Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tempe Town Lake Disappears

Tempe Town Lake, 8 AM, July 21st, 2010

Okay, maybe not completely, but it has been reduced to a big stinky mud puddle.  It blew a bladder last night around 10PM, sending nearly 1 billion gallons down through the Rio Salado.  Later today Tempe city officials deflated the remaining 3 bladders that make up the dam, allowing the rest of the water to drain out.
Sadly, the flood has left hundreds of fish, stranded and dying, in 2 or 3 inch deep pools of water.  The usual set of birds that hang out on the lake were strangely absent, only a few scavenger birds - Grackles and Doves - remained.  So, I ventured to the habitat east of the lake (the Tempe Marsh), and tada! 

Cormorants and Egrets huddled together, seemingly befuddled,
likely wondering where in the hell their lake disappeared to.

Cormorants and Egrets crowd together at the Tempe Marsh
 riparian habitat upstream from the now empty Tempe Town Lake.

Double-click on image below for an enlarged slide-show.

City officials say the lake will be empty likely until Novemvber.  It will then take 2 weeks to re-fill the lake.  To see a video of the empty lake, see this YouTube video

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why We Live in the Desert

The overnight low was 95 degrees, and today's forecast is 115 degrees with high humidity. Now is the time that we all begin to question our sanity.  Why, why, why on earth do we choose to live in this god-forsaken hellacious inferno?  Here is a gentle reminder...

During the winter, when others are dealing with this...

We desert dwellers are out enjoying ourselves, and admiring the snow off on the horizon, not piled up in our driveways.
Its February, and I'm out on the scenic and wheelchair accessible Nursery Tank Trail in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, and yes, that's SNOW on Four Peaks!   Nursery Tank Trail is a great trail with panoramic views of the McDowell Mountains, and the Four Peaks Wilderness Area in the Mazatzal (pronounced Mat-a-zel, not Matzaball!) Mountains.  The trail ends at a wildlife watering hole (tank) so you'll see a nice variety of birds, and at dusk and dawn possibly a few javelina, deer, coyotes, or cottontail rabbits stopping by for a drink.  Many of the mesquite and palo verde trees are loaded with desert mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) which Phainopepla love to eat.  We saw a number of male and female Phainopepla feeding on and nesting in the big dark clumps of mistletoe high in the palo verdes. 

We also saw Gila Woodpeckers, White-crowned Sparrows, Abert's Towhees, Gambels Quail, a few Raven, and a kettle or two of Turkey Vultures soaring high overhead.  Other birds that frequent this area of high Sonoran Desert are Northern Cardinals, Cactus Wrens, Curve-billed Thrashers, Harris Hawks, American Kestrels, Flickers, Hooded Orioles, Wilsons Warblers, Mockingbirds, Annas and Costas Hummingbirds, and Verdins.
Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)

The surface of the trail was smooth, wide, and hardpacked.  Its 1.2 miles roundtrip, dotted with benches, informational signs, and one shade kiosk.  Recent heavy rains had caused a saguaro and a few barrel cactii to become uprooted and topple over.  If you go, check the weather ahead of time, as this is a flash flood area.  Dust dry desert washes (gullies) can fill quickly and run forcefully enough to carry away entire vehicles! 

So, lets try to maintain our sanity for the next 2 months, hope for a good monsoon season, and try not to get cabin fever...

Grandma (a.k.a. Shotgun-Shirley) in a desperate attempt to get to Walmart, holds grandpa at gunpoint so he'll shovel the driveway.

See more photos of Nursery Tank Trail and McDowell Mountain Regional Park by double-clicking on the photo below.
Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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