Spring Has Arrived! Part 5: Blanket Flower

There are some flowers, no matter how common, that always make me happy! So when the trails are decorated with sunflowers of any variety, it’s hard not to smile from cheek to cheek!

Yellow Blanket Flower fills this bill …… a what a lovely burst of sunshine popping up today!

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Spring Has Arrived! Part 4: A New Mexican Sycamore

Strolling through a pretty north Albuquerque neighborhood a few days ago, I nearly stumbled over a pile of little brown golfballs. Huh? Not a single putting green in sight, I instantly deduced these carelessly cast-away orbs must be none other than last year’s sycamore fruit balls!

Sure enough, a quick glance upward confirmed my suspicion. I was standing in the shade of a huge, patchy-barked sycamore with draping branches over a stucco wall, approaching full leaf stage, and sporting hundreds of spring green fruit balls each with hundreds of immature arrow-shaped seeds.

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Update ….. Winter Botany Study, Part 5c: Kentucky Coffeetree Seed Planting Trials

The story continues! My Kentucky Coffeetree seedlings are coming along beautifully. After carefully cracking and planting 9 seeds on March 27th, it was exciting to see 4 seeds had germinated about Day 18. Literally overnight these 4 seedling stems had grown to 1/2” tall.

And then ……

Continue reading “Update ….. Winter Botany Study, Part 5c: Kentucky Coffeetree Seed Planting Trials”

Spring Has Arrived! Part 3: More Season’s Firsts

It was a sun-filled, wind-free hike through Copper’s lesser used trails. Darkling beetles were scurrying to and fro, pausing for brief seconds to let us pass, then resuming their mysterious quest to who knows where. The occasional high pitched hummmmmmmmmm of a hummingbird winging by; hopefully their search for nectar-loaded blossoms is successful.

Here and there the cholla is beginning to plump up, and shrub live oak is showing signs of blooming. Then Roy spotted the first Evening Primrose of the season, and a few steps further I noticed the first Puccoon.

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Spring Has Arrived! Part 2: More Season’s Firsts

Sometimes when hiking familiar trails, it’s easy to get lost in thought. Just being outdoors is very meditative, don’t you think? My mind wanders and it seems my head is high in the clouds, or at the very least I find myself looking up to marvel at that seemingly endless New Mexico blue sky. After all, my boots know where all the foot-tripping rocks are, and autopilot kicks in until ……

Out of the corner of my eye, a slight movement. A small stone gets pushed aside by the wary approach of a snake! Now’s not the time for daydreaming. It’s time to pay close attention to each footfall, because Spring in New Mexico has woken up all the slithering, crawling and buzzing wildlife and they are back at work.

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Update ….. Winter Botany Study, Part 5b: Kentucky Coffeetree Seed Planting (and a lonely avocado seed)

You may remember back in February, I shared a story about my Kentucky Coffeetree discovery. What fun it was to geek out over those massively excellent seed pods and to get a firsthand peek inside.

After dissecting several pods and finding them housing a bunch of beautiful brown undamaged seeds, I thought it would be fun to try and germinate them.

On March 27th the seeds were planted.

Continue reading “Update ….. Winter Botany Study, Part 5b: Kentucky Coffeetree Seed Planting (and a lonely avocado seed)”

Spring Botany Study, Part 1: The Season’s Firsts

Was it only just last week that it snowed?

In what seems like a few short days, our New Mexico landscape is rapidy transforming from the crisp and crunchy brown leaves of winter to hints of spring green everywhere! Of course with the promise of spring comes the inevitable dust storm of juniper and pine pollen being whisked along by strong seasonal winds, but sneezing and the sniffles are a small price to pay. I’m prepared to welcome spring with open arms (albeit armed with a box of tissues).

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Winter Botany Study, Part 8: A Hint of Green? Hop Tree

With lots of sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, spring must be around the corner. It’s been like waiting for a pot of pasta water to boil though!

Hiking up into our favorite side canyon in the Copper Trail system, brought us to one of my favorite ”trees” that I’ve been monitoring for several years; the Hop Tree (aka wafer ash). More like a big shrub rather than a tree, this particular plant is snuggled against a protective hillside just west of a beautiful rockfall. The cool and moist rocky setting seems to be just perfect for the hop tree and about 20 nearby relatives to flourish year after year. Last year at this time the buds were beginning to swell. Yesterday (March 26th) there was only a hint of green.

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Travel Journal, Escapito #1, 2022: Exploring Southern NM

March 14-18, 2022

New Mexico, our home state, is a wonderful state to explore, and this little 5 day Escapito lived up to expectations.  Over 650 miles round-trip, from central NM south and then east, we visited  3 new-to-us state parks, and revisited one of our favorite Bureau of Land Management campgrounds. Our main objective was to find migrating birds; those coming north from south of the border to breed in the US, and those that overwintered along the Rio Grande River corridor and are heading way north to Canada and Alaska.  We found some beautiful birds while exploring some very rugged country to within 12 miles of the Mexican border. 

With my travel journal in hand, I was able to capture a few pages of images and notes from the week. 

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Winter Botany Study, Part 7: Mystery Nest

While we continue to get much needed moisture (snow) on our mountain, we continue to enjoy hiking the dry foothills of Albuquerque’s Open Spaces. The 2,000 foot drop in elevation is nudging spring along faster down there too. Already wormwood and globe mallow are sending up leaves from their perennial roots. While bending over to admire these soft fuzzy new leaves unfolding beneath the smooth sumac grove, I noticed that just inches away from my ear what appeared to be an old paper wasp nest! eeeeeeyikes! I hope no one saw me leap about 5 feet sideways!

After my heart slowed a bit, and with an audible sigh of relief at not being swarmed by angry wasps, I realized I had ”leapt” to a mistaken conclusion. Not a wasp nest at all, but a beautifully woven bird’s nest tucked securely in the fork of several sumac branches.

But what bird built this nest?

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