Photo by Bruce Taubert

Spring has sprung at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert (location #20 in the Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife guidebook).  The bad news is that most of the Northern migrants have left with the exception of some very photogenic ducks (green-winged teal, cinnamon teal, shovelers), dowitchers, and least sand pipers.  The good news is the black-necked stilts and American avocets are getting into their breeding garb and beginning to stake out territories.

Most years, the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is possibly the best place in Arizona to photograph breeding stilts and avocets.  From my trip to the ranch on March 19th, this year should be great. I observed in excess of 40 avocets and a like number of stilts. The avocets were about half way to their full breeding plumage and doing a little practice sexual behavior.

On the 19th, most of the birds were at ponds 1, 6, and 7.  The black-necked stilts at pond 6 were especially photogenic allowing me to approach within 30 feet.  The avocets were a little more shy but could be accessed with a 400 mm or greater lens.

During March, April, and May the stilts and avocets will be breeding, nesting, and beginning to take care of their young.  Mornings are best and the light is good until about 9 a. m.  Get there early for the best opportunities.  As the day progresses the wind picks up and chances for reflective water decreases.

–Bruce

Photo by Bruce Taubert

Photo by Bruce Taubert

Hesperaloe bloom. Photo by Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

Paul and I spent the past two weekends at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum teaching our annual “Wild about Wildflowers…and Macro Photography” workshops. A huge THANKS to all who attended and treated us to so much beauty through their own lenses. Lots of good laughs too!

At the arboretum, the Demonstration Garden has the best set of blooms so far, as the perennials like penstemon, coral aloe, Godding verbena, mescal bean (which you have to smell…smells like grape soda!), and a variety of barrel cactus are starting to show their beautiful colors. The Cactus Garden is also coming along, but will display a stronger cactus bloom in the next few weeks. There, we spotted desert marigolds, spiderwort, and even a couple of Mexican gold poppies, lupine, and globemallow.

It’s no surprise that we’re seeing a lack of annuals based on the lack of rain we’ve had this winter. Perennials, however, are showing how they are less affected by low precipitation and will likely continue to bloom over the next several weeks. Places like Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Desert Botanical Gardens, Tohono Chul, and Tucson Botanical Gardens will offer plenty of wildflower photography opportunities as spring turns into summer in the desert.

Near Gonsalez Pass to the west of Boyce Thompson Arboretum, the ocotillo are greening up, and small splashes of color from fairy duster, lupine, and brittlebush dot the desert landscape. Silly Mountain looks brown and burned out–not sure if even the normally reliable brittlebush bloom will happen here this year…

While Paul and I have been busy teaching, we’ve heard rumors of roadside flowers along Highway 60 south of Wickenburg and brittlebush off of Highway 17 north of Anthem. Also, there are reports of several locations in Tucson in bloom per this recently published article: http://tucson.com/thisistucson/5best/tucson-is-blooming-insta-worthy-spots-to-stop-and-smell/article_76700fd0-3132-11e8-b19c-9bd1681345bf.html.

Let us know what you’ve seen out in your wildflower explorations!

I wish I had better news but the rains came a little to late this year still some roadside brittle bush between Yuma and Tucson with some small displays in Organ Pipe Cactus National Park and Tucson’s Pima Canyon. Also poppies at 10% and probably at peak bloom for Catalina State Park. Creosote and other bushes are showing but small. The ocotillo is budding and should show in a few weeks. I did find one pincushion bloom in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. Beavertail cactus are starting to show near the Colorado River. Desert Botanical Gardens and Boyce Thompson Arboretum are both showing some color. We should have an OK cactus and tree bloom in the deserts in a month.

We still have a few spaces left in our “Wild About Wildflowers” photography workshop on March 24-25 at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Come polish your skills and learn some new tips and tricks for flower and macro photography! Learn more and register at http://cms-photo.com/Workshops/2018Wildflowers.

Fall color in Arizona is dropping off the Mogollon Rim and heading towards the deserts at this time. Without rain this fall season, the color was spotty in most areas up north but did go off as expected on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon the first week of October. Peak color came to the White Mountains and San Francisco Peaks the week after. The upper elevations of the Mogollon Rim is past along as are likely Mt. Lemmon and Mt. Graham. Color in the maples have shifted out of Oak Creek, although you can still see some lingering reds.

Time for the cottonwoods to start showing their yellow coats in the Upper Verde River, then the maples should start showing their reds in the lower elevations in canyons in southern Arizona (like the Huachuchas).

Stay tuned for more reports in the weeks to come!

Earlier this week, while camping in northern Arizona in the Coconino National Forest, I had the fortunate chance to witness the birth of an evening primrose flower as it slowly unfurled from its green bud at dusk. We watched a first bloom for almost 45 minutes; a second one nearby took less than 7 minutes to open. It was one of the most beautiful natural events I’ve ever seen.

If you’d like to see it too, check out the video I just posted of the second bloom at 2x real time speed (so it’s about 3 minutes long) – enjoy!

The evening primrose were well past peak and at the end of their season. Only a few buds remained on Monday, and it’s likely those have already bloomed.

That said, we’ve heard reports that areas near Mormon Lake (location 12 in the Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers (2nd Ed.) guidebook) are fields of gold right now…

Thistle

Arizona wildflowers are moving into the high desert as the cactus and tree bloom starts in the lower deserts.

Great locations to shoot right now:

#42 Forest Service Road 419: Peak for sego lilies and owl clover.  Strawberry hedgehog cactus and globemallow should peak in the next week.

#43 Black Mesa: Banana yucca, blackfoot daisies and thistle looking good now.

#50 Pinal Parkway and #52 Ironwood Forest National Monument:  Good buckhorn cholla and palo verde bloom starting.

Enjoy and have a great shoot out there everyone.

Sego Lilies

#14 Oatman: Just past bloom but ready for brittlebush and beavertail cactus next few weeks.

#15 Tres Alamos: I have not seen it but reports of Joshua trees blooming.

#17 The Gibraltar Mountain: Area is peaking now. Best in the past 15 years!

#20 Lake Pleasant Regional Park:  A once a decade bloom is underway.

#21 White Tank Mountain Regional Park: Getting ready for the brittlebush bloom.

#25 Bartlett Lake: At peak Mexican gold poppy bloom now and is the best showing in a decade. Lupine are a foot tall on the high slopes and lots of other wildflowers to fill in the open spaces. That’s not even the good news! Bartlett is 1-2 weeks away from an epic brittlebush bloom. If we get rain we could see a 1998 double bloom the hillsides will be covered in gold and yellow with some red chuparosa. Try Horseshoe Lake if you want to miss the crowds. The hillsides on the west side of the road are looking good.

#45 The Rolls: Bloom is good but the area has been invaded by ORV’s who have cut down the protective fences.

#59 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Good brittlebush bloom starting.

In other areas not listed in our Wild in Arizona guidebook, there are good orange globemallow carpets west of Gila Bend along the river.  Also, just received a “getting close to dune blooms” report on Mohawk dunes.

PAUL GILL: The Estrella Mountain Park is starting to show carpets of poppies high on the northern slopes of the Rainbow Valley Trail. Start at the Rodeo Arena Parking lot and hike west. The best wildflowers are located about a half to a mile in, with lupine and fiddleneck already at one foot tall! This area should be great in one to two weeks with the recent rains that will double the bloom stalks and give solid midday carpets of poppies. Also look for a brittlebush and strawberry hedgehog to begin blooming in three to four weeks.  All photographs on this post are from this week.
 
BRUCE TALBERT: The White Tank Mountain Regional Park (location #21 in the Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers guidebook) looked OK.  There were enough poppies blooming to keep your attention but little else.  There were a few lupines but sparse and small.  The best areas were the first 1/2 mile of Mesquite Trail west of Area 7, the west side of White Tank Mountain Road near Area 3, and the trails that lead west of Area 3.  The brittlebush showed small flower buds and looked healthy, but were not yet flowering.  They will likely present a better show here than the poppies.

Arizona_Vermilion Cliffs_00102_c

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

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