LOVE…is in the Desert Air!

What, exactly does this mean? Since this is the month of February including Valentine’s Day and “all-things-about-love” I thought you might like to know what we desertdwellers love about the month of February – from the homo-sapiens to the critters and botanical wonders! So grab a dark chocolate, perhaps a good Merlot would pair well, and be prepared to smile and even learn a few things about “love in the Sonoran Desert!”

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The Desert Tortoise usually comes out of its burrow sometime in February, depending on warmth. Some places have “tortoise watch” on Valentine’s Day (sorry, it’s a desert thing) making it fun to see one of their favorite desert animals again. For the tortoise, this isn’t just getting out of the burrow – this is time for love, baby!

Yep, mating season gets in full swing and they don’t waste a moment, however, slow and deliberate is still their mantra. If February is colder than usual, they delay their Valentine rituals as heat is the key to coming out of the burrow and into the warm sunshine! After mating, the real production continues with egg-laying-lots and lots of digging, and avoiding predators, etc. The Desert Tortoise and Desert Box Turtles take this “love” very seriously!

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Costa Hummingbird

Anna Hummingbird

Great Horned Owl

Gila Woodpecker_Male

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Death Defying Loops – Weird Noises & Outright Crazy Love! No, we’re not taking about reality TV shows or creepy Twilight Zone stories – February is “love in the desert” for two of our most popular Hummingbirds, the Costa and the Anna hummers. Should you attempt to follow their aerial acrobatics, you may need to see a chiropractor for your neck! The male Costa has a distinctive ‘zing’ to his chatter and then does deaf-defying loops all to stun and attract the females. The Anna perfects the circle-8 like an Olympic ice skater! Then it sounds off in a buzz that puts the bees to shame. For both of these tiny birds, their aerial displays are huge, sometimes diving up to 100 feet in the air and then back down again, moving so fast you strain to see it all.

If that’s not crazy enough, the Gila Woodpecker who is already a noisy fellow, begins jack-hammering away on anything (mostly metal pipes!) to attract the females. This attraction also includes the ire of anyone who is wanting a peaceful day in the desert.

One more February love-fest includes a giant in the raptor species, the Great Horned Owl! Instead of his “at-attention” loud hoots, he begins a soft velvety-hoot in the early morning and evening. It is quite catchy, if not a tad sexy, and really – Barry White has nothing over these “sexy hooters” when it comes to calling out your love in mating season!

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bartlett lake wildflowers

Lupine & Poppies

Some of our Best Loved Plants find wetter and warmer February to come out with their color. The earliest will be the delightful yellow Brittlebush, Chuparosa, and if the sun stays really shining, Mexican golden poppies, Lupines, and other wildflowers will start showing off.

The picture on the left is a mid-February show of Mexican golden poppies, Owl Clover, Desert Lupine, all gracing a beautiful young Saguaro, taken out by Bartlett Lake Mexican golden poppies are a revered desert plant – and since “love” is something we want to replicate (mating season) and share with others, poppies do just that and they spread their “love” everywhere very quickly. If you want to get wild seed and plant them, be very careful, they will overtake your yard, your neighbor’s yard…suffice it to say, you may have some “lost love” on your block! (Notice: some HOA’s do not allow wild poppy seeding.)

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Phoenix Open

Golf…the Sonoran Desert is home to the “Greatest Show on grass” – and the largest crowds for a golf tournament anywhere in the world. Even people who don’t like golf attend! Now, out here in the Old West, we take our golf game seriously–until you get to the Bird’s Nest on the 16th hole and then well, it does get a tad rowdy but folks are just loving the game. I’m sure most environmentalists cringe at the gorgeous green grass (it is fed by reclaimed sewer water), but one has to admit it is set beautifully in a desert environment that celebrates the flora–and yes the fauna-such as visiting coyotes, turtles, and the desert Inca doves that manage to screw up a few high-hit balls each year! Yes, we LOVE our Phoenix Open, it is truly a community effort and we celebrate a game that does take precision and great skill. The outcome of this event is great revenue for hotels, restaurants, and such ($389 mil in 2018), but there is an even greater gift it gives: 2018 saw $11.5 million given to local charities! So come out, “get your golf LOVE-ON” and enjoy the “Greatest Show on Grass!”