Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tuesday July 2nd

The heat finally broke and thankfully didn't leave much floral carnage in its wake. When you have several days in a row with afternoons ranging from 102° to 108°, you wonder how the little plants can possibly survive. Yet they do. The last week of June has always been the hottest, at least in the time I've lived here but 100 was the topside, now it seems we're moving into a new era with heat earlier in the season and higher maximums.

We finally had some rain, the first since last October. A tenth of an inch this past Saturday and a drizzle this afternoon. It's so nice to step outside and smell the dampness and to see the dust uniformly coated. Even if the slightest scuff of your foot turns it over again. While it's early for the Great Southwest Monsoon, we can only hope these small storms are the scouts, looking for places to unleash a torrent. Although even that now comes with cost - the burn scars here in the local mountains are unstable that even a quick 1/2" of rain is capable of setting off devastating flash floods. No threat to us down here, but something for those who live in the foothills to definitely ponder.

Last week I was pretty whiny about the state of our vegetable production. This week is different story. Not only did I find the first 4 cherry tomatoes, but we have white eggplants and big tomatoes showing up all over the place. I found the cherries while taking a break from stringing some fences. We have a couple of chairs against the east fence that stay in the shade until just after noon. I was sitting there watching a hummingbird deliberately work its way along the rabbit fence, stopping where wires intersected and delicately dipping its beak into any spider webs that might be there. It was fascinating and so calming to watch this little bird working so slowly, picking off tiny insects I presume.  It went off and was replaced by two Lesser Goldfinches who were doing the same thing on my biggest Sunflower. That got me thinking about their relationship with that plant because in the fall the finches are all over the seeds. During the summer it must be the ants that work all day long on the stems, leaves and branches. Birds like finches and hummingbirds change their diet from seeds and nectar (respectively) to insects during breeding season because their broods need the extra protein that insects provide. So while the finches make survival use of sunflower seed heads throughout the fall, winter and spring, they truly have a year-around dependency that changes with their needs.

Speaking of hummingbirds, I have 5 feeders up this year and they are all being used. The most I've had in a decade. July and August are always busy due to the birds stocking up before heading to Central America but May and June are usually slow. Until the late summer migration begins in earnest, a feeder out back and one on the front porch are sufficient and often they go down very slowly. Not so this year, the nectar disappears on almost a daily basis.

One feeder out back is the private domain of a lone Black-chinned make. No one is allowed to eat there. A second feeder, perhaps 10 feet away is more communal, visited by a variety of males and females. Another along the east side of the house is visited less often. The real change though is the 32 ounce feeder on the porch outside the kitchen window. It was being drained daily so I added a second small one and now we've achieved some balance. The small one is depleted every other day and the big one lasts about three.

I'm at a loss to explain this, perhaps a neighbor quit feeding or maybe the warmer temperatures are forcing them to eat more frequently. Or perhaps our slow transition to the climate of Arizona is making it easier for them to thrive. Whatever the reason, it's nice to have them around.

 I had to switch to a wider angle lens for the weekly photograph. The orphan sunflowers in the back garden have grown out of the range of the 18mm. Good news I think.

June 24th
July 1st

And lastly, the at-will sunflowers continue to put on a show. Their friends, planted this year are making steady progress but it will be quite a while before they truly produce.

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