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Happy Earth Day, everyone!  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Earth laughs in flowers.”  Based on what I saw up in Marble Canyon last week, the planet must be in hysterics!

Following a tip-off last from my good friends, Terry and Wendy Gunn of Cliff Dwellers Lodge, I visited the Marble Canyon area last Wednesday through Monday to chase what they had referred to as a “bloom of a decade.”  They were spot on!  Although the weather was a bit unsettled last week (stormy and windy), the flowers absolutely did not disappoint!

Extensive fields of full desert globemallow and prickly pear cactus are peaking right now south of Highway 89A near the Soap Creek and Badger Creek overlooks (several gates into BLM land provide access – 2WD high-clearance recommended for these roads).  New flowers like Prince’s plume, sego lilies, banana yuccas, and scorpionweed are starting to pop up as well in varying quantities.  With a little dab of rain, even more flowers will start to show in the next week or so.  Although I didn’t have time to scout, the locals suggested the bloom could extend as far west as House Rock Valley Road.

We also meandered upstream along the Paria River from the Lees Ferry area in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where we spotted multiple species of prickly pear in full bloom (with ample buds still waiting to pop), globemallow, banana yucca, and more during our easy hike.

As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s a great time to remind everyone to practice “Leave No Trace” principles as you’re out enjoying the wildflowers.  Please watch you step out there so that others can enjoy the blooms as well.

Happy wildflower hunting!
Colleen

Albino white poppy at Bartlett Lake

Albino white poppy at Bartlett Lake on Sunday, March 15, 2015

I had heard mixed feedback on what was happening out at Bartlett Lake for wildflowers, so I decided to take a quick spin up there yesterday morning to see for myself and to form my own.

Brittlebush at Bartlett Lake on Sunday, March 15, 2015

Brittlebush at Bartlett Lake on Sunday, March 15, 2015

How good the bloom is up there depends on your perspective.  If you’ve never seen wildflowers before in the desert, you’ll likely be impressed. If you experience the 2005 or the 2009 bloom you might be slightly underwhelmed.  Regardless, enough flowers are blooming to make it worth a visit now and within the next two weeks.

Along Bartlett Dam Road, keep your eyes open for nice patches of smaller Mexican gold poppies dotting the hillsides starting around milepost 8 to milepost 11 on the north side of the street.  After milepost 10 (but before milepost 11, near the Tonto National Forest sign), a vibrant patch of sizable poppies is already peaking.  In this same area, the flanks of the cliffs are starting to show blankets of yellow.

Because a fair number of these poppy fields face east, you might not spot them as you drive in (but will be blatantly obvious on the drive out).  So either bring a driver to free you up to scout or glance over your shoulder occasionally as you come into this area so as to not miss some great photographic opportunities.

Perennials like brittlebush, chuparosa, and fairy duster are out in force, but it looks as if there’s even more to come in the weeks ahead.  A nice patch of lupine appears along Bartlett Dam Road near the turnoff for Forest Service Road 459 on the shoulder as well as along FSR 459 near the Rattlesnake Cove turnoff.  A handful of chia, cream cups, filaree, and desert marigolds round out the showing.

Multiple blooms on strawberry hedgehog cactus in South Mountain Park on Sunday

Multiple blooms on strawberry hedgehog cactus in South Mountain Park on Sunday

If poppies are what you seek, I’d recommend heading that way within the next week. Perennials making a good start and will look great (if not better) over the next two weeks. For more information about Bartlett Lake, check out page 96 in our first edition of the “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” book (the second edition should start shipping on Monday, March 23!).

I also hiked the Telegraph Pass Trail in South Mountain Park and Preserve on Sunday afternoon.  Overall the desert landscape presented few flowers on the ground, but on the lower elevations of this trail, the strawberry hedgehog and cholla cacti displayed impressive color.  Some strawberry hedgehog cacti showcased 8-12 beautiful blooms!  Probably have about a week left to see these splashes of color there.

Happy wildflower hunting,
Colleen

Closeup of Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus along Telegraph Pass Trail on Sunday

Closeup of Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus along Telegraph Pass Trail on Sunday

Poppies and Beavertail

Wildflowers are showing in the Warm Springs Wilderness. Wild in Arizona book, location 14, page 64. Poppies, Lupine, and Beavertail Cactus are in bloom now. Brittlebush about two weeks away. The flowers are on the north west slopes in three canyons. (see map in book) road is high clearance now, and 4×4 is a good idea. Organ Pipe is not having a good bloom yet, report back when the brittle bush starts. Buckskin and Gibraltar have a few wildflowers with Cactus coming on strong in the next few weeks.

Warm Springs Wilderness

The rains last week have given already blooming areas like the Peridot Mesa a second wind. There is also a good bladderpod carpets between Safford and Clifton. You will need to jump barbwire fences and hike to the hillsides if you want the poppies. There is a nice carpet of poppies on the south side of 70 around San Jose but will need to jump fences which I don’t suggest not knowing who owns that land.

The Black Hills Byway also has some wildflowers now and the Rockhound area off 191 is good for bladderpod.

Some quick midday wildflower scouting images. Picacho Peak is now showing good groupings of poppies around the Sunset Vista trail and Children’s Cave Trail. The brittle bush, lupine and globemallow is starting on the upper peaks and roadsides.

Sunset Trail, Picacho Peak

With this rain It should be an excellent bloom in the next few weeks. (See page 178 of the 1st edition). If you don’t want to deal with the crowds there is a good bloom starting along the Sasco Road heading into Ironwood Forest National Monument. (page 180, 1st edition) the hillsides have poppies and the low areas are covered with carpets of globmallow.

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Photographed on February 25, 2015, the Mexican gold poppies bloom in abundance on top of Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation, Arizona

If Mexican gold poppies are what you seek, then drop everything this instant and RUN – don’t walk! – to Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.

Paul and I had heard substantiated rumors from a couple friends (thanks Ron and Lori!) of “fields and fields of poppies” in this location.  Based on when the flowers normally bloom here (mid-March), it seemed a little early, but the weather has been warm until recently.  I took my camera and curiosity out to Peridot Mesa yesterday.  And oh my!  The hillsides were covered with poppies!

Mainly poppies, but also some blue dicks, lupine, and budding globemallow, blanketed the basin in between Peridot Mesa and Peridot Hills.  With the cooler temperatures, the poppies began closing up quite early (about 2 hours before ‘sunset). As a couple walking the dirt road at sunset suggested, “The flowers have been sleeping [i.e., closing early] for three days in the cold.”

Arizona_Peridot Mesa_00001_cIn sampling a number of clusters, it appears there are just as many buds waiting to bloom as there are flowers in bloom.  Also, in surveying the ground, the lupine, blue dicks, globemallow, and other flowers are just starting to show.  With this in mind – even though it looks stunning now – I think this location has yet to officially peak.  Now, that said, forecasters are predicting 85-100% chance of rain in Phoenix starting Saturday and lasting through Tuesday.  A heavy rain could damage the delicate and dainty poppy blooms, but could encourage the other blooms to continue their progress.

We added Peridot Mesa to our expanded 2nd edition of our book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers.”  We are finishing the proofing process as we speak, but here’s a sneak peak of location #48: Peridot Mesa in case you wish to put it to good use immediately - please practice “Leave No Trace” principles and do not trample the flowers so that others may enjoy this beautiful site as well.

(Note: more wildflower updates after the sample)

48_Peridot Mesa_Sample

Click on photo to see the sample page full size (and save to your computer and/or print for reference).

In addition to Peridot Mesa, we are hearing consistent reports that wildflowers are showing off in Picacho Peak State Park (location #53 in 1st edition; #51 in 2nd edition).

En route to the San Carlos Indian Reservation, I noted that Silly Mountain (location #32 in 1st and 2nd editions) is staring to display some yellow on the brittlebush at higher elevations.  I’d check this spot out in a week or so.

We’ve heard things are just starting at Catalina State Park (#55/#53) and at Pipeline Canyon Trail/Lake Pleasant (#21/20) so keep an eye on those two spots in the weeks ahead via the 2015 Arizona State Parks Ranger Cam (which they did not turn on for 2014′s bloom) at azstateparks.com/RangerCam2015 and DesertUSA’s Wildflower reports at www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html.

Finally, while driving along Highway 93 last week, on Monday, I saw a healthy amount of Joshua tree blooms along the road.  On my way back through the area on Thursday afternoon, almost all the blooms had disappeared and were replaced by blackened, dead stalks.  We can’t explain the short-lasting bloom nor determine if additional blooms will appear, but from last week’s observations, the Joshua tree bloom might have happened and ended within a week’s time frame last week.

Happy wildflower hunting and shooting!

~Colleen

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It’s raining again this morning in Phoenix and the only things fuller than the typically dry desert washes right now are Paul’s and my email inbox’s flooded with questions similar to “With all this rain we’re getting, will this be the killer wildflower bloom we’ve all be waiting for in the Arizona desert?”

After less than spectacular blooms for the past several years, this year, we are optimistically encouraged by the amount of precipitation – and as a result, the greening desert.  Although the verdict is still out on what will develop, we do have some early indications of what may come to pass for this year’s desert bloom.

We have been tracking the actual rainfall in a number of key flower hot spots since November, which is when we need abundant winter rains to trigger the sprouting process.  (We need solid rains in November and December, and then steady sprinkles in January, February, and March for a great annual bloom).   Based on rainlog.org data, here’s what we’ve seen in areas where rainfall amounts are collected:

As you can see, the season didn’t start off terribly well (zero rain in November), but has rebounded quite impressively in December and into January (and it’s still raining, at least in Phoenix, as we speak).  Whether December’s amounts were enough to make up for November’s will remain unknown until we see the magnitude and depth of the spring bloom beginning in the next three to six weeks.

First globemallow bud in Paul’s backyard from yesterday

Around the start of the new year, the desert experienced a couple of freezes.  The brittlebush bloom had begun early in some locations, but then those buds froze.  The perennial plants seem to be re-budding as the weather warms, which is good news.  The poppies and other annuals were also affected by the freeze.  How much so, though, will also remain a mystery until we start to see the annual bloom appear.

February is a critical month.  Sort of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, everything needs to be “just right.”  Too much rain could encourage the grasses to grow and choke out flowers.  Too little rain could cause a smaller bloom.  Cold weather could slow the progress and delay the bloom while warm weather could speed it up.

According to NOAA, Arizona remains in an El Nino Watch status with a 50-60% of this system emerging onto the scene in the next two months.  An El Nino typically brings additional rain to the desert southwest,  which can affect the annual, perennial, and cactus bloom starting in late February through June.  The Farmer’s Almanac is also predicting rain showers for the area from February 1-7 and again February 21-26.  If this prediction pans out, it’s the steady sprinkles we need at the precisely the right time of year.

First poppy bud in Paul’s backyard from yesterday

What can you do to get ready for what’s to come?

Keep your fingers crossed, everyone!

Colleen & Paul

Thanks to many of you, we are SOLD OUT of our “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” books.  We continue to have requests for copies (that we don’t have) and many of you sent in great suggestions for new locations and new flowers.

Sooo, we need more books!

After considerable thought, Paul Gill and I (Colleen Miniuk-Sperry) are working hard to come out with the Enhanced 2nd Edition of our award-winning guidebook,   “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, & How” (scheduled to be published in March 2015).

We’ve listened to your suggestions, and as such, the enhanced 2nd edition features:

  • 13 new spectacular locations
  • 12 new featured flowers
  • 10 new “Making the Photo” stories
  • Over 80 new photographs
  • An updated Bloom Calendar

In other words, we’ve made an award-winning guidebook even better!   (To view more information about the original book, visit our website at www.wildinarizona.com.)

But we need your help! Publishing will be expensive!

To publish the Enhanced 2nd Edition will cost about $14,000, considering costs associated with printing, shipping, etc. (Most authors do not make money on books, and this is why they call us “Starving Artists!” LOL!)

Paul and I started an Indiegogo campaign, where we are seeking your assistance in raising $5,000 to help us cover less than half of these costs to publish the book.  We are so passionate about helping others grow in their own photography and helping others get outside to enjoy all that Arizona has to offer.

As a thank you to YOU, our valued supporters, we are offering discounts on:

  • The new book and eBook!
  • Private half-day workshops with me
  • One-day workshop with Paul and me - only 5 available!
  • 3-day Arizona workshop extravaganza with Paul and me – only 3 available!

And the chance to get your name in the book forever!

To jump in on these exciting, but limited-time, perks, visit our new Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/wild-in-az-photographing-az-s-wildflowers-book now through February 6, 2015.  And then get your camera ready for Arizona’s upcoming spring wildflower bloom!

As always, thanks much for your support!
Paul and Colleen

We are so thrilled to finally announce our “top secret” Wild in Arizona project:  the new guidebook, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife!”  If you liked our wildflower book and you enjoy photographing wildlife, then this will be an outstanding resource for you as you explore the Grand Canyon State in search of critters, big and small.

But neither Paul nor I (Colleen) will be writing or photographing this book.  While both Paul and I photograph wildlife on occasion (typically when it runs into our landscape scenes…), we both knew there was one person who would knock this book out of the ballpark…and we are equally as excited to announce that we’ve partnered with him to make this come to life!

Wildlife photographer extraordinaire, Bruce Taubert, has joined our team to author and photograph the next book in our series, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife.”  (Paul will focus on graphic design and production, while I will serve as the official publisher.)

If you do not Bruce already from his amazing photography work in magazines like Arizona Highways or his highly-sought after photography workshops, then here’s a quick snapshot of his credentials:

Bruce Taubert

Bruce has been photographing the worlds wildlife and wild places for over 40 years.    His work has been published in Arizona Highways magazines and calendars, Smith-Southwestern Calendars, WildBird, Birders World, Ranger Rick, Arizona Wildlife Views magazine and calendars, Conservation International, several websites, Bat Conservation International and a host of educational books and other publications.  Bruce produced most of the photos for the Arizona Game and fish Departments “Bats of Arizona” and was featured photographer in “El Cielo” a book dedicated to the conservation of a cloud forest in Tamaulipas, Mexico.  Bruce is lead photographer on several Arizona Highways Photo Workshops and teaches photography workshops in Africa and Ecuador. 

 Bruce  has lived and worked in Arizona since 1981.  After receiving his PhD he began his career as the Chief of Fisheries for the Arizona Game and Fish Department and retired as the Assistant Director for Wildlife Management.  Bruce was a founding member and President of Arizona Watchable Wildlife Tourism Association and a Board Member on Watchable Wildlife Inc.  He also was a founding member of the international conservation non-profit Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.  Bruce spent 20 years traveling the world working on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.  Bruce’s first trip to Africa working for the FAO was in 1979 and he has returned 14 times. 

Despite a busy year, Bruce has already typed out a first draft of the manuscript and has offered some absolutely incredible wildlife photographs to help begin with layouts.  We still have loads of work ahead of us, but we are working towards a mid-2015 release.

But we could really use you’re help right now!  We’ve put together five different possible options for the cover of this new book and would like to know your thoughts.  Which one do you like the best?  Why?  Are there any you don’t like?  Why?  Don’t be shy! Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment below and we’ll enter you in a drawing for a FREE copy once we release it next year. Your input will help guide our decision of which cover to use!

Here are the five, in no particular order:

Cover #1

WIA Wildlife Cover #1

 

Cover #2:

WIA Wildlife Cover #2

 

Cover #3:

WIA Wildlife Cover #3

 

Cover #4:

WIA Wildlife Cover #4

 

Cover #5:

WIA Wildlife Cover #5

We thank you for your help, and can't wait to share this wonderful new resource with you soon!

~Colleen, Paul, and Bruce

 

Autumn arrives to the West Fork of Oak Creek in previous years.

Following a long closure after the devastating Slide Fire this summer, the Oak Creek Canyon, including the famed West Fork (north of Sedona) reopens today! Just in time for autumn!

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/travel/road-trips/2014/09/30/oak-creek-canyon-sedona-open-slide-fire/16473799/.

The trees in this area typically start donning their fall coat in mid-October, with the peak right around Halloween and lingering into early November (depending on the weather).  Although fire crews made a concerted effort to protect this riparian area, it’s unknown how that will affect (if at all) the changing of the leaves on the trees that remain.  Best thing to do?  Grab your camera and check it out!

Happy shooting!

Autumn arrives to the West Fork of Oak Creek in previous years.

 

 

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