19 de enero de 2020

Gilbert Riparian Preserve

After seeing many interesting iNaturalist observations from the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, I paid it a visit today with my progeny @ejones17. It shares parking facilities with the Gilbert Library. We got there before the library opened and the parking lots were completely full. We were lucky to happen upon a car leaving and took its space within seconds of it clearing. Bit of a human zoo, but a large, spread-out facility with many lovely trails. Not much happening botanically, though the place is thick with Lycium fremontii which were beginning to bloom. It is an eBird hotspot, with 306 species (and 106 other taxa) known from the area. I didn't run an eBird checklist, being too busy taking photos. I added a few species to my life list. It's most definitely a place worth visiting if you find yourself in the area.

Anotado en enero 19, domingo 04:45 por stevejones stevejones | 25 observaciones | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de diciembre de 2019

Cold morning on the Tonto

Another visit to the Mountain fire area to check on conditions and revisit a senna seedling/sprout to see it a little further along. Turns out it was Senna covesii rather than the S. bauhinioides that I had suspected.
Regrowth of the shrubs is continuing. Very few of the shrubs were killed by the fire; most are recovering. I think more were knocked out by the tremendous flows through the wash from the November rains. Some were uprooted and others had the bark stripped. It's a fairly steep wash so the flows must have been rapid.
Seedling population is quite high. Mostly Sphaeralcea and Glandularia. Erodium cicutarium is particularly abundant; only one plant in flower, though. The abundant Aristolochia sprouts I saw on a previous visit have gone dormant; didn't see even one.
A couple of flowering surprises include a patch of Nuttallanthus texanus and some bonsai Mirabilis coccinea attempting to flower. I thought the latter were Hybanthus verticillata until I got a closer look.
Very little fauna activity. A few birds - heard a gnatcatcher, and saw some goldfinches in the larger wash near the road. One persistent grasshopper. It was the first really cold morning of the year. I carried an extra shirt to change into when it got warmer. Never did. I used all four layers and had trouble getting the backpack on. I'm thankful there's no video of that wrestling match.

Anotado en diciembre 17, martes 15:36 por stevejones stevejones | 39 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

26 de noviembre de 2019

Fountain grass removal the easy way

I revisited a wash on the Tonto NF that I visited pre- and post-Mountain fire last summer. The plan was to remove the fountain grass that I'd spotted on previous visits. Brought along a small pick for the job. Turns out I only needed it for two plants along the bank. The mid-wash plants were gone, along with many other mid-wash plants. The area received quite a bit of rainfall last week - 2.99 inches at Horeshoe Lake down the road. Given the loss of vegetation due to the fire, the wash - a fairly steep one - flowed high and fast. At some of the narrow points in the canyon the water ran at least head-high. There were quite a few changes. Areas that had been deeply cut in previous flows were filled, and other areas cut deeper. It was quite a bit easier to navigate the wash than last summer, too. Deep in, there is a riparian area; cottonwood-willow, grape vines, carrizo, etc. A number of willows had been knocked down and the bark stripped by the flow.

One unfortunate result was the loss of the largest of the four Abutilon parishii plants I found earlier. This one. It survived the fire only to be lost in the ensuing flood.

On a positive note, there were seedlings galore sprouting in the burned areas. More flowering than I expected as well. Even found a flowering Mexican poppy.

Anotado en noviembre 26, martes 01:38 por stevejones stevejones | 61 observaciones | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de noviembre de 2019

October extremes

October 2018 was the wettest in central Arizona history in about 150 years of records. October 2019 was tied for the driest. Zero precipitation. Nonetheless, life goes on. A number of plants are in flower now into November. One of the beneficiaries of last October's rains is turpentine bush. It flowered in profusion this year, while last fall - remember, the wettest recorded - it took the year off. There is a reason for this: flowering occurs on new growth from the previous spring. Spring 2018 was one of the driest on record and there was very little to no new growth that year. That was reflected in the absence of turpentine bush flowers in the fall of last year. Partially as a result of the tremendous moisture last fall, combined with a moderate spring rain regime, turpentine bushes produced a good crop of new growth in spring 2019, leading to a good flowering season this fall.

Turpentine bush is an important plant to two groups of animals: local and migratory winged insects, and seed-eating birds. The plant can cover wide swaths of ground in the Arizona Upland and interior chaparral communities. It's a productive nectar plant, and the flowers produce numerous small achenes - tiny sunflower seed-like fruit - that feed the local and migrating finches.

Anotado en noviembre 07, jueves 14:29 por stevejones stevejones | 50 observaciones | 6 comentarios | Deja un comentario

28 de agosto de 2019

Mountain fire revisited

I returned to a small wash area I visited twice earlier this summer, once about a week before the Mountain fire, and again about a week after. Some rain fell in the area in July and early August; not enough to wash the abundant ash back into the soil. Nonetheless there are many signs of recovery. Most of the chaparral shrubs are adapted to fire and showing excellent signs of recovery. No annual seedlings were present with a possible exception of these small sennas; they may also be sprouts from perennial roots, though. Hard to call. I suspect they are S. bauhinioides though S. covesii is also found in the area.

One interesting note: Aristolochia watsonii seemed positively abundant. More likely, it was just more visible due to the loss of all ground cover.

I specifically looked for this single individual Thelypodium wrightii, but there's no sign of it. It was growing within a dense copse of mixed chaparral species and not easy to get to for the photos. The copse is much easier to navigate now.

This wash area, though included within the perimeter of the 2005 Bart fire, did not burn at that time. The plants were quite mature prior to the Mountain fire.

List of chaparral perennial species showing good signs of recovery:

Amsonia palmeri
Cercocarpus montanus
Krameria erecta
Nolina microcarpa
Quercus turbinella
Rhamnus ilicifolia
Simmondsia chinensis
Tragia ramosa

Anotado en agosto 28, miércoles 01:51 por stevejones stevejones | 36 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de agosto de 2019

Failed insect husbandry

Curious about the critter(s) inhabiting this very common gall on Quercus turbinella, I brought a half-dozen back from my most recent visit to Rackensack Canyon. I placed them in a pint canning jar and covered it with cheesecloth. Within a couple of days, this wasp emerged; it's identical to an individual I photographed in the field. The next day it was joined by this adult wasp (presumably - jointed antennae).

I intended to return them to Rackensack the next morning, but it turns out that a single layer of cheesecloth is not an impermeable barrier to these guys. They took it on the wing and they or their remains are somewhere here in the house.

Anotado en agosto 17, sábado 22:12 por stevejones stevejones | 4 observaciones | 1 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de junio de 2019

Mountain fire

As noted in my profile one of my favorite places to hang out is in the Tonto National Forest near my home. Monday last week I walked down a wash west of Horseshoe Reservoir, one not visited often judging by the dense vegetation along the route. The week before that I walked an area along a branch of the same wash on the south side of the road. This week many of those observations are now ash. As are these from May 24. A human-caused fire burned over 7000 acres late last week, including all three routes. The only good news is that the blaze stopped short of the site where I found this imperiled critter.

Anotado en junio 11, martes 02:05 por stevejones stevejones | 6 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de marzo de 2019

Field work break

I spent the week in the field in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve working on two studies. One is researching methods for removing Pennisetum setaceum from wash communties. The other is researching methods of restoring old wildcat trails. After today's work on the first project in Quartz Wash, I took advantage of an opportunity to compile some observations along that trail. As with so many places in central Arizona, the abundant fall rains have produced abundant vegetation.

Next week, more restoration study work (much of it spent on my knees, as in the avatar photo), then on to another study, evaluating of methods of removing Pennisetum ciliare from upland areas.

Anotado en marzo 16, sábado 03:33 por stevejones stevejones | 55 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de septiembre de 2018

White-lined Sphinx Moth invasion

I saw millions (well, I saw hundreds, maybe over a thousand, but can extrapolate that there were millions) of Hyles lineata larvae consuming just about everything in sight between Camp Creek and Seven Springs on Friday. Here's the list of what I witnessed them consuming:

Funastrum cynanchoides hartwegii
Ayenia filiformis
Mentzelia multiflora (with fatal results)
Quercus turbinella - new growth only
Rhus aromatica
Portulaca oleracea (tons of this non-native in the area, all stripped bare - an ice cream plant for Hyles lineata)
Portulaca suffrutescens (also a host of Euscirrhopterus gloveri)
Boerhavia intermedia
Ipomoea cristulata
Krameria erecta
Eriogonum wrightii
Mimosa aculeaticarpa biuncifera

In looking into the dietary habits of the species I ran into a database of Lepidopteran hostplants, a new tool in my arsenal of links. A search of food plants for Hyles lineata results in 41 taxa, to which can be added many of those listed above. Voracious little critters.

Anotado en septiembre 03, lunes 03:18 por stevejones stevejones | 6 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

13 de agosto de 2018

Signs of change

Summer rains have been occurring regularly in the area, and there are signs of recovery from the very warm and dry spring. But there are also signs of change. Numerous foothill palo verde trees in the area are dying or dropping significant numbers of branches. Jojobas and scrub oaks are suffering as well.

In higher-elevation Arizona Upland areas where the dominant small shrub is turpentine bush, most appear dead. It may not be clear how many have died until spring, which is the season for vegetative growth for the species. Provided it rains next spring, that is. There was very little new vegetative growth last spring. New spring growth is where fall flowers arise. In a normal year, whole landscapes turn yellow with their nectar-providing flowers. This year, as also happened last year, that crop has failed. This is bad news for migrating butterflies. Also bad news for finches - the tiny achenes usually produced in profusion provide food for migrating and wintering flocks.

But right now, things are looking good. I've made a few visits to my usual stomping grounds on the nearby Tonto NF recently. My observations recently are a bit redundant, but so be it. This visit had some surprises, though. I traced a little wash south of Seven Springs and found tiny grasshoppers in profusion. Some stood still long enough for portraits. I found a small cluster of Asclepias nyctaginifolia, and checked on a previously-known population, finding it in full flower.

There is rain still in the near forecast, so maybe things will continue to improve. In the meantime, I'm signed up for the Petrified Forest National Park bioblitz at the end of August. I visited the park in late June and it was as dry there as it was here. Rains have been falling there as well, and I've seen some nice observations from the park recently.

Anotado en agosto 13, lunes 03:49 por stevejones stevejones | 69 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario