Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Loggerhead Shrike

The loggerhead shrike is also known as the butcherbird because it often impales its prey on thorns or barbed wire because it is small and has weak talons. This helps it consume its prey which can include lizards, amphibians, small mammals, small birds and insects. I've previously blogged on at least one I've seen in Florida
A loggerhead shrike at Hayfield Road. 
The term "loggerhead" comes from the size of the head compared to the rest of the body. 

It is gray above, has a white to pale gray breast, black feet, a black tail edged with white, a black mask which extends across the eye to the bill, a short black bill which is hooked, and black wings with a white patch on the primaries. 
Loggerhead shrike near Corn Springs.
I've seen two loggerhead shrikes this summer. The first was on June 20th at Hayfield Road and the second was on July 18 off the road into Corn Springs. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Western Kingbird

The western kingbird is a member of the tyrant flycatcher family. It has a gray head, a dark line through the eyes, gray-olive upperparts, and the underparts are light and then becoming light orange-yellow on the lower breast and belly. It has a dark tail and is partly distinguished from Cassin's kingbird which has white on the tip of the tail while the western kingbird has white outer tail feathers. 

They wait on an open perch and fly out to catch insects in flight. Sometimes they will hover and then drop to catch insects on the ground. 
They breed in western North America and then migrate to Florida and the Pacific coast of southern Mexico and Central Mexico for the winter. 

I saw these western kingbirds at Corn Springs in the Chuckwalla Mountains on July 18, 2020, early in the morning. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Senita Cactus

I had an exciting discovery yesterday. I was at Corn Springs in the Chuckwalla Mountains in southeastern California and came across a senita cactus. It was the first of any of the big three cacti (saguaro, organ pipe or senita) that I have ever seen in California. What's more, I understood that the only senita cacti in the U.S. were found in Organ Pipe Cactus NM in southern Arizona, just over the Mexico border, which I have seen
Looking east with the Chuckwalla Mountains in the background. 

I just signed up for inaturalist.org today and posted it and note that there are four other observations of senita cactus in southeastern California and note that there is one other observation in a different part of the Chuckwalla mountains, two in the desert north of the chuckwalla mountains and one just east of the Eagle Mountains east of Joshua Tree NP. I'm pretty excited to stumble across such a rare find. 

I'd followed a game trail from the wash northeast of the palm tree oasis, east, and it was just off the trail over a ridge. It was very early in the morning, about 5:30 a.m. and the sun was just coming up, so the light is a little bit of an issue on some of the photos. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Western Screech Owl

I visited Corn Springs in the Chuckwalla Mountains this morning very early. I left home at 3:05 a.m. and arrived a little before 5:00 a.m. Very near the palm tree oasis in very early morning light I saw two small owls fluttering around in some honey mesquite trees. I got out of the car and one flew and I was able to take a few photos of the other. I've lightened the photo to provide a more detailed look. 
Elf owls are uncommon in California. A 1987 survey of elf owls in California identified Corn Springs as a spot historically where they are found. They are found only in riparian habitats. They are found primarily along the Colorado River in California and Corn Springs is one of the few additional sites. The BLM handout for Corn Springs notes that the palm trees at the palm tree oasis provide cavities that the elf owls use to nest. 

They migrate to far southeastern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the spring and summer to breed and lay eggs and winter in central and southern Mexico. 
This photo is too blurry, but does show the yellow in the eye. 
They eat insects such as moths, crickets, scorpions, centipedes and beetles and migrate for the winter in Mexico because the U.S. deserts are too cold to support those nocturnal insects. 

The elf owl is grayish brown, has pale yellow eyes, thin white eyebrows and a gray bill. It is about the size of a sparrow. Chicks are born in mid-June or early July and by the end of July are fledged and ready to go out on their own. I believe these were young birds just leaving the nest as their flight seemed fluttery.

Yesterday I also signed up to become part of inaturalist.org, something my son has encouraged me to do and one of my granddaughters recently signed up and posted some items. This owl was the first thing I posted and I got two responses the same day, both indicating it was a western screech owl. I'd ruled out the screech owl because they have ear tufts and this one doesn't. One of the responders said the gray color and black streaks on the back ruled out an elf owl. So I googled fledgling western screech owl and found an owl that looks like this one, without the ear tufts.

So turning to the western screech owl, I find that they have a much larger range, from Alaska to Nicaragua. It is a smallish owl with a squarish head and little ear tufts and yellow eyes. Plumage color varies from gray to brown, but it generally has dark streaks on the belly, a dark border around the face, and a dark bill. In the southwestern U.S. they tend to be paler gray. The one thing that had bothered me about my identification as an elf owl is that this one seemed too big.

This was a fun new foray into the world of inaturalist and I'm finding out, right away, the benefit of having others with lots of knowldge weigh-in. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Hayfield Rd./South of I-10 Freeway

Ten years ago, following a comment from a ranger in Organ Pipe Cactus NM, I decided to go to one desert spot over a course of time, approximately every two weeks, and see how the area changed as various plants budded, flowered and died. I picked a place about 95 miles from my home, off the Hayfield Road exit of the I-10 freeway, an hour and 20 minute drive, inside the southeastern part of Joshua Tree NP, accessible only by dirt road. A post covering that experience is here. This year, seeking a respite from the coronavirus quarantine, I went with my wife, Judy, out to the same area to find some solitude and get some exercise. I found the area closed by the State of California because of the quarantine, so we crossed the freeway to the south in a public area of the Orocopia Mountains that was not closed and enjoyed that first day so much that we came out again. And then kept coming, sometimes it was both of us and sometimes it was just me. Without originally intending to do so, I've duplicated my experience of ten years ago, but I've gone more often, almost every Saturday. It has been wonderful for my psyche, getting out of the house and into nature. It has also reminded me of my love for the desert, for desert plants and animals and I've learned more about the desert as I've done so. 

I now give a week by week summary of our/my experiences and findings and a liberal smattering of photos. 

     April 11, 2020:

Judy and I decided to break the Covid-19 quarantine claustrophobia by going out to Hayfield Road and visiting a dirt road entrance to Joshua Tree NP. However, we got there and found that the entrance was closed off with "No Trespassing" signs and threat of $1,000 fine. Disappointed, after a long drive, I drove back across the freeway overpass and decided to take a dirt road on the south side of the I-10 freeway. I drove a short ways, picked a left fork in the road, and found a large enough area that I could safely park the car. We got out and started walking. It had been raining recently and it was quite wet. We first walked to see several beautiful looking ocotillo, resplendent in beautiful green secondary leaves and full red flowers on the tips.

We found lots of Mexican gold poppies, but they were mostly folded into thin strips, not fully opened yet. 
We walked along the edge of the Orocopia Mountains, mostly hills, and around a little outcrop of rocks. Near it I found a small pincushion cactus with several little red buds going out of it. We also found beautiful little white Mojave desertstar flowers. 
We continued south up a little arroyo, negotiating fairly tricky rocks and bushes for our old and recently inactive hiking bodies. We found some blooming globemallow, beavertail cacti, prickly poppy, brittlebrush and desert aster. It was beautiful, a nice diversion, and rejuvenating.   

     April 18, 2020:

Judy and I decided to go to the same place again. We drove a little further east down the dirt road, from where we parked the week before, and found a large space to park underneath some huge power-line poles. It was just north of the rock outcrop we'd visited the week before. The place was alive with beautiful flowers, significantly more heavy than the week before and probably the most beautiful of all our visits. Desert dandelion, Mexican gold poppies and Bigelow's monkeyflower were everywhere, in full bloom, forming a beautiful color palette.
Mexican gold poppy
Mexican gold poppies
Desert dandelion
Desert dandelion
Bigelow's monkeyflower
Bigelow's monkeyflower
We also found occasional desert chicory, not as resplendent or plentiful as the aforementioned flowers. 
Desert chicory
We hiked up to the rock outcrop and found the little pincushion cactus again. It looked about the same as the week before (I really wanted to find it in bloom and never did).  Then we walked further east along the edge of the north-facing hills, finding some more wonderful ocotillo in clusters. 
I found a sand blazing star, another plant I loved from ten years ago, and the only one I spotted this year. 
Sand blazing star
Then I saw a rock outcropping among the flatland and decided to head for it. 
It would become the beginning visitation spot for future visits. We encountered a number of pencil cholla along the way. 
Branched pencil cholla
The golden spines glow in the sunshine.
At the rocks we found a beautiful pincushion cactus with a ring of red blossoms around the top portion. 
Pincushion cactus
We found a silver cholla with several beautiful blooms (the only silver cholla blooms we would see - they were gone the next week). 
Silver cholla

I found some blooming fringed twinevine near the rocks, a plant I loved from my visits ten years ago. 
Fringed twinevine
I found a single parachute plant, the flower was one of my favorites ten years ago. 
The rayless encilia, that look like little yellow pencil heads, were in bloom. 
Rayless encilia
We also saw a small side-blotched lizard.

     April 25, 2020:

I visited on my own. It was very warm: 93 degrees at 10:00 a.m. and still 93 degrees at noon when I left. After stopping at the rock outcropping we'd visited, south of the second visit parking area, I drove further east on the dirt road, then took a southeastern branch of the dirt road until I found the large rocks in the flat we'd visited the week before, east of the road about 150 yards. I parked where I could find a place off the side of the road, walked to the rocks, then continued on to the hills further east and walked along the base. 

One of the fun discoveries of the day was the paperbag bush. I saw several, but there was one particularly large bush. It was mostly puffed out into pink bags and there were lots of flowers. 
Paperbag bush

I saw pima rhatany, an infrequently seen bush I remembered from ten years ago. 
Pima rhatany
I saw quite a bit of globemallow. No large bushes with lots of flowers, but many bushes with a few flowers. 

Another fun discovery was a bladderpod spiderflower, in bloom and with seed pods. I saw only one and it was the only one I would see in my visits. 
Bladderpod spiderflower

I also saw a tiny brown-eyed primrose. I was hoping to come back and see it more developed a later week, but never saw it again. 
Brown-eyed primrose
The chia were blooming and I got my best chia photos that week. 

Desert chicory, desert dandelion and Mexican gold poppies are out, but I was focused on other plants I'd not previously seen or paid as much attention to. The spiny senna were in full bloom and really stand out in the morning light. 
Spiny senna

Prickly poppy were out and prevalent.
Prickly poppy

I got a photo of a turtle dove at a distance.

     May 2, 2020:

Judy came with me and we arrived around 7:30 a.m. As we were driving in a small desert tortoise was on the dirt road in front of us. We stopped the car and picked up the tortoise, so that it would not be run over, and moved it about 15 yards south of the road, next to some flowers. We took a few photos, but I was disappointed that we never saw the tortoise stick out its head or legs.
Desert tortoise
The other big animal find on this trip was a chuckwalla I saw in the crack of a rock. I love chuckwallas and was excited to see it, but wished I could get a better view. 
Those two sightings made the trip. The palo verde were in full bloom and their yellow flowers dotted the landscape. Even a week later they were in extensive decline. 
Palo verde
The honey mesquite were developing little dots along their leaves and some were feathering out. This was the first week I really noticed them. 
Honey mesquite
One paperbag bush still had a few pink bags and some new flowers. Pima rhatany flowers were thinning out, but still plentiful.  The sage brush, which I tentatively identified as Emory's indigo bush, were blooming, with their tiny flowers, and what I tentatively identified as Schott's indigo bush, were starting to bloom.
Emory's indigo bush

Schott's indigo bush
Spiny senna were not quite as radiant as they were last week, but still had some beautiful flowers. 
Spiny senna
Wire lettuce were in their prime. They never have a huge number of flowers, but more this week than any other. 
Wire lettuce

Creosote was blooming, but also had quite a few post-bloom seed balls. 
Prickly poppy were out, but starting to go downhill. Fringed twinevine were still blooming to a small degree and I even found a couple where the buds had not broken into bloom yet. 
Fringed twinevine

I found some Mojave aster just coming into bloom.
Mojave aster

     May 9, 2020:

I got there early, alone, in the morning, about 6:30 a.m. Near Chiriaco Summit the palo verde trees were brilliantly full of yellow blossoms, but as I got to my area they did not seem to be as full of yellow leaves as they had been the week before. The creosote bushes were waxy and brilliant in the early morning sun.
I saw a large barn owl flying next to one of the rocky hills and photographed my first jackrabbit. 
I saw a number of parachute plants, flying quite high above the ground on their tiny stems. 
Parachute plant - the tiny white flowers high in the air.
I got my best photos of indigo bush flowers, even though I only saw a couple of bushes. 
Mojave indigo bush (psorothamnus arborescens)

I walked up a small hill to a ridge and over the side found a number of barrel cacti. 
Barrel cactus
Nearby I found a plant with four or five rock hibiscus flowers, the only rock hibiscus I've seen with multiple flowers and the first one I've seen in ten years. This was my big discovery of the day. 
Rock hibiscus

The few prickly poppies I saw still had nice flowers, but the plants looked like they were deteriorating. 
Prickly poppy
The bulbous ends would be the fruit developing from dead flowers. 
The rayless encilia were now mostly seed balls and from a distance looked like plants with lots of little heads with space helmets on. 
Rayless encilia

The honey mesquite still had some little balls on the leaves, but mostly had feathered out into what looked like little bottle brushes. 
Honey mesquite
I walked further north than I had before, around several large rock hills. 
These hills in the center (before the Eagle Mountains in the background) were outside of my normal walks, except this day. 
     May 16, 2020:

The temperature got into the low 90s early in the morning (it was 93 degrees by 10:00 a.m.) and things had dried out dramatically. Judy was with me. There were still quite a few Bigelow's monkeyflowers, but that was the only flower with any abundance. The palo verde trees which the week before were full of flowers now mostly contained large green beans. This was one of the most significant changes, I'd never seen the beans so fully developed.
Palo verde flowers and bean pods.

We saw a few patches of very small Mexican poppies with a few flowers each and just a few desert dandelions. 
Mexican poppies
I saw one single globemallow flower. There were no parachute plants, desert chicory or prickly poppies. The velvet mesquite were the most notable plant with their furry leaves turned a gold-brown, from what had been white or just slightly yellowing the week before. 
Honey mesquite
 Many ocotillo had dropped most of their secondary leaves and red flowers and were very dried out, but we found some that still retained a semblance of green. 
The one large paperbag bush we noticed was mostly all dried-out white bags. There were a couple of pinkish ones and I saw one set of flowers. The Emory's indigo bush was in bloom. 
Emory's indigo bush
The rock hibiscus I saw the week before could not be found, even though I knew the vicinity. The fringed twinevine had no flowers and the flat arrow-shaped leaves stood out. 
Fringed twinevine
The rayless encilia were mostly scruffy looking seedpods. I saw no indigo bushes with flowers. I saw lots of wire lettuce but only a few flowers on them. We saw several barrell cacti with blooming yellow flowers on top, a new development. 
Barrel cactus
Buds that will become flowers are to the left of the blooming flowers. Bottom left is a bud that is almost a flower.

We found a hedgehog cactus with ripe fruit and knocked several off and ate some, although they were full of spines and hard to get to. This was something I'd been anticipating and had a small knife with me to cut the fruit. 
Hedgehog cactus
I saw several more pincushion cacti I'd never seen before. 
Pincushion cacti
We saw four or five jackrabbits, but all ran well before we got to them. I photographed a nice-sized spiny lizard.
Yellow-backed spiny lizard

     May 23, 2020:

I went out alone, arriving at 6:00 a.m. There was a palo verde tree near the car with beans hanging from it. I'd read they were edible so I walked over to it to pick some and taste them. A hummingbird buzzed my head, perhaps attracted by my bright yellow shirt. I was startled and turned my head to the right. Then I was even more startled to see a black-tailed jackrabbit about five yards from me. Its large ears were glowing with the reflected morning sun. I slowly took my point and shoot out of my pocked to photograph it and it walked toward me several yards, then turned and walked back out onto the dirt road I'd driven in on. I thought it might be leaving, but it then turned around and walked over by my car, then near me to feed on a bush, then it walked around the other side of my car. I took out my cellphone with the hope I could get close enough to take photos of it with it. It was there and I took lots of photos. The rabbit showed no concern. I finally had my fill of pictures and abandoned it. It never did look startled, frightened or run away during an approximate ten minute period. An amazing experience.
Jackrabbit next to the dirt road and near where I parked.

I went back to the palo verde and sampled more beans. They were hard to open, I had to use a knife to open the pod, but the little beans or peas inside were soft and slightly sweet. They were very good. Later in the morning I found a palo verde with some flowers and collected several and ate them. They are also edible, but not particularly good. 
Palo verde beans
Palo verde flowers
The temperature was very nice, in the 60s when I arrived and the low 80s when I left. Things are even drier than last week. The Bigelow's monkeyflower are still out in quite an abundance, but there are much fewer of them and they are looking more straggly. I did not even notice the large paperbag bush, so all of the paperbags must have blown away. The desert is amazing. When something is flowering it stands out for a mile. When it isn't, you can walk right by it and not notice it. I saw a female yellow-backed spiny lizard in the rocks of the stand-alone rock formation I always visit. It was quite curious and I took a lot of photos. I saw a large male there a week or two previous. 
Spiny lizard
I saw another spiny lizard later, basking on a rock. It was not as large. 
Spiny lizard
I walked up and over a ridge of the rocky hills I walk below, right near an abandoned mine. I walked down the other side of the rocky hills and got a different feel for the area. I went through a small flash flood arroyo which was somewhat difficult walking. I usually try to vary my route somewhat, increasing the likelihood of seeing something new. I saw a number of bunches of hedgehog cacti, but none with ripe fruit. Several had fruit that was beyond its prime. My tongs and plastic cup I'd brought to put the fruit into went unused. I saw several velvet mesquite with bean pods growing on them. The first tree I saw had very tiny spindly bean pods. The second, in a different area, had much larger and wider bean pods and some of them were turning yellow. 
Honey mesquite. The flowers are turning into bean pods.
The beans in each pod are in individual cells.
They are translucent in the light.
It is amazing how quickly things can change in a week. I saw several white-tailed antelope ground squirrels and finally got my first photograph ever of one. When they run they curl their tail back over their backs and it looks like a white flag as they run. They are tiny, fast and rarely stand still. 
White tailed antelope ground squirrel
I did see one parachute plant with three tiny flowers. I'd seen none the week before. I saw one or two single globemallow flowers. I've been surprised how hardy they are. I believe I saw one Mexican gold poppy with one flower. The barrel cacti we saw flowering last week were either still opening, because I saw them earlier in the morning, or were on the decline. I saw a couple of pencil cholla that appeared to have the starts to some blooms on the ends. 
Pencil cholla with dead blooms. I didn't realize until almost too late that the blooms took place in the late afternoon - the reason I was not seeing them. 
I've never seen pencil cholla in bloom, so I'm hopeful for future visits. I saw five or six jackrabbits, all way ahead of me, except for the initial one first thing. The place is quite barren, so different from six weeks ago. However, as time goes on, I seem to see more reptiles and jackrabbits. That may also be because there is less plant life and I'm looking more for animals.

     May 30, 2020:

I went to the desert for the 8th Saturday in a row. It was going to be hot, so I left early and got there about 6:00 a.m. It was in the high 70s when I arrived. Because I knew it would be hot and little new plant life is visible, I did a fairly quick walk-thru, parking near the large rocks in the flat plain, then heading east to the hills and walking along the base, then back to the car. I saw one spiny lizard in the large rocks,
Yellow-backed spiny lizard
the palo verde trees were still carrying many bean pods (I ate beans from several and they were still good) and I saw one palo verde still with a few yellow flowers. 
The Bigelow's monkeyflower is dying out. Most are looking quite haggard and a few still have nice blooms - it is probably the most rugged of the flowers. I saw the paperbag plant I didn't see last week. It still has some dried out paperbags, but much fewer than several weeks ago. 
The honey mesquite trees have beans growing on them in various stages and they are the most profusely flowering plant right now. 
Honey mesquite in various stages. 

I saw one parachute plant with two flowers and I saw two sand blazing star bushes right next to each other. I only saw one once earlier and that was early on. 
Sand blazing star
I saw the beans on a Schott's indigo bush, a first for me. 
Beans on Schott's indigo bush
I noticed one spiny senna with yellow beans. 
Beans on spiny senna that have replaced the flowers. 
The creosote bushes are almost entirely in little cotton balls. 
I saw several rayless encilia bushes in cotton balls and I saw three jackrabbits.

     June 13, 2020:

I missed last Saturday because of the funeral of a friend. So this made nine out of the past ten Saturdays for me. Sunrise was 5:30  a.m. and I got there about 5:10. Traffic was heavy, things have really opened up. I saw a jackrabbit early on and took a few photos while it was quite dark.
Car lights on the I-10 are visible in the early morning and the light is shining through the jackrabbit's ears. 
I drove further east down the initial dirt road and saw a couple of large hawks roosting on the large power line towers. I drove into my usual parking spot on the flat near the large rocks and did a pretty quick and perfunctory walk there and then along the edge of the eastern hills. The temperature was in the 70s. I saw several jackrabbits and at least one white-tailed antelope ground squirrel. Some of the palo verde trees still have bean pods - I didn't try to eat any. I noticed more silver cholla, they stand out more when there are fewer showy plants. Some of the bean pods on the mesquite trees are starting to rot. 
I didn't notice any Bigelow's monkeyflowers. I did see several rayless encilia bushes with white seed balls. The pincushion cactus near the large rocks looks like it has been blooming, but I can't figure out when I need to be there to see it. 
Some of the pencil cholla look like they are getting ready to bloom. Some of the ends are starting to bulge like E.T.'s fingers. 
In hindsight, I believe these are fruit after the death of the flower.
I drove to the parking area of our second trip out and hiked in to see the pincushion cactus - it doesn't look like it has been blooming.

     June 20, 2020:

I didn't arrive until about 6:10 a.m., about 40 minutes later than I intended. This was my tenth visit. I saw three jackrabbits on the drive in. It was already quite warm, in the upper 70s and it was 91 degrees at 8:00 a.m. I parked at my usual spot near the large rocks off Hayfield Road. I was not expecting much and was pleasantly surprised. The pencil cholla are continuing to march toward flowering. The bulging process is continuing and the bulging is not just the ends, but separate bulges are growing out near the ends. The bulges have lots of little spines, more than the usual cactus. I saw lots more pencil cholla, perhaps because I was particularly looking for it.
Pencil cholla - in hindsight I believe these are the bulbous fruit forming after flowering. I was missing the flowers because the occur in the late afternoon. 

I saw fringed twinevine growing new buds and flowers, just a few, not a lot. I thought they were done for the year. 
Fringed twinevine - partly buds and partly flowers.
The arrow-shaped leaves are dried out.
 I was shocked to see wire lettuce blooming - I thought it was long gone. 
A view of the wire lettuce flower I've never been able to get before, perhaps because it is older and more elongated. The stamens are much longer than I recall seeing before. 

I wonder if they had some rain, because I saw an ocotillo with a few new secondary leaves growing on the dry branches. The mesquite bean pods have dried up significantly in the past week. In reading about them being edible this past week, I tried eating several of the dried up pods. One of them really irritated my throat. I also dried several of the beans or seeds, alone, and they were pretty good, but not as good as the palo verde seeds, which I also saw several off. I've been surprised at how well the palo verde seed pods have held up. Many of them are completely dried out and still hanging from the trees, but many were still green and edible.
Mesquite bean
Mesquite bean pod and bean
Palo verde bean pod and bean.

Palo verde bean pods
The pincushion cactus looks like it is still blooming, I see dried out flower remnants, but I can't figure out when it blooms. I check it every week and never see flowers. I saw several smoke trees that looked like they bloomed within the last week. 
I believe this is the first smoke tree I've noticed off Hayfield Road. I saw them earlier at Corn Springs and knew what to look for. 

I saw a loggerhead shrike. It is the first time I've identified it here, but I've probably seen them previously. 
Back at the car around 8:00 a.m., I was just getting in and saw a jackrabbit walk in front of my car, I sure it is the same one I saw a month ago which was unafraid of me. I got out of the car and watched it, then it walked up into the shade of a tree about 30 yards away and laid down in the shade, back legs sprawled on the ground. 
The jackrabbit laying down in the shade of a palo verde tree. 
I walked slowly, a few steps and a stop, some photos, a few steps more, and so on, until I was about ten yards away. It showed no alarm and made no attempt to run. 

Some quail about 30 yards distant started to make a racket and the rabbit stood up. 
I turned to photograph the quail. 
Gambel's quail flying
A minute or so later the rabbit laid back down and stayed that way while I walked back to the car and left.

     June 27, 2020:

My 11th visit. It was predicted to be 103 degrees at Chiriaco Summit, which would make it a little warmer at Hayfield Road and about 10 degrees warmer at Corn Springs. So I left home about 3:45 a.m. I drove into my usual parking spot in the dark and looked at the pencil cholla, to see if it was blooming, and it wasn't. It was obvious it had had bloomed previously and I'd read the best bloom was in late afternoon. So I decided to go out to Corn Springs first, because it was warmer, then come back to Hayfield Road.  When I got back, about 10:30 a.m., it was 104 degrees. I was very disappointed to see that the pencil cholla bloom had not occurred.
In hindsight, the bloom has occurred and the fruit is beginning to dry out. 
I considered trying to come back out in the late afternoon, but decided it probably was not feasible. I flushed two jackrabbits at the large rocks and found where both had been resting in the shade under large rocks. This was a change in behavior from what I've seen before. It was obvious that as it gets hotter, the rabbits head for the rocks. It was confirmed a few minutes later when I got to a smaller rock outcropping and found what I think was my jackrabbit buddy, standing in the shade on the rock. He didn't run. I got quite close and he eventually walked down the rock and behind a small tree. I probably pushed it too much, getting within a couple of feet of him, and he spooked and ran. 
The jackrabbit is standing on a boulder and shaded by a larger reddish boulder. 

With this significantly greater heat I also saw my first zebra-tailed lizard north of the big rocks. 
The zebra-tailed lizard raises its tail back over its back to signal to a stalker that it has been seen. 


I also found the barrel cactus blooms are turning into fruit. I didn't have a knife to try and dig one of the fruits out between the deadly spines. I spotted a plant I've not seen before, with large seed pods. 
Barrel cactus fruit
This trip confirmed that different days are important in seeing the desert change, but also different times of the day. I should be coming in the late afternoon and also at night, to really see the desert in its fullness.

     June 29, 2020:

I decided I had to try and come back out while the pencil cholla were still blooming, this time in late afternoon. I took off work early and got out to Hayfield Road about 4:00 p.m. This was my 12th visit. It was a cooler day then Saturday, the high was about 91 degrees. The heat was further mitigated by a small breeze. I parked and immediately checked the pencil cholla cacti near where I park. No sign of bloom. That was a bummer. I methodically started checking each successive pencil cholla up to the large rocks, then as I headed toward the hills to the east. Was this the first trip I'd not find anything new or interesting? In a sandy area about 50 yards west of the eastern hills, I encountered a large cluster of pencil cholla cacti. It is amazing how many I found as I was looking for them. There were probably 20 pencil cholla cacti in this small area. I finally found a flower! I was ecstatic. I took photos every which way. Then I move around the same plant and found two more flowers, taking photos of each. Then I checked another one or two plants and found another flower. Bonzai! But that was it, I checked many more plants and found no more flowers. It was not until later, going back through my photos of previous weeks and putting them together for a post on the branched pencil cholla that I realized they have been blooming since late May. I have been missing the flowers because I always visit in the morning. I've needed to visit in the later afternoon!
Because I spent the entire 12 visits looking for pencil cholla flowers and did not find them until the last visit, I relished the finding. So they get a disproportionate representation of photos. 

Catching the whole desert experience requires both timed visits during the calendar, but also timed visits during the day and night. What else have I missed? I found a barrel cactus with fruit and was able to pull it off through the guardian spines using tongs. Little black bb type pellets fell out the bottom and into my hand. Later when I got home and cut the fruit open with a knife, the inside was empty. Amazingly, the fruit had no spines on it. It is so well protected by the spines of the cactus itself, that it needs no spines to protect it. 

I saw a few rabbits but made no attempt to photograph them. I found nothing else that elicited any need for photos.