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Purple prickly pear

The purple variety is called the Santa Rita Prickly Pear. Those white fuzzy patches on the pad in the middle are the nests of the cochineal bug, which produces a bright carmine dye. According to Plants of Arizona, the purple variety is particularly susceptible to this bug. For the insect, it’s not a dye but an ant-repellant.

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Kestrel on saguaro

Lots of birds on saguaros (Gila Woodpeckers, Cactus Wrens) but the highlight was an American Kestrel, shown in the photo. Also a Verdin, with the red shoulder patches showing clearly. The Phainopeplas were out as well, two plump Mourning Doves warming up on a telephone wire, and the sweet song of the House Finches in the morning sun. I saw a small grey bird, probably a Gray Vireo, but it’s hard to be sure.

The desert broom is still hanging on to its fluffy seeds in places.

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Sunny winter morning

This is the Campbell Wash, looking north to the Catalina mountains. The mesquite trees were bare, but the palo verdes still have leaves. I saw Phainopeplas, glossy black when perched but flashing their white striped wings in flight, Gila Woodpeckers with up-and-down flight pattern as they alternately flap and glide, a Cactus Wren, sitting on top of a saguaro cactus and making his call like a car starting, an Anna’s Hummingbird flashing red in the morning sunlight, doves and house finches. I also heard the sweet sad song of goldfinches.

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