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.

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