Thursday, June 18, 2009

Canyon Flora and Fauna

I've got images of flora, fauna and other natural observations made at the Canyon last weekend and thought it would make a good post. The first one is of the shadows of jet contrails. I've commonly seen shadows of them cast on lower level clouds, but never a double contrail like this one. A first for me!

Except for this time of year, one of the easily overlooked plants at Canyon's edge is the Cliffrose. It is a pretty common shrub reaching to 8 feet or more. In mid and late spring, it is covered by pale yellow flowers. Sometimes when the star party is early, they are still in full bloom. This year, the flowers were definitely past their prime, but what was interesting was the long hairy stalk that develops from the seeds that aid in wind-dispersion. I've also read that this curved stalk twists to help drill the seed into the ground.

With the higher elevation of the Canyon (about 7,000 feet), the growing season is delayed from here in Tucson. As a result, many of the cacti there were still in bloom. In Tucson, the large majority of prickly pear cacti have the bright yellow flowers, like seen here at the Canyon. What is much less seen in southern Arizona, but only a few yards from the yellow-flowered cacti was this prickly pear with bright fuchsia flowers. I still need to get a good cactus book and learn the subtle differences between the different varieties - a good project before next spring's flowering season.

Years past at the star party we've often seen occasional deer and elk at the Canyon and even wandering through the campground. Nothing will quite get your attention that stumbling into an 8 foot high elk on your way to the bathroom at 2 in the morning! Elk have seemed rarer the last couple years, and we didn't see any until our last day this year - and then we saw 9 on the 2 mile drive from our dinner restaurant to the observing site! Pictured here is a cow elk with 2 fawns still sporting spots. A couple large males were nearby. A few minutes later there were a couple mule deer that sauntered by while we waited for the bus. A few of these large mammals anywhere near a road and there were instant traffic tie ups. The rangers are pretty good about breaking up the loitering and reducing the chances of fender benders.

Finally I'm wrapping up with a lil' lizard I tracked, but couldn't get very close. It may have the blue belly of the Colorado River Tree Lizard, but other than that, I'm not sure. It was fun watching him do push ups - in this case they are "broadcast push ups", done in a prominent location as a territorial display. In any case, check out those arm muscles!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice photo of apparent intersecting contrails and shadow. Reminds me of a clear visually perpendicular pair of jet contrails I saw while at the Celebrity Theater in April this year, just prior to the THIRD DAY concert.

While standing in the VIP (ha, as if...) line, waiting for early entry to meet members of the band, folks were mumbling and grumbling because "Professional Photographic Equipment" was not allowed indoors for the up-close meet and greet. Everyone knows this beforehand, but still some try. So mumbling, grumbling they prepared to take the "goods" back to their cars, women scolding their husbands or boyfriends for trying to sneak in long lenses, husbands making faces, and so forth.

When what, to my wondering eyes, should appear, but a horizontal then vertical double jet overpass so clear.

That perfectly formed cross in the sky, would have been missed by those waiting and fretting, and just, standing by.

Amidst the mumbling and fumbling, I risked, and I dared, to break up the din with a "hey look.... look up there!"

Some said where, some said why, as I looked up, pointing high. And the crowd, one by one, cranked their gaze to the sky.

The instant silence spoke volumes, as the crowd seemed to stare, and all were reminded, just why we were there.

And they heard me exclaim, as each pondered the flight, that the cross left behind was "a Glorious sight." -Laurel Dunlap when Third Day entered the "stage in the round" before their opening set, Mac Powell walked straight up to where I was sitting, bowed at the waist, reached down and took my hand to shake it, then smiled, and the performance began.

Yup, you guessed it; in my tye dye tee-shirt and capris, I felt like a princess, greying hair and all.

Family update: For several years, Matthew has worked for Apple; originally as a "Creative" and for the past year, as a "Mac Genius." Michael works for Whole Foods and studies Neurochemistry. As for me, well I'm proud of them both and like being a senior citizen.