Monday, December 31, 2012

It's a beautiful day!

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/14/2012

Marty writes:
Pot o' gold! Unusual to see the top of a rainbow so low in the sky (the sun was at ~29 deg elevation at ~2pm when I took these pix 12/14/2012). The background is Ventana Canyon as viewed from my yard about 1/3 miles west of the canyon mouth.
Anne says: Make every day a good day!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Owl be back!

Photo by Ned Harris 11/13/2012
Thanks to all the contributors to this blog in 2012! Especially Ned HarrisCouldn't even have a blog without Ned's great photos. Also Mark and Jean Hengesbaugh, Marty Horowitz, Fred Fisher, Fred Heath, Bob and Peggy Wenrick, Carol Tornow, and Angie Perryman.
A special thanks to Honey Matt and Ellen.
Thank you to all of you readers, wherever you are! It was another great year in Sabino Canyon!

Some blog stats:
Total posts in 2012: 340
Total in 2011: 330 - ten more posts, no extra charge :-)

Top  three posts for the year:
1) May 22, 2012  Ellen's speech  122 views  (this does not include email subscriptions)
2) Aug 7, 2012     Sabino Bobcat    91 views  (ditto)
3) Oct 14, 2012   Giant Swallowtail Salute  72 views (again, ditto)

Top three countries of readers: 1) US, 2) Russia, 3) Germany

I won't be posting again until 1/1/2013. In the meantime, you can spend a happy hour (or two) searching the blog or browsing through the archives. Click here.
If you want to let others know about this blog (I'd appreciate it), just remember: sabinocanyon dot net - (dot com is the shuttle service; dot org is the Friends of Sabino; dot net is me!)

See you in 2013!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/09/2012

Hermit Thrush in the riparian area above the dam.

And an article about hummingbirds hummingbirds in Scientific American. Susan Wethington, founder of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network, is featured. Thanks to Jean Hengesbaugh for sending. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

A fruit you don't see every day

Photo by Debbie Bird 11/27/2012
Debbie showed us this Limber Bush (Jatropha cardiophylla) fruit on a recent plant walk. This is the only fruit anyone in that group could recall seeing (ever), so we were understandably reluctant to pick it to check out the seed. We waited. The fruit was still there on 12/11/2012 and, as others reported seeing fruits in the past, we made the decision to open this one.

Photo by Debbie Bird 12/11/2012
Behold! The lone seed, very firm. I planted it after showing everyone on the plant walk. Thanks to Debbie for documenting this (for me) rare find.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Peregrin liftoff

Photo by Ned Harris 12/7/2012

Now THAT'S a bird of prey! For more of these and many other birds from Ned's trips to Bosque del Apache, Sulphur Springs Valley, Sweetwater Wetlands, and the magic telephone poles of Tucson, click here!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Seeing an echo

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/6/2012

Echo Azure butterfly.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fruity goodness

Photos by Ned Harris 12/5/2012

These plump pineapple-looking things are Arizona Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) fruits. Ground squirrels, deer, and other mammals (including me) like them. (I generally stick to eating the fruits from the barrel cacti in my yard.) Unlike prickly pear fruits, these have NO spines or glochids. You do have to take care when picking them, though. The fishhook spines on the barrel cactus don't mess around! To eat safely:  look for a ripe fruit (no green), grasp the brownish top and pull gently. If it comes off reasonably easily, it's ripe. Inspect for evidence of other critter bites. If none, take a shallow bite. The skin and flesh have the consistency of an apple; the flesh is quite tart. I avoid the seeds, but they are safe to eat.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Invasive Buffelgrass Overruns 7 Falls in Bear Canyon

Buffelgrass has overrun Bear Canyon’s Seven Falls area.
Saguaros are devastated by the wildfires Buffelgrass promotes
and few new Saguaros will grow in Buffelgrass infested area.

Telltale: the Buffelgrass rachis, or central stem of the seed head,
is coarse and abrasive.
Click on photo for a closer look.

Photos by Tom Skinner. Text by Mark Hengesbaugh:

In Oct. 2012, two scientific studies on Santa Catalina Mountains Buffelgrass were published. One study documents the transformation of rich, diverse Sonoran Desert upland habitat of 15-20 plant species into a “depauperate,” or impoverished, landscape containing only 2-5 species after Buffelgrass invades. The longer Buffelgrass remains on a site, the more species richness and diversity decline.
The second study documents the rate at which Catalina Buffelgrass is spreading: It doubles in acreage every 2.26-7.04 years.
Combining findings of the two studies: Those Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon hillside sections overrun with invasive Buffelgrass will double again in size within approximately five years, much sooner on south facing slopes. 
Click here to access the studies. Scroll down to Buffelgrass.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hooves and Tusks

Photo by Ned Harris 11/13/2012
Click on this photo for a clear view of the two 'toes' of the javelina. Their canines (also called tusks) are sharp and used for digging up insects and worms. And also your plants.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

DON'T LOOK Honey Matt!!

Photos by Fred Fisher 11/12/12

If you click on these photos, you'll see the Green Lynx spiderlings coming out of the egg sac! (Very cool, despite what my husband might say.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kindergarten Snake

Photo by Pam Bridgmon 12/4/2012

Some eagle-eyed spotting by Marie Graninger had the kindergarten group clustered around (but not, of course, touching or picking up) this tiny snake. Pam Bridgmon writes:

We saw this tiny snake on the Kinder Nature Walk yesterday. The kids just loved it. It was not more than 4 inches long. It was alive but moving very slowly. It's in the center to the right of the rock.
(You'll need to click on the photo and look for stripes.)
Tom "(Not that kind of) Grass-man" Skinner asked Larry "Lizard-man" Jones for the identification. Larry wrote:

That would be a Variable Sandsnake, Chilomeniscus stramineus. I don't see very many, so it is a pretty good find. This would be an adult. They are good burrowers so spend a lot of time underground. Completely harmless. They eat centipedes and other inverts. Usually found in areas of loose soil, and I think all I have seen were in AZ upland desert on gravelly soils (like you show), rather than, say, washes with sand, but I'm sure they are in those areas, also.
Thank you to all the contributors to this little story!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Still hanging around

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/29/2012

Queen Butterfly on a Hooker Evening Primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hirsutissima).

Reakirt's Blue on (Willow) Smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia).
Many thanks to Marty for all of his photo contributions to the blog this year!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rock Star Robin

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh

Text by Mark Hengesbaugh:

If you've noticed an increased number of visitors to Sabino Canyon lately who are toting serious binoculars and field guides, they're coming to see an unusual visitor from Mexico. This Rufous-backed Robin was spotted at the dam on Nov. 27 and as of Dec. 5 is still there. The species' core habitat is in western Mexico and as far as I can tell an individual has never been seen before in Sabino Canyon. Click here for more info on this species.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Photo by Matt Ball 12/03/2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Retreat, but don't surrender

Photo by Ned Harris 11/4/2012
This is the web of a Desertshrub Spider (aka Desert Bush Spider); the link is to a blog post from Bug Eric (thanks, Angie) with more info (and photos! Don't click, Honey-Matt!). What looks like debris in the middle of this photo is called a retreat; made of  leaves, remains of prey, whatever is around. The retreat is what generally catches your eye (not literally) when you are out and about. Take a closer look!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A gift of Rose's ...

Frank Rose's latest book, that is! (And you thought I misused the apostrophe.) If you are looking for a great gift for yourself and your plant-loving friends, get a dozen copies of Frank Rose's Mountain Trees of Southern Arizona: A Field Guide, available at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and, I'm told, at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center bookstore. Plant goddess Joan Tedford showed us her copy - and I can't possibly use too many superlatives. Fantastic in every way!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Stink bug nymph

Photo by Debbie Bird. 11/16/2012

I'll let Carl 'Bug Man' Olson put the bug in your ear:

That's a nymph of what is commonly called a stink bug, Family Pentatomidae, Order Hemiptera. Juveniles are really difficult because many change so radically from the adult look. It is an herbivore typically, although there are some that are predators. They all have scent glands, and if you look at yours you'll see two dark areas on abdomen and those are glands that produce some very noxious chemicals as defense. You know it's a nymph because wings are in the bud stage on yours.

Don't eat these!