Saturday, April 29, 2017

Night Shift Pollinators

Yesterday evening we were out in our front courtyard, enjoying a colorful sunset and crescent moon setting in the west. In the Desert Willow tree behind us we noticed a small blur moving amongst the branches. As we watched, even more of the blurring movements became noticeable in the tree until we counted at least 7 or 8 of them. After a closer look, we saw they were White-lined Sphinx Moths. With a wing span of 4 to 5" and a thick body, it's easy to see why they are sometimes called "hummingbird moths". Their movements as they hover in front of flowers and dart amongst the branches is reminiscent of a feeding hummingbird. After watching the moths in the willow, we went out into our front yard to see if there were any others. On our big red lantana bushes we counted at least another 7 moths. They were busily flying between the flowers, pollinating as they sipped nectar from each bloom. By then it was getting darker and more challenging to take pictures of them.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Disappearing Soon, from a Neighborhood Near You...

This past winter's rains have produced an amazing spring wildflower bloom throughout our desert area. Close to home we even have pockets of brilliant colors in unexpected urban areas.

There is a beautiful swath of wildflowers less than a mile from the busiest intersections in our city. These couple of acres are surrounded by busy shopping centers, car lots and a 6-lane state highway.

We stopped for a spontaneous wildflower walk while we were running errands in town. On the dunes we found carpets of lavender Sand Verbena, delicate white Dune Primrose, a few scattered Spanish Needle, bright yellow Dune Sunflower and Desert Marigold. Encelia and Creosote were also blooming, and we saw many different species of bees busily pollinating the profusion of flowers.

We have lived in this desert for over 30 years, and can remember the open spaces before they started to get paved over and "developed". Spectacular blooms like this remind us of what we will be losing to another future big box store or fast food restaurant.

"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December."
~ James M Barrie, British Playwright  (1860-1937)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

WALK, Don't Run

A recent morning run morphed into an unscheduled wildflower walk, when I noticed some colorful blooms peeking through in a field of invasive mustard and other weeds. Flower species seen included Phacelia, Salt Heliotrope,  Desert Dandelion, Dune Sunflower, Popcorn Flower, and Brown-eyed Primrose.

(A bit of spot "guerilla gardening" weeding also took place, to give the natives a bit more room and a better chance at propagation.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

First Monarch

We saw our first Monarch Butterfly of the season today, flitting around one of our milkweed plants in our yard. Perhaps looking for a place to lay its eggs?

It was one of the warmer days we have had recently, so hopefully this is the first of many more butterflies to come.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Great Expections

Our winter season so far has seen a lot more rain than in recent years. Although it hasn't been enough to lift us out of the multi-year drought, it should be very good for desert wildflowers this spring. We are already seeing signs of new plant growth and even some flower buds.

We had a couple bands of rain come through this weekend, with another storm forecast for Monday. The nearby mountains are white with snow, which means our nights and early mornings are chilly.

Friends are "annuals" that need seasonal nurturing to bear blossoms. Family is a "perennial" that comes up year after year, enduring the droughts of absence and neglect. There's a place in the garden for both of them.
~Erma Bombeck

Monday, October 24, 2016

Thunder and Lightning and Rain (Oh Boy!)

We were happy to get more rain today, which came through in 2 bands. The first was an afternoon shower that lasted about 20 minutes. It was accompanied by distant thunder and lightning.

The second band hit after dark. It was a pretty good downpour, along with a roaring thunder and lightning show. We turned off the inside lights, and turned on the pool light to watch the rain come down.

Tomorrow's weather forecast is for muggy conditions and warm temps in the high 80's.

"Early impressions are like glimpses seen through the window by night when lightning is about."
~E. F. Benson, English novelist  (1867-1940)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Another Round of Monarch Caterpillars

Around the beginning of September we noticed that another batch of monarch caterpillars had hatched in our courtyard. Actually, we noticed that our Golden Butterfly Weed was looking pretty sparse, and initially thought there was a problem with the drip irrigation. When we looked closer we saw the caterpillars munching away on the plants.

They finished with the Golden Butterfly Weed, then moved over to the Desert Milkweed where they continue to feed and grow bigger.

When we pulled out our bucket of gardening tools to work in the yard, we noticed a surprise on the foam kneeling pad. Fortunately, we have other kneeling pads we can use while this one is in use.