Monday, October 31, 2011

Fruit of the vine

Photo by Carol Tornow
This photo is from about a month ago; somehow I forgot to post it with the info on Devil's Claw/Unicorn Plant. The fruits are cool, though. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Take a walk on the Ned side

Hooker's Evening Primrose
All Photos by Ned Harris 
Button Bush
Funereal Duskywing
Ornate Tree Lizard
If you'd like to see these and other examples of life in Sabino Canyon, join us for the wit and wisdom of Ned Harris (and friends) on the inaugural Nature Walk of the season, Wednesday, 11/2. Meet in front of the visitor center at 8.30am. Bring water and a snack. Allow three hours for this wonderful walk. If you can't make this first one, never fear! There's one every Wednesday through the end of April!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Photo by Ned Harris, 10/18/11
Photo captured by Ned Harris, 10/18/11
I'm not supposed to post photos of spiders (or: 'those critters who must not be named') without fair warning, but webs are fair game.
Or unfair game - for the prey above.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Calling all ant-o-philes

This post is again courtesy of Gerry. Some inquiring minds want to learn more and asked for his book recommendations. Gerry writes:

I would recommend (in this order):
1. Mark Moffett, Adventures among Ants.
2. Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson. The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct.
3. Deborah Gordon.  Ants At Work: How An Insect Society Is Organized.
4. Laurent Keller. The Lives of Ants.
The Pima County library system has 1, 2 and 3. I'd recommend 1 as the most engagingly-written of the four and has some spectacular photos. The second one is also fascinating, but of course only focuses on one type of ant. The third one is a slightly drier and gets far more into the "dig 'em up and see what makes 'em tick" kind of research that I don't particularly like (though the results are *sometimes* interesting). The fourth one is quite dry but nevertheless has its moments, especially in its summary of ant genetics and the subtle struggles that take place *within* ant colonies.
If you search Google for "mark moffett interview" there's an interview with Terry Gross on 'Fresh Air'. (Anne says: it's linked here.) It was the Terry Gross interview that inspired me to read Mark Moffett's book, and that book made me want to read more.
Thanks again to Gerry for sharing his keen observations of nature in all its glory.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ant War

Photos and text courtesy of Gerry Morgan (of the turkey vultures). All photos clickable.
I've been doing a lot of reading about ants since we had an "ant war" in our yard between two colonies. Fascinating stuff. It took 2-3 days to get  resolved. The source of the dispute was that the (red) harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex maricopa) had a hole that emerged right between two holes belonging to the (black) long-legged ants (Aphenagaster cockerelli).
Note the smaller harvester ant hole in the center
The harvester ants have very strong venom but are far less aggressive than the black ants, so the black ants tend to prevail. 

In [the shot below], you can see a  harvester being dragged down the black ants' hole. I imagine it was welcomed by a large, villainous ant saying, "Welcome to our nest, Mr Bond, have our soldiers made you comfortable?"
007 is going down this time
The photos show a quite spirited battle, but the odd thing was that most of the ants were not taking part. I feel rather like a news reporter who comes back from a mostly-peaceful event with photos that tend to suggest it was quite different.
Here, the harvester ants prevail
I was reading a book about ants when all this happened and it inspired me to read a couple more.
Anne asks: How about reading about, say, dinosaurs? When can we expect photos? Thanks, Gerry, for sharing this documentary. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's really a dragonfly

Click on this great photo by Ned Harris, 10/8/11
This is a female Variegated Meadowhawk, in a great pose.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gimme a T

Photo by Ned Harris
Another beauty in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae), Turpentine Bush (Ericameria laricifolia) blooms in the fall. The leaves on this plant are a vibrant green year round and smell of - you guessed it - turpentine when crushed. Take a whiff today.
Another T is the answer to yesterday's quiz: Termites. They 'process' (poop out) the plant material as they go munching along. Talk to two termite tubes today!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quiz for Marge

Photo by Ned Harris, 10/18/11
Here's a little quiz for all of you quiz-o-philes. What's going on here? What is this item? Answer in tomorrow's post.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bug and Moon

Photo by Ned Harris, 10/18/11
This is a leaf-footed bug; there's a whole Family of these critters, so I'll 'leaf' the i.d. to the experts. Drop me a line if you know the name of this beast. Update: Thanks to Fred, who looked this up:  Acanthocephala thomasi. Let's just call him Thomas. 

Another photo by Ned Harris, 10/18/11 c. 10.30am
Click on this one for a close up of the moon over the Santa Catalinas, between stops 8 and 9.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

And now a word (or two) from Fred

Photo by Ned Harris 10/18/11
Ned, Carol T and I were out and about on patrol in the canyon on Tuesday; met a lot of inquisitive out-of-towners - and may have helped sell a few hats from the bookstore. Another day in paradise.
(You'll want to click on the photo for a bigger view.) Ned asked Fred Heath for an i.d. on this butterfly, and Fred was happy to oblige. Some excerpts:
Very interesting photo!! The butterfly is a Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) which somewhat resembles a Marine Blue with [fewer] and less obvious markings. It is nectaring on Dalea Dalea pringlei. This species is known to use various legumes as food plants (what the caterpillar eats), although I don’t know that a Dalea has been recorded as a food plant.
What is interesting is the fact that there is well camouflaged caterpillar in your photo which could well be a Ceraunus Blue. If you look just above and slightly to the right of the base of the flower you will see a slug-like creature which is off-white with brownish markings. I will send a copy of this photo to our local expert Jim Brock to ID if possible (it could be Marine or Reakirt’s Blue as well since they all look similar and usually are colored and patterned to match the host plant somewhat). I will let you what he thinks.  [time passes...]  After checking with Jim Brock, it looks like the caterpillar will have to remain a mystery blue. Since the caterpillars of these small blues look so similar, he says the only way to tell for sure is to raise the caterpillar to adulthood. 
Thanks, Fred

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now for some fauna

Photo by Ned Harris, 10/18/11
This Humphrey's Grasshopper posed nicely for Ned yesterday. For the best in 'bugs', check out BugGuide.Net!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting at the root

Both photos by Ellen Green 10/9/11
This shrubby plant is still blooming; look for it on the Lake trail and the Bluff trail. It's the only one in the Ratany Family (Krameriaceae) in Sabino Canyon and is called Range Ratany (Krameria erecta). It's a sneaky plant; taps into other plants' roots to steal water.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In the pink

Photo by Ellen Green, 10/9/11
This plant was seen recently on the Bluff trail. Unlike the photo on this page, the centers of these flowers - and the entire stems - were a cheery pink. This is in the Amaranth Family (Amaranthacea) and is called Fringed Amaranth (or Fringed Pigweed) (Amaranthus fimbiratus).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Not for salad

Photo by Carol Tornow
You may still be able to see this dainty plant if you look carefully and closely in shady spots. It is in the Sunflower family (Asteraceae) and must bear the less-than-optimal (in my opinion) name Wire Lettuce (Stephanomeria pauciflora). Click on the link for a closer look.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Photo by Carol Tornow 
You'll want to look at the link for Rattlebox (Crotalaria pumila) to see the flowers and seed pods close up. Amazing. If you find yourself by the creek at stop 8, look in the shade for these members of the Pea Family (Fabaceae). Don't eat them, though.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tucked away

Photo by Carol Tornow, 10/11/11
Under a tree in the water next to bridge 5, this Hooker's Evening Primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hirsutissima) showed its heart-shaped petals.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Photo by Carol Tornow, 10/11/11
This cute little plant is blooming all over; I saw some very fine specimens on E. Ocotillo Drive last week. (This photo comes from Sabino Canyon, of course.) It's called Dogweed or Five-needle Pricklyleaf (Thymophylla pentachaeta) and is (you guessed it) in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). The smile-inducing flowers are no bigger than a dime. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Burro Brush and Burroweed contrast

Photo by Carol Tornow, 10/11/11
Burroweed (Isocoma tenuisecta) is blooming now and is quite striking. Burro Brush (Ambrosia salsola var. pentalepis), on the other hand, blooms in the spring and thus still looks likes a bad hair day. Both are in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae).
This post is for you, Bryna!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Arizona (Black) Walnut Update

Photo by Peggy Wenrick, 10/10/11
Yes, this is Jean Hengesbaugh, hiding behind the Arizona (Black) Walnut (Juglans major). Jean is at least as tall as I am, so you can see how much this tree has grown since last year!! Go nuts!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The odor of Odora

Photo by Ellen Green, 10/9/11
Some people think Odora leaves stink. Judge for yourself. Crush one and take a whiff. Odora (Porophyllum gracile) is in the Sunflower family (Asteraceae) and is blooming in the canyon now. Go sniff it out.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Snake (for us, anyway)

Photos by Ellen Green, 10/9/11

Saw this c. 4-foot long snake on the Esperero Trail. Ellen was quick enough with her camera to catch the head. The rest was the same color and pattern. Looking through the possibilities on the Reptiles of Arizona site, I've identified it as a Sonoran Whipsnake. Hope you agree.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Not a hawk

Photo by Ned Harris, 10/8/11
Neither a meadow, nor a hawk, this Variegated Meadowhawk dragonfly is probably a female, as males are bright red.
If you said:  Golden-flowered Agave aka Century Plant (Agave chrysantha), you get an A for Agave on yesterday's photo quiz. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Now in the Asparagus Family near you!

Photo by Carol Tornow
There are three species of agave found in Sabino Canyon (and two more plants in the Asparagaceae family, but I'll save those for another day). Shindaggers (Agave schottii); Desert Spoon aka Sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri), and Golden-flowered Agave aka Century Plant (Agave chrysantha). Take a look at the links and we'll make this a photo quiz. Answer in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Get out your calendar!

It's time again for family and friends to flock to Tucson. If you are looking for something to do with loved ones in Sabino Canyon, click for the schedule of FREE (after you get into the recreation area, that is. But you can cough up $5 for your loved ones, right?) FREE activities brought to you by the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists. Interested in a Friday hike? Take a look here.
And don't forget to take photos (and send them to me for this blog : -)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Photo by Beryl Varno

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Another dainty blossom

Photo by Carol Tornow,  9/23/2011
Photo by Matt Ball, Sept 2010
Chiricahua Mountain Sandmat  (Euphorbia florida) is in the Euphorbiaceae (Spurge) Family. The flowers are very tiny, sometimes have a pink tinge. Look low to the ground. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Praying Mantis female

Photos by Matt Ball, 10/1/11 

While watering this Desert Marigold in my backyard on Saturday morning, I 'caught' this praying mantis putting the finishing touches on her egg casing. As of Sunday evening, 'mom' is still hanging around that plant. (You'll note it's directly in front of the heat pump.) Wouldn't it be neat if we could witness the 'hatching'?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Scarlet Creeper

Photos by Ned Harris, 9/25/11
Close up of Scarlet Creeper
Scarlet Creeper (aka Trans-Pecos Morning Glory Ipomoea cristulata) is blooming in the canyon now. Look early, look often.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Not so regal after all

Photos by Ned Harris
Click to see tail biting
Ned Harris posted photos of this Common Kingsnake to his flickr site recently and Angie Perryman was curious enough about the tail-biting behavior to ask a snake expert in town what was going on. Here is his reply:
"Kingsnakes rely heavily on chemical queues when it comes to feeding. They don't see very well. I keep one, and come feeding time, it will often bite and constrict itself. All while the prey item is dancing on its head. It has often bit its own tail as part of the process. He has a permanent scar from doing that. One fine day, it will likely eat itself from the tail up, leave a zinger for me to clean up, and I can be rid of the darn thing. They really are STOOPID snakes. The snake pictured is emaciated, and hungry. I expect that it got wind of another prey item, likely a snake. [Anne notes: maybe it was this same snake.] It confused the scent with its own tail, and started chewing on that. I saw all the pictures that Mr. Harris put up. It's hard for me to determine how long he stayed with it, or what the outcome was. It looks like the snake finally figured out that its own tail was not the prey item it was seeking, but again, I wasn't there. [Anne notes: Ned stayed around for about 10 minutes of tail-biting.] That's my $0.02 worth. Feel free to post my comment. I'm pretty sure it's the right explanation for the reason behind it all.  Best, Roger"
Thanks Ned, Angie, and Roger for enlightening us on Kingsnake behavior!