Sunday, June 7, 2020

Night of the Queen 2020

The COVid19 numbers are sky-rocketing, the timeline indicating that the Memorial Day and Mothers Day weekends with dropped lock-down have more to do with it than the protest marches, but they will also soon show consequences. AZ hospitals at capacity, Better not get sick here now.  I am dreading my gallery duty on the 11th of June.

Photo by Shawna Caldwell: How the fire in the catalinas started
Not to forget that other, probably greater problems loom: Global Warming is pushed out of the news, The slowed-down world economy may provide a small reprieve.   But our weather patterns are ominously confusing.  We had monsoon like thunderstorms for several afternoons, nearly a month too early.

Push Ridge fire by Bill George
Result: fires. We can see them glowing at night and the smoke now. The second photo was taken by a friend who lives in a development that was carved into the mountains about 15 to 20 years ago, so I remember open desert there. 

But some eternal (?) natural rhythms are still operating: last night was the night of the Queen.  Once a year a twig-thin cactus (Peniocereus greggii) produces the most beautiful, fragrant flowers. The Mystery: within miles, they all open at once. I have not been able to relate it to moon phase, temperature, day length (the date can vary by a month) or precipitation (usually there is none before the cacti bloom) barometric pressure - nothing I can measure seems to provide the trigger, and yet, they are completely synchronized. Usually, Tohono Chul Park close to Tucson monitors and celebrates the bloom, so people are aware of the event. This year the park is closed. This morning, I found several on our dog walk. We live right in the middle of a big population. This year there were fewer flowers than usual. 

Honey Bees were all over the flowers in the morning sun. These opportunistic generalists among bees are probably not suited to pollinate the big flowers. That is probably usually done by big Manduca and other Sphinx Moths. But those have been out in numbers a couple of weeks ago. I saw them at my black lights.   At the moment they seem rather scarce.  Perhaps I just do not see them at my lights because the moon is rather full..

Peniocereus greggii, Queen of the Night

By the 12th of June the Big Horn Fire in the Catalinas had spread. The inferno came down the mountain towards foothills homes and 100s of people had to evacuate, others are on stand-by.

View towards the Catalinas from Tucson on June 11th 2020

Natures Gifts - Raptor Feathers

Female left, male right Harris' Hawks
5 Harris' Hawks are hanging around for days now, watching us from breakfast to last evening walk. Maybe they like the new big birdbath that I put out across the street? There they left a beautiful feather. For me? Or does it come from the pair of Cooper's that also frequents that yard? Legally I'm not even allowed to pick it up. At the base, it has a light part with some freckles and the darker part of the vane is subtly banded. It looks very much like the eagle feathers on Native American festive gear, just much smaller. At its tip it shows traces of at least a year of use.. Only the strong rachis and some hard barbs are left to form a sharp, bleached out point
Harris Hawk tail feather, probably from a juvenile