Saturday, February 12, 2011

Freeze Burned Natives and a couple rare birds in Tucson

As I'm about to head into the mostly Internet-free zone of eastern Chiapas, Mexico, here's just a quick hodgepodge of photos from this past week around Tucson – a couple rare birds and evidence of the damage to plants from last week's hard freeze.

Just two days after the coldest day in over 100 years, I went on a short hike up The Phone Line Trail in Sabino Canyon with my friends Andrew and DuWane.

The vistas are wonderful.

Here's a close-up of the freeze damage to the otherwise very hardy Spiny Hackberry, which is evergreen. You can see how the leaves in the interior of the bush survived with no damage, protected from wind. I suspect most of the outermost branchlets are still alive and will leaf out with the next good rain (whenever that might be, maybe not until July).

Even the outer half of each leaf of the Hopbush was freeze burned.

This is Arizona Spikemoss, Selaginella arizonica, known to a lot as "resurrection plant." It almost always looks like this unless wet from recent rains, so I suspect there is no freeze damage to it.

One of my favorite small native trees is Arizona Rosewood, Vaquelinia californica. Evergreen and apparently hardy to very low temperatures, it's found only in a few scattered localities, probably a relic of a widespread broadleaf forest that covered this area before 10,000 years ago.

Amazingly, there were invertebrates present – lots of these Southwestern (or Echo) Azures (this one was actually in Pima Canyon a few days later), and a few Sara Orangetips.

This is a darkling beetle, family Tenebrionidae.

Finally, just a few more shots from the week. The giant (non-native) Indian fig or beavertail cactus in our yard was damaged severely by our 16°F morning on Friday, February 4 –  at about 10:00 am there were loud crashing sounds all over the yard as the ice thawed in the joints and larger, heavier branches came falling down. I had brought the hummingbird feeders in overnight and put them out before dawn for the two cold mornings we had. Even then, they would start to freeze before the sun was high enough to warm them up.

I spent a long morning at Sweetwater Wetlands just 4.5 miles west of me on Monday the 7th, making a thorough count of the water birds. (3380 Northern Shovelers!) I also enjoyed spotting some of the continuing rarities, such as this Black-and-white Warbler, amazed that it, along with the Yellow Warbler and the Summer Tanager that have been seen by many all winter survived the freeze.

I was surprised to flush this female Indigo Bunting off the stream – a winter rarity that hadn't been reported here this winter. When it flew, it went far off to the east, so I suspect it is wintering nearby and comes infrequently just to drink and bathe. It's a bad photo, but you can see the warmer rusty tones of the back (not as grayish or buffy as Lazuli), and the distinct blue tinge to the tail. Breast center and sides were also brown with faint streaking.

No comments:

Post a Comment