Saturday, August 31, 2013

Unhappy trails

No photographer wants credit for this

I, Anne Green, hereby give notice that I have picked up the last diaper I'm ever going to pick up in Sabino Canyon.
Henceforth, if you feel you must leave some 'thing' that YOU BROUGHT INTO THE CANYON, leave your baby.
Please share this post.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy trails!

Photo by Ned Harris 8/16/2013

Yes, you can lead your horse to Sabino Canyon and ride the trails. Why can you bring your horse but not your dog? One word: herbivores. Horses are but dogs are not. Dog poop attracts the big cats, too. And nobody wants either.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A hummingbird in hand...

Photo by Marge Kesler 7/27/2013

How would you like to have a hummingbird in your hand? This Broad-billed hummingbird is relaxing after getting her new 'bracelet' and some free drinks. The next banding in Sabino Canyon is 9/7. Go early and learn about these magnificent creatures.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Photo by Ned Harris 8/16/2013

You may not love termites, but they excel at breaking down plant material. If it weren't for their work, we'd be buried in dead plants. Take a look at this link from the Desert Museum. In the photo above, note the light-colored termite 'poop' on the branches.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Big bloomin' barrels

Photo by Ned Harris 8/16/2013

Arizona Barrel Cacti (Ferocactus wislizenii) are boldly blooming. Click the link for photos of the various flower colors.

Monday, August 26, 2013


All Photos by Ned Harris 8/16/2013

This female Flame Skimmer reminded me to correct this post. Somehow, I ignored Ned's caption and posted her as a 'handsome fellow.' Thanks to Fred Heath for the correction.

Male Roseate Skimmer (thanks, Ned)

This beauty was a new catch for Ned. A female Western Pondhawk. What a great name!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mona Lizard

Photo by Ned Harris 8/16/2013

Both Ned and I think this is a female Zebra-tailed Lizard. We like her sly smile.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Not just for magaritas

Photo by Steven Kessel 8/13/2013

This paper wasp (Polistes flavus) enjoys a ripe Prickly Pear fruit (or two) for breakfast.

Friday, August 23, 2013

In lizarding color

Photo by TJ Albano 8/13/2013

Two Greater Earless Lizards; on the right - doing the dewlap. On the left - ignoring the dewlap. Any lizard experts out there? Is the right one a gravid female?

Photo by Steven Kessel 8/13/2013

This Ornate Tree Lizard is showing his brilliant belly blue. Hope he doesn't belly flop from that precarious perch.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Falcon Flinging Feathers

click for larger; Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 8/12/13

Mark writes:

This Prairie Falcon near the corral on the Bear Canyon trail has its dead prey securely wedged into a split in the pole as it plucks feathers in preparation for eating. Falcons are renowned for their blinding speed and Prairie Falcons generally snatch birds in flight in open areas.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Big tort report

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 8/13/2013

Mark writes:

A desert tortoise can look like a rock, store water like a camel, and tunnel like a gopher with hind feet that work like shovels. Its Latin name is a tribute to its digging abilities: Gopherus morafkai.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Little tort report

Photos by Matt Ball 8/12/2013

I nearly stepped on this little one on the Rattlesnake Trail. The Forest Service whistle in the top photo is almost 3 inches long. Looked like this Desert Tortoise was only slightly longer. Peace and long life, little one!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Alternate theory

Bruce Garrett sent in an alternate theory on what happened to the deer in this post

Bruce writes:
I'm not the expert here, but I think….
1) a big cat that gets teeth/claws on a deer's neck - does not let it go. If the cat has pursued, knocked down and grabbed the neck with teeth and claws, it's venison time. -- This close, and it's dinner.
2) there are things like barbed wire strung all over the desert - a spooked deer could run into a wire and get these type of wounds from a rusty tangle along a little used trail.
Not as dramatic of a story, but it explains the frontal damage (cats attack from a pursuit - first damaging the rear). I can see spines/barbs ripping flesh and getting infected - resulting in the regular spacing and scars seen.
Anne says: I'm no expert, but this seems reasonable to me. Thanks, Bruce.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Late Bloomer

Photo by Steven Kessel 8/8/2013

Steven writes:
Today [8/8/2013] I photographed this Saguaro blossom. It's way past the season for Saguaro blooms but these cacti have minds of their own. The wasp is a Polistes Flavus, a species of paper wasp. Those of us who have swimming pools are familiar with these wasps because they literally can "walk on water." They have perfected the ability to land on water and to support themselves using the water's surface tension while they drink. This one, however, was attracted to the Saguaro. Notice also the tiny red ants on the flower. Those ants had to climb up about 15 feet in order to reach the flower, meaning that they must have smelled its odor from ground level. That's indeed impressive.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rambunctious Roadrunners, Ratman!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/5/2013
Click for larger view

Marty writes:
The roadrunner is one of a pair of juveniles that have been patrolling my patio this week - lots of stalking behavior, but no observed "catches" to date (the patio has a number of resident whiptails , desert spinys, ground squirrels, and mice that would be tasty candidates)...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Is that a fig in your pocket...

Photo by Lyn Hart 8/7/2013

Lyn caught these two fig beetles in the act! More great photos of fig beetles on Margarethe's blog.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Foam on the water

Photo by Ned Harris 7/26/2013

If you missed the explanation of the soapy foam on the creek, take a look at this post from January 2013.
And if you would like to hear Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water' (1972), click here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Spot on!

Photo by Ned Harris  7/29/2013

Seldom is the blotch so apparent (to me, anyway) on the Common Side-blotched Lizard. Conveniently, this male is positioned on a saguaro skeleton for maximum blotch contrast.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Photo by Ned Harris 7/26/2103

Elada Checkerspot butterfly on Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata).

Monday, August 12, 2013


Photo by Ned Harris 8/2/2013

Fishhook Pincushion Cacti (Mammillaria grahamii) go unnoticed most of the time, as they rarely grow taller than about 6 inches and are often hidden under other plants. When they bloom after rains, though, they are spectacular. The photo shows the 'classic' circular blooming pattern. Like a little crown of whitish-pink to bright pink flowers.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Creepy and Cutie, too

Photos by Ned Harris 7/29/2013

This is a Robber Fly, unlike any that Ned has seen before. You can clearly see the six legs of the insect-kind!

And this cutie is a young Desert Spiny Lizard, about 4 inches long, tip to tail.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Close Encounter of the Cat Kind?

Photos by Wayne Klement 7/31/2013

Wayne saw this deer at the intersection of Phone Line and Blackett's Ridge trails. Looks like some cat claw (or perhaps teeth) shaped markings along the neck. Click photos for larger views and let me know if you have another theory.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hey, Sailor!

Photo by Ned Harris 7/29/2013

Snapdragon Vine (Maurandya antirhiniflora) is also known as Roving Sailor - because, I expect, it 'likes' to be near water and it's a vine. Note the developing fruit to the left of the center flower, dried out fruits in the upper right.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dragonfly recommendations

Photo by Ned Harris 8/2/2013

This beauty is a female Flame Skimmer. If you'd like a nice pocket guide, Ned recommends Common Dragonflies of the Southwest, by Kathy Biggs. I recommend Ned's flickr site for more great dragonfly photos.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dudley Dewlap

Photo by Ned Harris 8/2/2013

This Greater Earless Lizard is showing his dewlap (orange skin flap hanging from throat). It's thought to be a territorial display, but no one's ever heard it definitively from the lizards themselves.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I'll get you, my pretty...

Photo by Ned Harris 8/2/2013

Aptly-named Robber Fly with Fig Beetle prey.
And while we're on bugs, take a look at Margarethe Brummermann's new greeting cards; you can send a bug that never bugs!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Neither velvet nor ant

Photo by Ned Harris 7/26/2013

Velvet Ants aren't ants, but wasps. And they are definitely not velvet. Females (like this one above) are wingless. Their sting is very painful. More info on these critters from Bug Eric.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Creepy and Cutie

Photos and Text by Steven Kessel  7/26/2013

Steven writes:
This millipede is about 5 inches long and about the width of a pencil. Generally, one never sees these creatures out and about but the exception is after a rain and it did rain heavily yesterday [7/25/2013] over at Sabino Canyon. According to the [Arizona Sonora] Desert Museum, it is a "detrivore" meaning that it lives exclusively on decaying organic material. It doesn't bite but will exude a foul smelling substance if disturbed.

For about a week I'd noticed this small flock of three or four little birds hanging out in the mesquites behind the visitors' center. I'd assumed they were Verdins. Today, one cooperated and gave me a few photographs. It turned out not to be a Verdin, but a Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher, a first for me.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Foliage, Flowers, Fruit

Photo by Matt Ball 7/24/2013

Lush leaves are out in force on Ocotillos.

Photo by Matt Ball 7/24/2013

And Jacquemontia (Jacquemontia pringlei) is blooming. Yes, it's in the Morning Glory Family!

Photo by Matt Ball 7/24/2013

Coulter Hibiscus (Hibiscus coulteri) is in the Mallow family and is peeking out from under bushes and trees; this one is blooming among Foothills Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla) branches.

Photo by Fred Heath 7/19/2013

And finally: Fred finds a fruit! In my post about bloom night, I mentioned that the Night-blooming Cereus in the canyon has bloomed much earlier. Fred sent this photo of a fruit on the plant in front of the women's restroom by the visitor center.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Get your hummingbird on!

Photo by Ned Harris 7/7/2013

Next banding in Sabino Canyon on Saturday, 8/10/2013. Check out this site for more info.
Maybe this male Broad-billed Hummingbird will get a bracelet!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

This good deed would have been punished...

Photo by Steven Kessel, 7/22/2013

Steve writes:

I photographed this Western Diamondback on the trail near Sabino Dam this morning (7/22/2013), moments after I nearly stepped on it. A very close call, my foot came within 6" of its nose before my brain asked the vital question: "what's that?" Fortunately, it was in a good mood. It never rattled, never moved. And, I resisted the temptation to be kind to it by removing the cactus spine that is embedded in its snout. This is a fairly small snake. I'd estimate about 2 1/2 feet. Big enough, however. I especially like its pink cheeks.