Friday, August 31, 2012

Beep beep???

Photo by Ned Harris 8/30/2012
Clearly the creators of the Roadrunner cartoon (Warner Brothers) had never heard a Greater Roadrunner. They most definitely do not sound like "beep beep." I hear it as a sharp hooting squawk (but listen for yourself at the link above). Coyotes don't hunt them, not even with Acme devices. They do prefer to run, though; they can fly short distances, too. Note how well camouflaged they are against the ground and the mesquite.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sunset and correction

Photo by Ned Harris 8/26/2012

Two things I know from yesterday's post: 1) this blog has readers, and 2) these readers are knowledgeable. Thanks to Fred and to Mark for correcting the identity of the extra-long whiptail.
Fred wrote: 
It’s a young Giant (formerly called Canyon)Whiptail. Note the reddish brown tail and hind legs. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Extra-long Whiptail

Photo by Peggy Wenrick 8/14/2012

We saw this extra-long whiptail (the tail extends a bit beyond the photo) on our post-arundo plant survey. It looks to me like one of the all-female species in the Sonoran Spotted / Gila Spotted group, but I welcome a trained eye. I know for sure that the tail is more than twice as long as the body!
Update: Turns out this is a young Giant (formerly called Canyon) Whiptail. Thanks, Fred and Mark!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Coulter Hibiscus

All Photos by Ned Harris, August 2012

These beauties are in the Mallow family and are known as Desert Rosemallow. We call them Coulter Hibiscus (Hibiscus coulteri) since the common name then matches the Latin : - ) sometimes they grow like a vine, using other plants as support.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jean and the walnut tree

Photo by Peggy Wenrick  9/15/2011
with Jean Hengesbaugh in the leaves

Photo by Peggy Wenrick 8/14/2012
Jean could stand on her own shoulders and still not be as tall

How about that?! Eleven months later and nearly twice as tall! For more on this story, see this post.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Shiny Spiny

Photo by Ned Harris August 2012
This Desert Spiny lizard is catching some rays.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Couch's Spadefoot

Photos by Wayne Klement, August 2012

Adult Couch's Spadefoot toads are active at night. Thanks to Wayne (via Ned) for these great green shots.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Horsehair Worm

Photo by Marty Horowitz, August 2012
You're going to have to click and look closely to find this worm. It really matches its name! Look for the thin bluish line in the center of the photo.
Horsehair worms are one of the many 'critters' in Sabino Creek. They can be up to 3 feet long and are as thin as - you guessed it - a horse hair. The larvae live as parasites in the guts of beetles, grasshoppers, and other insects. That's a really small space.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Know your snake tails

All photos by Ned Harris, 8/20/2012. Yes, it was a(nother) banner day in the canyon!

Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

Tail of the above. 

Black-tailed Rattlesnake looking rather well fed!

Well-fed tail, too. 

Alas, it's a myth that rattles can be counted to determine age. The end of the rattle can fall off when the snake sheds; in other words: an old snake can have a short rattle.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 8/14/2012
Head is upside down in both photos.

Photo by Peggy Wenrick 8/14/2012
The Arundo Destroyers (Jean and Mark Hengesbaugh, Tom Skinner, Fred Heath, Peggy Wenrick, and I) went out last week to re-survey spots formerly invested with Giant Reed (more on that in the coming weeks; the news is GOOD!) and we saw lots of wildlife, including these extra-large caterpillars of the Splendid Royal Moth on Wild Cotton (Gossypium thurberi), as expected. See this post from last year, too.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Evening clouds

Photos by Matt Ball 8/19/2012

Note the sliver of moon in the upper left

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Art of the Flame Skimmer

Photo by Marty Horowitz, 7/31/12
Flame Skimmer dragonfly 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

6 Mountain Ranges

I came across these posts from Bob Ring in the AZ Daily Star; realized that most of the information was new to me, and thought I'd post them further. Take a look and get to know Tucson's mountains. First & second part.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Feng shui fruits

Photo by Ned Harris 7/31/2012

Fruits (called Tunas) of the Prickly Pear. Most likely Engelmann's Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii); but Sprawling Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha) looks very similar. We also have some Smooth Prickly Pear (Opuntia laevis) in Sabino Canyon.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bobcat and Rattler

Photo by Robert the sonographer, early July 2012
Forest Service Sid showed me this photo (that he had sent to his phone) one morning in July after I had been on patrol. Hummingbird Bander Elissa recently sent it to me, as she got it from Rebecca the midwife (and hummingbird bander), who is a colleague of Robert the sonographer. How's that for complicated? (Looks like the same bobcat from Ned's later photos.) According to my sources, the rattler moved off. Skinny bobcat, perhaps, but still too big to eat. Thanks to everyone on this critter chain.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

One cool dude

Photos by Ned Harris, August 2012

This one's the dude.

All three are Great Earless lizards, but #1 and #3 are gravid females; in the middle is bachelor #2. At this point in the summer, you can often tell them apart. Females have less-defined (or no) bars near the groin anyway (click on the top photo and compare with the middle photo). But you can't see bars in the third photo. What to do? Look for the bright orange (and not much of the belly-blue) color. Orange indicates that she's a she and that she's carrying. Fertilized eggs, of course. No need to mess with her. Less orange, more blue, more defined bars indicates a dude.
A very happy birthday (8/16) to one cool dude, namely, Ned Harris. Thank you for keeping this blog in cool photos!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

AZ's got blue eyes

Photo by Ned Harris 8/3/2012
Those little blue flowers with a white center you've been seeing in the canyon are Arizona Blue Eyes (Evolvulus arizonicus). Yes, they are in the Morning Glory Family (Convolvulaceae).

Monday, August 13, 2012

On the lookout

Photo by Ned Harris 8/3/2012
Greater Roadrunner

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Copper in the sand

Photos by Ned Harris 8/3/2012

Go out early to catch a glimpse of these beauties. Flowers close by mid-morning.There are a number of plants in the sand by the dam and the dam bridge. I like the name Copper Purslane (Portulaca suffrutescens) best, but they are also - and better - known as Shrubby Purslane. (Portulaca = carries milk; suffrutescens = somewhat shrubby)
A great online resource for flowers is Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers (aka Firefly forest).
A great online resource for botanical Latin is the Botanary of Dave's Garden.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Photo by Ned Harris 8/3/2012

Another snake spotted by Carol! This time, one in the non-venomous category. Coachwhips can be black, pinkish, or a combination of the two. A great resource for photos and descriptions of reptiles and amphibians in Arizona is Click it. 

Friday, August 10, 2012


All Photos by Ned Harris 8/3/2012

This one's Grumpy

Click for larger view
If you've been anywhere near the water in the canyon, you've certainly encountered hoards of mini-toads in various stages of development. Some with tails, some without. I think these (being held gently by an unnamed naturalist) are all Red-spotted toads. As with all posts, though, I welcome corrections!
No toads were eaten or otherwise harmed for this post.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Photo by Ned Harris 8/3/2012
Considering that this Desert Marigold flower is about the size of a quarter (and that there's another 'bug' on it), the Tiny Checkerspot butterfly is aptly named. They are plentiful in the canyon now, but don't seem to stop long enough for anyone but Ned "Quick Draw Mc" Harris.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Like the Washington Monument

Photo by Ned Harris 8/3/2012
Ned says:
[This is a] Filigree Skimmer obelisking. Sometimes dragonflies use obelisking to cool down. It is a handstand-like position used to prevent overheating on sunny days.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sabino Bobcat

Text and Photos from Ned Harris, Monday 8/6/2012.
I went alone to Sabino this morning on the spur of the moment. I looked over at the ramada adjacent to the tram ticket office and saw something dangling down between the slats.

I did a double take then realized they were a bobcat leg and tail. I moved over to the other side and saw this young bobcat looking over the edge of the ramada towards me. 

I moved back to the other side and he then stood up and looked at me.

He then walked over to the Palo Verde tree.

And then across a Saguaro arm. 

What a thrill!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Not a spider, I promise

Photo by Ned Harris 8/3/2012
This dainty beauty is called a (Prairie) Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis). We saw only this one, in the sand by the dam bridge.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Carol spots a tiger!

Photo by Ned Harris 8/3/2012
Ned and I walked right by this Tiger Rattlesnake! Carol "Eagle Eye" Tornow called us back for this beauty and many other great critters she spotted. Stay tuned here for more! (Or skip the banter and go straight to Ned's flickr site, if you prefer.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Do you have the right stuff?

It's time again to promote the various volunteer organizations whose members do great work in the Santa Catalinas. If you like being outside and want to make a difference locally, there are a number of groups that would be delighted to take you in. And then take you out (but in a good way)!

Search and Rescue Council, Inc. (SARCI) coordinates all six of the local search and rescue groups, including the Southern Arizona Rescue Association (SARA).
Prospective candidate orientation meeting scheduled for August 9th, 2012, 7:30 PM at the Sabino SARA house located at 5990 N. Sabino Canyon Road. Attendance is a mandatory first step in joining SARA. 
Six local search and rescue groups, you say?! Yes, dogs and divers, horses and helicopters. Check out the SARCI site for more info and contacts. Or better, go to the prospective candidate meeting above.

Santa Catalina Volunteer Patrol (SCVP) You see us in Forest Service green (you know the color), patrolling in Sabino Canyon and on Mt Lemmon (mainly); also in Ventana Canyon and other places in the Santa Catalinas.

Sabino Canyon Bicycle Patrol Same uniform as above, but with the addition of a bicycle. No need to cycle up to Mt Lemmon, either. Whew.

Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists (SCVN) We do school programs for kindergarten and elementary students; public programs for all ages. (New website coming soon.)

See you on the outside!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Greater Eggfull

Photo by Carol Tornow 7/30/2012
You'll want to click on this photo of a gravid (i.e., fertilized egg-carrying) Greater Earless Lizard. Note the peachy-orange color. That's the signal, often imitated by juveniles of this species, to leave her alone.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Not found in Canada!

Photos by Nancy "Part time in Tucson, mostly in Canada" 7/22/2012

Nancy asked if sightings of Sonoran Desert Tortoises are common. I'd say: more common than mountain lion sightings! This tortoise has been doing some mud wrestling, it looks like.