When I was a young lad going to University, it was the time of hippies and flower children. I always considered myself as on the fringes of this group. The term we liked to refer to ourselves was “freaks.” But I always liked the expression “flower children.” It called to mind these crazy kids at the Kent State University Vietnam War Protest, and other places, who stood in front of the national guard members that were pointing their rifles at them and they smiled at the guards and placed flowers in the barrels of the gun. How crazy is that? Much to my surprise I actually became a flower child of sorts many years later when as an adult of sorts I became interested in wildflowers. I remember my mother was amazed. How could this happen? Well, my answer to her was, “How could it not happen?” What is there not to like about wildflowers?
It was a very windy day, so I gave up on trying to freeze images of flowering blowing in the breeze.
One afternoon this winter in Arizona Christiane and I went for a jaunt on Red Mountain Road and Saguaro Lake and then headed south to complete a loop to Busch Highway and then Usery Pass Road. We saw many wildflowers along the way. But we were really shocked at Usery Pass Road where there was a long line of cars parked beside the road. What was happening we wondered? It was the wildflower children going crazy photographing flowers. My sport has been turned over to the rabble! And there was good reason for that. The flowers were outstanding.
There was a traffic jam of sorts in the countryside where we saw these wild flowers. Everyone, it seemed wanted to see these gems. Who can blame them?
Everyone in Arizona this year, as in many other places in the southern USA, complained a lot about the bad weather. I admit it—I was one of them. Everyone complained. Some told me it was the worst winter in 40 years. It was awful. But it was also great!
From the perspective of a wildflower guy—like me—it was fantastic. Conditions were great. I learned from Ranger B an interpreter at the Maricopa Parks where we often attended his talks, that the ideal conditions for wildflower growth were a wet autumn followed by consistent occasional rain from January to March. This is exactly what happened this past year. He said it happened about once every 11 years. Well it happened this year. Life is good.
I had been hoping to experience one of those years ever since I heard about it. Ranger B says it was fantastic to see. He was right.
The result of these ideal conditions is called by local “a Super Bloom.” And that was what we experienced this year. Now I say it was the best weather ever in Arizona. Though, I admit, I also complained about it. Some of us are never happy and are never satisfied.
We saw these owls a couple of years ago. Owls may lay up to 14 eggs during years of rodent abundance, but fail to breed when rodent populations crash. Eggs are laid at intervals and incubation begins with the first egg, thus the hatchlings differ in size and the number raised to fledging depends on the food supply. Owls are smart. Like so many animals that are not given the credit they deserve.
Usually only the female incubates and the male brings food to her; both sexes feed the young. Incubation is relatively long, being 32-34 days in the Barn Owl. Owls reach maturity at one year.
Gray Hawks are not found anywhere in North America other than Arizona or southern Texas
These are magnificent birds and we were privileged to see them flying free in the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson.
I claim to be a flower child, but the truth is I love birds too. We stopped at the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson on our way home this year. I try to go there every year. They have a show nearly every day where you can see raptors in flight. Free flight they call it. It is truly amazing to see them flying and perching so close. These photos however are from previous years. I like them better.
These birds are imprinted on their handlers but are free to fly away. Sometimes they do exactly that. Usually they come back because after living with humans who deliver food to them every day they realize they have it pretty good in the Museum so they come back. The “Museum” by the way is mainly outdoors so they are not captive in the sense of being in cages.
This hawk prefers thorn scrubs for its habitat. Like many hawks the female is larger than the male. The likely reason for this adaptation is that in this way they don’t compete as much for prey.
These are one of the few birds that cooperate in groups. As a result they hunt together. This is what we saw at the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson. Cooperation is a very helpful technique in deserts where one Harris Hawk might chase a rabbit into some scrub and then flushes it out so others in the group can capture and kill it. This is the only hawk to hunt cooperatively. They also cooperate in the raising of the young, again, the only hawk species to do this. Nature is not just about competition. Cooperation is important too.
This hawk is rare in Manitoba. I have not seen it here but it is fairly common in the American south.
This hummingbird was a lifer for me. That means I had never seen it before. Though is was in an aviary at Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson. The word museum is really misplaced. Most of what can be found there is outside. These birds flew freely, made nests and did what birds do, but they were confined to this aviary.
This is one of the more colourful hummingbirds with its iridescent breast feathers and bright red bill. I kindly posed for me.
This stunning male hummingbird pose very close to me. In fact I took a large number of photos that appeared to be out of focus. I could not understand why, until I realized I was too close to it and had to step back a bit.
Another stunning bird that i had never seen before. This was a good day.
I think this is one of the most beautiful birds in the world. About 15 years ago I saw one near Mitchell. It is a fairly rare visitor to Manitoba. This was a great day for a bird brain brain like me.
This has been a strange year in the American Southwest. In January and February there was a lot rain (by Sonoran Desert Standards) and it was also very cool by those same standards. Of course in the world of wild flowers there is no such thing as “normal.”
The entire time we were there this year I worried that the cactuses would not bloom before we left.
That almost happened. They only started to bloom the last week of March just before we left. If I come back next year I must stay until mid April.
From this prickly pear cactus you can see the large number of buds. I would love to see a prickly pear cactus filled with blooms.
I think this is a pincushion cactus but am not sure. As a result of the cool weather we did not see many cactuses in bloom. But what we missed in quantity we gained I think in quality.
We went to Boyce Thompson Arboretum in search of cactuses in bloom. In that respect we were disappointed. Only 1 cactus in bloom. But it was a great day. When you don’t get what you want you look for something else. We found lovely wild flowers.
These are also called Bluedicks but they really aren’t blue or Dicks.
This is one of the most common wild flowers in the Sonoran Desert and comes in many colours: orange like this one, or lavender, or white, or reddish-maroon, pink, or red. All are lovely
Desert Marigold are often found along road sides. I like that when flowers make it easy to find them.
Lupines are also very common. I particularly like to see them mingling with yellow flowers.
I thought these were absolutely lovely. I hope you agree.
There are a number of different types of Verbena in Arizona and I am not sure what type this was. Does it matter? It was a pretty good day for flower photography as the skies were lightly overcast and wind was modest. Non-existent wind would have been better of course.
These are a mysterious (to me at least) flower that I am still trying to identify. I am not sure if it was a native wild flower or an escapee. Tell me if you know what it is. I was smitten by its beauty.