Fiddleneck Amsinckia spp.
CBTs are aptly named. Their bills are definitely curved and they really do thrash about on the ground
They flip over small rocks, scatter leaf litter, toss sticks out of the way, even pound their bills into the dirt like jack hammers — all in search of food. Insects, spiders, seeds and fruits are fair game and few escape the sharp eyes and even sharper beaks.
One morning early this spring I heard the most beautiful music in a thick patch of desert brush. I discovered the sweet melody coming from a curve-billed thrasher. Quite at odds with the feeding frenzies I’ve witnessed. 🙂
Curve-billed thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre
Saguaro Carnegiea gigantea
Ironwood Olneya tesota
In an earlier post I pondered what lay within a silky tent strung between segments of chicken wire. A butterfly larva? Or as one reader opined, perhaps a paralyzed caterpillar, soon to be devoured by a spider?
While I wasn’t looking, the caterpillar — which was very much alive and not on anyone’s menu — continued to spin its magic and metamorphosed into a shiny cocoon.
Some folks don’t get along well with cactus — I think it has something to do with all those spines. 🙂
Right now hedgehog cacti are bursting into colour all over the desert. They sit close to the ground so you can easily peak inside the blossoms. Maybe even spot a pollen-covered desert bee.
Hedgehog cactus Echinocereus spp.
Sunlight on silk. Took a closer look. Hey, somebody’s in there!
Caterpillar. Butterfly. In. Waiting.
Watched this rock-a-bye baby for several days but saw no further change. Perhaps I’m just hasty. Time will tell the story.
Hedgehog cactus — one of my favourites— has started to bloom here on the Sonoran Desert.
Early one morning last week we walked up a rocky knoll in the shadow of a mountain and found this delightful bouquet.
Lots of flowers already and more to come.
Hedgehog cactus Echinocereus spp.
Scrunched over photographing this fairy duster I suddenly realized it was watching me. One of the long seed pods had opened, the two halves curled back and — voila! — formed a pair of glasses.
Plants with a sense of humour? Love it!
Fairy duster Calliandra eriophylla
Because creosote is so common and grows literally everywhere here on the desert, I often tend to overlook it. My mistake.
The other day it surprised me. As I passed by yet another bush of same-old-same-old, I spotted several lumps on two of the branches. I was stumped. They were hard and dry and asymmetrical. What were they?
It took a chance encounter with a docent at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum to find the answer. This was the work of lac insects. (If shellac comes to mind, it’s because this insect is related to the one from which that varnish and sealant is produced.)
The tiny lac insects suck up sugary sap from the creosote, using some for food and eliminating the rest. As the sap hardens it forms a natural protection against predators and the weather.
Although I checked the two branches carefully I couldn’t see any live insects. Nor could I see any ants, who sometimes protect lac colonies from predators, “milking” them like cows, just as they do with aphids.
The lesson for me? Don’t ignore what’s right under my nose. 🙂
Lac insect Tachardiella larreae
Creosote Larrea tridentata
On a trip to the desert yesterday with Jeff I found this speckled spider dangling in a clump of brittlebush. She was almost invisible among the flower stalks.
Using Jeff’s macro lens I was (sort of) able to capture her and parts of her web. A very shallow depth of field turned the clusters of sun-yellow flowers into a pale backdrop.
I handheld the big lens — it weighs more than the camera — so the focus is a tad off. But I’m pleased. Don’t know what the spider thought of it. 🙂