Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Night-blooming Cereus Flower

This cactus looks like a dried-up stick most of the year, but this time of year it makes the most beautiful fragrant flowers, that only bloom for one night. Tohono Chul park lets people know when their cactus is getting ready to bloom and then every night until it blooms they hold night viewings. Some Tusconans really go bananas over this kind of thing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Desert Spiny Lizard Males Fighting

My aunt, who lives about a mile from us, sent us this picture of some great lizard action in her yard. These are Sceloporus magister, desert spiny lizards. The males are each trying to appear bigger and stronger than each other and to show off their blue belly patches. The Sceloporus genus is one of the most successful in North America. They have radiated into almost every above-ground niche to be found--trees, rocks, crevices, grass, shrubs. They can co-exist with each other as long as there is just a subtle niche difference. These desert spiny's co-exist with an almost identical species, Clark's spiny lizard, Sceloporus clarkii because the magisters prefer ground rocks and the clarkiis prefer tree trunks.

I have been patiently nursing my way through Hobart M. Smith's 1946 Handbook of Lizards: Lizards of the United States and Canada. I only read about one lizard description per nursing session and I compare what I read to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians and Peterson's Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Reading the descriptions of field herping in Southeastern Arizona in the 1930s is fascinating; I imagine how many more herps were encountered in such endeavors than could be found today. The thought is both sad and exhilirating. How exciting it must have been to be a herper when the land was rich with critters. I must temper the sadness with hope that people are changing how they think about those beings who continue to share this Earth with us--the survivors.

One interesting thing I recently read in Smith's book about Sceloporus is that the females have a pale white belly without blue patches, except for exceptionally old, large females who may show a pale outline hinting of blue. My friend Jen told me that the more kids you have, the darker and coarser your hair gets. And after menopause, many women grow faint (or obvious) mustaches and beards. So we share this in common with the female spiny lizards, the tendancy to masculanize as we age. Which leads me to think that while we all start off physically as females in the womb, we all end up man-like in the tomb. If we are all borne of womyn, we must also be borne of men; there is no getting around this fact!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Micah!

Micah turned one last Saturday! I made a cardamom grapefruit cake that only Micah and I appreciated! The next day was Pop-pop's birthday! Fun weekend! Lots of feasting! Micah looks like Erik, don't you think?

Doughnut Lesson

I learned that even the some of the best doughnuts in Tucson can still give you a stomach ache!

Barbie Drama

When we were packing to move to the new house I unearthed some Barbies from my collection of childhood things. We brought them all out and Noah had so much fun dressing them up and even created a little room for them. I took pictures and it looks as if they have a story to tell...

"I really like your new apartment!"

"Thanks, I can't believe I found this place!"

"Did I tell you about my new boyfriend?"

"No! Where'd you meet him?"

"At a club downtown! He's really sensitive and totally cares about me! I love him!"

Critter Country

The critters are out in full swing at our new property on West Calle Concordia. As I write this I am looking out the window at the myriad of critters that have come to eat our bird block. We basically have created a McDonald's at our house. There are five mourning doves, five English sparrows, and a pair of Gambel's quail. The block is also visited by white-wing doves, Northern cardinals, pyrroloxia, thrashers, Gila woodpeckers, round-tailed ground squirrels, and rabbits. It's a cheap way to get a wildlife show. We also put out a water dish, which the rabbits enjoy.

On the reptile front we have seen Clark's spiny lizards, western whiptails, ornate tree lizards, Meditteranean geckos, a Gila monster, a Sonoran gopher snake, and a desert kingsnake. Insects are way more diverse here than at our old house. Kissing bugs are Erik's new nightmare. There is a peculiar bug that looks like a cross between a praying mantis, a fly, and a wasp--I must get a picture of that one. Last night there was a gloriously huge wolf spider on our ceiling. It looked like a baby tarantula--hairy and thick. Here are some highlights.

Beautiful kingsnake found the other night. Looks healthy. Erik let it go on the front patio.

We think this is a Urosaurus. Must be only a couple days old at most. Found in the pool! :(

Big guy. Gorgeous. Erik put it outside.