Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Gardens bring Spring Birds and Coyote Herds

Kendall Kroesen, Urban Program Manager

At 10 a.m. there is already 0.35 inch of rain in the rain gauge at the Mason Center from today's storm, bringing renewed hope for ironwoods, saguaros, gardens, wildlife and spring wildflowers. Life is abundant here at Tucson Audubon's nature preserve and urban sustainability demonstration site.

Since the two-inch rain in November many tiny annuals have poked up their seed leaves and continued to grow. Today's is the second smaller storm since then serving to keep those wildflower hopes alive.

Restoration Program Manager Jonathan Horst, expert in teeny weeny plants, says that in this small patch of ground in the hummingbird garden (on the east side of the house at Mason Center) there are at least the following genera: Amsinckia, Cryptantha, Bowlesia, Lesquerella, Filago, Pectocarya, Eschscholzia and Schismus. Bear in mind that none of these is more than about an inch high!

Four coyotes just chased a cottontail through the grounds, losing it under the narrow hiding space below the stage in the classroom ramada. Unfortunately for rabbitdom, but happily for coyotedom, another cottontail lost such a chase some time earlier.

Our hummingbirds seem content, visiting flowers and feeders around the grounds. Costa's, pictured below, will nest here in late winter and early spring. Here's a map of Costa's Hummingbird distribution in Tucson from the Tucson Bird Count. Anna's, here year-round, will also nest on the grounds.

Costa's hummingbird this morning, perched on a night-blooming cereus (Peniocereus greggii)

Chuparosa (Justicia californica), still blooming in winter since we haven't had a hard freeze, providing forage for hummers

The rains are also keeping water in the soil around our native wildlife-friendly landscape, moisture in our heritage food garden and water in our rainwater harvesting tanks. I've been careful to water gardens from the tanks during dry weeks to keep plants moist and so that there would be room in the tanks to hold water from new storms like today's.

The winter vegetables in the heritage food garden are doing well, except the beets which seem to have been eaten by something in spite of the protective frost cloth we've kept over them. (The thin Agribon frost cloth protects them not only from frost but also from herbivorous critters and from drying out).

Part of our winter heritage food garden

I'itoi's onion

Mostaza roja (mustard greens)

There's more here at Tucson Audubon's Mason Center than can fit in one blog post! Plan a visit to look around for yourself. More information at our Mason Center page. You can keep up with Tucson Audubon's Urban Program (including our nest box pilot program) and other Tucson Audubon programs by subscribing to program-specific emails or weekly news emails from Tucson Audubon. 

1 comment:

  1. The rain was great for everything. Hummingbirds are plentiful and even share feeders in the morning except for one that a Costa's believes he personally owns.


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