Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Wild Burro

We have a friend who told us of a place in San Timoteo Canyon, near Redlands, where we could find lots of wild burros. We drove there on a late afternoon recently and I saw more than I've seen before right here locally. 

Several had babies and I found a couple trying to make some more. We also parked between some up on a hill and the main group and one of them on the hill made a huge racked braying about its predicament. They eventually meandered down the hill and walked around us. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Gravel Ghost or Parachute Plant

The flower of the gravel ghost, also known as the parachute plant, is very similar to the desert dandelion and desert chicory. What really differentiates the gravel ghost is that the flower is all white with a yellow center, sometimes with some additional red, and very often has red to pink tinges on the white petals. 
Desert dandelion
Desert chicory

Gravel ghost

Upper branching: a red bud (upper left), a flower just opening up (bottom center), a flower that is more than half opened, above it. 
A similar branching from a different angle. 
Two flowers and several buds. 
It has a very thin branching stem which supports one to several flowers. The stem is so thin that it appears the flower is suspended in the air like a ghost. 

I think it is one of the most beautiful desert flowers. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Paperbag Bush

For the third Saturday in a row, I went out into the Sonoran Desert to shake the home-bound Covid-19 claustrophobia. It was much hotter this week, 93 degrees when I left, so I went early, but stayed longer. 

One of my more exciting finds was the paperbag bush, also known as the Mexican bladdersage. I saw it ten years ago, but I don't believe I've seen it since. It is very distinctive from a distance and when I saw it I knew immediately what it was. 
I found several of the bushes near each other at the base of some jagged hills on the south side of I-15 near Hayfield Road. 
Many of the bladders were quite pink. When I saw them previously they were more white. 
The bushes were also larger than what I remember seeing before. 
It starts out with two-lipped flowers that develop in pairs facing away from each other. The upper lip is white to light violet and is hairy. The lower lip is three-lobed and intense dark violet. 
Here is a good photo of the flowers in pairs facing away from each other. 
And another. This also shows pink bladders and drier white bladders. 

As the flower ages the bladder begins around the base of the flower and surrounds it. The bag begins pinkish and then dries out and turns white as it ages. The dried flower eventually falls out the hole in the end. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

San Diego Alligator Lizard

Last night I went to the sliding door in our bedroom and opened up the glass door and shut the sliding screen door. As I did so I noticed a pretty good sized alligator lizard hanging on to the inside of the screen about belly height. I caught it, showed it to Judy, took it outside and took some pictures, then touched its back and watched it scamper off our patio table, across the lawn and into some cracks between railroad ties.
The alligator lizard on our patio table.

This morning as I was getting ready I was startled to see the alligator lizard again hanging on to the outside of our screen. I took a photo, then went outside and took another photo from the other side. 
Alligator lizard on screen door.
From the other side. Judy closed the glass door and put her hand up behind it. 

Judy and I watched it quite awhile as it maneuvered around on our screen, I assume looking for bugs. It eventually dropped to the ground, scampered across the patio and lawn and into the railroad ties again. 

I've been wanting a pet cat, but I think maybe now I've got a friendly pet lizard. We'll see if it keeps coming around. I last did a post on the San Diego alligator lizard about 10 1/2 years ago. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Mexican Gold Poppy

On our Covid-19 escape to the desert last weekend we were blown away to find the Mexican gold poppies in bloom and in profusion. The weekend before we were there and the poppies were struggling to open up. The photo below was about the best we saw.
Poppies on April 11, 2020
What a difference a week makes. 
Poppies on April 18, 2020

Poppies mixed in with Bigelow's monkeflower and desert chicory.

I've seen wonderful blooms in Organ Pipe Cactus NM, but this is by far the best I've seen in the California desert. These were just south of Joshua Tree NP off the Hayfield Rd. exit. 
The best for last.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Cooper's Hawk

I link to a prior post on Cooper's hawks that we have in our neighborhood. I believe we have another nesting pair this year, probably in one of our neighbor's huge trees. 

This past Saturday I noticed a Cooper's hawk standing on our back deck. Only after reviewing photos do I see the bird it had in its talons. 

Later it flew onto a low branch of a nearby tree and started to devour the bird. That's when I noticed the birds claws which identified the prey as a bird, even though I'm not sure what kind of bird it is. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Desert Dandelion

I did a post on the desert dandelion ten years ago, but find it necessary to do another one now. I just witnessed the most beautiful profusion of them that I've ever seen out in the foothills of the Orocopia Mountains off the Hayfield Rd. exit of the I-10 south of Joshua Tree NP. 
Desert dandelions and Mexican gold poppies (upper left side). 
Bigelow's monkeyflowers (pink) in the foreground with a few Mexican gold poppies and the rest are desert dandelions. 

Underneath a palo verde tree.
A more patchy smattering.
The flower is entirely ray florets, between 30 and 140 of them, with flat tips with four notches in them. They are usually yellow, but can also be white, usually on the outer edges. The center is often reddish when it begins to bloom and turns yellow when it matures. 

Four yellow flowers, but only one with a yellow center. 
All three of these have white flowers on the outside and yellow centers. 
I've amped up the clarity in Lightroom to make the florets stand out. The closeup also makes the four notches easy to see. 
I've also amped up the clarity on this photo to highlight the florets. 
There were places along the freeway where the sides and center divider were covered with them. 
These are mature flowers as none have red centers. 
Many of these have red centers. A few Mexican gold poppies are in the photo as is chia on the right side.