Monday, September 30, 2013

Morning Glories

Photo by Ned Harris 9/13/2013
Ivyleaf Morning Glory (Ipomoea hederacea)

Photo by Ned Harris 9/14/2013
Jacquemontia (aka Pringle's Cluster Vine) (Jacquemontia pringlei)

Just two of the Morning Glories blooming in the canyon. Quite an assortment at Bridge 8. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Slither in

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 9/6/2013

Mark writes:

Out of curiosity I went to Wiki and read how snakes use their tongues to smell in stereo. They "smell by using their forked tongues to collect airborne particles, then pass them to the ... Jacobson's organ in the mouth for examination. The fork in the tongue gives snakes a sort of directional sense of smell ..."

Photo by RC Clack  9/11/2013

This might be the same Coachwhip - this time from RC Clark of Dancing Snake Nature Photography. Slither on over! You can't go wrong with a(nother) friend of Ned!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Final Flyers (for now)

Photo by Ned Harris 8/31/2013
Fig Beetle also known as June Bug

Photo by Ned Harris 9/16/2013

This concludes a week (or so) of flyers!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Venom vs. poison

Venom and poison are both toxic. The difference is in the delivery. Venom is injected using a special 'apparatus' (e.g., fangs, stingers); poison is ingested, usually by eating or drinking, but sometimes through skin contact.

Photos by Steven Kessel  9/10/2013

More on this topic from Steven Kessel:

The datura blossom (Sacred Datura Datura wrightii) is poisonous [Anne notes: to many mammals]. Eating it will give you hallucinations and will make you very sick. It can kill you if you ingest it. [Anne notes: especially the seeds.] By contrast, the Tarantula Hawk is venomous. By reputation, its sting is among the most potent of all insect stings.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Okay, more than a week of flyers

Photos by Ned Harris 9/4/2013
Paper wasp (Polistes flavus)

Thread-waisted Wasp

Photo by Ned Harris 9/18/2013
Paper wasp on Wild Cotton (Gossypium thurberi) for a change!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bees, please

Photo by Ned Harris, 9/2/2013

Photo by Ned Harris 9/6/2013

And a great Button Bush post from Margarethe Brummermann, entomologist, artist, and one of the (many) friends of Ned.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Flying Sphinx

Photos by Steven Kessel 9/6/2013

Unlike most moths, White-lined Sphinx Moths also fly during the day, especially when the Button Bush is in bloom! They are big, too; often mistaken for hummingbirds.

Monday, September 23, 2013

King vs. Queen

Thanks to Steven Kessel for today's photos and text!

Steven writes:
Occasionally, as I'm walking around Sabino Canyon I'll hear people talking about the "Monarch Butterflies" that they see there. Most of the "Monarchs" are Queen Butterflies, a related species. Queens superficially resemble Monarchs but the differences are readily apparent when the two species are seen side by side. Monarchs are a common butterfly in the eastern U.S., but are relatively rare in these parts. They do show up occasionally in Sabino Canyon and tend to hang out around the Buttonbushes near the bridges that lie southwest of Sabino Dam. I've seen Queens at these sites far more often than I've seen Monarchs.

Comparison photos from Steven Kessel:

Note the peace sign formed by the black of the body and the border of the wings. (Use a bit of imagination.)

Note the lack of a peace sign!

Monarch from the side

Queen from the side

They both like the Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Butter thieves

All Photo by Ned Harris, 8/31/2013



I like etymology more than entomology, truth be told; so I looked up the etymology of the word 'butterfly.' This article gives us the scoop. Butterflies were thought to be disguised witches, out to steal cream/butter. 

We laugh at this, but: 

It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves.
It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold. 
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pretty predators

A big thanks to Marty Horowitz for photos and text for today's post!

All photos by Marty Horowitz

Marty sends the photos above of Flame Skimmers, and this article from the New York Times; a portion of which is reproduced below:

[Dragonflies] are often grouped with butterflies and ladybugs on the very short list of Insects People Like. Yet they are also voracious aerial predators, and new research suggests they may well be the most brutally effective hunters in the animal kingdom.
When setting off to feed on other flying insects, dragonflies manage to snatch their targets in midair more than 95 percent of the time, often wolfishly consuming the fresh meat on the spur without bothering to alight.

Tomorrow's post will not be dragonflies :-)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Flying dragons, too

Photos by Ned Harris 9/11/2013



All three are male Neon Skimmers. How do I know? Ned said. And if you look at this link from our friends at Arizona Dragonflies, you'll see that the differences are quite striking. (Female Neon Skimmers aren't as much neon. But they do skim.)
Click on the last photo for a closer look. This neon guy is eating an insect while another is perched on his head. How's that for balance?
If you have time, head down to the Bear Canyon Bridge. There's (likely still) a temporary pond on the south side where loads of these and other dragonflies are flying around.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Flying dragons

Photo by Ned Harris 9/4/2013

Photo by Steven Kessel 9/6/2013

Males of this species have solid amber wings; females, striped. Now you know, too. (Thanks, Steven!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Photos by Ned Harris

These are just some of the great flyers seen in and around Sabino Canyon. For more great Ned Harris photos, spend a happy hour or two here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A week of flyers

First up in 'a week of flyers,' the only flying mammal.

This is a Lesser Long-Nosed Bat, raiding the hummingbird feeder at Debbie and Jerry's house. Their friend, Michael Gray, caught this one in the act - and another one in the background. These bats are annual visitors to Tucson (and are why we put bat cages around the hummingbird feeders in Sabino Canyon from August through October). They will completely drain feeders at night; they are unbelievably fast and agile. Take a look at more photos from our friend Beth from firefly forest, of these and the other nectar-drinking bats of Tucson.

And a bonus bit of a poem I wrote in 2007 when I was going through training for the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists:

Lots and lots of bats live here
They’re not mammals we should fear
Wing is hand and hand is wing
Only mammal flying thing. 
Insect eaters, those we like
‘specially out on a hike
Have large ears, with which to hear
And a membrane on their rear  
Bats under the bridges here,
Moms stay there with young to rear.
Males are off to drink a beer.
They stop by just once a year. 
Nectar-eating bats, you know,
Food has no where else to go.
No need for the bigger ears,
Nor the membrane on their rears.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The plot thickens...

It all started when Matt and Ellen came back from a run in Sabino Canyon on 8/20. They saw the remains of a gray fox. Relatively fresh, visible viscera, fur and tail clearly a fox. They didn't have a camera, of course, but they let me know about the find.
Eleven days later, Wayne sent the photos I posted yesterday. (I thought his photos must be of a different set of remains altogether.) And then I heard from several naturalist pals about carcass sightings. Ned took this first photo here on 9/12; and, assisted by the blue-hand of Lyn, the next two on 9/14.

Photo by Ned Harris on 9/12/2013

Photo by Ned Harris on 9/14/2013

Photo by Ned Harris, hand by Lyn Hart 9/14/2013

Wayne had correctly identified his photos as the remains of a Gray fox. (I was convinced it was a javelina; the fur looked bristly to me; I didn't show the photos to my husband who would have recognized the 'tail' colors; I thought the teeth looked too big.) I misinterpreted Wayne's location description, too; and, not having paid attention to Matt's location description the first time, I passed my misinterpretation on in my post. (The remains could have been moved, though, and were eaten further from Matt's and Ellen's sighting.)
Bottom line: Mea culpa. I should stick with plants!
What I learned:

  • When doing CSI, personal viewing of the scene is better than photos. 
  • Photos from multiple angles that include something for scale are key.
  • More evidence is always better. 
  • When in doubt, ask cleverer people, especially those who were at the scene. (Especially if you weren't. I wasn't.)

Big thanks to Wayne, Ned, Mark, Lyn, and Honey-Matt for being there!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

CSI Sabino Canyon

Photos by Wayne Klement 8/31/2013

Thanks to Wayne for another edition of CSI Sabino Canyon! He found these remains between the dam and the Bear Canyon bridges. Take a good look at the teeth, skull, and other evidence. Answer to the question: "Who's the victim here?" in tomorrow's post.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Well fed

Photo by Wayne Klement 8/31/2013

Wayne saw this well-fed Black-tailed Rattlesnake near the Phoneline trail.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Stalking a Predator

Photos by Ned Harris 8/28/2013

Ned writes:
Carol [Tornow] and I patrolled this morning [8/28]. It was very hot but we had some interesting encounters. We first observed the Tarantula Hawk and watched it go down the hole seen on the right of the image. Then the Tarantula came slowly out of the hole with its abdomen straight up in the air. I assume it had already been stung but was not yet paralyzed.

Tarantula with its abdomen straight up in the air. It never moved from this position and likely was fully paralyzed by the time we departed.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hear all evil

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/28/2013

Desert Cottontail rabbits have very specialized (not to mention nearly translucent) ears. Blood vessels are visible in this photo. These vessels allow the rabbit to radiate heat from the ears.
Arachnophobes will want to see no evil in tomorrow's post.
Yes, really.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Who you callin' Dogface?

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/28/2013

Southern Dogface. You know where.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Button Bush-a-palooza

All photos by Ned Harris 9/1/2013

Pipevine Swallowtails - these butterflies (like all butterflies) undergo complete metamorphosis. Their caterpillars (larval-stage) look like this.

Pipevine Swallowtail with incoming Honey Bee

Monday, September 9, 2013

Queens of the Button Bush

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/28/2013

Button Bushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis) are real insect magnets. It's butterfly time now...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Queen of the Button Bush

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 8/22/2013

Queen butterfly on blooming Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) near the dam bridge. Because the rains have been rather late this monsoon season, I anticipate that the button bushes near both bridges in Sabino Canyon will bloom all of September. But head out now just in case!

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Photo by Ned Harris 8/28/2013

Mushrooms and the other types of fungi are not plants (in fact, they are more closely related to animals than plants). They don't photosynthesize as plants do, for one; but rather rely on 'consuming' organic matter for energy to grow and reproduce (like we animals do). Fungi are their own kingdom. Hooray.
The fungus pictured above is growing on the mostly dead willow tree in the hummingbird banding area. Go take a look at how this tree is being decomposed by fungi.

Friday, September 6, 2013

And finally, a Monarch

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/21/2013