Saturday, January 30, 2010

Views From the 'Office'

When I was taking pictures of lichen last week, I was also looking out for other shots to take. There was some haze in the air - dust and particulants, but not terrible (believe me, I've seen it bad).

<Click on any of the pictures for a larger image>

Up on Camelback Mtn looking toward the Papago Buttes.

Pretty much the same spot, just looking back toward the mtn.

Another spot looking towards 4 Peaks to the east. A bit of snow left up there. The tiny spots in the sky to the left of the rock are most likely swifts flying around.

Looking over downtown Phoenix as the sun sets.

Looking back at Camelback from Papago.

Papago Buttes (the ones on the National Guard property)

Smart? Car

Judging from the size of these things, I wouldn't exactly think they were so smart.  They can't be all that safe in an accident, can they?
I don't know what the Gelato Spot is.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Erik's New Braces

This makes 1/2 of our family in braces. Erik chose aqua & silver for his colors. He can change them up each time he goes in if he wants.  He says his teeth hurt already. The first couple of days are the hardest. I couldn't believe how quickly my teeth started moving!

Even MORE Lichen

I went back to Camelback Wednesday to try to find another fern to get a better picture without having to hike half way up.  I found a semi-isolated little wash with a bunch of lichens I'm pretty sure I've never seen before.
I don't have the ID for these, but when I do I'll post them. Pretty cool, though, spotted and bi-color!

Here are more spotted ones, but are they a seperate sp? These appear to be greenish then turn tan, while the other one above seems whiter and maybe a bit greyish.  Knowing as little as I do, I can't say.  When I find out, I will post the results...

Fringed and some others...
Darker colors as varitation within the same species or different species? The black ones different from those identified earlier? Again, we'll have to wait and see...

So here could be another 4 -7 new ones here. New to me, that is!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Other Low-Lying Plants

Besides lichen, moss and resurrection fern really benefitted from the recent rains.

Moss does grow in the desert.  Much of the time it is dormant and dead looking.  Very quickly after a rain it turns green and begins to make food for growth.

Now, if I'm not mistaken, there are male & female flowers needed for moss to reproduce.  Sometimes they are found in different parts of one plant and sometimes in different plants.  The above picture is moss, fairly close up.

Here is the resurrection fern - AZ Spikemoss - a member of the spikemoss family.  To the far right is more moss.  The leafy plant in between is a liverwort, most likely thalloid liverwort.

Here is a closeup of the spikemoss.  The name Resurrection Fern comes from the way this plant curls up, exposing the brown, dead-looking underside in periods of drought.  Shortly after a rain, it opens up appearing to come back from the dead.  Some hillsides appear to be carpeted with it and really look green and healthy after a rain.

I don't know the name of this fern right off.  Probably Woodsia phillipsii.

This fern may be Argyrochosma or Silver Fern.  Not the best shot, but the stems and leaves are both downy.

Lichen - a Small Sampling

Click the pictures below for a larger view, some are well worth the closer look...

OK, here are the Big 3 again.  They are likely to pop up in most of the following pictures.
Pale green one is a Xanthoparmelia species
Rust one is a Caloplaca species
Yellow-green one is Acarospora socialis

Acaraspora socialis looking exceptionally lush after the rains.

Xanthoparmelia - X. weberi
This one radiates out from a central spot and continues growing outward after the older, middle section dies off. 

There are some ways to determine age by size & growth rates, and there are lichen over 1,000 years old.  Not surprizing, I suppose, as there are living pine trees over 4,000 years old, but there are some lichen believed to have been around 10,000 yrs or so!

Lichinella crebillifera
If I weren't aware that it had just rained (and rained) the week before, I may have passed over lichen such as these believing them to be dead.  The largest of these would barely cover your thumbnail.

Placidium laciniatum (brown) and Peltula sp. (olive)
Some more lichen species I never would have known existed before deciding to take a closer look. None of these are as big as the eraser on the end of a pencil

Placidium laciniatum - a very common brown soil lichen
This amid some of the more commonly found lichen.

I have to admit, these things are way cooler up close and personal.  They are pretty amazing to be able to survive in the desert.  But then there are lichen in the arctic and just about everywhere else.

Lichen - an introduction

Hiking up Camelback Mtn the other day I was once again impressed by the proliferation of yellow-green lichen following a good winter rain.  I decided to take some pictures and got a bit of a surprise with some of the results.  This shot is actually from Papago Park (pretty much same sandstone conglomeration as the head of Camelback) and shows the big three. The most common lichen you'll find easily without really looking for them.

Pale green one is a Xanthoparmelia species
Rust one is a Caloplaca species
Yellow-green one is Acarospora socialis

The names alone aught to impress you. That I should be able to identify them - not as impressive. I enlisted the help of ASU Professor Tom Nash to identify these and the others.  ASU is part of the North American Consortium of lichen herbariums.  The ASU website ASU herbarium for lichen  has pictures to help identify lichen, but as they are listed by scientific names and not by colors or other identifying factors, I wasn't about to go through and click species after species to luck upon the correct one.  Definitely a site for those who know a bit about lichens! I never would have dreamed there are so many different kinds of lichen.

What are Lichen?
Simply put, lichen are a combination of algae and fungi.  Algae is found pretty much everywhere in the world - in water, on land, high mountains, low valleys, wet soils and dry places.  Fungal spores can pretty much go where the wind blows, which is also pretty much everywhere in the world, and sure enough, you can find lichen just about anywhere.  They have a unique adaptation and symbiant relationship that allow them to survive even the driest climes. 

The algae conduct photosynthesis and provide nutrients...the fungus uses this to grow, obviously. When it rains after an extended period of drought, the fungus cannot immediately begin growing again - the water begins a process in which nutrients are broken down which in turn both the algae and the fungus use.

There are way more complicated explainations out there and you can google lichen to learn more than you may ever need to know about them. One thing about the algae - there is a simpler bacteria form called cyanobacteria which may be a host. And just as algae & bacteria take on a myriad of colors in their various blooms, so do the lichen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cloudy Days

We had some decent rain on Tuesday. One of those long, easy showers we're used to seeing in the winter here in the desert.

We heard more rain was on the way for late Wednesday and all day Thursday. But the sky was clear in the morning and only a few clouds by mid-afternoon.

By sunset there wasn't anything that looked like rain yet.

Still no rain when we went home for the night, but the weather radars were showing a little of what was in store.  It started raining early Thursday and only stopped for a bit mid-day Friday.  Cells and pockets of heavy rainfall, strong winds in the afternoon, and in the late afternoon Thursday there was a tornado watch! That certainly doesn't happen often out here.  Friday's rain was back to a gentler one. In fact, it is still coming down as I'm typing this.  A long winter rain is just what was needed out here after a long drought - something like 10 years of below average rainfall.  Lots of snow in the high country and rain in the lower part of the state should refill the resevoirs quite nicely.

Monday, January 18, 2010

AZ Mills Mall

We had lunch today at the Rain Forest Cafe in the Arizona Mills Mall.

Anna didn't care for the noise when the 'storm' started. She crawled up on Gail and promptly fell asleep through lunch.

The entire restaurant is set up as though it were in the jungle.
Large fish tanks had some interesting fish.

And the one good shot of the day (the one that didn't get away?)

Then we walked around the mall and Jake & Anna rode the carousel.

One of the better shots when Jake wasn't hamming it up too badly.

Nebraska - the Family

Here's Gail holding Elijah.

Here's Julia looking at me like, "Who are you and why are you taking pictures of me?"

Anna & Julia got along pretty well. Neither could be bothered to slow down for long to get a picture, let alone one of the two together.

Shannon holding Elijah.

The Splonskowski family (Julia giving a kiss to Elijah)

Elijah's smile. Gail captured a bigger smile, I think. Maybe she will have that on her blog...

Anna outside by the sidewalk checking out the snow.

Shay all spiffed up and looking sharp at the wedding!

David & Anne before the wedding.

Mr. & Mrs. Gronseth

The happy couple with Mom Gronseth

Gail & Anna at the airport. Both held up pretty well through all the excitement and neither one napped on the plane ride home. (I expected one or both to nod off).

Nebraska - the Snow

Wandering into the cold (people laughed when I said it felt cold at 27 (F)) and snow was nice - partly because of the novelty of it, and partly because the beauty of it and mostly because I could leave it behind. I had to take some pictures, but we didn't drive around looking for scenic or picturesque shots.  So basically wherever we stopped (and sometimes from the car) I took some pictures.

A light mist or fog settled in and temperatures were just right to form hoarfrost on just about everything outside.

Pretty neat to see close up, but pretty neat to see the trees and branches white with it too.
Looking down the street at Shannon & Dave's house.

An evening shot from Anne's brother Bill's place.

Just down the street from David & Anne's house the next day. Much warmer but still a bit foggy.

Gail became an expert marksman inside Bass Pro Shop and decided to try her hand at a moving target.  Fortunately for me, my cat-like reflexes kept me from harm.