Friday, August 31, 2012

Magical 'Shrooms

The end of August usually symbolizes the end of monsoon.  Let's gently exit awhile more throughout the month of September before we witness fall in the desert.  Everyone is heading home now.  Will I find more hummingbirds, owls, coyotes, and other rarities in our Sonoran desert?  Stay tuned throughout the month of September and find out:) For now, I leave you with mushrooms from our El Presidio garden after a rain storm.
Softly they come
thumbing up from
firm ground
protruding unharmed.
Easily crumbled
and yet
Coprinus fimetarius
how they shouldered
the leaf and mold
aside, rising
breathing obscurely,
still as stone.
By the slumping log,
by the dappled aspen,
they grow alone.
A dumb eloquence
seems their trade.
Like hooded monks
in a sacred wood
they say:

Tomorrow we are gone.
Poem By Jane Whitledge(Morel Mushrooms)
Pics by Rohrerbot at El Presidio Gardens(taken during monsoon)
Mushroom ID: Coprinus fimetarius
And....more tomorrow:)

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Pure rubbish.  No landscape.  No gardening.  Certainly no birds.  I thought I may never post a picture of a cat until I discovered that a number of you love cats.  Several even requested more cat photos.  Okay, I'll oblige and even throw in a cheesy video of our goobers that live with us here at our home. But I did include flowers so stop your hissing:)

 These gals hang out with me during my writing.  I sit with my coffee and read your articles, look out my window at the birds, enjoy my cacti garden and fern forest, and think about how I will attack my day.  And while I'd doing this, my girls watch their favorite TV program....NATURE! And speaking of nature, I'll be back again visiting outdoor spaces and places.  More tomorrow......

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Dedication To Bob Ross

Today I'm linking up with the sky and Bob Ross.  It's not your normal link because Bob is dead.  But when I look at our skies, I think of him often.

I really miss him.  Grew up watching his show on PBS....."The Joys of Painting".   Can't paint myself but his voice then and now always puts me at ease....and sometimes to sleep.  He went too early.  Died in the mid 90's at the young age of 52.  Has it been that long?

But when I look at the skies and watch the clouds roll by, I think of him.  His hair was out of control but his voice and paintings were always inspiring. 

These Buffalo Gourds grow wild in our deserts.  The first time I saw them, I was shocked. And the question everyone asks, "Are they edible?"  No.  However, archeological investigations show that Native Americans used the seeds as food.  They also used the green fruit and roots as a detergent and the dried fruits as a rattle.  Although javelinas dig up and eat the bitter root and coyotes, porcupines and humans eat the seeds, apparently no one eats the fruits.

But they're still cool to see around our desert landscape.  And I'm sure Bob would have painted them onto the canvas.   While writing this post, I listened to him speak and paint his skies and mountains.  These pictures are the closest I'll ever get to painting something by hand:)  Although he has stated in the past that it's's not.  I needed help the first time I did one.  It turned out well but I had an artist show me the steps to get there:) "We don't make mistakes; we just make happy accidents."  I'm glad my mother enjoyed my happy accident on Mother's Day:)

Arizona has some of the best sky shows in the world.  I walked the paths as the storm cloud began to build.  As things got darker, I moved quicker to the trailhead. 

The rain began to poor down onto the grasslands.

But it was like a little piece of heaven here.  And since everyone has mentioned that I should use my short lens more.....I thought this was the perfect time to do it.  Glad I did:)

But I miss you Bob Ross.  I really really do. At night, on PBS, I watch your show and every night, you teach me something new about landscape.  Your positive words make me smile as I fall quickly to sleep to the sound of your voice. You are the best.

And so I dedicate this post to you Bob for some wonderful childhood memories that continue today to inspire my photography. "Build a Happy Little Cloud."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Backing the Trailer In

The title should say it all;)  Warning fellow readers and bloggers.  I had a little fun with the topic.  If you're eating, you may not want to read further. Today it's all about the Dung Beetle found near Montosa Canyon and how poo transforms our lives.
I imagine rolling up poo in a ball and don't think it would be anything like for example,  working with clay.  In fact, I don't think I'd like this at all.   But that doesn't stop the cool factor of this beetle.
So why is this so fascinating?  I know my sister one time was cooking in the kitchen.  At the time my nephews and nieces were learning how to potty train.  Any parent knows that when kids are not heard, there is something going on.  She turned the stove off and went to the bathroom where my niece was potty training......
My young nephew was with his sister using her poop to draw on the wall.  It was like a brown crayon!  Well this made my sister sick and then scream to "PUT DOWN THE POOP!"
Dogs like to eat it.  So why do people have such a dislike for something we all naturally do?  I even read the story "Everyone Poops"("Todos Hacemos Caca") to my students.  A story that has transformed their lives:)  Of course it comes in the Spanish language and utilizes a very important verb that is considered appropriately a "Go Go" verb in the present tense.  "Hacer" means "to make" or "to do".  To say "I make" in Spanish is "Hago"(pronounced "ah-go").  Simply explained, I can make cookies or I can do homework or I can make poop.  That's where this informative story comes handy.  The faces are priceless and there's a lot of laughter and learning going on.  I try to make their first irregular verb conjugation a memorable experience.  Teaching can be boring or it can transform a person's life. And remember teaching adults is different than teaching teenagers:)  My methods may seem strange but they work:)  This past year all of my students received passing AP scores for free college credit.  I'm a proud papa and I continue to believe that if you introduce a "little poo" into a high school lesson, it can transform.....
....into a ball of something we may all find useful down the road.  So back to the Dung Beetles:) Hopefully you haven't lost your ability to eat breakfast.  Are you still there?:) Anyhoo, I had NO idea that they lived here in Arizona.  A bunch of excited observers came running and shouted, "Have you seen ALL of the dung beetles crossing the road???!!!!  It is SO cool!"   I didn't even have to drink a second cup of coffee to run for this poo.  It was right there!  Wow!
Many dung beetles, known as rollers, are noted for rolling dung into round balls, which are used as a food source or brooding chambers. Other dung beetles, known as tunnelers, bury the dung wherever they find it. A third group, the dwellers, neither roll nor burrow: they simply live in manure. Imagine in poo.
The photos prove that they live here near the Santa Rita mountains. I didn't have to travel to exotic parts of the world to find these amazing bugs.  They were found by the cattle grills on the road near Montosa Canyon...near Tucson.  I'm a huge wildlife fan and this was a treat to see.  More tomorrow...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Harbingers of Death

Turkey Vulture
Ugly!  Awesome!  Finally!  These were the words that came to my mind as I found these incredible scavengers near Montosa Canyon.  I had been waiting for an opportunity like this for quite awhile.
It helped being the only one in Montosa Canyon early in the morning.  Now look at these views.  Southern Arizona is pretty amazing.  The birds quickly flew off, but what were they gathered around?
Harbinger-anything that foreshadows a future event. An omen or sign.  What was this that made 5 Turkey Vultures come together?
For many, this may seem like an ugly bird, but might I suggest you watch this incredible scavenger fly.  It's the most beautiful thing in the world.  Close your eyes if you don't want to see what it was they were eating.
Now while this deer doesn't look very appetizing to us, it makes for a great meal for lots of wildlife around the area.
"Gorgeous!" is all that I could say to myself during the photo shoot on this cloudy morning. Those are mines in the background.  A human stain on the landscape?  Santa Rita residents are fighting  the Rosemont company who want to add some jobs to our weak economy.  They promise that they won't do any damage whatsoever to Mother Nature or that any damage done will be very minimal. Should we believe them?  After seeing other companies around the world who have claimed the same things, you all could say that I have my doubts.  But let's stick to nature(while it's still around).
Look at this.  I still smile at the incredible wingspan of this bird.  It can reach 6 feet!  That's one of me!
Their faces might remind me of the Skeksis from the Dark Crystal, but it's still a great bird to have around our area.  So much more in store for you all.  Some wonderful surprises have come my way during early morning hunts.  I hope you'll enjoy the critters as much as I have.  Summer may be hot, but the rain brings everyone out for a drink in the desert.  More tomorrow...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Fairy at Montosa Canyon

I find that the best things in life are most definitely free.  When it comes to this blog, experience has suggested that what works for Las Aventuras is the wildnerness walk.  It's one that isn't a preserve or rehabilitation center.  It's land that is untouched or maintained as a State or National Park.  I am NEVER let down by what I find on these photo shoots.  But this blog is one of a balancing act.  I dislike festivals or organized zoo events because of the limitation involved.  For example, Kartchner Caverns doesn't allow for photography or you to really touch or feel things properly.  Everything is spot cleaned perfect taking the dirty word "risk" from the other word known as "exploration".  And most often that spells "boring".  But many of my friends and family like these kinds of treks and it's a compromise.  And that's okay.   However on today's particular focus, you'll find nothing Las Vegas here.....lots of bug bites involved in our wild canyon areas.
This incredibily overlooked canyon, known as Montosa, is really an amazing gem secretly hidden in the Santa Rita mountains.  There is a very healthy ecosystem here.  Untouched and unspoiled(except for an observatory by the Smithsonian), this canyon is a premiere destination(and FREE!!) in the Santa Rita mountains.  It's not difficult to find but it is hidden and overshadowed by the much loved Madera Canyon.  I found some of the most incredible groves of healthy agave and ocotillo populations here.   I have suspected that ocotillo is on the losing side of human vs nature.  But here, I found miles and miles of these beautiful plants.  And it's because of these plants that I went on the hunt for the Plain Capped Starthroat Hummingbird.  It prefers the blooms of an agave over human hummingbird feeders.  Plus the Ocotillo blooms provide plenty for the hummers in this area.  I suffered many insect bites here.  But a healthy insect population is also another indicator of a healthy ecosystem.  And the bugs were just as cool as the birds flying around the area.
As I walked the rainy and dirt road towards the 1 mile marker and crossed two streams, a pair of cardinals guided me to this mysterious 1 mile marker that supposedly had 2 hummingbird feeders.  It was an early start at around 6:10 AM!  The Chuparosa Challenge is serious business.  However, I didn't expect to run into illegal activity on the trail.  It was probably the scariest thing I've had to deal with in awhile around the trails of Southern AZ.  You hear about it from other people but you don't expect to see it.  And then I did. The men saw me and grabbed their bags and backpacks running down one of the dangerous streams.  I had my camera slung over my shoulder.  But worse?  It wasn't the illegal aliens, it was the "coyote"(drug runner or human trafficker) that scared me.  He shot off in his van.  Me?  I jumped up onto a trail and hid behind bushes waiting for the coyote to turn around and speed down the road.....which he did.  I stayed hidden until I felt it was safe to come out.  I didn't know there were people around as I was by myself.
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge) or Mala Mujer-The entire plant is dotted with stinging hairs that can cause pain if touched. I thought about picking some up for the new school year to keep kids away from my desk(but of course that's illegal in more ways than one:). 
My heart was beating quickly and yet the nature was pretty amazing.  The cardinals were still there watching over me.  Maybe they were angels protecting me?  Birders everywhere probably groan at this idea:)  But hey, I'm writing the post so I can have fun with the interpretations.   I finally saw a few cars around the spot that I had hoped would exist.  I had gone one other time but didn't find the place.  I crossed two streams.  Shoes wet.  Outlook hopeful.
Around 10 birders sat in a nature forming bond on rocks waiting....and waiting.  The cardinals sat watching us from above.  It began to rain and we all huddled under the trees...waiting and waiting.....
Talk.  Slow and quiet at first began to get louder as the human observers began to get impatient.  One of the questions asked was, "Who fills these feeders everyday?"  They were above a stream and full when we arrived.  My answer here is that the Montosa Fairy comes to hang these two feeders up.  But the birders didn't believe me.  I was a whack job from that liberal Tucson with a camera.   All true:)
Most of the visitors were from outside of Tucson. Some drove hundreds or thousands of miles  just to have the opportunity to spot the Plain Capped Starthroat.   The experience brought a lot of interesting people together.  There was a couple from LA with a sense of humor.  They had come everyday to spot this hummer, but the wife eventually said,"Enough was enough." and they both called it quits on the search.  Their motivation?  One morning they had left and 5 minutes later, the Starthroat came to the feeders. Knowing this, it drove them mad. Then there was Gary.  An old pro collecting moths and other insects.  He set tents up at night collecting samples for the San Diego Zoo.  He was an amazing guy full of info.   Then there was a young lady from Blythe who was researching the Yellow Bill Cuckoo.  Two birder friends from Tucson came to search for the Starthroat.  And then there was the really cool retired man who has moved from the East coast with his wife to Tubac.  More would pop in and out of the pic.  Yet none would succeed in finding the Starthroat.
Check out this hummingbird feeder.  Again this is a simple feeder but I love the additional tubes to attract the hummers.  Penstemon and other tubular flowers are added to attract hummers that don't naturally use feeders like the Starthroat or Costa's hummingbird.
A male Juvenile Broad Billed hummingbird sits and takes a break from the rain showers around us.
Tiger Moth
And this is the Tiger Moth.  Gorgeous insect!
And so while the Plain Capped Starthroat never showed up, I enjoyed the visits with everyone and also the wonderful nature show around us.  It doesn't get much better than sitting under a tree during a rain storm listening to a stream run by us all.
This tunnel here was interesting.  The bug guy smeared orange soda and rotten banana to study the Black Witch moth.  For some reason the Black Witch moth can't get enough of this orange sugary beverage.
And there were a lot of bugs here.  I can't stress enough, "BRING BUG REPELLENT".  As for this write(a week later), I am still itching all over my body!  I just don't like wearing jeans.
We saw lots of hummers and it was fun.....especially the hike that followed afterwards.  I'll have two really fun photo shoots leaving the canyon for the next two days.  Really cool stuff.
And on my way out, I was rewarded with Two Tail Swallowtails puddling on the road near the creek.  What a treat!
Check out this much overlooked canyon near Madera.  You won't regret the hike:)
But do be aware of the things I mentioned above.  I wouldn't go at night unless you were with a group of people.  My run in happened early in the morning.  I was one of the first ones there.
Some parts of the road are paved while others are dirt.  If you are worried about riding on the dirt part, you can park at the observatory below.  There's a parking spot for hikers, runners, etc. in the lot known as Picnic area. From Tucson, head south on 19.  Pass Green Valley and exit on the first exit Canoa Rd.  There is a huge circle spin....spin around it and go underneath the underpass.  Then take a right on the frontage road.  Head 3 miles to Elephant Head road.  Take a left.  Head down this road crossing a wash with American flags.  You'll reach a road for the observatory.  Take a right on Mt. Hopkins road.  It's all paved.  Just keep going the 7 miles until you hit the observatory.  You can park in this area and then hike up the canyon along the road or drive to the 1 km marker on the right side past the cement stream crossing and park along side the road.    Lots to see here and worth your time and effort.
The space observatory with my car "Bea" Arthur.
I'm still out on the trek courtesy of blogger scheduling:) More tomorrow.....