Saturday, April 30, 2011


All photos by Ned Harris

Saw only one Eastern Collared lizard on the Nature walk on 4/27/11; but he was very cooperative. (Fred thinks this is a young male.) Was still on this rock when we came back through ten minutes later (the lizard, not Fred). Need a pattern scanner for this lizard, too. Tell any kids you know that making one would be a great science fair project.

Friday, April 29, 2011

April Flowers

Even though we didn't have a fantastic flower season this spring, there are still many blooms to see. All photos here from Carol Tornow on 4/15/11.

Desert Honeysuckle
Desert Honeysuckle (Anisacanthus thurberi)

Santa Catalina Phlox
Santa Catalina Phlox aka Desert Phlox (Phlox tenuifolia) 

Yellow Monkey Flowers
You'll see these close to the creek. Yellow Monkey Flowers (Mimulus guttatus)

These also like water, but not as much as the monkeys above. Goodding's Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii).

Dainty Sulphur

Photo by Ned Harris, 4/25/11
This butterfly is the size of a penny! Amazing. Dainty Sulphur butterflies have puddle parties.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gila monster sightings!

Photo by Angie Perryman, 4/27/11
Photo by Stephen Bernier, 4/26/11
Photo by Pam Bridgemon, 4/26/11
Gila monsters have unique patterns, I expect. But the only way to be really sure is to invent a 'bar code scanner' for gila monsters, like they have for zebra stripes. (I'm not making this up.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bug Art

Very tough to photograph! (Carol Tornow did it!)
Looks like they are getting ready to jump in formation. Except for the one on the top left. S/he's rethinking the whole skydiving thing. These are nymph Giant Mesquite Bugs (thanks, Fred). They look very different throughout their life cycle. But they never wear helmets.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time for some badgering!

Photo by Sue Mudd, Click for larger view
Yes, there are badgers in Sabino Canyon. If you've seen rather large holes, like this one, along the trails, you've likely encountered an entrance/exit to a badger den. Badgers are mainly carnivores (and are related to that paragon of fierceness, the wolverine); don't get one as a pet. Thanks to Sue, via Ned, for permission to use this photo taken in Sabino Canyon a few weeks ago.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lizards to know: Part 2

Part 2 of 'Lizards to know' presents some of the lizards in the 'upper canyon'. Using the dam area and the Bluff trail (roughly speaking) as the border, heading into the canyon from the border is 'upper', heading back to the visitor center from the border is 'lower'. Plenty of overlap in the border area. All photos here by Ned Harris.

Ornate Tree Lizard
Look carefully in the trees and on rocks above (and around) the dam to find Ornate Tree Lizards. Often, you won't be able to see them until they move. 

Sonoran or Gila Spotted Whiptail
There are four whiptail species in Sabino Canyon. (In the lower canyon, you'll see Tiger Whiptails.) In the upper canyon are three others: Canyon Spotted Whiptails and the Sonoran and Gila Spotted Whiptails. (If you are thinking: "they look alike to me", you are not alone. I am happy to identify them as whiptails and leave the particulars to the experts, like David Lazaroff and Larry Jones.) The cool thing about the Sonoran and Gila Spotted Whiptails (beside being indistinguishable; even the experts quibble as they count scales) is that they are all females. They reproduce by parthenogenesis; all are clones of the mother, no men or boys allowed. 

Eastern Collared Lizard
The Eastern Collared Lizard is great one to see in the upper canyon. Join Ned, Fred, and Anne (substituting for Carol T) on Wednesday, 4/27/11 for the final 'Nature Walk with Ned' this season. Ned will take us up the Esperero trail to the Rattlesnake trail in search of Eastern Collared Lizards. We'll start at 0830 in front of the visitor and will likely be back around noon. Bring water : - ) 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fire in Sabino Canyon!

c. 7:30 am
Firefighters on the scene
Photos from Maggie and Loren Rathert, on the scene in Sabino Canyon Sunday morning 4/24/11. The fire was in the area above the dam, where we take kids to 'Frog Cave' on the lizard program (i.e., across the creek from the hummingbird area and from where we take the kids on the elementary program). No news yet on how it started, but the Forest Service did put out a press release about the fire danger on the weekend.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Get even more pollen on!

Cactus Wren (Ned Harris 4/22/11)
Gila Woodpecker (Ned Harris 4/22/11)
White-winged Dove (Ned Harris 4/22/11)
Curve-billed Thrasher (Ned Harris 4/22/11)
These birds are foaming at the mouth! Okay, not really, but they are enjoying the beautiful saguaro flowers. The Cactus wren is a well-adapted desert bird whose song sounds like a motor that won't turn over. The Gila Woodpecker has a loud (rather annoying, to my ears) call. (Those attempting to steal nectar from my hummingbird feeder would do well not to announce themselves.)  White-winged doves migrate here in time for the saguaro flowers. The Curve-billed Thrasher's call is a two-syllable whit-wheet.
And Ned Harris' call sounds like a shutter clicking.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Get your pollen on!

Photo by Bob Wenrick, 4/19/11
Photo by Ned Harris, 4/20/11
Click on these photos for a closer look. Loading up on saguaro flower nectar gives you some bonus pollen.
Some saguaro flowers blooming in the 'tram circle' by the visitor center and along the road. Stay tuned for the big show...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Snakes just wanna have fun: Part 3

photo by Ned Harris, 4/20/11
To boldly go where no snake has gone before, this Black-necked Garter Snake is scaling new heights!


Canyon Tree Frog, Photo by Ned Harris, 4/19/11
Family friend and soon-to-be-16-year-old Derek always named any Canyon Tree Frogs we saw while hiking 'Chuckles'. Here's another Chuckles for you, Derek.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lizards to know: Part 1

Let's begin with some of the lizards found in the 'lower canyon'; basically everything from the visitor center to the dam/Bluff trail 'border'. There's cross over, of course, but this distinction is helpful for some of the lizards, even though they don't necessarily abide by it. (All photos by Ned Harris, click on photo for larger view.)

Side-blotched lizard, male
The Side-blotched Lizard does, in fact, have a blotch on the side. Markings vary from spots to chevrons, but males have the bluish tails and undersides. Apparently the girls like blue.

Side-blotched lizard, regrown tail
This one has regrown its tail after losing it to a predator. Better your tail than your life, but regrowing a tail is not without costs. It seems that dormant stem cells are switched 'on' when the lizard loses its tail. Some interesting research is going on about how to do this in humans so that, say, amputated limbs could be regrown.

Zebra-tailed Lizard
Note the two striped by the armpits. That's your clue you are looking at a Zebra-tailed Lizard. More info at this post.

Regal Horned Lizard
And last (for today), but not least, my personal favorite, the very well-camouflaged (and cute) Regal Horned Lizard. In the interest of science, an unnamed naturalist picked up two to be photographed. (Under the rubric: "do what I say, not what I do"  -  Please don't pick up lizards of any kind unless you are specially trained, like Larry Jones. In most cases, it's not legal to do so.)

Goodbye for now!
No lizards of any kind were harmed in the making of this blog post. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sabino's a beach!

Bridge 7 is heaven!
Cool your toes!
Take a stroll to Bridge 7 as soon as possible to enjoy wading in the creek (while there's still water)! There are picnic tables and grills in the shade just past the bridge on the left, too. Great times for young and younger! Thanks to Carol Tornow for immortalizing this family visiting from Colorado.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Desert Fish

Gila Chub, Photo by Ned Harris 
I did some fishing for info on the gila chub, now seemingly plentiful in Sabino Creek. This fish was successfully restored to Sabino Canyon in 2005, according to this press release. But what happened during the flood of 2006? Loads of articles, but they are all too old. Anyone curious enough to do some more fishing?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

AZ Star Article

If you didn't see the paper on Sunday (4/17/11), check out the gneiss article on Sabino Canyon here!

Bunny yoga

Photo by Ned Harris, 4/13/11
We saw this desert cottontail on the nature walk last week. S/he must have stretched a dozen times to grab the mesquite branch (for the leaves. Cottontails are herbivores). S/he was amazingly agile on two legs. A good survival skill, I expect, as cottontails are the 'fast food' of the desert for coyotes. You're in luck, though, little bunny. This is the Chinese year of the rabbit.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bird Show

Cactus Wren, AZ State Bird
Cactus Wren Gymnastics
In Anne's simplified bird world,  males are either much more brightly colored than the females or both sexes look the same.
Cactus wrens fly into the latter category.

You guessed it! Both sexes look the same in the verdin

Pyrrhuloxia, male
Pyrrhuloxia, female
Pyrrhuloxias, on the other hand, are sexually dimorphic. (That's your word of the day.)

Broad-billed hummingbird, male
Broad-billed hummingbirds also exhibit sexual dimorphism. And, writing of hummingbirds, don't forget to come to a banding session. Next one is Saturday, 30 April, sunrise plus 5 hours. Lots of birds (including some rarely-seen-in-Sabino-Canyon Broad-tailed hummingbirds) and visitors today (April 16). All of these beautiful photos by Ned Harris. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Darth Vader returns!

Photo by Angie Perryman, 4/13/11
Rustic Sphinx Moths are huge. About the size of your hand! Okay, maybe not that big, but check this out for scale.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lizard Walks!

I'm going to consider this blog part of the 'news media' today, in order to excerpt the Forest Service's press release about the lizard walks. Here goes: > The Santa Catalina Ranger District, Coronado National Forest announces guided lizard walks in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area on the first Saturday of each month from May 7 through October 1, 2011.  Participants should meet at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center at 8:00 a.m.  

“Sabino Canyon is one of the very best venues for lizard-watching in the United States,” said Larry Jones, Assistant wildlife Program Manager on the Forest. “There are at least 16 species of lizards found there, among the highest diversity in the country. Not only is the lizard fauna diverse, but lizards are also extremely abundant in many parts of the canyon. Most species are readily approachable, being accustomed to the 1.5 million annual visitors to the canyon.”

For the last two years, the Coronado National Forest (CNF) and Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists (SCVN) have conducted guided lizard-watching tours for urban youths for Tucson Parks and Recreation Department’s KIDCO program. The tours have been so successful that guided lizard walks will now be offered to the public. SCVN, CNF, and guest herpetologists will join forces to lead the walks.  Attendees should bring water, sensible shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and binoculars if they have them. Options will include observation near the Visitor Center and Nature Trail for those with limited time or walking ability. Those in good physical condition may spend two or more hours looking for as many species as possible throughout the recreation area.

For those that cannot attend the guided walks, information including a photographic checklist [NB: this take a while to download] and route information will be available at the Visitor Center for self-guided lizard walks.  Participants of guided and self-guided lizard walks will receive a two by three foot poster of the lizards of Sabino Canyon at no cost.<

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Hummingbird in nest, photo by Angie Perryman 4/11/11
Cooper's Hawk in nest, photo by Angie Perryman, 4/11/11
Canyon Tree Frogs, photo by Angie Perryman, 4/11/11
Okay, the frogs aren't nesting, but they are very well ensconced!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mustard head

photo by Ned Harris, 4/6/11
Kids - young and younger - remember verdins because of their mustard-colored heads.

Another photo by Ned Harris
Verdins like nectar and will often get at it by pecking the bottom of a flower. They get the treat without doing the work of pollinating. I have some persistant verdins trying in vain to get into my hummingbird feeder. They can't hover like hummingbirds, but they have no trouble hanging upside down by one foot.