Walnut Woods Metro Park

I searched out Walnut Woods Metro Park because of its conifers, not hardwoods. Walnut Woods has a good stand of spruce trees, creating one of the few habitats to attract stray White Crossbills. Visiting in the transition between winter and spring, I was too late for such irregular visitors.

I did find other birds. The ever faithful Northern Cardinals and Song Sparrows, year-round residents, were found in abundance.

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Although this was a frosty March morning, the first migrants had arrived. A Red-winged Blackbird was staking a claim in a wetland. Because they disappear from yards in late summer, it seems like American Robins also migrate. However, they usually quietly slip into nearby woods for the winter, then reappear in early spring. DSC_0795DSC_0782Another year around resident – a Red-tailed Hawk – wheeled above the sections of prairie and marsh.

There was evidence of other animals, but none revealed themselves this chilly morning.

DSC_0839There is no little irony found in the final photo. I went to a walnut grove to find spruce trees and photographed a sycamore. But what I sycamore it was.

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Holbert Trail Hike

Yes, I know. South Mountain Park in Phoenix lacks the memorable profile of Camelback Mountain or colorful history of the Superstition Mountains.

What it lacks in branding, South Mountain Park makes up for in pure size. The largest municipal park in the United States, it consists of three mountains. It covers more than 16,000 acres with 51 acres of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

My last day in Phoenix this winter, I hiked the Holbert Trail in South Mountain Park. A five mile round trip, it gains close to 1,300 feet in elevation.

While the elevation change got the heart rate up (especially dragging along camera equipment), there were no severe drop offs that caused the heart to race.

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The “summit” of the Holbert Trail is not one of the most picturesque in Phoenix.

IMG_0131IMG_0138The trip down revealed some quality vistas and petroglyphs.

Birds and Buckeyes (seven photos)

I present the American Buckeye. This tree has odorous flowers, poisonous fruit and wood too weak for carpentry. It’s also absolutely one of my favorite trees. Allow me to explain.

IMG_4225American Buckeye trees use every excuse possible to bud, with several false starts late each winter. It’s as if our backyard Buckeye drew this American Robin from its winter shelter by budding this February.

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American Robin on budding branches

As mentioned earlier, the flowers and even broken branches have a faint odorous scent. This led some pioneers (and I imagine University of Michigan fans) to call it the “fetid buckeye.”

Despite the scent, I think the flowers attract Baltimore Orioles. And I love seeing Baltimore Orioles in the yard, enough to declare the Buckeye one of my favorite trees. A few other birds seem to enjoy the Buckeye in spring as well.

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Baltimore Oriole among the Buckeye flowers
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Northern Cardinal
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Northern Mockingbird

The heat of summer wilts the flowers, which produce fruit better know as “buckeye nuts.” The deep brown color of the nuts is thought to have inspired the name “buckeye.” The nuts really are poisonous for humans. However, the nuts are used to create ornaments and necklaces.

Preserving the Little Salt Marsh (Seven Photos)

Muse with me for a moment.

In the early 1800s, Easterners in America were told stories about the “Great American Desert” west of the Mississippi River.  What are today Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska were described as forsaken, desolate areas unfit for cultivation or civilization.

I’m wondering if the images conjured in the minds of Easterners fit these photographs of the Little Salt Marsh at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

 

My earlier posts about Quivira (landscapes and birds) gives the opposite impression of this unique area of central Kansas. It turns out the Little Salt Marsh was “under repair.” This meant draining much of the marsh, hence the drought-like landscapes. As seen below, there were interesting “drought resistant” plants.

I would like to return to Quivira when the Little Salt Marsh is again filled with (salt) water.