Desert And Oasis
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I’m back from a brief trip to Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Louisa and I very much enjoyed meeting with some of our best friends and I took care of some necessary business, but we’re really glad to be back home!
Tonight’s pictures show the almost unbelievable contrast between adjacent habitats. Tucson is located in the Sonoran Desert and much of the land surrounding Tucson is what is called “upland desert,” a very dry, rocky landscape that is populated with typical desert vegetation, including numerous species of cactus and mesquite. This is a typical view, taken from the Esperero Trail in the lower reaches of Sabino Canyon.
The wildlife one finds here is typical desert wildlife. In warm weather — at least nine months out of the year — this terrain is excellent for finding lizards, rattlesnakes, and a variety of desert-dwelling insect species.
There are also riparian habitats in the Sonoran Desert, and these are totally different from the upland desert. Pictured below is Sabino Creek, just about 100 yards southeast of Sabino Dam. The creek runs with water about 7 or 8 months out of the year and the vegetation surrounding it is typical of what one finds in riparian areas. There are cottonwood trees, willows, Arizona Wild Cotton, and other species that need more moisture than one finds in the upland desert.
The animal life that one finds here is in many respects different from what one finds in the desert. Yes, one can find snakes and lizards by the creek. But, it is also a place where amphibians dwell, and, in season, a huge array of insect and other invertebrate species. The trees here harbor birds that one never finds out in the desert, including several species of warblers, nuthatches, and Cooper’s Hawks. One can sometimes find ducks in the creek. Notice how narrow this riparian ribbon is. On the left hand side of the picture one can see desert, just a few yards away. Sabino Creek is to the upland desert as an oasis is to the Sahara.
Sabino Creek also produces seasonal wetlands. Pictured below is a tiny marshland, comprising only a few hundred square feet. It’s located outside of Sabino Canyon, at a point where the creek loses much of its force and begins to be absorbed by the desert. The area is a miniature delta, and reeds, cattails, and marsh grasses grow here. The area is habitat for insects that one finds nowhere else in the desert including a myriad of dragonflies that are typical of wetlands.
The truly amazing thing about these extraordinarily varied habitats is their proximity to each other. One can walk from one habitat to the next in a matter of a couple of minutes. They are a gold mine for photography and during the hot months from May through October they are the locations where I take more than 90 percent of my pictures.
Images taken with a Canon 5Diii, 16-35mm f4L zoom wide angle lens. Photos taken at ISO 160, with polarizing filter, “M” setting, focal lengths, f stops, and shutter speeds varied.