Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spider Home

The leafy retreat of a female desert shrub spider (Diguetia canities) resembles a cocoon strung up by strands of web. Where these small spiders are abundant, you'll find their homes on nearly every shrub, especially bursage (Ambrosia spp.) and saltbush (Atriplex spp.). I found this one at Spur Cross Conservation Area attached to bursage, hanging over a  desert anemone (Anemone tuberosa). Perhaps the pollinators attracted to the anemone were her prey. Very clever, those spiders!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yield to Brittlebush

If suburban sprawl has you worried that central Arizona may one day be completely overtaken by pavement, just remember that the life contained in Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) seeds is far mightier than the Arizona Department of Transportation.  Able to sink roots into any gap in sidewalk, oblivious to vehicle exhaust and blossoming in the driest locations, Brittlebush will surely pioneer the restoration of this desert after the last drop of oil has been burned.
I joined this specimen thriving on an island in the middle of a round-about at Happy Valley Road and the I-17 yesterday, to document its life amidst the chaos of evening commuter traffic. I've been watching this plant grow for months, relieved each time I passed by that some ADOT crew hadn't doused it with herbicide or snatched it up by the roots. Now she is on her way to producing seed, and if all goes well, the island will be well populated by her progeny next spring!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Job Creation

We can all thank urban and suburban dog owners for the role they and their pets play in job creation. Over the past decade or so, a small industry dedicated to the design, manufacture, distribution, marketing, installation and maintenance of pet waste stations has begun to flourish. In Paris, France, there is a small army of poop police dedicated to arresting dog owners who fail to clean up "canine ejections."  In many cities around the U.S., a high tech solution uses DNA records of poop to track down offenders. Perhaps encouraging people to adopt more dogs is one solution to America's "job creation" problem! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Feral Flowers

African daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata) brighten up suburban landscapes around Phoenix, thriving in arid landscapes that have soils and climate similar to deserts in Namibia, from where they were imported. Also known as Cape Marigold, this species is often marketed in "wildflower" seed mixes.

Monday, March 4, 2013


The most ubiquitous of North American owls is the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), which claims year round residency throughout the continent. In the Sonoran desert, they will occupy old hawk nests among the limbs of saguaros, but do not build their own. This mama owl has returned for a second year to her cactus fortress along a trail in the Sonoran Preserve in north central Phoenix. 
Interstate highway 17 hums just two miles west of this nest. She is able to amply provide for her brood with squirrels and rabbits that are abundant in both the surrounding desert preserve and sprawling neighborhoods below.