From the Past

We have had a web site since 2011. I have tried to update some of the work – mainly with labeling more of the pictures. I have learned to recognize some of the plants and critters. Still have a long way to go . . .

2012 was a growth period for all of the plants.

2013 visitors started coming.

Doug received an great honor from IBA – Arizona Important Bird Areas Program.
The Program is co-administered by Audubon Arizona and the Tucson Audubon Society.
IBA was looking into making Table Top Mountain an IBA area. Since we are close to Table Top Mountain,
Doug hoped to have our area included because of all the burrowing owls in this area.
They couldn’t include our area because the private land around us could be developed at a future date.

The IBA decided that desert rat studio is a significant habitat for native birds.
They set up a new category called Sites of Conservation Significance.
Our 4 acres are the first to receive this award. 

On April 16,2013 at 6:21 AM, a group from the Audubon society came and stayed with us for about two hours.
During that time they identified 26 different species which they listed on their site.
They also included some nice pictures of our area.

“There is a saying” build it and they will come”. Doug definitely has planted for the birds and they have come.


July 2013

Queen of the Night – Peniocereus greggii


We have had more Queen of the Nights blossom – more than 40 one night. I was out of town so I didn’t get more pictures of this beautiful flower that blooms on what looks like a dead old stick.

The Queen of the Night cactus (Eniocereus Greggii) has been blooming in a different pattern than usual this year. Other years we have had a few bloom one night, and the next night most of the blossoms would open. They seem to all try to blossom at the same time. This year we have been getting a scattering of blossoms over a longer period of time.

If you go to quote Doug’s “thoughts”, it will tell you a lot more about the Queen of the Night.


Vulture Project


Doug is working with the group from the Pennsylvania who wish to study Turkey vultures.
They plan to come to Arizona and band them. The banding will take about a week.

This information was taken from
and is first part of Dr. Bildstein’s biography.

Keith L. Bildstein is Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pennsylvania, where he oversees the Sanctuary’s conservation science and education programs, and coordinates the activities of its graduate students, international interns, and visiting scientists.

Doug was contacted by a representative of Sonoran Joint Ventures to see if he could provide the area for this study.

We have only 4 acres, and they have been developed basically for small birds and animals.
But across the street Pinal County has a large area that is open land.
Doug got permission to use some of the land directly across from our property.

Doug has done a lot of preparation work in order to be ready for the group from Pennsylvania:

  • He had to make sure he had materials needed to handle the buzzard treats.
  • Doug set up a blind so that I could take pictures and visitors would be able to observe the vultures without scaring them away.
  • He had to figure out a way to anchor the food so that unwanted dogs could not scatter it.
  • He erected a small shade room for those doing the banding.
  • Finally, he is getting up at 4 o’clock each morning to make sure the food is put out for the vultures before the vultures come.

The first vultures have been coming close to 6 AM for the last few days. By 10 o’clock there have been between 40 and maybe 80 vultures on the ground. The Turkey vultures seem to come earlier than the black vultures.

The first ones to land, land quite a distance from the food. One or two of the vultures creep towards the food. The rest of the group, anywhere between 5 and 10, follow the leaders very, very cautiously. The leaders seem to eat first. I don’t know if they are just “top dog” or “tasters” for the group.

I have made a number of videos of the vultures for YouTube.

This first video shows a huge group of Turkey vultures and black vultures. There seems to be a lot of pushing and shoving, large wings flapping, and even jumping quite high. Each wanted their share of the buzzard treats.  Turkey vultures and black vultures at feast #1

The second video shows a small group of mainly Turkey vultures at about 7 AM. They had come in close to 6 AM, but were still in a very cautious mode. This video takes place on the sixth consecutive day that the vultures came for food. Later in the day, about 40 to 50 vultures came. Again there was a mix of Turkey vultures and black vultures.  Vulture project day 6


Help wanted!

I am trying to identify many of the plants that we have here at desert rat studio. Some of the plants we know by their common names, some by their scientific name, and some we just guess what the name might be. Doug has a better handle on the plants names and I do, but he’s busy making his garden match his vision for it.

If you see a plant labeled wrong, please let me know.

If you see a plant that has no label at all and you know its name, again please let me know what it’s called.

We have many birds and small animals that make the desert rat studio their home. I might have the correct general name but not the specific name.

A group from Tucson and Phoenix Audubon Society was here bird watching.  They identified 26 species of birds  during their visit. I can identify about seven. So again, please help.



We have a kit fox we have named Pesky who visits once in a while during the night. Sometimes Doug sets traps for stray dogs. For bait he uses cat food. The kit fox likes cat food! Most of the time when he visits, he takes the food, container and all from the trap. That is how we know that Pesky was there for a visit. Once in a while, he gets caught. We take his picture and let him go. The first time it happened, he looked scared. Now he just looks at us as though he is saying “It took you long enough to get here!” Doug has followed him back to one of his dens. They do set up a number of dens so if one seems unsafe for some reason, they can go to another one. One time when Doug was following Pesky, Pesky went to what Doug thought was a burrowing owl’s home. A burrowing owl was sitting close by. It wasn’t scared by the kit fox. Instead it looked like it might say, “Your late getting home today.” Later Doug went back and looked at the entrances. One hole was  larger than the others. It looks like the kit fox and the burrowing owls live as neighbors.Here is our friend Pesky! This was taken close to sun up.****************************************************************************************************************

Here are some pictures from January and February. We had four consecutive nights in the freezing range. A friend who owns a nursery told us that because of the consecutive freezing nights, the plants were damaged more than if we had a freezing night, a few days where it was warmer, and another freezing night. Many of the plants that were supposed to be evergreen lost all their leaves. Other plants froze to the ground. Many of the varieties of cactus froze tips, branches, and areas along their ribs.

This is tabletop mountain. Most of the time it does not have snow on top but this picture was taken on one of those freeze days. We see tabletop mountain from our front yard.

Doug likes many different types of cactus. These are samples of some of the cactus that he has added to his garden. These are senitas. The most common senita is a columnar with black hair like needles that are mainly close to the top of the cactus branches. The monstrous version of the senita does not have the thorns. There is a giant form, a variation that has blonde thorns, another variation has rust colored thorns.




February was very disappointing as dogs destroyed several of the Doug’s burrowing owl habitats.

 The owls that survived the attacks moved out.

That was not the only problem the dogs caused in one square mile.

 A child and an adult were bitten within the same time frame. Many of the elderly were afraid to walk down their streets. Chickens were being killed by the dogs on a frequent basis. This needed to change and change fast!

Since then Doug has worked with Animal Control in our county to: (1) Remind people to keep their dogs home. (2) Remove dogs that are at large from the area. Many pictures of dogs roaming through the area were taken giving proof that dogs were out on a daily or often basis. Families were given warnings that if their dogs remained at large, they would be fined, and their dogs would be taken from the community if they were out on the streets. One day there were 4 Animal Control Officers (with their 4 trucks) covering our neighborhood of about one square mile. It did make an impact!


January is through and I am only now starting to change from 2012 to 2013. This year, I will try to keep the pages shorter so that the pages will load faster. There will be places on the main pages where you can click to take you to the section that you want.

Many of the pictures that I take are of flowers, trees, and cactus.
We have burrowing owls and roadrunners as well as other birds on our property. There are also many bugs and lizards for them to eat.

Bees, including native bees also are here. At times we see snakes as well as other critters.

I take pictures of things when they catch my eye and interest.
I do crop pictures and sometimes change the lighting on the pictures.

Doug is the one who has planned, planted, and watered the gardens.

We have three distinct areas, our front yard which is a mix of many types of plants. We have the one man-made mountain that will someday have a stream run from one in the mountain to a small pond. Doug refers to this as his riparian garden.
This last year he has worked mainly on his cactus patch.
This Trichocereus has a bright, bright red flower.

Greater roadrunner; geococcyx californianus

The roadrunners usually head to their roosting area about a half-hour before sunset.

This roadrunner has chosen to roost near our pergola. He’s been very careful coming up to the pergola. Sometimes he came within a foot or two of Doug. Once the roadrunner thought everything was safe he jumped on the chair. Then he jumped up onto the back of the chair. After again making sure everything was safe he jumped up into the nearby mesquite tree.

Greater roadrunner; geococcyx californianus

As you can see in the picture the mesquite tree has a brace and the branches are bound together. This made the mesquite tree dense enough for the roadrunner to feel safe.

After our last freeze most of the leaves  on the mesquite tree fell off. The roadrunner no longer felt safe there since he felt he could be seen through the branches. So he found another spot to roost.


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