Friday, December 31, 2010

Out of the bag!

Bagworm Bag, Photo by Bob Wenrick, 12/15/10
I've posted about Bagworms before, but I didn't know they were so ugly in the caterpillar stage until Christmas day in the afternoon, when I was walking in the riparian area above the dam with my family. Inspecting the willow with multiple bagworm bags, I saw a maggot-like caterpillar come about a centimeter out of the top of the bag and proceed to crawl - very slowly - with the bag still hanging down. Of course, my photographer daughter was busy taking the 'follow the water' photos, and didn't hear me shouting. Jean and Mark and company came along, though, and I was sure they'd be able to confirm my sighting. As I called them over, gesticulating frantically, I either created turbulence or brushed the branch ever so slightly. In any case, the caterpillar pulled the bag back up and pretended to look like a perfectly stationary bagworm bag. Sigh. Here's basically what I saw, albeit vertical.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nests to know

Click on the name for a photo of the bird. And you might want to bookmark the site: All About Birds, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Everything you've ever wanted to know about birds and more!

Bell's Vireo Nest, photo by Bob Wenrick
Bell's Vireo nest description from the site above: Open bag-like or basket-like cup of grass, straw-like stems, plant fibers, small skeletonized leaves, paper, and strips of bark fastened with spider silk; lined almost invariably with fine, brown or yellow grass stems. Outside decorated with spider egg cases. Suspended from forks of low branches of small trees or shrubs.

Cactus Wren nest, Photo by Bob Wenrick
If you are fortunate enough to run into Mark Hengesbaugh in the canyon, ask to see the bird app on his i-phone. Very cool. Cactus wren in French Troglodyte des cactus - not so much. 

Verdin nest, Photo by Bob Wenrick
Cool Fact: The Verdin builds nests for both breeding and roosting; roosting nests are much smaller. The outer stick shell is constructed mostly by the male, while the female does most of the lining.
And, according to the 'Canyon Grape Vine', Ned Harris is doing great after surgery. Remember, you read it here first!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Don't follow this guy!

Hog-nosed Skunk
Mark Hengesbaugh writes: Jean and I caught this skunk this morning (12/27/10) just a few yards upstream from the dam, rooting around in the leaf litter that's accumulated among the Arundo stumps.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Follow the water

All photos by Ellen Green, 12/25/10

All the best to Ned for a speedy recovery and even more super powers.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White water

Photo by Bryna Ben-Asher, 12/24/10
After the rains from Wednesday evening, there is again water flowing over the dam. What a wonderful sound.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Who do you see?

Rock Face, Photo by (not of) Carol Tornow

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


A tree for all seasons
Photo by Carol Tornow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Javelina babies

Photos by Gayle from 12/16/10
Lots of info about javelinas here
Fun fact: More young are raised in rainy years. Not so fun fact: Birthing mothers retreat from the herd so that their newborn(s) aren't eaten by other group members. (Even though they are primarily herbivores.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mexican Yellow

Mexican Yellow, 12/15/10 Photo by Bob Wenrick
For another cool critter seen on the nature walk last week, go to Margarethe's blog post "A different kind of hawk" and scroll down. And then rejoice that her photo shows the critter larger than life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The eyes have it!

Canyon Tree Frog, 12/15/10
Photo by Bob Wenrick
This little guy was hiding in a crevice in the dam wall. I've never seen one in a tree, have you?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fruit and nut

Desert Cotton
Photos from Carol Tornow, 12/17/10. Take a walk along the road for these and other sights.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stop 8 is great!

Some very nice gneiss
waterfall and pools
Can't beat the views!
Carol Tornow (all photos) took me on a tour of this canyon paradise today. Get out there and see the sights!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Perfect 10!

FON on the Bluff trail. Photo by Peggy Wenrick
FON at the dam. Photo by Peggy Wenrick
Nine Friends of Ned (FON) joined Ned on his Wednesday (12/15) Nature walk. If you'd like to have fun with FON, join us on Wednesday at 8.30am in front of the visitor center. FON will commune with nature in Ned's stead for a few weeks. He's having some titanium installed, but will be back as soon as his back is back.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Don't be an 'item' for this guy!

Gopher snake, Photo by Bob Wenrick 12/08/10
Who said herpetologists don't have a sense of humor? My favorite line in this article: "Living prey items are dispatched by constriction." Thankfully, Bob managed to snag a photo without becoming a prey item. Snakes are out and about - not many, of course, but my family also saw a gopher snake as well as its false twin, a western diamondback, in Sabino canyon last week.
An update on the pronunciation of leucism/leucistic. As I suspected, it's from the Greek for white. Think 'leukocytes' (white blood cells) and say: 'Luke, I'm your father.' Luke-ism  or Luke-istic.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bird and Word of the Day

Phainopepla Male - leucistic
Thanks to Bob Wenrick for the photo and the word of the day. This male Phainopepla (fain [rhymes with pain] Say: fain - oh - PEP - luh) is white and grayer than he 'should' be. He's not the victim of a bad dye job at the salon, but rather has a mutation that prevents pigment from being 'properly' distributed. Leucism is not the same as albinism. Albino animals generally have no pigment expressed, although there are various levels of this mutation as well. I'll ask Bob how to pronounce leucism/ leucistic and get back to you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting squirrelly

Guys, guys, I said: Put your right foot in. Not: Shake it all about.
Round-tailed ground squirrels are my favorite desert mammals. (At least they are today.) Arizona is one of the very few places on earth where you can find this little guys. They go underground in the winter here, but they don't hibernate; they just slow down their metabolism - kind of like what hummingbirds do at night.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More beauty

Ocotillo Flowers, April 2010, Photo by Matt
Cattails, June 2010, Photo by Matt

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Photo by Ellen Green

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Red birds OR How to tell your 'cardinals' apart

Northern Cardinal - male (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Pyrrhuloxia - female (Cardinalis sinuatis)
The Northern Cardinal male is clearly brighter in color than the Pyrrhuloxia (say: 'peer uh LOX eee uh') of both sexes. The 'trick' is telling a female Northern Cardinal (much grayer/browner/duller than the male) from a Pyrrhuloxia of either sex. For identification on the fly (pun intended), look to the beak. Both species have short, solid, seed-cracking beaks; but Northern Cardinals have beaks of red/orange; and Phyrrhuloxia beaks are yellowish at their brightest (in the male, usually). All photos from Red, er, Ned Harris.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More color

Clouds make for great sunsets!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fall color

From the Bluff trail, photo by Ned Harris
This might not be as dramatic as fall color in, say, New Hampshire, but the science is the same. The process in a nutshell here. Get out there and enjoy it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't kiss under this mistletoe!

Mistletoe berries, Photo by Matt
Phainopepla (female) with dangling deposit
Photo by Bob Wenrick, 12/1/10
Mistletoe reproduction for kids of all ages: Berries are fruits. Fruits are one way for seeds to 'get around' (i.e., for plants to make more of themselves). Phainopeplas are animals (specifically, birds). Phainopeplas love to eat mistletoe berries. Every animal poops. (Check mesquites for more evidence.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deck the halls with puffballs

Photo by and quarter from Ned Harris, 12/1/10
There are a number of these puffballs in the riparian area above the dam, especially around the hummingbird tree (where the 2nd AZ Walnut is located). This one looks like a 'mature' (i.e., full of spores) puffball. If you step on it, a yellowish cloud will explode from within and there will eventually be more fungus among us. According to the mushroom expert, some puffball species can grow to be truly humongous fungus. Some species are edible, some are deadly. Just say 'no' to any chocolate-covered ones. Happy December!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Canyon Clean-up Day

Melissa and her newly-found magic wand
Cookie, Carol T, Anne with the remains of the day
Sixteen members of the Santa Catalina Volunteer Patrol  braved the cold and wind on Monday to do a thorough trash pick up in Sabino Canyon. Unusual finds included the magic wand above, an old CD walkman, a pair of men's underwear, and an empty bag of Equine 'Senior' Horse feed (which was then filled by Marc, who won the prize for the most trash). Thanks to Carol T for organizing this event. It was both fun and productive! If you think you have what it takes to wear the uniform of the SCVP, pick up an application in the visitor center or contact us via the website. The new class trains in February.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Arachnophobes, remember my last!

Abdomen colors and patters vary
view from the back
Orbweavers come in over 3000 species. One article claimed that you can easily tell them apart by looking at their eyes. I'm going to skip that part. Photos by Lenor Lavelle. You can look at her eyes.
Update from Carl Olson, aka Bug Man. Lenor asked him for a positive i.d., and he pronounced this a Western Spotted Orbweaver, or Neoscona oaxacensis. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Click on photos for larger view
Look closely at the tail
Lenor was on the nature walk on Wednesday, and, as is my custom, I hit her up for photos for the blog. As you've seen the past few days, she obliged with some real beauties, including this desert spiny with a bifurcated tail. Let's call him a devil spiny.
WARNING to arachnophobes: don't look at tomorrow's post!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mule vs. White-tailed deer

Note the black-tipped tail
Note the big ears
Relying on the identification and photographic skills of Lenor (both photos), I am confident that the deer above is a mule deer.

Photo by Matt Ball
Not so sure about this one, other than the fact that he's a he. My guess, though, not being able to see the tail, but looking at the antler shape, is that this is a white-tailed. I turn to you, dear deer reader, to confirm or deny.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Who let the cat out?

Not a mountain lion
Lenor spotted this bobcat near her house. Thanks, Lenor.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good reasons to clean out your garage now and then

This came up in my side bar display: "Rattlesnake video ruins Arizona garages for everyone." Watch it and see for yourself. Thanks to Dan Gibson of the Tucson Weekly for this find.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Now for something completely goofy!

The rare (and beautiful) annegreen tortoise
And I'll take this opportunity to remind you never to pick up a desert tortoise. (You won't see one in the winter, but still.)
I'd have to pay you to pick up the annegreen tortoise.
Photo by Ellen Green, 11/20/10

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Moths and Butterflies

Fall Webworm (caterpillar)
You've seen the fall webworm 'nests' in many of the trees in the riparian area above the dam (and elsewhere). On 11/17/10 we saw several of  these little guys out on a limb. Not more than an inch long, heading out to pupate, they will turn into - you guessed it - fall webworms (moths). Take a look here for a photo.

Funeral Duskywing
Saw several of these on 11/17/10 as well. This is (already) a butterfly, though, not a moth. What's the difference, you ask? I say: "To the internet!" More info than you need to become an expert. Thanks again to Ned Harris for the expert photos.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another AZ Walnut

Arizona Walnut II
There's a second AZ walnut in the riparian area above the dam. This one is about 2 feet tall (11/17/10), right next to the tree in the hummingbird area where the Hummingbird Network sets up the traps on banding days, on the creek side. Hooray for the return of the natives! Photo by Ned Harris.