Saturday, February 22, 2014

Larry's New Legs

When I built Larry, his legs were just PVC pipe and as a result, he was forced to wear long pants regardless of how hot it was, but no more.  A couple of days ago, Larry got a gift of legs from my daughter, Heather. They were white as the new drive snow, so Larry had to go to the tanning salon for a spray-on tan, then the legs had to be modified to accept his torso.  After a couple of days yo figure out a solution and put it into effect, Larry is proudly showing off his legs in a pair of cargo shorts as he prepares for Spring Training 2014.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Lots of New Stuff

There's lots of new stuff here at Mr. B's, both inside and out; new plants, new collectibles and new growth. Let's start with the collectibles, which are an early 1900's blue and white stoneware mug, unmarked but probably from the Midwest; a 1940's cockatoo wall pocket, also unmarked; and a 1950's pot by Maddux, a California pottery that was located in Los Angeles.

My 1st blue and white stoneware piece.

A beautiful wall pocket

An oh so 50's pot.

Of course, new plants made their way into the house or garden, including red onions, sunflowers, African violets, Stapeliads and other succulents.  I bought a package of 80 red onion starts from Wal-Mart for under $2 and planted some in blueberry bed and some in the peach planter and within a few days, the first green tops were poking up. I placed an order for 10 new Stapeliads from Mesa Garden in Belen, NM, but unfortunately for me and good for them, they've had so many orders that they were only able to provide six of the plants in my order.

Red onions already pushing up after just a few days.

African violet I bought recently

Another AV, this one looks great in the Maddux pot.

Duvalia modesta, South Africa & Madagascar

Duvalia radiata, South Africa & Madagascar

Piaranthus comptus, South Africa & Madagascar

Piaranthus decipiens, South Africa & Madagascar

Huernia plowsii x zebrina

Euphorbia anoplia, Tanzanian Zipper Plant

Another bird cage turned into a planter

Ledebouria socialis 'Violacea'

Ledebouria socialis inflorescence

Sunflowers breaking through their new bed.

And the existing plants are responding to the spring-like weather we've been enjoying by blooming, sprouting and generally acting like it's March.  

Cremnosedum 'Little Gem' blooming in the gnome garden.

Hollyhocks getting ready to bloom.

Potatoes with lots of top growth.

Senecio radicans glauca flowers

I revamped the succulent bed in the old water fountain by drilling drainage holes in it, then planted it with cuttings and pups from existing plants in the gardens.

A store that was closing in the mall near my house placed a listing on Craigslist offering free store fixtures and I managed to get a couple of acrylic display stands, which I'm using on the porch to display some of my succulents.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gilbert Riparian Preserve, Part II

I completed my tour of the Gilbert Riparian Preserve this morning, getting started at around 8:30 and finishing two hours later.  I saw plenty of birds, but not too many new species to add to my life list.  When I arrived the last of the swifts were leaving, so next time I'll need to arrive even earlier if I want to get some pictures and make some identifications.  I spent about 10-15 minutes in the first spot I arrived at, watching flocks of waterfowl swooping in from overhead and landing on the pond.  The I made my way on my journey, stopping to admire a number of wildflowers, some of which were conveniently identified on large signs placed throughout the area that was designated as the "Butterfly Garden".  I leisurely made my way down the path stopping to admire a bird here and there, as well as some of the mammals that make their home in the preserve.  I was talking to some birders when one of them noticed a coyote at the far end of the pond and we spent a few minutes admiring it.  I took my leave and headed around the pond, towards where we had seen the coyote and when I got in the general area, I sat down on a bench to take a look through my binoculars at all the waterfowl in the muddy edge of the pond, which was mostly devoid of water.  All of a sudden, all the waterfowl in the far end of the pond starting taking to the sky and right behind them was the coyote, hell-bent on catching one.  All it managed to do was rile up the birds and tire itself out and I'm guessing it will have to settle for a cottontail or a pocket mouse or two today.  Following the same format as yesterday, here are today's photos.

Calliandra eriophylla, Fairyduster

Encelia farinosa, Brittlebush

Encelia farinosa, Brittlebush, close-up

Glandulara gooddingii, Goodding's Verbena

Justicia californica, Chuparosa

Auriparus flaviceps, Verdin

Calypte anna, Anna's Hummingbird, Male

Sturnus vulgaris, European Starling

Sayornis nigricans, Black Phoebe

Charadrius vociferus, Killdeer

Recurvirostra americana, American Avocet, immature individual

Recurvirostra americana, American Avocet, adult

Anas clypeata, Northern Shoveler, Male

Aythya collaris, Ring-necked Duck, Male

Aythya collaris, Ring-necked Duck, Female

Chaetodipus penicillatus, Desert Pocket Mouse

Canis latrans, Coyote

Lastly, here's a picture of some of the nesting structures that have been constructed for use by platform nesters and one something we see quite often around here during the cooler months.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gilbert Riparian Preserve

I've been meaning to visit the Gilbert Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, AZ for a while now, especially since it's only about 10 miles from my house and many migratory birds can be found there at this time of year.  The Preserve is situated on 110 acres and consists of one fishing lake and 7 ponds that are filled on a rotating basis with treated effluent which is then allowed to percolate back into the groundwater supply.  That much water attracts a lot of waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds that take advantage of the riparian surroundings, not to mention a lot of birders.  I met local birders, as well as folks from Kansas, Tucson and Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  There were numerous birds that I see on a regular basis at my feeders, and others that were new to me.  Anna Hummingbirds were everywhere, and I may have seen a Costa's Hummingbird, but without being able to see the telltale flash of purple on its' throat, I couldn't be sure. Abert's Towhees, which are occasional visitors to my backyard were in amazing abundance and I must have seen 2-3 dozen of them, though usually only in pairs.  There were also some nice native plants and in some areas they were so thick you couldn't see the pond they were lining, although the staff at the preserve have done a nice job of creating clearings for viewing waterfowl and even have some blinds set up just for that purpose.  I took quite a few photos, which I'll share with you now, starting with the plants, many of which were in bloom.  In fact, standing beneath a large cottonwood tree, the buzzing of bees was so loud, I thought there must be a hive or swarm in the tree. After looking for it for several minutes, I realized that there were bees visiting nearly every flower cluster on the tree and the tree was over 40' tall, with a 30' canopy, so there were hundreds of bees. Speaking of bees, in addition to honey bees I saw a carpenter bee and a bumblebee, both actively gathering pollen.

The mostly spent flowers of Baccharis sarothroides, Desert Broom

I'm not sure what this plant's name is, but it was a large specimen.

Another plant I couldn't identify, but the blooms are gorgeous.

Flowers of Populus fremontii subsp. fremontii, Fremont Cottonwood

Sphaeralcea ambigua, Desert Globemallow

Unidentified yucca; it was over 6' x 6', with numerous pups.

Another bee magnet, Lycium andersonii, Desert Wolfberry

There was quite a large variety of birds, some of which absolutely refused to pose for a photo and others who were more than happy to oblige, and here are photos of the latter, starting with the non-water birds, then the shore and wading birds, and finally, the waterfowl.

Male Agelaius phoeniceus, Red-winged Blackbird

A pair of Columbina inca, Inca doves on their nest.

Melozone aberti, Abert's Towhee

Mimus polyglottos, Northern Mockingbird

Toxostoma curvirostre, Curve-billed Thrasher

Zonotrichia leucophrys, White-crowned sparrow 

Auriparus flaviceps, Verdin

Megaceryle alcyon, Belted Kingfisher

Ardea herodias, Great Blue Heron

Egretta thula, Snowy Egret

Gallinago delicata, Wilson's Snipe

Himantopus mexicanus, Black-necked Stilt

Anas acuta, Northern Pintail

Anas crecca, Green-winged Teal

Anas platyrhynchos, Mallard

Branta canadensis, Canada Goose

Bucephala albeola, Bufflehead, Female

Fulica americana, American Coot

Oxyura jamaicensis, Ruddy Duck, Male

Oxyura jamaicensis, Ruddy Duck,Female

Phalacrocorax auritus, Double-crested Cormorant

Lastly, here's a couple of photos of four-legged critters that were seen around the ponds.

Sylvilagus audubonii, Western Cottontail

Trachemys scripta elegans, Red-eared Slider

I spent 2.5 hours at the Preserve and only got to see Ponds 1-3 and one side of Pond 4, so there will be plenty of new area to cover on my next visit, which just may be tomorrow.