Monday, August 27, 2012

Mantis Visitor

mantid #1

It's been raining a lot here in Tucson, so sometimes interesting critters take shelter in the house. I found this little mantis on the floor of our office before the cats did. I subjected it to a few pictures in a big pickle jar before transferring it outside to a bush for a final photo. When I was a kid I raised mantises in ten gallon tanks filled with grass. I caught grasshoppers and crickets and fed them to the mantises. I kept them alive all summer until they mated, the females ate the males, and laid egg sacs on the grass stems that hatched into enormous broods of ant-sized mantids too small for the mesh cover of the tank to contain. Those mantises grew to be much larger than this fellow. Maybe it has growing left to do.

mantid #2

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mosquitoes in the Rain

Scientists have used high-speed videography to reveal how mosquitoes withstand getting hit with raindrops. It appears their small size and ability to go with the drops, rather than get hit by them. Read a lot more from the Smithsonian.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

West Clear Creek

AZ 260 
I bought a plastic Vivitar Focus Free PN2011 panoramic camera at a Savers in Worcester seven or eight years ago. Actually I bought two and they were a dollar each. The only control on the camera is the switch between regular and panoramic photos. It's a lot of fun because you can't miss the view trying to adjust the camera. It works on film and faith. Sometimes you get a lucky shot.

These were shot near West Clear Creek in central Arizona where you can go swimming under a canopy of cottonwood and sycamore, watch phainopepla and their flycatcher kin feast on flies clustered just above the stream, see plenty of fish and crayfish as big as your hand. No shortage of scorpions or gnarly spiders either. Great place to escape the heat. Click on the photos to see bigger, better sizes and more panoramas.

west clear creek canyon
wcc trail
West Clear Creek 1
West Clear Creek 2

Thursday, March 29, 2012

R.I.P. Earl Scruggs 1924-2012

Bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs revolutionized banjo playing with his syncopated picking style. He started playing banjo at 5 years old, developed his signature three-finger style when he was 10, joined Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys in 1945, and left the group with Lester Flatt in 1949. They performed together as The Foggy Mountain Boys or Flatt and Scruggs for 20 years. Scruggs won two Grammies, was awarded the National Medal of Arts, and even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day of Spring

Photography in Arches National Park, in the Heart of the Redrock Country of Southeastern Utah. To the South Is the Colorado River and the Picturesque Old Mormon Pioneer Town of Moab, 05/1972
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so
pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity,
prosperity would not be so welcome.

He that walks among briers and thorns will be
very careful where he sets his foot; and he that passes
through the wilderness of this world had need ponder all his steps.

- Anne Bradstreet

Meditations, Moral and Divine


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wasson Peak

view back downtrail
A modest 4687 feet gains Wassan Peak the title of the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains, which are partially protected by Saguaro National Park West. The walk to the summit is about seven miles or so, easy to follow, and popular. Lots of good desert plants and birds and a nice view at the end. I might suggest going during the week if possible. It's worth the trip out there because you can also visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and see the raptor presentation

two ranges
blue mountains

Unfortunately, my long-suffering camera is fading fast. The lens doesn't communicate with the camera body and I'm not sure the light sensor is quite right. I can usually finagle a few good shots out of it. Sometimes I get weird ones like this above, which is pretty cool.

crested saguaro
Crested saguaro are uncommon. Desert four-leaf clovers.
mineshaft entrance
Old mine shaft for what I think was the Gould mine...
tucson mountains from Wasson peak

Saturday, March 3, 2012

BASE Jumping

It must be rad to go BASE jumping.  I can't say I can begin imagine the nerve it takes to step out over the edge of some precipice thousands of feet up and place my faith in a little fabric parachute stuffed into a pack and strapped to my back, but I admire those who do and I hope the reward is worth it. It sure looks exhilarating.

Jumpers are recognized with a number when they have completed jumps from each of the four categories referenced in the BASE acronym - Buildings, Aerials (antennas), Spans (bridges), and Earth (cliffs). The first person to accomplish this earned BASE #1. Numbers are now being awarded around 1500. The clip is from Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk. It's on it's way from Netflix. The music in the clip is a Boards of Canada remix of a Boom Bip song called Last Walk Around Mirror Lake.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Coghlan's Backpacking Trowel

I've had this discussion on a couple occasions while talking about backpacking gear:

Me: I still carry a Coghlan's trowel.
Friend: A what?
Me: Orange shit shovel.
Friend: (recognition) Oh yeah. Ha ha. I have one of those.
The Coghlan's Backpacking Trowel might not be high-tech or fancy, but it's cheap and it's light. How cheap? Under five bucks. How light? 2 oz. This page here has a helpful comparison of several brands of trowels. Can't beat it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gambel's Quail

quail sentry
Gambel's Quail are ubiquitous desert neighbors in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. With their characteristic bobbing headdress, they scurry across roads and peck around in the chaparral. They're certainly some of the most amusing birds to watch. They resemble the California Quail but Gambels are a unique species and the two quails' habitats don't overlap. The female and young are more modestly dressed than the males. They spend a lot of their time on the ground foraging and even nest on the ground, but they can and do fly. When a hawk soars overhead, quail tribes explode in a whir of wings and scatter into the bushes. If you're hiking and you startle a group of quail, prepare to be startled yourself!

Erin took these photos of a particular group of quail that hang out on the wall in our yard. A few months ago, many quail in this group were just little chicks chasing their parents in  their signature single-file line across our driveway. 
mrs and mr quail
gambels quail
bird party
The mourning doves and quail seem to enjoy a sort of truce. The doves' range vastly exceeds the quails' - it stretches across most of sub-arctic North America.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

50 Year Trail to Baby Jesus Ridgeline

straight up

Who could resist walking trails with such fascinating names - 50 Year Trail...Baby Jesus Trail? I based this hike on this description on Hike Arizona. I modified it by beginning at the Equestrian Center trailhead at Catalina State Park. I didn't follow the 50 Year Trail to the end, but I did go somewhat beyond the intersection with the Baby Jesus Trail. Not sure how far. So, I ended up walking the 50 Year Trail to Baby Jesus Trail, then a very rocky walk down the Sutherland Trail. A right down the Link Trail brought me through acacia stands that resembled orchards. I met back up with the 50 Year Trail and retraced a couple miles back to my truck. I calculated the trip around 19 miles or so. Not bad for one day.

I bought a new pair of shoes at The Hike House in Sedona. They're Roclite 315's by Inov-8. My long-suffering hiking partners have heard me bemoan the long-suffering in my feet. A uniquely bad combination of foot ailments - mostly terrible blisters - has plagued me through many, many hikes. I quit wearing hiking boots about a year ago, but running shoes lack badly needed grip. The Inov-8's have really helped out. A nearly twenty mile hike in one day, over  rocky terrain, without a foot injury was unthinkable for me, but I made it all the way unscathed. Inov-8 claims these shoes are engineered for long-distance trail travel and, though I haven't logged too many miles on them yet, I think they live up to that. They're actually really comfortable and I like to wear them around.


flowing wash
cotton sky
trail link and catalinas
trail link
goldfish trough
ghost fish
This trough full of goldfish is the second one I've encountered, the other being in Saguaro National Park.