Nature at my doorstep II — Day 3

Day 3 | March 14, 2023 | Phoenix, Arizona
Mourning Dove on her nest next to my front door

Mourning Dove on her nest on a plant stand on my patio

Last year in late April, Mourning Doves made nests near my front door and on a plant stand on my patio. They came back this year a month earlier and made nests in the same places. I have pictures from last year that I never posted. This year I’d like to post the new pictures as I take them.

Last year, the bird in the front abandoned her nest not long after laying two eggs. The bird on the patio hatched two eggs, fed the chicks as they grew, and saw them off into adulthood. She or another Mourning Dove came back and reused the nest to hatch a brood of two more chicks. Somewhere there are four young birds who were born on my patio.

The habit of Mourning Doves is to make shallow platform nests made of twigs as you can see. The nests are high enough above the ground to be safe from predators. They are not very secure, though. It seems that a heavy storm wind could blow the nests away.

Nesting birds make messes, and they don’t clean up after themselves. There’s a lesson here.

‘Sky islands’ in southeastern Arizona

The Coronado National Forest spans sixteen scattered mountain ranges or “sky islands” rising dramatically from the desert floor, supporting plant communities as biologically diverse as those encountered on a trip from Mexico to Canada.

Experience all four seasons during a single day’s journey. Enjoy spectacular views from the mountains, wander through the desert among the giant saguaro cactus and colorful wildflowers in the morning, linger over lunch beside a mountain stream or lake, and play in the snow all before the day’s end.

I recently attended a conference in Oracle, Arizona. Oracle lies on the desert floor at the foot of Mount Lemmon, the highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains, just to the east of Tucson, Arizona.

Oracle is about 3,100 feet higher than Phoenix, where I live, so its climate is different, a little cooler. Snow actually fell in Oracle during the conference, but it started melting by midday. The peak of Mt. Lemmon is another 4,600 feet even higher. The peak of Mt. Lemmon is covered with snow during the winter when I visited. From some views of the mountain from the north, one can literally see a snow line.

I took some pictures along the road from Phoenix to the Oracle area on Arizona State Route 79 (SR 79). These are illustrations of sky islands rising above the Arizona desert.

From the Tom Mix Memorial looking west from the west side of SR79

In this picture, a sky island rises up from the desert floor (background left). I don’t know the name of these mountains.

Three species appear here on the desert floor. What looks like poles in the background are Saguaro Cactuses (SWAH ro). The shrubs in the foreground and scattered elsewhere are Creosote Bushes. They give off the smell of creosote, especially when it rains. Hence their name. Scattered around the landscape are Teddy Bear Cholla (CHOY ah). Farther to the north, along SR 79, the landscape is crowded with Teddy Bear Cholla. They looked like a forest or plantation in the desert. It wasn’t safe for me to pull off the road to take a picture, though.

The memorial to the actor Tom Mix (1880-1940), about 18 miles south of Florence, Arizona, is located along SR 79 where he was killed in a car crash. His car went off the road and landed in a wash (what Wikipedia calls a gully) killing him.

The next two pictures are from a roadside picnic table 23 miles south of the Tom Mix Memorial and not much more than a mile from Oracle Junction and the end of SR 79.

Snowy Mt. Lemmon towering above the desert floor, looking south

Cholla and Prickly Pear cactuses still grow at this elevation. I don’t know the identity of the tree to the left in the mid-ground or the shrub in the lower left foreground. There are no Saguaros or Creosote Bushes here.

A continuation of the panorama

Prickly Pears grow at even higher elevations. Cholla’s range has ended, somewhere between here and Oracle, though.

Farther north along SR 79, around Florence and northward, the roadside looks like a wild roadside in Phoenix. Flowering Lupines (LOO pinz) line the road, and a few Brittlebushes appear along the roadside. The following pictures are not from my trip. It was unsafe to stop to take pictures.

Blossoming Lupines along a sidewalk near my apartment.

A close-up

Brittlebush in the wild

Brittlebushes have been flowering for a little while, since late February. If you drove Interstate 10 between Phoenix to an exit for Oracle at this time of year, you would see flowering Brittlebushes lining the shoulders of the highway and peeking out from under guardrails.

I recently transplanted a wild Brittlebush into a decorative flower pot. The third try is doing well. I used soil that was “seasoned” in my complex’s landscape dump. As common as Brittlebush is, it is still lovely. It has silvery-green leaves. It fills my pot. It’s unlikely to grow much larger than it currently is, though. I doubt that it will ever flower.

One peculiarity of both Lupines and Brittlebushes is that they grow in disturbed soil. Both are native plants, and I’m under the impression that native plants don’t grow in anything but relatively pristine soils. In Northeastern Illinois where I’m from, native seeds rarely germinated in disturbed soil. Once a prairie has been plowed, it doesn’t grow back without massive human intervention.

Dandelions, weed grasses, and invasive Buckthorns colonize disturbed soil in Northeastern Illinois. A succession of some tree seeds takes root. Ashes, Silver Maples, and Honey Locusts are relatively quick to sprout when the soil has begun to heal if the immediate environment is suitable. By heal I mean acquire a range of microbes that native seeds need to germinate and grow. Generally, plants, even native ones, have to be grown in nurseries before they are transplanted into new landscapes.

My parents’ landscapers in the middle 1950s planted inexpensive native shrubs in the backyard as hedges. Two kinds failed to grow, one sooner and one later. The ones that failed were never replaced. The area of one clump was taken over by invasive Buckthorns. I planted invasive Wintercreeper slips as a ground cover where the other clump of shrubs had been. These thrived. As wild native seeds blew in, they germinated and grew to their natural heights. The Wintercreeper had healed the soil. All these plants, including the Wintercreeper, lived well together. I didn’t touch the area other than to cut back and thin the Wintercreeper. Fifty years later, the native shrubs were doing well if a little misshapen. Then in 2004, we siblings sold the house on behalf of Dad.

Last Full Moon of 2021

Monday morning, December 20, 2021 | 16 Tevet 5782 | Phoenix, Arizona

The last Full Moon before the winter solstice was on Saturday night, December 18, 2021, at 11:36 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) according to NASA.

This appearance of the Full Moon slipped my mind, but I got a picture of it early Monday morning, the 20th.

Not so bad:

“The Moon will appear full for three days around this time, from Friday evening through Monday morning, making this a full Moon weekend.”

NASA Science Solar System Exploration

Besides being the last Full Moon of 2021, it was the last Full Moon before the winter solstice which occurred on Tuesday, December 21.

“The winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere occur[ed] on Tuesday, December 21, 2021 at 10:59 a.m. EST.”

Farmers’ Almanac
Dawn Monday morning

An hour before

Lunar eclipse

Early Morning, Friday, November 19, 2021 | 15 Kislev 5782 | Phoenix, Arizona

The most complete lunar eclipse for centuries was this this morning.

I didn’t wake up at the height of the eclipse, but here are pictures of the Moon as it passes out of the Earth’s shadow.

This was also a full moon, which is the only time a lunar eclipse can occur.

2:30 AM Mountain Standard Time

3 AM Mountain Standard Time

A Blue Moon

Monday, August 23, 2021, Dawn | 15 Elul 5781

The Farmers’ Almanac explains the original meaning of what is called a Blue Moon. In short, it’s the third of four full Moons in one season. We’re now in the season bracketed by the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.

The solstice was on June 21st and the upcoming equinox is on September 22nd. The first full Moon after the solstice was on June 24th. The next full Moon was on July 23rd. Yesterday, August 22nd, was the third full Moon of the season, and the fourth full Moon is on September 20th. The August 22nd full Moon is the third of four full Moons this summer of 2021, so it is called a “Blue Moon.”

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the next Blue Moon will be in 2024.

This rule, third of four, doesn’t make sense to me. It seems to me that the exceptional fourth full Moon in a season is the special one so that it deserves a special name. I’m not going to argue with experts, though. I’m going to relax with a cup of hot tea with sugar.

SciTechDaily also has an article about the Blue Moon. It was through them that I found out that today’s full Moon is a Blue Moon. However, the rule of third of four didn’t make sense to me, so I looked it up in the Farmers’ Almanac also.

The first opportunity I had to photograph the full Moon was this morning at dawn. It looks the same to me as the Moon yesterday when astronomers declared it to be full. They peg it down to the minute — on Sunday, August 22, 2021, at 8:02 AM Eastern Time.

So here are two pictures at dawn on Monday.

When is the next full Moon? See the Farmers’ Almanac’s calendar.

Summer solstice sunrise

June 21, 2021 | Phoenix, Arizona

Summer begins officially today, but here in Phoenix we’re well into summer. We just had a record stretch of eight days of high temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit — the hundred teens. For me, summer began just after Memorial Day — May 31st this year.

Sunrise today was at 5:17 AM Mountain Standard Time. The first picture was taken at about 5:10. The last picture was taken around 5:38.

Time for a glass of iced tea with sugar.

Mother’s Moon and its eclipse

May 26, 2021 | 15 Sivan 5781 | Phoenix, Arizona

Some call today’s full moon, May 26, 2021, Mother’s Moon. According to Wikipedia, this full moon has a variety of names such as: Flower Moon, Milk Moon, Corn Planting Moon, Grass Moon, as well as Mother’s Moon.

Generally, these names correspond to the state of nature or agriculture. This time of year is the time to plant corn in the temperate zone of North America. Flowers are blooming; grass is growing after lying dormant all winter. However, it’s not apparent to me why this full moon should be called the Milk Moon.

What about about Mother’s Moon? I thought about it and came up with a guess. May is the month of Mother’s Day in American culture. So the full moon of this month is dedicated to mothers.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac gives its own list of full moon names.

The Farmers’ Almanac gives a list.

Surprisingly, the British don’t tell us that their list consists of traditional English names. Maybe this is self-evident since the web site is based in the United Kingdom. See the Royal Museums Greenwich.

UCL, London’s Global University , lists the names of the full moons that “were popular in England between the 17th and 19th centuries.” (The name ‘UCL’ has superseded the earlier name of ‘University College London’.)

These are pictures of this full moon:

It’s a hazy night sky and the eclipse is beginning, but my camera can’t get a good picture.

The eclipse is underway. The full eclipse will be visible only once it sets behind the tree line. I didn’t plan to be in a higher place.

Other excitement for the day: Later in the morning, standing where I took the second picture, a coyote crossed the street; then, as I was walking home from my morning walk, a coyote loped across another street. It could have been the same coyote.

A blessed day indeed.