photographed at Agua Caliente the following:  Great Blue Heron, Black Crowned Night Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Osprey, Great Horned Owls, Cooper's Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, many different kinds of ducks, turtles, lizards, and a wide variety of other birds.

Here are a few of the Great Blue Heron Photos:

Not a great photo but he got that fish down his bill by flipping it until it was  head first.

As you can see, Great Blues make for Great Photos in the right setting.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ramsey Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona

Today, another picnic and hike. This time Ramsey Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains of Southeastern Arizona. We started out around 8:30 and went up the canyon along the creek taking both side loops. Then, took Hamburg Trail and its switchbacks up the mountain. It was another great hike. Here are some photos from the hike:

White Tail Deer

Younger White Tail Deer in Ramsey Canyon Creek

The Endangered Ramsey Canyon Spotted Leopard Frog

Red Naped Sapsucker

One of about ten Wild Turkeys foraging around on the side of the Canyon

Another of the Wild Turkeys