Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stats and thanks!

2011 was the first full year for this Sabino Canyon blog and I'd like to thank all of the contributors, especially Ned Harris. Without your great photos (and often, text), this blog couldn't exist. Based on the feedback I receive, this blog is a positive addition to the digital universe! Thank you for contributing, reading, and enjoying.
The end of the year is a very busy time; I'm going to give you some stats for the year and take a few days 'off'. (Feel free to search the archives in the interim : -)
Most-viewed post this year (and this excludes the email views):
Fire in Sabino Canyon! from April 24, 2011 with 237. My theory on the reason for this incredible number is that  Maggie's and Loren's photos were the only ones available. Anyone googling Sabino Canyon fire would get the blog. How about that for on-the-scene reporting?!
The 2nd-most-viewed post (again, this is excluding all the email recipients):
A Dozen Darling Ducklings from May 5, 2011 with 55.
Just in the past month, people in the following countries have taken a look:
US - 568   Russia - 59
Germany - 19   Canada - 9
Greece - 8   UK - 7
Malasia - 6   Australia - 5
Taiwan - 5   France - 4
Most of these people have searched some Sonoran desert plant or animal. How cool is that?!
Thank you, wonderful readers, for a fantastic year in the blog-o-sphere.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Today in Mountain Lion

All Photos by Ellen Green 12/22/11

These photos were taken at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, the one great place to get a close look at these magnificent creatures. They are not nice kitties, though. Click on the photos for a larger view and note the size of those paws. One swipe will do you in.
Tram driver Cindy stopped Carol and me this morning to let us know that she (and her passengers) had seen a mountain lion and three cubs near stop eight. Let this serve as a reminder to pay attention and especially to keep children close by when you are out and about in Sabino Canyon. The cubs will be learning to hunt. Don't make yourself easy prey.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

WPA bridges and how to search

Several people have asked how to find 'old' posts. Every post is archived, but there's an easier way than spending an hour going through 444 (or so) posts. If you get the posts via email, just click on 'Sabino Canyon' at the top or bottom of the email. Doing that will take you to the blog site itself. On the left, there are 'boxes' for Subscribe and Search. Type a word (e.g., bridge, hawk, leaf, Angie) into the Search box and click on search. If there's a post with that word in it, it will come up on the right. It also works if you want to be specific and type a phrase (e.g., Blue Palo Verde). Give it a try and let me know if you have any trouble.
And now, a review of the WPA bridges
Bridge 5, Bridge 6, (Another view of six in the top two photos), Bridge 7, Bridge 8, Bridge 9. Quiz forthcoming. When you least expect it...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I'll leaf you with more...

Photo by Ned Harris, 12/7/11
An Arizona Sycamore leaf, that is. And the Blue Palo Verde leaflets (from yesterday's quiz) are on the left.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Which one's Blue?

Photo by Ned Harris, 12/7/11
Hand of Anne, Penny from Bob Wenrick
Look at the leaflets and decide which (of the two 'sets') are from the Foothill and which from the Blue Palo Verde!
You could flip a coin...or wait for the answer in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

(Ned) Harris's Hawk

Yes, both photos from Ned Harris


If you haven't already been (and even if you have), I urge you to experience the Raptor Free Flight program at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. You'll be able to see this and other birds much more closely than you can at Sabino Canyon (unless you happen to be a Desert Cottontail).
You can also see Javelinas, who shred prickly pears as in photo 2. Nothing dainty about that bite! Photo 1 is an example of the nibble of the packrat.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who ate my prickly pear?

Both photos by Peggy Wenrick, Photo 1: Click for larger view

Photo 2: Click for larger view
A quiz right off the bat...err...pad! Answers in tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bridge 4 and more!!

Bridge four is the last of the ERA bridges. Look here and learn. Yes, Marge. There's always a quiz later.

More Brittlebush leaves. Photo by Ned Harris
If you ever find yourself lost in Sabino Canyon, you're carrying a magnet (to pick up magnetite from the sand), and are conveniently located near the creek and a Brittlebush, Bruce says: 

The fine hairs also make this leaf more boat-like, and it floats higher. One can put a pinch of magnetite in the boat, and the boat will rotate until it faces north. A field compass. Other leaves are not so accommodating.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More leaves

Photo by Ned Harris 12/7/2011
One of my favorites, Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), has leaves covered with fine white 'hairs'. Same strategy as wearing a white (not black) t-shirt in the summer. White reflects, black absorbs. Another great desert adaptation.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Jo-jo-jo ba!

Photo by Ned Harris, 12/7/11
Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is a dioecious plant. Take a good look at the leaves. There may be a quiz in your future.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Two trees

Photo by Ned Harris 12/7/11
Hand of Anne Green, Penny from Bob Wenrick

You already know that there are several species of Palo Verde. The two you'll find most frequently in Sabino Canyon are Foothills (on left) (Parkinsonia microphylla) and Blue (Parkinsonia florida). The leaflets of the Foothills variety are tiny (micro-); smaller than those of the Blue. Click on the photo to see more detail in the color of the leaflets and branches. Foothills is yellow-green; Blue is blue-green.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another Snowbird

Photo by Bob Wenrick 12/7/11
The White-crowned Sparrow is a winter visitor in Sabino Canyon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Bridge 3 BEFORE 12/7/2008

Bridge 3 AFTER  6/14/2010

Text from Mark Hengesbaugh: 
This Giant Reed, or Arundo donax, at Bridge Three would have re-planted itself along Sabino creek multiple times if Arundo volunteers hadn’t taken it out Dec. 7, 2008. These twenty-foot-tall canes were daunting to look at, but gone after a morning of hard labor cutting, hauling and digging.
An invasive plant from Asia, Arundo spreads when a cane or a chunk of its rhizomes breaks off during flooding and takes root downstream. Volunteers began by first removing the furthest upstream Arundo stands then working downstream.
Live Arundo rhizomes remain underground in Sabino Canyon and re-sprouts from them must be treated to keep the pesky invader from returning. If you see Arundo sprouts in Sabino Canyon, be sure to note the location and to report them to a Forest Service representative at the visitor center. 
Anne says: If you see sprouts and the visitor center is not open, please report their location to me; I'll make sure the information gets to the person in charge of spraying.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

After the rains

Photo by Ned Harris 12/14/2011

Bridge Two Review

I'm recycling this post for bridge two. Thanks again to Walt Tornow for the memory devices!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bridge Review and Arundo, too

BEFORE: Filled-in (north) side of Bridge one,  12/08/2008

BEFORE: Close-up of filled-in side, 12/08/2008

AFTER: 7/8/2009

Text from Mark Hengesbaugh: 

Remember when tram-riding visitors would encounter Sabino’s “bamboo” for the first time at Bridge One? Back then most of us believed removing the Giant Reed, or Arundo donax, from the canyon was a task somewhere near hopeless.
And that was only a few of years ago! The exotic 25-ft. tall Arundo did astonish visitors, but people who know and love the canyon understand that Arundo is a bully of a weed that quickly spreads and chokes out native plants.
It’s difficult to celebrate what’s missing, but we can cheer for the dozens of native plants that have returned to this spot, including a robust Desert Cotton bush. Let’s take a minute to remember and celebrate the success that 6,000 hours of volunteer labor brought to our canyon. And promise ourselves we’ll never let Arundo return.

 Anne says, bridge history here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fishhook Fruits

Photo by Angie Perryman, 11/30/11
The Fishhook Pincushion (Mammillaria grahamii) has bright red fruits that look like mini-peppers. This one has a bumper crop. Last week, Carol T and I saw a roadrunner adeptly plucking and eating the fruits from a pincushion. Very neat!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Photo by Bob Wenrick, 12/7/11

There are loads of leafhopper species (so there won't be a quiz). Click on the photo to see this one in all his/her glory.
And now, the moment you've been waiting for! Answers to the 'willow' quiz: Photo 1) Seep Willow; 2) Hop Bush; 3) Goodding Willow; 4) African Sumac. How did you do?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Willow you take a quiz?

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

All photos by Angie Perryman. Only one photo shows the leaves of a Goodding Willow. Answer in tomorrow's post. Bonus points if you can identify the others. (One is kind of a trick. Remember: you can click!)

Friday, December 9, 2011


Photo by Ned Harris
Of course it's another exceptional photo from Ned Harris, but the title here refers to the damselfly. In one of the early blog posts (before I figured out that centering photos works best), a basic difference between dragon- and damselflies was revealed: dragonflies hold their wings out when 'landed', damselflies over their bodies. The Great Spreadwing Damselfly is the exception (that proves the rule of thumb err... wing).

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Photo by Angie Perryman 11/30/11
Some of these are still blooming around the Bear Bridge (at least they were when the photo was taken. They might have uprooted themselves and headed south because of the freezing temps). Camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) is (you guessed it) in the Sunflower family. Both the Net-Leaf and the Desert Hackberry, however, are (now) in the Hemp Family (Cannabaceae). Don't smoke 'em.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The elusive Net-leaf Hackberry

Photo by Ned Harris. 11/30/11
Well, it wasn't really elusive; I just didn't know where to look. Fred pointed out this very tree-like example in the riparian area above the dam. The size of the leaves can vary for both species of hackberry, but the leaf of the Net-leaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata) feels like sandpaper. And how about that tie-dyed sky? That's your clue to its Family. Answer in tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hop Bush

Photo by Angie Perryman 11/30/11

Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) is in the Soapberry Family (Sapindaceae), but I think its leaves look similar to those of the 'willows' we looked at yesterday. The Hop Bush leaves do tend to be oriented vertically (like the pads on prickly pear cacti); one of the adaptations to 'too much' sun.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Only one's a willow

It took me a long time to distinguish between three 'willows' in the canyon (only one of which is a real willow). As Angie had her close up lens (and was intimidated by my gopher®-wielding self), she graciously agreed to shoot all the leaves I liked so that I could do this little leaf lesson. Thanks, Angie!

All Photos by Angie Perryman 11/30/11

First up is the African Sumac (Rhus lancea) in the Cashew Family. Click on the photo to note the smooth-edged leaves.

Yes, it's a willow

Click on this photo and contrast the edges. Note that the Goodding Willow (Salix gooddingii) has serrated edges on its leaves. It's a true willow (Family: Salicaceae). Salicylic acid is found in the bark and gives the plant some natural defense against headaches. Just kidding about the headaches; it does lend protection against disease. If you add an acetyl group to salicylic acid (as I did once or twice in college chemistry, if memory serves), you get aspirin.

Nope, not a real willow.

The Seep Willow (Baccharis salicifolia) is in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). Note the species name: salicifolia = leaves (foliage) that look(s) like willow. Click on the photo to compare these leaves with the Goodding Willow leaves. I think they look 'toothier'. They are nearly always green-er (or greenier, if you prefer). And they are much toothier than the leaves of the African Sumac.
Angie has several good photos of each; a quiz (or two) will be forthcoming. You can find all three in the riparian area in the dam area, if you'd like to study.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Call me Scarlet

Photo by Angie Perryman, 11/30/11
I like the common name Scarlet Hedge Nettle better than Texas Betony. Whatever you call Stachys coccinea, it's in the Mint Family. Carol T found this lone example flowering in the riparian area above the dam, and Angie had her macro lens. Thanks, Fred, for confirming the i.d.
We also saw the other two acacias, namely: Cat Claw (Acacia greggi) and White Thorn (Acacia constricta).

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Photos by Ned Harris, 11/30/11

Look, mom! No thorns!
Green Lynx Spider, guarding her egg sac. Let's make a note to look for her whenever we're out there. Young could emerge any day. She's in a White Ball Acacia (Acacia angustissima), one of three acacia species in Sabino Canyon, and the only one without thorns. This White Ball Acacia is on the west side of the creek by the dam. How about a quiz, then, too? What are the other two acacias?
From yesterday: 1) Phainopepla, 2) Male, and 3) Desert Mistletoe seeds.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bird Show 2

All Photos by Ned Harris 11/30/11
Clearly, a favorite perch! Three quiz questions: 1) Name of bird, 2) male or female; and 3) what's that pile? Answers in tomorrow's post. Arachnophobes will need to skip tomorrow's post, though. That means you, Honey-Matt!

Sage Thrasher
This Sage Thrasher was a new one for many of us on Ned's Nature Walk. A winter visitor to this area.

Greater Roadrunner
The Roadrunner spent quite of bit of time posing for us. Or was s/he hoping for one of my husband's world famous vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookies?! (Okay, maybe not world famous, but delicious.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The (buck)eyes have it!

Photo by Bob Wenrick
You can see how this pattern enhances survival! This Buckeye Butterfly was eyed near the dam.
Yesterday's bush is a creosote bush; and a good time for me to clarify something I said on a recent nature walk: the creosote used on dirt roads (for example) does not come from the creosote bush. (Thanks, Carol, for correcting me on this.)
The gall is most likely caused by a midge (according to this site): 

The Creosote Gall is formed by a Midge that is in the order Diptera and is classified with the flies.  The Creosote Gall is a deformation of the plant with the leaves and stems stunted to form the Gall.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Deck the halls with galls

Photo by Ned Harris, 11/23/11
Two quizzes in a row is a bit galling, I realize. What's this shrub? Bonus for a reasonable 'guess' about how the gall was formed. Answers in tomorrow's post.
Leaves from yesterday's post are (top photo) Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii) and Arizona (Black) Walnut (Juglans major).

Bonus book recommendation (for that bad pun above). My cousin-in-law recently gave me a book with the provocative title Wicked Plants: The weed that killed Lincoln's mother and other botanical atrocities by Amy Stewart. Who knew there were so many plants that are toxic, poisonous, and downright deadly?! I'm enjoying it immensely. (Some say I'm enjoying it a bit too much.) If you have even a passing interest in plants, get this book. The etchings (by Briony Morrow-Cribbs) are lovely, and many of our desert plants make an appearance, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Photos by Ned Harris, 11/23/11 

It's time for another quiz! Hooray. Both are Arizona trees. Answer in tomorrow's post.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Canyon Curiosity 4

Photo by Ned Harris, 11/10/11
This very permanent trail marker is not on (or very near) the Esperero Trail. You'll see it, though, if you go on one of Bruce's Gneiss Walks. Thursdays, 8.30-11.30am. Meet in front of the visitor center.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Merlin's beard! He's a Merlin!

All photos by Ned Harris, 11/26/11

Ned's favorite bird. Now you know :-)

You'll want to click on this one...

...and this one. 
Wow! Aren't these amazing?! This small falcon is a winter visitor in Sabino Canyon; a 'snow bird', if you will. But you can call this adult male 'Merlin'.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Queen's fruit

Photo by Fred Heath
This was a find at BioBlitz species inventories led by Jean and Mark and by Fred at Saguaro National Park East. There are Queens of the Night  (aka Night-blooming Cereus Peniocereus greggii) in Sabino Canyon, but it's a real treat to see a fruit.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bluebirds of Happiness

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh, 11/21/11
Jean and Mark were visited by these Western Bluebirds (of Happiness) on the Bear Canyon Trail.