Saturday, June 30, 2012

Just in time for the movie!

Photos by Ned Harris 6/17/2012
Click photo for larger bats!

The bridge at Campbell Ave is probably the most well-known place to see these bats take flight at dusk, but they roost under pretty much every bridge over washes and 'rivers' in Tucson. If you haven't experienced them, I urge you to get out there between now and about the end of September. Every night at dusk or so...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Perfect timing!

Bob and Peggy not only experienced bloom night at Tohono Chul and in their own yard, they also witnessed two juvenile Cooper's Hawk fledge that morning. Some people have all the fun!

All photos by Bob Wenrick 
Juvie and Mom (note the difference in chest feathers)
Fledging Day 6/24/12

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Relatives had the same idea!

All Photos by Peggy Wenrick 6/24/12

Peggy writes:
[Saturday night, 6/23/12], we ventured to Tohono Chul Park in Tucson to witness Bloom Night of the Peniocereus greggii or Queen of the Night cactus. Almost all of these cactus (about 35 clumps at TC) organize themselves by some chemical signal to bloom on the same night most years so as to increase chances of being pollinated by the hawk moth upon which they depend. They open at dusk and close shortly after sunup…once in a year. [Anne says: see Bob's photos here.] Apparently our Trichocereus collection got the vibe because this [Sunday] morning we were greeted with the show [above]!
Anne says: What a show!! Although the species above aren't found in Sabino Canyon, I thought they were worth sharing. Thanks, Peggy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Queen was also here!

Photos by Fred Heath 6/24/12

The Night-blooming Cereus plants in Sabino Canyon caught the scent and also bloomed on Saturday, 6/23/12. Fred Heath writes:

Upon hearing that they were blooming on Saturday evening [at Tohono Chul], I decided to go to Sabino on Sunday AM see if anything was happening there. Sure enough the plant under the mesquite right before the nature trail had 6 wonderful smelling flowers (see photos…I need a camera that can capture odors!). I checked the one at the start of Esperero Trail…..nothing happening, but the plant on the tram road median did have two flowers.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Queen was there!

All photos by Bob Wenrick 6/23/12

This plant is called 'Emerald' for the color of the sepals

And this one is called 'Little Sister'
If you missed Bloom night at Tohono Chul Park on Saturday, you can still experience the sight of these beautiful flowers, if not their smell! Night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii) Thanks to Bob for these great photos.
Maribeth ran into Lee Mason at the park at 6.30am the next morning. The flowers were still open. The following is information from Lee about the Queen-of-the-Night: (via Heather Murphy and Fred Heath. Thanks to all for sharing!)
  • The plant with the most blooms, 'Emerald,' is at the back end of the field behind the children's area. Lee estimated her tuber at 10 pounds. He guessed that a tuber could grow to 20 pounds! He said that in his experience tracking queens, he hasn't noticed a set life span...long live the Queen!!! 
  • [At Tohono Chul,] they water when they see the beginning of a flower. They do this every 2 weeks, putting 5 gallons in the cage that is around each queen. On the 1st and 3rd waterings, he puts a tiny amount of Miracle Grow in the water. (The small end of the green spoon that comes in the box.) 
  • To recognize the beginnings of a bud, look for a tiny pinkish fuzz ball on the stem. New stems are tiny fuzz balls, too, but they are more grayish. 
  • There is usually a pause in the development of the flower when the queen 'decides' whether she will continue through fruiting or not. Sometimes, if several flowers have opened, she may decide that’s all she can do and not funnel energy to remaining buds. 
  • If the queen isn’t pollinated, she may grow more since she doesn’t have to direct so much energy into the fruit but can instead channel it into the plant. Ripe fruit is red and good to eat. 
  • Javelina and rabbits are the 2 main predators. They will just dig up or gnaw off the stem at the base. Pack rats will gnaw on the ends of stems, but they don’t kill the plant. A damaged plant may not bloom for several years as it regains its strength. 
  • Average age to bloom would be 5 – 6 years, however, Lee knows of 2 well cared for plants that were 17 and 21 years before they bloomed.

Monday, June 25, 2012

This week in fruit: finale

Photo by Ned Harris 6/19/2012
This is probably fox scat, definitely composed almost entirely of saguaro seeds. And this definitively concludes 'This week in fruit.'

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This week in fruit: 4

Photo by Ned Harris 6/19/2012
Even the crested saguaro near the riparian area above the dam has fruit. If cresting is a genetic mutation, it clearly isn't enough to impede reproduction. I wonder if these seeds would grow into crested saguaros. Anyone have 50 years or so for an experiment??

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This week in fruit: 3

Photo by Ned Harris 6/19/2012
Look at all those seeds!! In just one fruit. Yet it's unlikely that even one will sprout and grow.

Friday, June 22, 2012

This week in fruit: 2

Photo by Ned Harris 6/19/2012
Even this mini-arm has ripening fruits. How cool is that? Very cool, I say.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This week in fruit: part 1

Photo by Ned Harris 6/19/2012
On a glorious morning walk with Ned and Carol, we decided to do 'this week in fruit' posts for the blog. Saguaro fruit, that is. Click the photo for a closer look at these bold red seedy fruits.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


All photos by Ned Harris 6/19/2012

Carol, Ned, and I saw all four juvenile Cooper's Hawks in the riparian area above the dam. The juvie at the top looks the most 'rumpled' of the four. Let's call him Rumpelstiltskin. The hawk eating looks the strongest (probably because she's the fastest to the food). We'll call her Athena. The other two (not pictured) are in between in terms of size and rumpli-ness. We saw one of the parents bring more food to the nest while we were watching. Guess who got to it first?!
You can tell these are not adults because their chest feathers look streaked. Adult feathers are more like bars going across.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's hot, hot, hot...

I'm a big Alan Alda fan anyway, but even more so as he works with the Center for Communicating Science. You can read about the Flame Challenge here. (Scroll down to see a photo of Alda at 11. You'll recognize him right away.) And you can easily view the winning video (explain flame) here. Definitely targeted to Western cultures, but very good. I learned a lot : -)

Monday, June 18, 2012


Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/8/2012

Early morning Raven on a Century plant (Golden-flowered Agave Agave chrysantha). And Poe's The Raven.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/8/2012
Saguaro fruits are bursting with seedy goodness. Look closely at one today!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Blue is the new sexy

Photos by Angie Perryman, Click for larger view

Angie writes:
I went out with Ned a week or so ago, and this little guy was so funny. He would do some pushups, and then turn his tummy up so we could see his macho colors. He did it several times. Must have thought we were slow learners.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Colors of summer

Photo by Ned Harris 6/3/2012
This Giant Mesquite Bug nymph is perched on a Trixis (Trixis californica - yes, it's in the sunflower family Asteraceae) that has gone to seed. My favorite Ned Harris photo from June 3, 2012!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beach Baby

Photo by Ned Harris 6/9/2012
Love these little guys! Anyone know what their group name is? A murder of crows, a pack of wolves, a pod of whales... how about a 'cutie-pie' of Round-tailed Ground Squirrels?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Watch for the Queen!

All photos by Joan Tedford, May 30, 2009

The Night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii) pictured here is on the first 'island' on the road in Sabino Canyon (c. 1/2 mile in). In 2009, it bloomed on May 30th! If you are out and about in the canyon, please keep watch for this and for other Queens-of-the-Night to bloom. (There's a plant in front of women's bathroom, too.) Send photos : -)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

She's got it

These are not timely, but celestial events never get old. (And we won't be around for the next Venus transits: December 10–11, 2117 and in December 2125; although Ellen is holding out hope for the great upload aka singularity.) These wonderful Venus transit photos are by Marty Horowitz from 6/5/2012. He writes: 

Many thanks to my most excellent friend Dennis Dawson, who let me adapt my camera to his solar telescope with hydrogen alpha filter which made these pictures possible. [These] 3 images were taken through the telescope eyepiece by attaching the camera with an external bracket. As always, these are at reduced resolution to get thru the comcast filters.

Note the solar flare at the top of this one. 
And, in case you've forgotten from grade school, Venus is 2nd from the sun.
(Venus is the black dot.)
Thanks, Marty, for immortalizing this event for us!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Early birds

Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/8/2012
Early birds get a seat at the Ocotillo Perch 'n Chirp!
Belated congratulations to bird lovers Jean and Mark on their anniversary. I've forgotten how many years, but they're well into the double digits! Best wishes for doubling your double digits.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cactus Dodger

Photo by Ned Harris 6/9/2012
What a great name for a cicada! Cacama valvata, Cactus Dodger. Creeping (you) out daily!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Some Pea Family Pods

Photo by Ned, Pods by Coursetia, Hand by Anne

Photo by Ned, Pod by Fairy Duster, Hand by Anne
Skipping the grasses (sorry, grass lovers), plants in the Pea family are the second most common in Sabino Canyon (after plants in the Sunflower family). One of these days (in the next 5 years or so), I'll do a series on the desert Peas. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Not in a tree

Photo by Ned Harris, 5/27/2012
Canyon Tree Frog.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Paper Wasp Nest

Photo by Ned Harris, 5/27/2012
Paper Wasp (Polistes flavus) nest. For more info on this productive insect, check out Bug Eric's blog (link).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

They're Back!

Photo by Ned Harris 5/27/2012
Giant Mesquite bug nymphs!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bell's vireo in nest

Click for larger view. Photo by Ned Harris 5/27/2012
Ned says:
Female Bell's Vireo on nest. Look carefully and you will see her eye looking over the top of the nest and her tail sticking up.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A solid perch

Photo by Marty Horowitz 5/29/12
No nectar in those flowers, though.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Check it out!

Photo by Ned Harris 5/20/2012
Checkered White butterfly.