Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Arizona Oddity

Great Fair, Fountain Hills
 From January to April the art show season in Arizona is in full swing and I am busy preparing inventory, booking shows, setting up my tent, selling art, book-keeping and tax-paying, and then producing more inventory...So there is little time left for nature walks, photography and blogging.  But the shows are outdoors. Last weekend in Fountain Hills in Maricopa County, I was greeted every morning by a beautiful if strikingly unecological sight. And I don't mean the fountain itself...

"The eponymous fountain was built in 1971 by Robert P. McCulloch, the same year that reconstruction of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, another of McCulloch's projects, was completed.The fountain sprays water about every hour. The plume of water rises from a concrete water-lily sculpture in the center of a large man-made lake and is driven by three 600 horsepower (450 kW) pumps. When all three pumps are on under zero wind condition, the fountain can reach over 560 feet (170 m) in height. When built, it was the world's tallest fountain and held that record for over a decade." Wikipedia

Fountain Hills prides itself to sport the world's tallest fountain. True or not, it's certainly a waste of a lot of energy and  water here in the desert. It only raises up once every half hour, but even the pond, surrounded by manicured lawns, is produces a constant water loss due to evaporation....

Island of the Fountain Pond
 No natural vegetation, desert or riparian, is allowed to grow and upset the groomed appearance..
But still, the water attracts avian winter visitors as well as human snow birds. There are usually many wigeons and coots that graze the lawn and some diving ducks grebes that may indicate some fish in the sterile looking water.

 But this year a new group of birds had discovered the little island in the pond. About forty cormorants and two dozens Great Egrets perched in the bare branches of its single tree. Here they spent the night protected from prowling predators.

As soon as the sun broke the horizon south of the snow covered Four Peaks the cormorants stretched their long necks and the egrets shook their silky long-trailing breeding plumage. Then bird after bird glided off its perch, the cormorants dropping nearly down to the water level and the egrets gaining height right away with heavy flapping wing beats.
By the time most artists and customers arrived at the show all  cormorants and egrets had left for better fishing waters, maybe along the Verde River. But at night fall they were back to sleep on the island.

The garden planners left or even planted two lonely saguaros on the island. Their ghostly silhouettes added the strangest touch to this assembly of water birds against the clear morning sky of the desert.


  1. Absolutely beautiful pictures, especially the last two.

  2. I've just come to you from Ragged Robin's Nature Notes and have been scrolling through your lovely blog. Great photos and lovely art too. I live on Dartmoor in the UK so it's fabulous to see your unique wildlife. Your house sparrows are the same though! Will be adding you to my list....very best wishes,