Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pincushion & Pollinator

Photo by Ned Harris 7/29/12
The Fishhook Pincushions (Mammillaria grahamii) are blooming (again)! Wonderful colors after some big rains. Look low and look under other plants. These are generally less than 6 inches tall.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tail of Two Reptiles

Photo by Brigitte Kreigenhofer 6/24/2012

Same photo, cropped

Brigitte writes:
When we were photographing [the coachwhip], the gila monster walked out in front of me. They shared a few glances, but aside from that they ignored each other. The gila monster continued on her path to some brush on the other side of the snake and the coachwhip just stayed in the immediate area. It was quite the amazing experience!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Photo by Matt Ball

Range Ratany (Krameria erecta) is also blooming in Sabino Canyon. It's a low shrubby plant and the flowers are smaller than they appear here. Actually, much smaller. The hot pink 'petals' are really the sepals. (Sepals are the - usually green - parts that protect the bud before the flower opens.) The flower is the greenish-yellow part in the middle. Three petals above, 2 below. Ratany photosynthesizes, as plants do, but it also taps into the tissues of nearby plants and steals water and nutrients. Like Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum), Range Ratany is a hemi-parasite.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Blooming now!

Photo by Matt Ball
Desert Senna (Senna covesii) is blooming now! All along the road to Bear Canyon. Go check out these beautiful members of the Pea Family.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Update on Box Turtle

From a wildlife specialist (Turtles' project) of AZ Game and Fish Department: 
Wild box turtles are rare in the Tucson area in general. Historically, they are native to just a few areas in the Tucson area - for example along the Tanque Verde, Aqua Caliente, and Rincon Creeks; the area around Sabino is consistent with these former populations. However, box turtles are kept commonly in captivity in Tucson, and I am not entirely convinced that this box turtle is a native "wild" turtle. It was seen in the residential area just south of the park the week before you saw it (it had moved about 2500 ft). It also had a little bit of "pyramiding" on the shell, which is something we see in captive turtles because of nutritional deficiencies. Even though we aren't sure about its wild or captive status, we are going to keep the data point nonetheless. Maybe it will be seen again!
And from David Lazaroff:
Looks like another box turtle has escaped from someone's yard, south of the Forest boundary, and stumbled into the Recreation Area. This one is just a few years old at most--a turtle toddler. Thanks for posting its portrait.
Thanks, Mark, for turning in a report and letting me post this update.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Unicorn plant

Photo by Carol Tornow 7/23/2012

Unicorn plants (Proboscidea althaeifolia) are in bloom. There's one along the road, about 1/4 mile into the canyon on your left. Another is in the 'circle' where we park for the elementary programs by the dam.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rare find

Photos by Mark Hengesbaugh 7/24/2012

Actual size:  Turtle and water bottle

Mark writes:
We saw this Ornate Box Turtle today at the Bear Trailhead off the parking lot. Josh Taiz confirmed it is a box turtle. They're protected. The range maps I've checked with don't show it in Sabino, it'd be interesting to check David L[azaroff]'s Sabino species list to see if it's there. I'm submitting an observation form to the state's Box Turtle Watch.
Interesting description in the field guide Amphs and Reps in AZ: "... land turtle ... found primarily in flatlands and low valleys ... Active during the day, particularly in the mornings. Activity is often stimulated by rain. Terrestrial, but adept at swimming ... shelters in kangaroo rat burrows or self-created burrows. May live to 30 years or more in the wild. Omnivorous ... females can retain eggs for several weeks until conditions are right for nesting."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sunset 7/23/2012

Photos by Matt Ball 7/23/2012

Both taken near my house, which is near Sabino Canyon.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'll take mine to go.

Photo by Ned Harris, 7/17/2012
Ned shot this Gray Hawk at Aravaipa Canyon, but since the meal is a male Desert Spiny Lizard - and those are found in Sabino Canyon, I thought I'd allow it! Besides, it's a great photo. For more great photos by Ned, click here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Girls only

Photo by Ned Harris 7/15/2012
Lots of great lizards in Sabino Canyon, including the Sonoran Spotted / Gila Spotted Whiptail Group. Not all experts agree that these are separate species, but it is clear that they reproduce by parthenogenesis. No boys allowed!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

This end up

Photo by Carol Tornow 7/20/2012
Arizona Giant Centipede.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nature, red in tooth and claw

Karen McWhirter writes: These photos were taken in a mesquite in our yard recently. We discovered the snake in the process of swallowing a baby white-winged dove in the nest. The parents were of course very distraught. Thought the group might find them interesting.
Anne says: Click on 'These photos' above. Not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Maybe he's Clark Kent

Photo by Ned Harris 7/15/2012
Clark's Spiny Lizards have two bands on the lower part of their forelimbs, as well as a partial 'collar' at the shoulders. The bands or bracelets are often subtle. Click on this photos for a closer look. Beautiful turquoise coloring on this one. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Best place in the world

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 7/17/12
Jean and Mark saw this Gila Monster on the Esperero trail. Note the tail. A fat tail is a sign of a healthy, well-fed Gila Monster. USFS lizard-wizard Larry Jones says: "Sabino is one of the best places in the world to see Gila monsters."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Airborne Identity

Ned always has his camera at the ready for flying things of all kinds. He shot this buck in flight in Sabino Canyon on Sunday 7/15/12.

All Photos by Ned Harris 7/15/12

Click for larger

Wait for it...

That's some great air time!

Monday, July 16, 2012

You can't tuna prickly pear

Photo by Angie Perryman 7/14/2012

What does a plant's DNA tell it to do? Grow roots, leaves, stems, branches, flowers, fruits. Sometimes the program gets a little messed up. This prickly pear needs a tuna-up :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cool Cat

Another great cat(ch)! Danielle's Photography

This cool cat was seen in Danielle's yard in May.
If you're in the visitor center in the next week or so, ask Sid or Marv to show you the photos of a bobcat chasing off a rattlesnake. A canyon visitor saw it happen in early July!

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Photo by Danielle of Danielle's Photography
Barrel cactus fruits!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sounds like 'kill deer'

Photos by Ned Harris 6/26/12
Ned writes:
I encountered an adult Killdeer doing the distraction display [on 6/26 at the Sweetwater Wetlands]. I looked around carefully as I knew there were likely young in the area. Killdeers are precocial birds - their young have their eyes open at hatching and are capable of locomotion soon after hatching. I soon discovered two of the young with this little guy swimming away from me.

 Anne says: Click the 'sound' link on the site for reason why these birds are called Killdeer.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In the mint family

Photo by Ned Harris 6/19/2012
Texas Betony (aka Scarlet Hedge Nettle) (Stachys coccinea = flower spikes, scarlet) are in the Mint family (Lamiaceae). We found these along the creek above the dam last month.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More on Cooper's Hawks

Photos by Ned Harris 6/29/12
Ned says:
The several pale spots on the dark back are a juvenile Cooper's Hawk trait.

This juvie is enjoying a dove (most likely) for breakfast. Or lunch.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Not really a cat

Photo by Ned Harris 6/19/2012
Yes, there are Cat-Tails along the creek, specifically Southern Cat-Tails (Typha domingensis). In the Cat-Tail Family : -)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lizard poop

Photo by Ned Harris 7/3/2012

Yes, that's scat from this Greater Earless lizard. Now you know.

Mark your calendar: Saturday, July 14 is the next lizard walk. Meet at the visitor center at 8am. More info below from the press release: 

Sabino Canyon has amongst the highest diversity of lizards in the United States (at least 16 species). Lizards are not only very abundant, but are also acclimated to human presence, making them fairly approachable.
Participants should meet in front of the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center at 8:00 a.m. the day of the walk. Tours range from very easy one-hour strolls near the Visitor Center and Bajada Loop Nature Trail to the more difficult “Figure 8” tour (approximately three hours) to target the maximum number of species. Many participants select something in between, such as the two- to two and one-half hour walks to the riparian area surrounding Sabino Dam. Attendees select the group they wish to join.
Restroom and drinking water facilities are available along the routes. Participants should use sunscreen, wear a hat, bring water and light snacks, and wear sensible shoes (all tours are on trails, none are very difficult). Those who own binoculars are encouraged to bring them. Some will be available for loan, but the supply is limited. All participants will receive a two by three foot color poster, “Lizards of Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.” Tours are free of charge, but the $5.00 per day or $20.00 per year standard amenity fee will not be waived for tour attendees.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Makin' tracks

Photo by Ned Harris 7/3/12
Two 'teen-aged' quail making tracks to mom and dad.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lookin' for love

All photos by Angie Perryman, 7/5/2012

I'm here for you, Marge!

Portrait of  Loneliness

It's not easy being green.

Angie and Marge went to Sabino on Thursday morning (after the big rain on Wednesday) and found Sonoran Desert Toads looking for love. Don't kiss them, though. You'll likely bring on a psychotic episode, not a prince.

Friday, July 6, 2012

New word of the day

Photos by Ned Harris 6/19/2012

Although Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) is not native to this desert, it has naturalized and does well enough here, especially along the creek. The yellow tube flowers are interesting, and the fruits (stages of which you can see in the 2nd photo) are quite pretty (to me, anyway). I learned a new word when looking up info on this plant, namely: glaucous 1. Of a pale grayish or bluish green. 2. (Botany) Covered with a grayish, bluish, or whitish waxy coating or bloom that is easily rubbed off: glaucous leaves.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Could make you earless!

Photo by Nancy of AB Canada, 6/30/12
Mark writes: 
Nancy and Yvonne, two visitors from Alberta, saw this young lion just below the Bear Bridge on their way to the Phoneline trail on Sat. morning (6/30/12). They said it'd be ok for you to blog the image if you'd like.

Anne says: I like.

Photo by Ned Harris 7/3/12; Quarter for scale

Ned and I went on patrol Tuesday and ran into Granny, who gave us precise directions to mountain lion tracks that had been made that morning or the previous night. Thanks, Granny! (Linda P and I changed the hummingbird feeders on Monday and didn't see them.) There were two sets, one large (above) and one smaller. Be careful and aware out there!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Not an Earless

Photo by Ned Harris 6/29/12
Definitely not a White-tailed Earless!
Yesterday's boys: BBB1: Greater Earless lizardBBB2: Zebra-tailed lizard. Do the dewlap!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

And you thought you were hot!

All Photos by Ned Harris 6/29/12

Same as above, other side: BBB1

Not the same as above. BBB2

These males are showing their stuff! Specifically, both have distended their dewlap (that flirty flap of skin under the chin). The only studies I could find on this behavior involve lizards in the Anole family, but I think we can reasonably assume these males are also letting us know a) that we're in their territory, and b) that they are packin' heat for the females.
Since these photos very clearly show the bars, let's have a quiz. What kind of lizard is big, bad bachelor number 1 (top 2 photos) and what kind of lizard is big, bad bachelor number 2? Answers in tomorrow's post.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Whoo doo yoo see?

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh, click for larger

Mark writes:
While the 4 dam Cooper's Hawks chicks grab most of our attention lately--and they are doing well, we saw all of them yesterday ( 6/30)--this morning (Sunday, 7/1) I came across another family of raptors on the Bear Creek side of the rec area. Two Great Horned Owl juveniles and mom.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Photo by Ned Harris 6/29/12
(Honey-)Matt and Ellen.