Thursday, June 30, 2011

More Cooper's Hawks

All Photos by Ned Harris
Taken 6/29/11 in McDonald Park*
Adult, looking regal
You can see that these fledglings are older than those photographed by Lee Kington near Bridge 6 in the canyon. The former look kind of unkempt. Like teenagers, if you will. Especially contrasted with the adult.
*Okay, these weren't taken in the canyon, but given the current restrictions on being anywhere in the Coronado National Forest, I'm posting anyway. Besides, they are from Ned :- )

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Made in the shade!

Photos by Matt Ball
click photo for larger
Two deer staying cool! And one coming in to join the party.
Very cool birthday wishes to my dear friend Carol Tornow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't mess with me!

Photo by Ned Harris
As always, click photo for larger view. If you dare....
This male Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) is showing his true colors. The blue-green under the throat (and belly) is the sign of the male. Kingdom: Animalia (of course); Phylum: Chordata; Class: Sauropsida; Order: Squamata (scaled reptiles); Family: Phrynosomatidae.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Protect Sabino Canyon

Dick Grisham (SCVN Class of 2007!) did the research and wrote the plan. Here, I've excerpted two sections (grocery stores and government) that I think might get the most positive response. Many thanks to Dick for this post:

My line of attack is:
1. Those selling fireworks are selling something for which there is no lawful use. Both the county and the city of Tucson have made all consumer use of fireworks illegal.
2. Sabino Canyon is a great treasure of Arizona. That there are sales of fireworks within a mile or two of the canyon increases the risk of serious damage to the canyon.
3. And fundamentally, it is mindless to sell fireworks when this part of Arizona is in an extreme drought that has already produced disastrous fires.
Grocery Stores: Both Basha's and Safeway have fireworks displays inside their stores. Whenever you are in one of the local stores, ask for the manager and protest mightily [but politely]. I have done so at the Basha's at Sunrise and Kolb and was received positively.  
Basha's Corporate Office Public Relations 480 895-5369. To send an email, go to, click on Contact Us (top right) which will take you to a page from which you can send an email.
Safeway at Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon 731-0117. Safeway at Sunrise and Swan 299-3534. To send an email, got to, scroll to the bottom, click on Contact Us (under 'Company Info') and then Comments and Suggestions.
Government: I think we should make our representatives sweat a bit about their votes for HB 2246. I indicated that those who voted for HB 2246 will have a direct and personal responsibility for any fires that arise from consumer use of fireworks. The Sabino Canyon area is mostly in District 30.
Senator Frank Antenori, 602 926-5683
Representative David Gowan,  602 926-3312
Representative Ted Vogt,  602 926-3235
For legislators from other districts, go to Arizona Legislature and you will find member rosters.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beauty and the Buttonbush

Photo by Ned Harris
The Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) is an insect (but not a true bug) in the order Lepidoptera, family Papilionidae. As caterpillars (i.e., larvae), these are seriously ugly critters. What a transformation! The Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is neither an insect (whoo hoo!) nor a button; but its bark is worse than its bite. It's poisonous.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not just for mesquite bugs anymore!

Photo by Peggy Wenrick, click for larger
Just what makes that little ol' ant think she can eat a big mesquite plant?? An ant and a paper wasp (yes, upside down) on a mesquite pod. Bob and Peggy Wenrick saw this wasp on the way up the road on Friday, 6/24/11, and the wasp was still there on the way down, an hour or so later. That's some good mesquite juice!

Photo by Peggy Wenrick, click for larger
You'll be happy to know that ants and wasps are insects (class) and Hymenoptera (order). 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Even less taxonomy!

This morning Gayle and I had the good fortune of meeting Lee Kington as he was taking more photos of the three fledglings in the Cooper's Hawk nest by Bridge 6. He gave us his card and said it would be fine to post a link to his photos. Cooper's Hawk fledglings, up close and personal. His Sabino Canyon 'home' page leads to other fine photos as well. Thanks, Lee.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Even more non-bugs

Male Cooper's Hawk, photo by Ned Harris
It's a bird, it's a plane... well, it's a bird, a Cooper's Hawk. There are several active nests in Sabino Canyon. As you are walking along the road (the only place you are allowed to walk, run, or cycle until further notice), keep your eyes open for these hawks. If you are even remotely interested in learning more about these and other birds, I recommend the All About Birds site. And if you like taxonomy (and you know you do), Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class Aves, Order: Falconiformes, Family: Accipitridae, Genus + Species: Accipiter cooperii. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More non-bugs

Tarantula hawk. Neither a tarantula nor a hawk.
The tarantula hawk is in the same order as the bee, that is Hymenoptera. Another example of an insect, but not a 'true' bug. (If you are afraid of arachnids, don't look at this link about the tarantula hawk.)

Both tarantula-related photos by Ned Harris
Tarantulas themselves, though, aren't even insects. They are in the class: Arachnida (spiders, scorpions). I spared Matt the actual tarantula, though, to show this fine tarantula hole. The silk across the opening means the tarantula is home and ready for your visit.

Photo by Angie Perryman
Millipedes and centipedes aren't in the insect class, either. But before this gets too much like school, I say: class dismissed. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bugs, Part 7: Taxonomy

Before you run screaming at the very idea of Latin, let me assure you that there won't be much and you won't need to learn it. We have the genius Carl Linnaeus to thank for the nomenclature universally used in biology today. Although Linnaeus 'knew' only two kingdoms of living organisms (animals and plants), now most scientists agree on six. (Anne's 6 quick kingdoms: Animals, Plants, Fungi, and 3 kingdoms of small stuff to quibble about). From there, it's still (more or less) phylum, class, order, genus, species.
For 'bugs', we're concerned with the animal kingdom, of course; more specifically with the phylum Arthropoda. All animals in the arthropod phylum have exoskeletons. Then the fun begins. 'Insects' (Insecta) are a class. (All insects are arthropods, but not all arthropods are insects.) Not all critters we call 'bugs' are insects, though. Another class is Arachnida (spiders). And still another is Myriopoda (for multilegged creepy crawlies like millipedes).
In this 'bug' series so far, we've looked only at insects. And we've distinguished between 'true bugs' and not-true-bugs. True bugs are one of 29 insect orders, specifically, the order Hemiptera. Not-true-bugs are the other 28 orders. That's enough of that. Let's review with some new insects! (All photos from Ned Harris, of the order greatus photographerus.)

2 insects on a specimen from the plant kingdom 
The insect on the left is a bee. Order: Hymenoptera  Bottom line: Bees are insects but not bugs.
The insects on the right is a katydid. Order: Orthoptera. Same bottom line.

Look at those horns!
This insect is a Long-jawed Longhorn Beetle. You guessed it, not a true bug, either. Order: Coleoptera

Giant mesquite BUGS ( nymphs, actually)
And, true to their name, these insects really are bugs! (Order: Hemiptera)
What can we say about all these critters above? They are animals, arthropods, and insects. That's kingdom, phylum, and class. That wasn't so bad now, was it?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Flowers for Bryna

It's Bryna's birthday today! Happy Birthday to the best mother-sister-friend there is!

Cholla blossoms
Hedgehog flowers
Ocotilla flowers

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Flowers for Gabby

Gabby Giffords is home for the weekend. Some Sabino Canyon blossoms in her honor today.
(All photos by Matt Ball from April 2010.)

Parry's Penstemon
Palo Verde
Desert Chicory and Scorpion Weed

Friday, June 17, 2011

Water, water

I'd like to give the 'bug' taxonomy post the attention it deserves (that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it) and so I bring you some water photos from around this time 2 years ago. 

Photos by Matt Ball, 7/5/2009
Click for larger
Note giant reed on the right that's no longer there. Whoo hoo! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Taxonomy can wait.

Since we can't hike the trails for a while, I thought I'd bring you more photos from four years ago. This is Blackett's Ridge from 11/11/2007.

Note the giant reed that's no longer there!
Thimble Peak in the distance. 
Yes, I'm making bunny ears.
What a sight!
Heading down. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bugs, Part 6: Horse Lubbers

Photo by Ned Harris
Photo by Angie Perryman
Grasshoppers are insects, but not true bugs, even though they go through 'simple/incomplete/false' metamorphosis. Similar to the familiar: 'All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti'; 'all true bugs are insects that undergo incomplete metamorphosis, but not all insects that undergo incomplete metamorphosis are true bugs.' (You might want to read that twice.)
Horse Lubber grasshoppers (Taeniopoda eques) are so called because they are thought to look like a medieval knight's armored horse. You might want to remember this fun fact from the fireflyforest link above: "...despite their own foul taste, Horse Lubbers will happily engage in a little cannibalism." 
Tomorrow, I'll treat you to a little taxonomy (but no cannibalism). 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bugs, Part 5: ICB Beetle

Photo by Ned Harris
These are insects, but not true bugs. They're Iron Cross Blister Beetles, and their warning coloration tells you: 'Don't eat'. They are particularly toxic to horses.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bugs, Part 4: Cicadas are True Bugs

Cicada, photo by Ned Harris
All true bugs are insects, of course, but not all insects are true bugs. Cicadas are true bugs. (Order: Hemiptera; 'simple', 'incomplete,' I called it 'false' metamorphosis: Egg, nymph, adult.) This photo is of an adult. And how do I know that? The wings. If you are really interested in desert cicadas, here's an article about how they use evaporative cooling.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bugs, Part 3: Lions in the desert

Antlion holes, photo by Ned Harris
Adult Antlion, Photo by Ned Harris
You may have wondered about the quarter-sized pits in the sand. They look to me like they were made by someone with a hiking stick and a lot of time for precision. Actually, they are traps of the first order made by Antlion larvae.* Because the larvae lay in wait under the sand at the bottom of their pit for unsuspecting insects (often ants) to get a bit too close to the edge, slide down the hole and onto the dinner menu, you don't generally see them. (Although some clever naturalists - I'm looking at you, Gary P - can trick them into appearing briefly by tossing a bit of a leaf into the hole.) The adults are also seldom seen, this great photo by Ned Harris notwithstanding, because they tend to come out at night. If it's any insect with wings, though, you can be certain it's an adult.
*Since this 'bug' undergoes complete metamorphosis (egg, larva, pupa, adult), it can't be a 'true bug'.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bugs, part 2: Misconceptions about Insects

It's a cheat for me to send you to another site, but this is worth reading in its entirety. Even though it's for kids, I'm sure there's at least one misconception some adults harbor. I'm kind of disappointed about the ladybugs' spots, I'll admit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bug series, Part 1: You can lead a bug to water...

But s/he may not be a bug. We call most creepy crawlies and freaky flies 'bugs', but many are not true bugs. What's the difference, you ask? For the in-depth story, click here. Anne's short and sweet version is this: the difference is in the metamorphosis. True bugs don't go through the egg - larva - pupa - adult stages of metamorphosis;
true bugs go through what you might call false (or incomplete) metamorphosis, i.e., egg - nymph - adult.
Whether they are true bugs or just called bugs, these are some interesting critters. I'll show you both kinds in this series, and I'd like to thank Carol O and Carol T for the inspiration (and Angie, Fred, and Ned for the photos.)
First up, some water 'bugs' you can find in Sabino Creek.

Photo by Angie Perryman
The Giant Water Bug, commonly known as the 'toe biter', is a true and a truly ferocious bug. These critters hunt creatures larger than themselves (like your toes), pierce and inject digestive enzymes. Their bite is said to be VERY painful, so don't scoop up one of these guys for fun. You'll know them by their size. They are the biggest bug you'll see in or near the creek. The photo above shows a male carrying the eggs on his back. Yes, the males do this little reproductive service. The nymphs (hatchlings) often eat each other. First one out of the egg wins.

Photo by Fred Heath
Another 'bug' in the creek is the Whirligig Beetle. It's not a true bug. It undergoes complete metamorphosis, although the larvae are seldom seen. You'll recognize this critter by its whirligiggy swimming on the surface of the water. And what a great word is 'whirligig.'  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Road

If you haven't already heard, the paved road in Sabino Canyon will stay open dawn to dusk. Whoo hoo! Stick to the paved road, though, people. Trails, paths, lanes - anything and everything dirt - those are closed. Closed to you and to me. We don't want to lose the privilege of being on the road because someone thinks the trail closure doesn't apply to him/her. No one likes this, but no one wants to see one of these in the canyon again, either.

Photo by Angie Perryman
Angie writes: The photo was taken the morning after the riparian area fire in Sabino Canyon in April. There were still fire hoses stretched across the dam. This was the splitter valve that connected the main fire hose to two additional hoses going into the riparian area east of the lake.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two for one!

Photo by Ned Harris, 6/7/11
Photo by Ned Harris, 6/7/11
Thanks to Ned for again providing beautiful photos from Sabino Canyon. (I'm going to dole them out in several posts, though, so we'll have some recent ones to look at as we wait on plentiful rain.) Click on the top photo for a larger view and to confirm my identification of the hummingbird as an Anna's male. These hummingbirds are considered 'stocky' and '(American) football-shaped'. As in many bird species, the males are much more colorful than the females. This male is perched on an agave chrysantha, commonly known as a century plant, even though they don't live that long. The flowers are bright and beautiful, and the plant does die after flowering. An update on the Family for this plant: it's now in the Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae). How about that?!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The blog will go on...

The canyon will be closed for a while, but I will still post here on a regular basis. Some of the photos might be in the 'oldies but goodies' category, but I'll do my best to keep it interesting. Some good news in the user-friendly category: I recently registered the domain name For at least the next year (and probably a good deal longer), that URL will redirect to this blog. If someone asks you how to find this blog, all you need to say is: 'Sabino Canyon dot net'.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Due to the extreme fire danger, the Forest Service has issued this press release for the Coronado National Forest.

Sunset Hike 11/10/07

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Back in time to August 26, 2007

All photos from Matt Ball. Idyllic hike to Seven Falls in Bear Canyon. 

Consider this a preview of coming attractions. Let the monsoon rains begin!