Saturday, February 7, 2015

Spring is coming early to Arizona

This year we finally had winter rains as they used to be: dreary 2 day stretches of cloudy skies, continuous gentle rain and foggy mornings. Mostly this seemed to happen on the weekends of out-door art shows so my tent is now nearly clean and white again.

Frodo, our Coydog, enjoying his backyard
The desert is responding. It looks like one big golf course with soft green turf. But most of the little plants are no grasses. Many are in the Boraginaceae, the borage or forget-me-not family and have tiny white flowers. Not many showy big wildflowers yet.

omessor pergandei (Messor pergandei)
 Curious crop circles appear - at closer investigation they turn out to be old mounds of Veromessor Pergandei Ants, a small Harvester Ant that piles refuse heaps around its entrances. In that thrash pile were obviously left-over seeds but also probably a lot of nitrogen, always a limiting factor in the desert sand.

Microrhopala rubrolineata , Leaf-mining beetle
Scaphytopius sp. Leafhopper
Corythucha sp.  Lace Bug
The perennial Brittle Bushes are showing only the first traces of flower buds, but their foliage is now a beautiful silvery green. Leafmining beetles, Leafhoppers and Lacebugs are getting a head-start.

Scytodes sp.,  Spitting Spider with Roach nymph
Young Salticidae
 Under bark and fallen logs  hidden activity may go on throughout the winter. A Spitting Spider paralized a nymph of a roach, Young Jumping Spiders are leaving the webbing that has protected them as eggs.

Armadillidium vulgare (Woodlouse)?
 Pillbugs are ready to roll. They need the humidity that the rains brought more than other desert creatures: as crustaceans, they take up oxygen through external gills.  Those are protected in a cavity on the underside of the body and need to be kept moist.

Trichoton sordidum
Tenebrionid beetles are much better adapted to the arid climate, they reach their highest diversity in desert areas all over the world, but this species also prefers the cover of bark and mois places when those are available

Scolopocerus uhleri
Some Coreid True Bugs are active throughout the winter in Arizona. Living on barrel cactus, the Narnia mother can rely on the juicy fruit year-round to raise her ant-look-alike offspring.

Narnia sp.

Schistocerca nitens
Some adult Schistocerca nitens Bird Grasshoppers are still hanging on from last year, but the new nymphs are already waiting in the Creosote Bushes. Not sure that's their food plant, though.

Campsomeris sp., Polistes sp., Anthophora sp.
Warmer temperatures and the first flowers on the wolf berry bush brought out some big chunky wasps and bees, and  identification-wise I can't get any further than the genus.

Sara Orange Tip, American Snout, Texas Crescent, Mourning Cloak, Pipevine Swallowtail
 We have butterflies all winter long if we are not hit with a very hard freeze. Also, waves of migrating butterflies can always arrive from even warmer areas of Mexico.  The first Orange Tips that I saw yesterday are definitely heralding the arrival of spring.

Photos taken in our backyard in Picture Rocks, at Sweetwater Wetlands West of Tucson and Sabino Canyon east of Tucson. All Pima County, Arizona

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