Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fred finds a few flies!

Robber Fly, Compare to photo below
Tarantula Hawk, photo by Ned Harris
Text and fly photos from Fred Health: "Two weeks ago I was up on Mt. Bigelow scouting butterflies a day prior to the Sabino Canyon Summer Butterfly Count, when I came across this black insect with orange wings. It appears, at first glance, to be a Tarantula Hawk (a Pepsis wasp that preys on tarantulas). However, its short antennae and large eyes give away that it isn't a wasp, but is, in fact, a fly. Further, its behavior of perching on scrub from which it sallies forth after insect prey, as well as its breaded face tells us it is a robber fly (in the family Asilidae)."

Robber Fly 'with' Tachinid Fly
Robber Fly giving dementor's kiss to Nais Metalmark
Fred continues: "I watched these robber flies take a Tachinid Fly and a Nais Metalmark (butterfly). Many species of robber flies mimic bees and wasps, maybe in part for protection, but certainly to trick prey into not realizing they are robber flies. Tarantula Hawks were seen that day nectaring on various flowers right alongside butterflies, bees, and other flies which paid them no mind."
Anne says: Thanks, Fred, for today's post. If you have Sabino Canyon-related 'stuff' to share, please send it to me and I'll do my best to work it into a post.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How low can you go?

Photos by Matt Ball, 7/25/11

Limber bushes (Jatropha cardiophylla) are looking lush with their bright green, heart-shaped leaves (cardio- = heart; -phylla = leaves). According to the lore, the sap will leave a permanent stain on clothing. I haven't tried this yet, though. If you are interested in the meaning of botanical names, check out Dave's Garden Botanary. Do a search on Jatropha. I'll quiz you later.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fred cries wolf (spider)!

Photo by Fred Heath from 7/8/11
This wolf spider was found in Sabino Canyon. If you want an even larger view, click on the photo at your own peril.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

True Fly, don't bother me!

Photo by Bob Wenrick, 7/27/11
I'm sure you are also saying: "Oh, happy day! Another bug."  Not a true bug, but a true fly. "True flies are insects of the order Diptera (di = two, and ptera = wings). The presence of a single pair of wings distinguishes true flies from other insects with "fly" in their name." This true fly is in the family Tachinidae; that's as far as we'll take this taxonomically, as there are over 1300 species in North America. If you do know the species, though, let me know and I'll pass it on to the fervent fly fans. Until then, we'll call this a Tachinid Fly. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This bark bites!

Bark scorpion on sink drain
Same critter, spread out
Photos and text from Peggy Wenrick. "On the KidCo lizard walk this morning we saw a bark scorpion in the restroom at the teaching area. Kids and old kids all trooped in to see it in the sink. We had a great group of 18 kids plus teachers and chaperones who saw lots of lizards above and below the dam as well as two white-tail deer, a black-tailed rattler, 18 black-necked garter snakes (in the pools below the dam) and assorted other critters."

Monday, July 25, 2011

There's a new tortoise in town!

All photos by Matt Ball, 7/25/11
My hand, for scale
Brown oval in the lower left
Well, maybe s/he's not so new, but the smallest Desert Tortoise I've seen. My husband and I changed the hummingbird feeders in the canyon today, and I nearly tripped over this tortoise on the way out. Careful to keep our distance for the photos, we were left a 'present' from a fellow herbivore. I say: Live long and prosper. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Gayle!

Some flowers for you!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fake out!

All photos by Matt Ball, 7/21/11

Encountered this small Gopher Snake as I was working in my yard this morning. S/he slithered under a bush and got 'framed' in the leaves. When I went into the (closed, not well-lit) garage later, I was startled (to put it mildly) by a very vehement hissing that filled the (very dark) space. Sounded like Nagini!**

But it was, thankfully, the same snake.
**Go see Harry Potter 7.2, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Only one in this family

Western Banded Gekko, Photo by Matt Ball, June 2009
You won't see these very often, as they are nocturnal foragers. The Western Banded Gecko is the only kind in Sabino Canyon from the Family Eublepharidae (eu = good, true; blepharis = eyelid), (let's try: you bluh far ee day), the Eye-lidded Geckos. This one was seen after I moved one of my rain barrels. For loads of great lizard info, get this book: Lizards of the American Southwest, Lawrence L.C. Jones and Robert Lovich, editors. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fast Food

Photo by Matt Ball, almost to scale!
I've seen many baby bunnies this year, no bigger than my hand. I learned today that Desert Cottontail rabbits are 'new world' cottontails. You can read about them here. And be sure to click on the order and family. Interesting fluff. I mean stuff.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two dam hawks!

Photo by Lee Kington, 7/14/11
Lee was recently asked for an update on the Cooper's Hawk fledglings in the riparian area by the dam, since we can now get into that area of the canyon. He went out on Thursday and captured these two. Click for a larger view.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A few good terns you won't egret!

Okay. That was my worst pun yet. They are some great photos from Ned's recent trip to California. And no Latin in sight!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Taxonomy for the timid.

Or: Anne's quick and quirky way to loving Latin. (I recently learned that only the two-part species names are to be italicized. C'est la vie.)
Kingdom: Animalia.  Okay, that one's easy!
Phylum: Chordata.  Basically, this means 'has a spinal cord' (as opposed to an exoskeleton, like our phylum Arthropoda).
Class: Reptilia.  Another easy one.
Order: Squamata. Fom the Latin squama - scale. You may have encountered 'squamous cells', which comes from the same Latin root.
Family: Phrynosomatidae. [fry no so ma tee day] Okay, this one's Greek to me. Really. From the Greek phrynos - toad; soma - body. I love the internet.
Toad-bodied, scaly reptiles. Yes, lizards!  Quite a few of our Sabino Canyon favorites are in this family, including: Zebra-tailed, Greater Earless, Regal Horned, Clark's Spiny, Desert Spiny, Ornate Tree, and Common Side-blotched Lizards. (You might be wondering: which ones aren't in this family? Those secrets will be revealed in due course, i.e., whenever I get to it.)

Photo phrom our phavorite Ned Harris
This is a young Desert Spiny. On the rocks. Someone should invent a drink with that name - not containing anyone from the Phamily Phrynosomatidae, though.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My! How they've grown!

On Monday, 7/11/11, Lee photographed the remaining two fledglings from the nest by bridge 6. Walt Tornow saw them flying this morning (7/12). Take a look! Thanks for the update, Lee.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A bird in hand...

Photo by Matt Ball
... is pretty neat. A broad-billed male was recently at my feeder, and I noticed he was wearing a bracelet.* Time again to remind you of the hummingbird banding in Sabino Canyon - next one on Saturday 7/23.
*We tell the hummingbirds: "Let us weigh and measure you; we'll let you drink your fill AND give you a free leg bracelet."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You can never see too many gila monster photos.

All Photos by Ned Harris
Click on photos for larger view
Don't forget to stop and lick the roses. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Only You....

photo by Carol Tornow
... can see Smokey Bear in a tree. Thanks to the unnamed tram driver (I suspect Bill O.)  for sharing this story with Carol Tornow and others, and to Carol for sharing the story (and photo) with me. Long ago, Smokey Bear (remember: no 'the') appeared hugging the tree that you'll find in the picnic area 'behind' the larger of the two restrooms by stop one. Look for a picnic table in front of a mesquite.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Queens of the night have opened...

Both photos by Bryna Ben-Asher
7/6/11 at Tohono Chul
Amazing! Another round of blooms tonight at Tohono Chul. There are a few of these plants in Sabino Canyon as well. If you are on the main path from the visitor center after dark, look low and just past the Esperero trailhead. If memory serves, there's a night-blooming cereus there.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sabino Canyon to OPEN!!!

I received word from Dan Granger, president of the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists, that the Catalinas - including Sabino Canyon - will re-open tonight (Wednesday 7/6) at midnight. Whoo hoo! Continued ban on smoking and camping. Don't know anything about the Coronado National Forest as a whole, but still - whoo hoo! See you in the canyon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A damsel to impress

Photo by Ned Harris
On to damselflies, another critter of interest in our 'bug' project. Generally speaking, you can tell a damselfly from a dragonfly by the way they hold their wings when at rest. Damselflies hold wings parallel to their bodies; dragonflies hold them out. This fine damselfly is a Rambur's Forktail. Just like dragonflies, damselflies undergo INCOMPLETE metamorphosis (egg, nymph, adult). A cool nymph photo here (not the same species, but you get the idea).
In non-bug news, I've been blogging for a year! Thanks for your encouragement and support (and your photographs)!

Monday, July 4, 2011


Click photos for larger view
Both photos by Ned Harris
Carol O, Fred, and I are working on a 'bug' project (hence all the 'bug' posts of late), and dragonflies are one of our critters of interest. Dragonflies (and Damselflies) are insects in the order Odonata. They undergo INCOMPLETE metamorphosis; i.e., egg, nymph, adult. For some cool nymph photos, scroll down from here. For some cool photos of adults, look above. Top is a Mexican Amberwing. They are tiny, about 1.1 inches long. Blue one is a male Blue Dasher. Thanks, Ned, for the photos and the i.d.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sobering reading

AZ Daily Star: Fire season's ill winds blow no good

 and especially Wired magazine's:
Megafires May Change the Southwest Forever

Instead of placing blame on whoever is, was, or will be in power; instead of name-calling and politics-bashing (I made the mistake of reading 'comments' again), let's agree to read, reflect, and commit to promoting those plans for positive change, based on sound science, as resources permit.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Know your canyon volunteers!

Since the closure, I'm sure you've noticed more uniforms of various kinds and wondered who's who.

Walt Tornow, SCVP
Volunteers in Forest Service green are the Santa Catalina Volunteer Patrol. Normally, they patrol trails in the Santa Catalinas (mainly in Sabino and Ventana Canyons and trails on Mt. Lemmon), answer questions, help hikers, pick up trash, etc. During the closure, they aren't allowed on the trails, either. But you'll see them on the road and at trail heads in Sabino Canyon and at trail heads on Mt. Lemmon. There is generally a training class in February. Apply now to join!

Volunteers wearing a shirt with a version of this logo are - you guessed it - the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists. They do three main programs: Kindergarten, Elementary, and Public Interpretation. The latter includes nature, plant, bird, and lizard walks, summer reading program for kids, Girl and Boy Scout hikes, exhibits and tables at the visitor center, etc. These volunteers take a 15-week training class that starts in early September. There's still time to apply.
During the closure, they are walking the road in Sabino Canyon and are also 'stationed' at trail heads to answer questions about the closure and the canyon. You'll only see them on duty in Sabino Canyon - and, like everyone else, they are not authorized to be on the trails.
The only group  authorized to patrol on the trails in the Coronado National Forest are the volunteers from Southern Arizona Search and Rescue. I won't reveal what they wear, because if you see one of these volunteers during the closure, well... you probably shouldn't!