Journal archives for February 2017

February 05, 2017

Tonto anomalies

Today I walked an area in the Tonto National Forest near the Verde River, thinking that the lower elevation (480M) location would have more spring ephemerals in bloom. That turned out not to be true, but it was an interesting walk anyway. The fenced area east of the road to Needle Rock is some of the most cow-beat land I've seen. Horse-beat these days, as the cattle are gone, but there are plenty of horse tracks and a lot of manure. They're even eating ironwood. Non-native Schismus is the ubiquitous ground cover. But just across the road to the west is an entirely different landscape; a mature Arizona Upland community with many large buckhorn chollas, numerous ironwoods, and saguaros of many age classes. And very few non-natives.

The mesquite bosque above the Verde there is in terrible condition. Lots of beat-up mesquites, and lots of mistletoe in them. Interestingly, because of that, there was a larger number of birds in the area - phainopepla and Gila woodpeckers especially. They favor the fruit of the desert mistletoe. There were deep gullies dug into in the sandy river deposits. Some of them were filled with trash.

West of the road was remarkably different. Though not fenced off from the road, it's only disturbed by one dirt road traversing the area. There were young and old trees, shrubs and cacti. While there may have been fewer birds, there were definitely more species - house finches, gnatcatchers, verdins (no photo), cactus wrens (same) and thrashers. There were also potsherds, tools and other Hohokam relics; the area is near a large Hohokam community know locally as Azatlan.

Posted on February 05, 2017 05:27 AM by stevejones stevejones | 55 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

February 18, 2017

Sonoran desert field botany

I accompanied my pal and fellow botanist Liz Makings and her Sonoran desert field botany class from Arizona State University to the Sunrise Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve today. I didn't count, but there were 35 or 40 students! Did my heart good to see that much interest. I managed to squeeze off some not-great photos along the way. Many were immature plants not yet in flower, but some early poppies and my first lupine of the season were among them. The upper segment of Sunrise east of Lost Dog is generally a great place to see wildflowers. Poppies, lupines, distant phacelia (found in profusion throughout the preserve), Arizona fiesta flower, New Mexico plumeseed, delphinium, flax, gilia, several mustards, bluedicks and a number of others can be expected there. Add shrubs like chuparosa, ocotillo and brittlebush, and it's one of the best wildflower locations in the preserve.

Posted on February 18, 2017 01:14 AM by stevejones stevejones | 31 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

February 25, 2017

'Tis the season

The Sonoran desert's wildflower season is just out of the starting gate. My previous post mentioned one of the wildflower hotspots in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Another is along the trails on the southeastern aspect of Granite Mountain in the northeastern preserve. I scouted the area yesterday and see promise for a good season here as well. I also found a new taxon for the preserve's flora. The bad news is that it's a non-native (but then I'm of primarily British heritage myself so can't complain too much).

I returned to the trailhead along Powerline Road #2 underneath a power line from the Cholla generating station and once again encountered a phenomenon peculiar to plants under powerlines. One creosote bush had three (maybe four) of the astonishing number of insect species (sixteen!) that produce galls on creosote bushes. As I was using my hands to arrange the galls, I was hit with repeated static shocks from the induced current generated by the electromagnetic field of the 345kV lines above us.

Posted on February 25, 2017 12:44 AM by stevejones stevejones | 89 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment