Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Sonoran Desert Museum, Part 3

One of the amazing observations about nature is that even though the Sonoran Desert is fairly drab with only a bit of green against a tan palette, there are a few exceptions. Here is a Southwestern Coral Bean with long tubular flowers that glow a brilliant red. Hummingbirds love them. All parts of this plant are poisonous, but the red beans are by far the most highly toxic. Beware!

This lovely plant is a Southwestern Mock Vervain. Instead of hummingbirds, this plant attracts butterflies.

Next along the path is a Fairy Duster — a common plant in this region which has become popular in residential landscaping. These plants thrive in the heat and, once established, can endure extreme droughts. They can survive being watered as little as once to twice a week.

What was that noise to my left? A rodent? Nope, a bird. It appeared to be looking for twigs for its next. A friend has identified it as a Northern Mockingbird which can be found all across the US, Central America and Caribbean countries all year long.

The Northern Mockingbird, while not as colorful as many songbirds, outclasses most with its persistent and varied “singing.” It usually sits conspicuously on high vegetation, fences, eaves or telephone wires, or runs and hops along the ground. Found alone or in pairs throughout the year, mockingbirds aggressively chase off intruders on their territory. My friend and his wife enjoy their daily serenades from the Mockingbirds and, especially, the airshows when they compete for territory. They will even attack a cat successfully! Truly an amazing bird!

Another native plant that has found a welcoming home in Southwest landscaping is the Palo Verde. Its name means "green pole or stick" in Spanish, referring to the green trunk and branches, that perform photosynthesis.

Some people hate them because they drop so many tiny leaves and flowers — quite a mess to clean up.

Here is a beautiful stand of Teddy Bear Cholla cactus. It sports a soft appearance due to its solid mass of very formidable spines that completely cover the stems, leading to its sardonic nickname of "Teddy Bear".

Like its cousin the jumping cholla, the stems detach easily, so one must watch where they are going so they don't get a cholla ball attached to their skin. The spines are barbed, and hold on tightly. Desert pack rats, such as the Desert Wood rat, gather these balls around their burrows, creating a defense against predators.

Another stand of cactus (it might be Candelabra Cactus) surrounded by a planting of Southwest Mock Vervain. Lovely combination.

And here we see a gathering of Strawberry Hedgehog cactus. I want to know why they didn't call it the Red Lipstick cactus — seems appropriate.

Standing in the shade, here is a Hecho cactus. I love the puffball flower — quite unusual.

We have already visited the Hummingbird aviary but here is a second aviary for non-hummers. Outside is this wonderful wall adornment depicting the evolutionary path from fish to amphibious to lizards to dinosaurs to birds.

Unfortunately, the photographer's worst nightmare struck right at this point — my camera began to malfunction. It could not open the iris to gather more light in shaded areas. Therefore all the subsequent photos in this series were taken in bright light. It is now fixed and my wallet is $326 lighter.

Last for today is another beautiful Sonoran Desert landscape. Enjoy.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com