Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pile it on!

Photo by Ned Harris 3/20/2013

Looks like this male Phainopepla has been doing some spring cleaning. That's quite a pile of Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) seeds. Great work!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Flower Power

Photo by Marty Horowitz  3/21/2013

Parry's Penstemon (Penstemon parryi), a number of other plants, and one mountain peak are named after Charles C. Parry.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/21/2013

Coulter (or Coulter's) Hibiscus (Hibiscus coulteri) was named for Thomas Coulter. If only all the Latin names were that easy!

Friday, March 29, 2013

And finally, a sun party

Photo by Elaine Padovani 3/22/2013

Elaine writes:

We have a long drain pipe under our driveway (about 100 yards long) that connects to our roof via a scupper and to additional drains in the yard. The drain system is inhabited by at least one gila monster, a scaled lizard, and a desert rattlesnake. I assume that each occupies a different pipe segment in the system but sometimes they are seen together, sunning themselves in the scupper. This is a sure sign of spring! Today [3/22/2013], the saga continues - after being displaced by the rattlesnake earlier, the gila monster came back to claim his spot in the late afternoon warmth and light!

Anne says: Thank you to all the contributors to A Week of Lizards (and bonus snake)!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 6: Patterns

Photo by Peggy Wenrick 3/18/2013

Photo by Ned Harris 3/20/2013

If we had that pattern scanner, we could positively identify these Gila Monsters as individuals. New project, anyone?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day 5: Bucket list

Photos and text by Lyn Hart.

Lyn writes: 
[W]e don't usually see Gila monsters here on our property until monsoon season starts, lo & behold, one showed up yesterday (3/15/2013)!
We were having our old evap cooler replaced... the new unit sits up on metal legs. In between carting stuff back & forth, the workmen found a Gila monster had crawled underneath the new evap cooler. They carefully put the Gila monster in a bucket & brought it to us. I was so happy they were so respectful & careful! After a photo op that really shows how big this one was, we turned it loose away from the house near a very shady palo verde along a small wash that runs through our property. After checking things out with several flicks of its big black tongue, it trundled away into the shade. 

Here it is in the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket... we estimated it was about 18 inches long. It looked very healthy, with an obviously very fat tail. If you look carefully at the top of the monster's head, you can see a patch that looks like dirt, but we think it may be old skin about to be shed since its tail had some small, ragged pieces of skin hanging off & its color overall was a bit on the dull side.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 4: Mix and match

Photos by Marty Horowitz 3/21/2013

The smallest lizards (this includes young ones) are the first out, as their greater surface area to volume makes it easier for them to warm up.

Larry has to hand it to Eastern Collared Lizards; they know how to mix stripes and spots.
Again: DON'T pick up lizards of any kind unless you are Larry Jones.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 3: Bracelets are in!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/21/2013

With Larry Jones lending a helping hand, this Clark's Spiny Lizard shows that bracelets are always in style.
Again, DO NOT attempt to catch lizards unless you are Larry Jones.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Week o' Lizards: Day 2

Photos by Marty Horowitz 3/21/2013

SCVN Marty recently completed Lizard Training (i.e., identifying lizards, not teaching them tricks) with Lizard Leaders Larry Jones and Dan Leavitt. (If you don't already have Larry's Lizard book, I say: Leapin' lizards! Order now!)
Above, portrait of Ornate Tree Lizard on rock.

Photo by Marty, Hand by Larry Jones 3/21/2013

This is an Ornate Tree Lizard, showing his spring belly blues and greens.
Unlike many mere mortals, Larry Jones is highly trained in teaching lizards new tricks. DO NOT TRY this maneuver. Unlike Larry, you'll cause harm. In fact, DO NOT even think about trying to catch lizards; they could 'lose' their tails, and the biological costs of re-growth are enormous.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A week of lizards: Day 1

Photo by Ned Harris 3/20/2013

It's lizard fashion week! This handsome Common Side-blotched Lizard is sporting a regenerated tail.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mini Wool Stars

Photo by Ned Harris 3/13/13

This tiny beauty is in the Phlox family (Polemoniaceae). Look for Miniature Wool Stars (Eriastrum diffusum) on the Bear Canyon trail where it parallels the paved road. Look low.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

He's got the blues

Photo by Ned Harris 3/13/13

Fortunately, this male Ornate Tree Lizard was showing his turquoise-blue underbelly by doing push ups; otherwise, we probably would have missed him, as he was so well camouflaged.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A mallow by any other name...

Photo by Ned Harris 3/13/13

Okay, these don't have a scent, but they are a pretty as a rose. Caliche Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea laxa) grow well in Tucson's soil and are always orange with dark anthers (tips of the stamens in center).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A beetle in hand...

Photo by Ned Harris, hands by Margarethe Brummermann 3/13/13

... is better than a cholla in hand. Margarethe woke this nocturnal Cactus Longhorn Beetle from slumber under a rock. This species doesn't shoot out any stinky stuff and can't fly, so a good time was had by all the mammals present.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sitting pretty, too

Photo by Ned Harris 3/13/13

Cooper's Hawk. The nest in the riparian area is active again. Two weeks ago, we saw a pair refurbishing their nest; and on a recent nature walk, we saw this adult.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sitting pretty

Photo by Ned Harris 3/13/13

Lizards are out and about. This Zebra-Tailed Lizard is enjoying the sun!
A great online resource for Arizona Reptiles and Amphibians is - you guessed it - Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Freshly-dipped Verdin

Photo by Elizabeth Reed 3/13/13

Kids of all ages can identify Verdins by their dipped-in-mustard heads. This photo shows the bit of ketchup on the wing as well.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Snout is out!

Photo by Ned Harris 3/13/13
The beautiful American Snout butterfly uses both species of hackberry in the canyon as a host plant. The females lay their eggs on the leaves, and the caterpillars bulk up on them after hatching. Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida) and Net-leaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata).

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Photo by Ned Harris 3/13/13

The flower looks somewhat like a dandelion with long sepals that stick out beyond the petals. The common name Silverpuff (Uropappus lindleyi) comes from the appearance of the seeds. See the second photo on this post. Yes, they're blooming now!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

White-lined Sphinx Moth

Photo by Roger Rittmaster 3/7/2013

Roger writes:

[This] photo is a White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) nectaring on Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla). This was taken at dusk. For the camera buffs who might be interested¸ it was shot with a Nikon D300 camera, through a Tamron 180 mm macro lens, using a SB-900 flash. It was shot in shutter priority at 1/4000 second. Even that’s not enough to freeze the wings of the moth, but I got lucky, as the moth’s wings were almost motionless at the end of a beat.

Anne says: Thanks, Roger, for this amazing shot. I'm glad to have met you on 3/6 (and twisted your camera arm to contribute to the blog).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Verdins building nest

Photo by Roger Rittmaster 3/7/2013

Roger writes:

[This] pair of Verdins [is] building a nest near the start of the connector trail to the Bear Canyon Road. Someone had told me that only male Verdins build nests, but this pair was definitely doing it together. At one point I saw both the male and female with sticks in their mouths at the same time.

Anne says: According to All about Birds, Verdins do build nests in pairs.
Anne also says: Beautiful colors in this shot!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Orange on popcorn

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/7/2013

Desert Orangetip (Anthocharis cethura) on one of the many Cryptantha species that we'll call Popcorn Flowers.
For butterfly and moth info, try Butterflies and Moths of North America. Use the search box in the upper left.
For flowers of Southeastern Arizona, my favorite resource is Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and Plants of the Sonoran Desert (aka firefly forest).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stately Birds

Photo by Roger Rittmaster 3/6/2013

The Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) is the largest wren in the US (thanks, Fred, for the correction) - and the state bird of Arizona.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fairy Duster

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/6/2013

Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) is in the Pea Family (Fabaceae). What you see is basically a ball of stamens (male parts). Pink, white, and even reddish are common colors.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Once in a Phainopepla moon

Photo by Roger Rittmaster, 3/6/2013

Female Phainopepla, moon dancing.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Who you callin' Dogface?

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/6/2013

You can see the silhouette of the dog face on the inner/top part of the upper wing of this Southern Dogface butterfly, nectaring (or just resting) on a Fiddleneck (most likely Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia). They are out in force along the road, as are MANY other flowers.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Jewel Flowers

Photos by Matt Ball

Saw loads of these today! Take a left after crossing the Bear Canyon bridge - it's mustard and borage alley!
Jewel Flowers aka Silverbells (Straptanthus carinatus). Top photo shows flowers in bloom; bottom photo buds from above.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Also blooming now...

Photos by Matt Ball

These beauties are commonly called Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. pauciflorum). They have long, slender, blue-green leaves like wild onions. Now in the same family as Agaves, namely Asparagaceae, the Asparagus family. Look on the Lake trail.

Monday, March 4, 2013

With Anemones like these...

Photos by Matt Ball

Another spring bloomer is Desert Anemone (Anemone tuberosa). This pinkish-white, petal-like parts are actually the sepals (the parts that cover the flower in the bud stage - note the bud in the 2nd photo). These 'like' a bit of height; look on the Phoneline trail.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A peel

I see trash. And am compelled to pick it up. I'd like you to join me in this effort.
Particularly persistent and troublesome are orange peels. I recently hiked Blackett's Ridge and found orange peels every few feet, like a trail for Hansel and Gretel.
Yes, I know they are 'natural' (whatever that means), but so is buffelgrass, and we don't want that around.
Yes, I know they'll 'biodegrade' - all organic stuff will eventually - but in the case of peels, the 'eventually' is years, if not decades, in the desert.
No, the animals won't eat them; you didn't.
Please, don't throw orange, tangerine, banana or any other peels in the canyon. Throw them in the trash or pack them out.
Don't ask, TELL others to do so as well.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Photos by Marty Horowitz 2/27/2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hits the spot!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/27/13
Tiny Checkerspot butterflly, looking for love.