Sunday, September 30, 2012


Photo by Peggy Wenrick 8/31/2012

This Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) was mutilated last year by some idiot with a saw or a sword. You can see the remains of the top on the lower right. We thought it was a goner, but it has since grown at least 4 (some very small in the back) arms. If you ever see some moron throwing rocks or otherwise damaging desert plants, take a photo with your cell phone and turn him in.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Can you see me now?

Photo by Peggy Wenrick 9/8/2012

Click on the photo and look closely for the critter!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Praying for prey

Photo by Ned Harris 9/22/2012

On the left, the Mesquite Girdler beetle; on the right, a male praying mantis. How's this going to end?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Clark's wears bracelets

Photo by Ned Harris 9/22/2012

There are two species of spiny lizard in Sabino Canyon. Desert Spiny and Clark's Spiny. They look pretty similar, but Clark's wears bracelets. Note the dark bands on the forearm of the Clark's in this photo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Adults have wings, part 3

American Lady 9/22/2012

Gray Hairstreak 9/20/2012

White Checkered Skipper  9/22/2012

All photos by Ned Harris.
Again, adults (of the insect variety) have wings.* Butterflies and moths both go through 'complete' metamorphosis: egg - larva - pupa - adult. What the difference, you ask? 'Complete' metamorphosis involves pupating; in essence, pulling the covers over your head, taking yourself completely apart, and building a winged critter out of the goo. The bigger you are going in to the 'take-apart' stage, the bigger you're likely to be coming out. It's like building something with Legos. If you have 100 to work with, you can build something bigger than if you only have 50.
The larvae (caterpillars) of butterflies and moths eat and eat and eat their host plants so that they have as much mass as possible going into the pupa stage. During the pupa stage, insects aren't eating - 'just' taking themselves apart entirely and rebuilding. It's really amazing. Beyond amazing. Awesome, in every possible sense of the word.

*(As is my custom on this blog,) I'm looking at the big picture -  of insects, in this case; not every species, not every exception. In my experience, you can go along way in the realm of insects if you know that adults have wings. My apologies to entomologists for the generalizations.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adults have wings, part 2

Flame Skimmer - female
Flame Skimmer - male

Both photos by Ned Harris, 9/22/2012
Flame Skimmer dragonflies are out and about in Sabino Canyon. You'll note that the male is more colorful. Both are adults, though. (Adult insects have wings!) Dragonflies undergo 'incomplete' metamorphosis: egg - nymph - adult. Read more about their life cycle and see some photos of nymphs here. Dragonfly nymphs are one of the many insect critters in the creek.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Adults have wings

Photo by Ned Harris 9/20/2012

Photo by Ned Harris 9/22/2012

Horse Lubber Grasshoppers are out and about, doing what adult insects do (see top photo). Not every species of insect has wings as an adult (but the vast majority do), but if it has wings (and it's an insect), it's an adult. The flying photo is also a Horse Lubber Grasshopper. Grasshoppers undergo 'incomplete' metamorphosis: egg - nymph (generally, nymphs look like smaller and wingless adults) - adult.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Desert Tortoise

Photos by Matt Ball 9/22/2012

We saw this medium-sized Sonoran Desert Tortoise on the Phoneline trail. (Too small to be the legendary Phoneline Phil; and there's no dent in the shell.) A reminder to everyone: never pick up a Desert Tortoise. They store water in their bladder and will pee all over you if disturbed. That can be a death sentence if they can't get to water quickly. Given that they live in the desert and are not known for speed...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bush Spiderling (not a spider)

Photo by Matt Ball 9/1/2012

You'll need to look carefully for the greenish-white flowers of Bush Spiderling (Commicarpus scandens); they're tiny, on a sprawling, vine-like bush.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Endeavour flyover

These photos from Kenne Turner. Wow! Endeavour flyover. Thanks, Kenne! (Honey-) Matt and I also saw it from our backyard (near Sabino Canyon).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A fresh one

Photos by Peggy Wenrick  9/18/2012

Walking on the road (near the elementary program area by the dam), we (Jack, 2 Bobs, Peggy, Patricia, Walt, Gretchen, and I) came upon this Western Diamondback, likely 'born' this summer. (Female rattlesnakes keep the fertilized eggs in their body until the young are ready; thus, they give 'birth' to live young.) The end of Jack's hiking pole is in the top two photos for scale. The snake didn't like us so much, was rattling up a silent storm, so we moved on. What a cutie!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Red Eye Flight

Click for larger, photo by Ned Harris 9/17/2012

This was another one of those quick draw shots that turned out amazing. In the time it took me to recognize that it was a bird, Ned had already taken photos (and, of course, knew what he was photographing)! You'll want to click to see the red eye of this Cooper's Hawk.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Creek Circles

Photo by Ned Harris 9/17/2012

These creek circles were not made by alien invaders, but rather by Gila Chub, the great fish story of Sabino Creek. You can see several fish outside the circles at about 7 and 11 o'clock. At first glance, I thought insects were causing the water to ripple, but after a fish jumped partly out of the water, we knew Gila Chub were feeding on insects. Ned and I were standing on the Bluff trail when we saw all this activity.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dwarf White Honeysuckle

Photo by Matt Ball 9/1/2012

Look early for the delicate flowers of Dwarf White Honeysuckle aka Justicia (Justicia longii).

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Photos by Marty Horowitz 9/12/2012

If you've been hiking lately, you've likely seen loads of grasshoppers. It seemed to (Honey-)Matt and me that we were being pelted with them! Top photo is a White-lined Bird grasshopper; bottom photo is a Horse Lubber on Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida). Yes, Paul, those berries are edible.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Good Morning Glory

Photo by Matt Ball 9/1/2012
Morning glories are showing their colors. Bird's Foot Morning glories (Ipomoea ternifolia var. leptotoma) are usually light purple-lavender - although they can bloom white. Look for both colors in Sabino Canyon, especially along the road.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Butterfly-a-palooza, two-za

All Photos from Ned Harris 9/13/2012

Queen butterfly (male)

Pipevine Swallowtail

Gulf Fritillary

Painted Lady

All of these beauties are on a blooming Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). A handy butterfly guide is available in the Sabino Canyon visitor center store (and elsewhere). For more great photos of flying things of all kinds, fly on over to Ned's flickr site.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Blazing Star

Photos by Matt Ball 9/1/2012

Isolated Blazing Star (Mentzelia isolata) is in the Stick Leaf Family (Loasaceae). You are seeing this one along the creek. Loads of these on the upstream side of bridge 7. Look under the trees and other foliage.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Desert Vine

Photo by Matt Ball 9/1/2012

Desert Vine (aka Janusia) is now Cottsia gracilis. It's everywhere in the canyon now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Text from Mark Hengesbaugh: 
Yesterday (9/9/12) I took a walk with friend (and Sabino blog subscriber) Roger Rittmaster who was in town for the North American Butterfly Association's biennial meeting in Sierra Vista. Roger ID'ed 12 species of butterflies all nectaring on the Dam Bridge button bush at the same time.
In addition to the Fiery Skipper, Acacia Skipper and Southern Dogface (with honeybee) pictured, we also saw on that button bush: Queen, Bordered Patch, Orange Skipperling, American Lady, Painted Lady, Pipevine Swallowtail, Orange Sulfur, Eufala Skipper, Funereal Duskywing.
All photos by Roger Rittmaster.

Fiery Skipper

Acacia Skipper

Southern Dogface and Honeybee

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tepary Bean

Photos by Matt Ball 9/1/2012

Tepary Bean (Phaseolus acutifolius var. tenuifolius) blooms post-monsoon with delicate flowers. Look for it along the creek, winding through other plants.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New for you (and me)

Photo by Ned Harris 9/6/2012
This is a Bordered Patch butterfly on a Whiteflower Prairie Clover blossom (Dalea albiflora). We also saw the caterpillars, all over (one of) their host plants, Canyon Ragweed (Ambrosia ambrosioides).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fruit of the night

Photo by Ned Harris 9/5/2012

Unlike the Regal Horned Lizard, this fruit of the Night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii) is not cryptically colored and did jump right out at me. Only one fruit on this hidden-away plant on the Bear Canyon trail, but there is quite a bit of new growth.

Answers to Peggy's Pod Quiz: Pod 1: Foothills Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla); Pods 2: White-thorn Acacia (Acacia constricta); Pod 3: Cat-claw Acacia (Acacia greggii); Pod 4: Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida) How did you do?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Peggy's Pod Quiz

Pod 1

Pods 2

Pod 3

Pod 4

All photos (and idea for quiz) from Peggy Wenrick. You can use the leaves and other features to help make the i.d. of these plants in the pea family (Fabaceae). Answers in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Looking regal

Photo by Ned Harris 9/5/2012
I nearly clobbered this Regal Horned Lizard with the Gopher (that I use to pick up trash), so cryptic was her coloration. Ned was able to make another fine portrait, though, and no one was harmed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Biggest Unicorn (plant) Ever!

All Photos by Matt Ball 9/1/2012

We saw this huge Unicorn Plant (Golden Devil's Claw) (Proboscidea althaeifolia) just off the trail that parallels the parking lot on the south east side. The plant is a rough circle of at least 4 ft in diameter! Loads of fruits, too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Deer back for the Hooker's (Evening Primroses)

Donax to the max (pre-2010)

Text and photos from Mark Hengesbaugh (captions and title from Anne):
Thickets of invasive Arundo donax (Giant Reed) canes infested Sabino Dam and Sabino Creek for decades, crowding out native plants, until volunteers and USFS personnel removed them in a major effort a few years ago.

Same area on 8/14/2012, with only a few soon-to-be-sprayed-with-herbicide stalks
On Aug. 14, 2012, a team of Sabino naturalists surveyed seven plots in the canyon that had been totally dominated by Arundo, and found that 80 species of plants had re-established themselves. A survey in 2010 in those same locations found 55 plant species.
The team: Mark and Jean Hengesbaugh, Fred Heath, Tom 'Grassman' Skinner, Peggy Wenrick, and Anne Green. 

Photo by Tom 'Grassman' Skinner of Mark with deer eating Hooker's 9/3/12 

Text from Mark:
So my buddy Tom Skinner and I were crashing through the underbrush of deepest dark post-Arundo donax Sabino Creek though areas that are now lush with native plants but that until 2009 had been totally dominated by the evil Giant Reed, and we had a Disney-esque moment with a Coues whitetail deer that was so preoccupied scarfing down the abundant Hooker's Evening Primrose that she didn't care about us two-legged intruders.
 Anne says: Go take a peek at the creek!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back Off Boogaloo

All photos by Matt Ball 9/1/2012

First Gila Monster of September!