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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More sage advice

It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
Ellen and I highly recommend the new book, The Magic of Reality: How we know what's really true by Richard Dawkins and illustrated by Dave McKean. (Kids of all ages will recognize the illustrations from some of their favorite Harry Potter movies.)
The ant lion makes an appearance; as do dogs, dolphins, and the Doppler shift. It's all in the explanation; rainbows, plate tectonics, seasons, atomic theory, DNA. Wow. If all this can (finally and/or again) be made clear to me, it can be made clear to the average 8-year-old. 
And a bonus video that Carl Sagan (who said the above) would have loved. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some sage advice

Photo by Ned Harris, 11/9/11
Triangleleaf Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea) is sometimes mistaken for Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) (and vice versa); especially when neither is blooming and/or they get limited water. Their leaves are the same basic shape and can be the same size. But you need never make the Bursage/Brittlebush error; just take a closer look at the leaves. If the edges are serrated (as above, click for larger), you are looking at Triangleleaf Bursage. If not, then at least you know what you aren't looking at. That's something.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Arundo Slayers!!

Arundo Slayers on the hunt

Tools of the trade and Forest Service transportation

Velvet Mesquite making a comeback!

Arizona Black Walnut making a comeback!

Sabino Creek today

Text by Mark Hengesbaugh: 
Several hundred Sabino-loving volunteers worked more than 6,000 hours to rescue the creek’s habitat from the Giant Reed (Arundo donax) infestation. Local naturalists have cataloged more than 45 plant species returning to areas once dominated by Arundo. Up and down Sabino Creek, walnut, mesquite, sycamore, willow, ash and cottonwood saplings are returning along with Datura and other native plants. But the fight is not over. Many Arundo rhizomes (roots) are still viable and shoots continue to pop up and grow quickly. The U.S. Forest Service must continue to treat the Arundo multiple times each year for at least the next 5 years.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Arundo kills Sabino’s creekside habitat

Before (all photos from riparian area above the dam)



Photos and Text by Mark Hengesbaugh: 
It was a classic invasion. The Giant Reed (Arundo donax) infestation began with a root or cane sprouting in Sabino Creek at least 20 years ago. Nothing in this environment eats or parasitizes Arundo, so it loses no energy contributing to the ecosystem as it grows tall very quickly. As Arundo grows, it robs adjacent native trees and shrubs of water and nutrients. Soon the Arundo is tall enough to shade out all but the tallest native trees. Over time, Arundo grows so thickly and in such a dense mat of horizontal roots that no other plant species can possibly gain a foothold.  Tomorrow: Who came to Sabino’s rescue?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bear Bridge: Before, During, & After

After, i.e., Now

Photos and Text by Mark Hengesbaugh:
The Bear Bridge in Sabino Creek has undergone a dramatic change in appearance in the past few years with removal of the Giant Reed (Arundo donax). But it’s important to remember that the motivation of the naturalists and the Arizona Master Watershed Stewards for removing the Arundo was not primarily to improve the canyon’s appearance. Fact is, Arundo was threatening to turn large sections of Sabino Creek into a monoculture of invasive reeds that: 1) aren't used by the native wildlife and 2) kill the native plants the wildlife does need to live.
Tomorrow: How Arundo kills Sabino’s creekside habitat

Friday, November 18, 2011

BioBlitz Booth

Thought these photos deserved a wider audience! All from BioBlitz 'Base Camp', Friday, 10/21/11.

Booth Babes: Anne, Carol, Angie, Marge
Photo by Tom Skinner
A rare time slow time! Maribeth, Carol, Student at BioBlitz U, Don, Anne
Photo by Marge Kesler

Angie with a Mountain Kingsnake (from the booth next door)
Photo by Marge 
Anne tries to out fox the kids
Photo by Angie Perryman
Marge manages the mob
Photo by Angie
Busted for being the best BioBlitz booth
Photo by Marge
Tomorrow's post begins a three-day series by one of your favorite guest bloggers. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Every good fern...

Photos by Ned Harris, 11/9/11
Wavy Cloak Fern
Again with the ferns! You can find these on the Bluff Trail, the Esperero Trail, and in many other moist spots.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shrike and Pike

Both Photos by Ned Harris, 11/12/11

Ned writes: 
Linda and I went birding with Mark and Jean yesterday (11/12/11) down in Cochise county. I turned down one of my favorite dirt roads looking for wintering raptors. I spotted something that looked like a small hummingbird perched on a barbed wire fence. Closer inspection showed it to be a grasshopper. We all got out of the car and soon noticed a dozen or more insects all impaled along a small section of the fence. I soon concluded this was the work of a "Butcher Bird". Loggerhead Shrikes often impale their prey on sharp twigs, thorns or barbed wire for later consumption. This behavior has earned them the nickname "Butcher Bird". Loggerhead Shrikes are found at Sabino. Jean and I have both seen them there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gneiss waterfall

Photo by Ned Harris
If you haven't already explored the area upstream of stop 8, you're missing a Gneiss treat. Walt Tornow reports lots of water in the creek. Go check it out!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Broom and Paper

Photos by Bob Wenrick
Both insects are paper wasps
The plant is, of course, Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A sunflower for Susan

Photo by Ellen Green
Susan Burdick lived her life with courage and compassion. She will be greatly missed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


photo by Ned Harris, 11/2/11
Ned caught this praying mantis chomping on a damselfly. Yummers. For a dozen up-close-and-chomping photos, look here!

Friday, November 11, 2011

An eye for butterfly

Photos by Kenne Turner, 11/9/11
You'll want to click on these photos!
No, Fred's not winking at you; he's providing a landing lid for an Empress Leilia Butterfly. Yes, Fred attracts bugs of all kinds!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Girls and Boys

click on this photo by Ned Harris, 11/9/11
Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) is diecious (i.e., has separate and distinct male and female plants) (sounds like: die EEE shush). On the left, the male (see also this photo from Bob Wenrick); on the right, the female (ditto). Aaaachoo!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let's call him Luke

Photo by Angie Perryman, 11/9/11
The leukistic Phainopepla is back and looking fine. Look for him along the main trail from the parking lot, by the horse farm.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gneiss walk

Photo by Ned Harris
Interested in learning about the geology of Sabino Canyon? Of course you are. Because rocks rock! Join Bruce 'Garnet' Garrett and the Catalina Gneiss Rockettes for a Gneiss Walk, every Thursday from 11/10/11 until the end of April. Meet at the visitor center at 8.30am; plan for 3 hours on moderately difficult trails. (The mysteries of the photo above will be revealed...)

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's that yellow flower?

Photo by Ned Harris, 11/2/11
This question is usually answered (by me, anyway) with the letters DYC (Damn Yellow Composite). Alison, my mentor in the naturalist program, gave me that face-saving tip. There are, indeed, a lot of yellow flowers in the Asteraceae Family (still known also as the Compositae Family), commonly known as the aster, daisy, or sunflower family. Feel free, therefore, to answer yellow flower questions with DYA, DYD, DYS; or use all for Damn Yellow CADS.
Fortunately, though, I've learned a flower or two in the past year and can identify this particular cad as a Bur Marigold (Bidens aurea). The photo I used to verify this comes from "the best wildflower book ever" (that's a direct quote from my Honey-Matt), namely: MountainWildflowers of Southern Arizona by Frank S. Rose, from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press (pg. 17). The cover is unassuming; the content is outstanding. (Joan Tedford served as Mr. Rose's botanical advisor.) Get one today!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sabino Saguaros

Always click photos for larger view. I mean it!

All photos by Ned Harris, 11/5/11
I suppose you're wondering why I called you here today...
I told you that was too much hair gel...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tooting their own horn

Photo by Ned Harris, 10/31/11
I don't recall seeing Hummingbird Trumpets (Epilobium canum ssp latifolium) last fall (but I didn't see a lot of things last fall.) These are out in the riparian area above the dam. Toot toot!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gila Monster Mummy

Photo by Ned Harris, 11/2/11
Thanks to Jean 'Eagle Eye' Hengesbaugh for noticing this poor monster. Eaten long ago and entirely desiccated, the remains nevertheless captured our interest. And that of many and various passersby.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One won; one zero

Prairie Falcon 1, other bird 0
All photos by Ned Harris, 11/1/11
Don't fill up on feathers...
...or feet!
Fare was fair.