Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Today in Flowers

I don't have any photographs at the ready, but I hope to soon. For today's flowers, we'll use the fantastic Firefly Forest site for wildflowers. Gayle and I walked the entire road to nowhere and, in addition to some of our favorite road-walking regulars (Gloria and David, Michael, Ray and Kathy), we saw these great flowers:

Wherever you walk in the canyon, you are guaranteed to see someone or something nice.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Today in Blossoms

Photo by Fred Heath
Wolfberry (Lycium exsertum) is blooming. (The other common Wolfberry Lycium berlandieri blooms Jul-Sep). Gayle and I saw White Bladderpod (Physaria purpurea) and Ragged Rock Flower (Crossosoma bigelovii) today as well, along the road between mile 3 and (a bit past) stop 8, non-creek side.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hummingbird News

Photo by Ned Harris
You're thinking: Biggest hummingbird ever! He's not, of course. He's an American Wigeon. For more from Sweetwater Wetlands, fly over to Ned's Flickr site.

Now for the hummer news: Banding in Sabino Canyon will start March 24; that's great. The Madera Canyon site is no longer available, however, and the Hummingbird Banding Network is looking for another site in the Santa Ritas. If you know anyone who owns a ranch in Gardner Canyon (for example) or have other ideas for sites, please contact Elissa through this site. If you are interested in helping in Sabino Canyon, please look at this site and contact Elissa. We need feeder changers during the week, banding help every other Saturday in Sabino Canyon (and, of course, at other sites).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More about Jojoba

Thanks to Donna for this link about the wondrous plant that is Jojoba. I've added it to the recent post as well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

First of the season!

Photo by Kenne Turner 1/25/12
This beauty is a Sara Orangetip, seen on the Bluff Trail by Ned and FON (Friends of Ned) on the Wednesday Nature Walk. For a 3-minute video of the life cycle of the Sara Orangetip, click HERE.

Photo by Kenne Turner, 1/25/12
A Gray Hairstreak was also seen. (On a mesquite, not on Kenne.)
Be sure to check out this great photo on Kenne's blog. (Do you know which bridges you see?)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blooming Jojoba

Photo by Peggy Wenrick 1/23/12
Peggy caught some blooming Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis). This plant is dioecious; separate male and female plants. Both sexes produce these small, greenish-yellow flowers, though, so it's unclear which sex this one is. Female plants (of course) will produce the acorn-like green fruits that turn brown. Let's keep watch! More info on Jojoba here

Update on liverworts: Fred found them on the Bluff trail. They are very tiny, though. (The photo shows about one square inch of space.) Look in the shady areas where you see the spike mosses (Resurrection plants). 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Fern to Learn

Photo by Fred Heath
Text by Fred Heath:

The Star Fern (Notholaena standleyi) is found along the main tram road starting just before Tram Stop 2 and the Spike Moss or Resurrection plant (Selaginella arizonica) is found everywhere this year.
Anne says: Note that Star Ferns are different from Fairy Swords.

Anne also says: Yesterday's bridge is bridge 4. (Bridges 6, 8, and 9 weren't shown from above - this time anyway). Walt Tornow got a perfect score. How did you do?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Last of the bridges from above

Photo by Carol Tornow
(For this season, anyway.) You can't see your clue from this vantage point, but this is an even-numbered bridge. Answer tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Photo by Fred Heath
Text by Fred Heath:

The liverworts are a primitive plant. Bryophyte is a traditional name used to refer to all embryophytes (land plants) that do not have true vascular tissue and are therefore called 'non-vascular plants.' Currently bryophytes are thought not to be a natural or monophyletic group; however the name is convenient and remains in use as a collective term for mosses, hornworts, and liverworts. The Liverworts alone are in the Division Marchantiophyta. In ancient times, it was believed that liverworts cured diseases of the liver, hence the name.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Red-tailed Hawk

Photo by Ned Harris, 1/18/2012
This guy looks a bit cold, if you ask me! An adult Red-tailed Hawk.

Yesterday's bridges are bridge two (Two-faced) and bridge three (ZZ Top). Hearty thanks again to Walt Tornow for helping all of us learn where we are on (and above) the road.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Two Bridges

All Photos by Carol Tornow, 1/9/12
Look to the left of the middle of the photo above for the rock outcropping. The bridge where SCVN does the panning activity with the public (that's your hint) is to the right. The other bridge is in the bottom right quadrant. The latter is an odd-numbered bridge.

The bridge in the middle of this photos is the same as in the bottom right of the top photo. You can just barely see the panning bridge in the top left of this photo. Answers tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Warming up!

Photo by Ned Harris, 1/18/2012
Text from Ned:
During the cold desert night, roadrunners lower their body temperature slightly, going into a slight torpor to conserve energy. To warm itself during the day, the roadrunner exposes dark patches of skin on its back to the sun.

Anne says: Yesterday's bridge was 5 (the first of the WPA bridges). Since you can't see the plaque from above, you'll want to look for the rocky wall to the north.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

One more Odd Bridge

Photos by Carol Tornow

Another odd-numbered bridge from above. I'll give you a hint, it's not three. Answer tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Photo by Bryna Ben-Asher 1/16/2012

Bryna caught this rainbow in the canyon after the rain on Monday. On her cell phone, no less. Amazing!
Yesterday's bridge is Bridge 1. Note the big boulder on the northwest side, previously concealed by Giant Reed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another Odd-Numbered Bridge

Photos by Carol Tornow 1/9/12

A big stand of Giant Reed was cleared from this area (on the 'filled-in' side). Isn't this an idyllic view? This is another odd-numbered bridge. Answer in tomorrow's post.
Yesterday's was Bridge 7. Big thanks to Walt Tornow for "Seventh Heaven" and the other very helpful mnemonics for the bridges.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bridges from Above: A Quiz Series

Photos by Carol Tornow, 1/9/12

Carol and I hiked the Phoneline trail last week, and Carol was able to get some great shots of a number of the bridges. We discovered that it really is good to know where you are from above! Today's quiz involves an odd-numbered bridge. Note the nice beach. As always, answer in tomorrow's post.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Giant Reed (Arundo donax)

Photos and Text from Mark Hengesbaugh: 
Nothing in Sabino eats or parasitizes the non-native Giant Reed, or Arundo donax, so the leaves stay perfectly formed and intact.

Native acacias host hemiparasitic mistletoe, the phainopeplas who eat mistletoe berries, as well beetles, spiders and a variety of other native species that a healthy ecosystem depends on.  We often hear that “weeds out compete native plants,” but that’s not precisely true. Invasive non-natives like Giant Reed (Arundo donax) go by different rules in their adopted landscape so it’s not a fair contest. Invasives have no predators, parasites or competitors; they use the ecosystem’s water, sun, and nutrients, but lose no energy supporting any of the native bugs, birds or wildlife. Aggressive invasive species like Arundo get a free ride. That’s one of the reasons they spread so quickly—exponentially.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

More Ned's Notes (and Photos)

All Photos by Ned Harris 12/22/11

Top two, adult Harris's Hawks

Bottom two, juveniles

Ned's notes from Bill Mannan's presentation "Tucson's Urban Birds of Prey."

  • Between 40 and 60 Harris's Hawk breeding groups in metro Tucson. 
  • Harris’s Hawks breed every month of the year in the Tucson area.
  • In 2003, over 100 Harris’s Hawks were electrocuted. Tucson Electric Power is doing a good job trying to protect them by putting plastic insulation on all poles within 300 meters of known Harris’s Hawk nest sites. Look for plastic insulation atop transformers.
For more photos, check out Ned's flickr site. Bookmark it. You'll be back. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

More about Cooper's Hawks

Photo by Ned Harris

Ned attended the presentation on Tucson's Urban Birds of Prey by U of A Professor Bill Mannan at the Tucson Audubon meeting, and shared his notes with me for the blog. How cool is that?! The following are excerpts from Ned's notes:

  • Tucson has the highest density of Cooper’s Hawks found anywhere in the US. Availability of food (doves) and water is the key. 
  • There are 200+ breeding pairs in Tucson. 
  • Most of the young Cooper's Hawks here are banded; 2500+ Cooper's Hawks have been banded in Tucson since 1994. 
  • The number one killer of Cooper's Hawks is window strikes. (Anne notes: One hit our window chasing a dove.)
  • Most local Cooper's Hawk nests have 3 young with an average of 1.5 fledglings. (i.e., some of the young die or are killed before they can fledge.) 
  • Don't 'rescue' young raptors if you find them on the ground. Leave them alone and their parent(s) will come for them. 
  • Report dead raptors and new nest sites to Prof. Mannan. 
Stay tuned for Harris's Harris's Hawk notes in tomorrow's post. 
If you have lecture notes on a Sabino Canyon topic that you'd like to share, please let me know. I'm happy - thrilled, actually - to spread the knowledge around.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Mesquite Girdler Beetle's Been Here

Photos by Bob Wenrick, 1/11/2012

The Mesquite Girdler Beetle lays her eggs on the 'outside' of the cut (i.e., away from the trunk). That way, the eggs are not washed out, sterilized, or damaged by the sap, which, as you see in these photos, can't make it past the cut. Be sure to click on the link to Margarethe's blog for photos and great info. When you are in the  canyon, look for more evidence of these beetles in the mesquites.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Creek bed

Photo by Ned Harris
This is the road in Sabino Canyon, of course, but it used to be the creek bed. Really. (A long, long, long time ago.) Stand on the road by the entrance/exit to the Esperero Trail and look out of the canyon. You'll see the hills of silt that were formed by the creek when it flowed along this path. Learn about this and other geological wonders by going on the Gneiss Walk, led by Bruce and the Rockettes, every Thursday at 8.30am. Meet in front of the visitor center.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Photos by Matt Ball

I walked by these plants (literally) thousands of times before I noticed them. Thanks to Bob and Fred for letting me know about Graythorn (Zizyphus obtusifolia var. canescens). Now that I know, I see them 'everywhere'. Loads on the Esperero trail before you cross the road. Look at the link for more photos.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Christmas Cactus

Photos by Matt Ball

There's another (very different) plant with the same common name - what I used to think of when I heard it, as my father-in-law grew numerous kinds. Our Desert Christmas Cactus is a type of cholla (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis). The fruits stay on the plant throughout the winter and are the reason for the common name.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another one in the Sunflower Family

Photos by Matt Ball

This reliable bloomer is another DYC that looks similar to the flowers of Brittlebush and Desert Marigold, at least at first glance. It's called Bahia (Bahia absinthifolia). Look at the leaves in the photos on the linked site; they'll help you identify it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fairy Duster

All photos by Matt Ball

Keep an eye out for these beauties! Fairy Dusters (Calliandra eriophylla) are in the Pea Family (Fabaceae), and are some of the first to bloom in the spring; can vary in color from white to nearly red.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Preview of coming attractions?

Photos by Ellen Green, 3/30/2010

Both at Catalina State Park, 3/30/2010

Here's hoping for great spring wildflowers in 2012! Until then, we have Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) to look at! Phainopeplas love the berries. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Name That Plant!

Photo by Ned Harris  1/5/12
Those dark areas in yesterday's photo are alive. Cryptobiotic (aka cryptogamic) soil is composed of life from three kingdoms, in fact. 1) Cyano- and other bacteria; 2) Fungi and Lichens; 3) Mosses and algae. This soil is not only fragile, it also takes a very long time to 'grow'; it's composed of tiny life forms, after all. Bottom line: stay on the trail. 
With the photo above, we'll come back to the first post of 2012. Answer in tomorrow's post. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Name That Dirt!

Photo by Peggy Wenrick
If you said: "Magnetite" for yesterday's mineral, you are obviously very attractive. Maybe you'll also know what the dark areas in the photo above are called. Bonus points if you know why they shouldn't be walked on. Answer in tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Name That Mineral!

Photo and Hand, Mary Ball 1/2/2012
If you said: Phainopepla, female for yesterday's bird, you win a handful of this mineral! What is it? (Answer in tomorrow's post.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Name That Bird!

Photo by Ned Harris

Let's start the year off right - with a quiz! Name and gender of this bird in tomorrow's post.