I am sure there is a lot of garbage and misinformation on the Internet, but my afternoons would not be as interesting and informative without sitting at my computer. I am currently involved in 2 citizen-science projects: The Great Sunflower Project and Nest Watch, and enter data for both.
The Great Sunflower Project is a San Francisco State University project which collects data to understand the challenges that the bees are facing. They sent out seeds, and while the sunflowers bloom you see how long it takes for 5 bees to land on one flower. If you see no bees in 30 minutes, you record that too. I took my first sample a few days ago and counted 5 bees in 5 minutes. No problem finding bees here.
The Nest Watch Project is run by Cornell University where you monitor a nest, or several, on a regular basis. I selected a nest that is currently being built by a Canyon Towhee in the garden. She has cleverly tucked the nest behind a grapevine and in the last 3 days she has laid an egg each day. I think they are being incubated now. You enter data on a detailed form that is uploaded once the birds have fledged.
I found this nest in progress on the porch and I will be very interested in this one as well. Who is weaving this handsome contraption from bare wires that were meant for a ceiling fan? Dan took a peek with binoculars and thinks it is the Hooded Oriole. Nest Watch confirmed this nest type as belonging to this species. This will be an exciting one.
Yesterday I stumbled on another great website: The Bug Guide. I had noticed a lot of beetles in the garden that I had not seen before and submitted a picture for identification. I heard back within an hour with a scientific answer. They are Western Red-bellied Tiger Beetles, who are predators and considered beneficial.
So, in case you are wondering how one can spend their summer afternoons in the desert, look no further than the Internet.