Saturday, November 30, 2013

Deer Circles!

After seeing several deer on one of Ned's nature walks (W 8:30am, meet outside the visitor center), we ran into Jean and Mark. A number of people had asked Mark to run the mule deer vs. white-tailed deer post again, but with some circular help. I was happy to oblige! Text, photos, and circles by Mark Hengesbaugh.

At about 2,800 feet elevation, Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is desert mule deer habitat, but nearly every deer we see there is a whitetail. What gives? We came across a mule deer on the Esperero Trail at the Forest Service corral, so I did some research. …
In most of the U.S. West, if both species are present, mule deer occupy higher elevations and whitetails occupy lower elevations. But the situation is reversed here in the Southwest, where desert mule deer occupy lower elevations and the whitetail subspecies Coues are found higher, typically above 3,500 ft.
David Lazaroff, author of Sabino Canyon: The Life of a Southwestern Oasis, said desert mule deer possibly have difficulty moving in and out of the rec area because “connections to similar desert habitat has been partly severed by intervening urban and suburban development. Whitetails seem to have a larger elevational range and so can move vertically in and out of the recreation area.”
Easiest way to tell the difference between muley and whitetail: A muley’s tail tip will be black, not brown. More scientific: the metatarsal gland on the outside of the lower leg of a muley is a 3-6 inch oblong patch covered in tan hair. A whitetail’s metatarsal is below the mid-point of the lower leg, much smaller and circled in white hair (see red circles.)

Note red circle on back leg, showing metatarsal gland
Mule Deer

Note red circle on back leg, showing metatarsal gland
White-tailed Deer

Thanks to Mark for bringing this full circle!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Marty's moon

Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/16/2013

Moonrise. Click the photo for a better view of the silhouetted saguaros.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Recycling 4

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Recycling 3

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Recycling 2

Friday, November 22, 2013

Recycling 1

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Due to my busy work schedule, I'm going to recycle posts for the next seven days. If you'd rather look at other old posts this week (or at any other time), head to This will redirect you to the blog.

  • You can search the blog by typing a word (the shorter the better) in the search field on the left. 
  • You can browse the archives by clicking on a year, then a month or an individual post. 
  • You can contact me via email at the address given. Compliments preferred.

Thank you for reading my blog 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Coming around again

Photos by Ned Harris 11/13/2013

A great site for Arizona dragon- and damselflies is - you guessed it - Arizona Dragonflies.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Eye of the Beholder

Photos by Alan Kearney 11/8/2013

Beautiful colors on this Greater Roadrunner. This one seems to frequent the area between the visitor center and the first quarter mile of the road. Take photos, not feathers.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/15/2013

House Finch and Phainopepla try not to notice the other.

If you like birds, consider eating fewer of them and of their eggs.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Indian Mallow Fruits

Photo by Ned Harris 11/6/2013

Photo by Gene Spesard 11/6/2013

Many of the mallow family species in Sabino Canyon have beautiful fruits, as in the photo above. (Remember, the fruit is the thing that holds/has the seeds.) In the top photo, I've shaken some of the seeds out of the capsule. Each of the divisions holds a seed. Fred and I agree that this is one of the (four species of) Indian Mallows, most likely Abutilon abutiloides, but we'll wait for Joan Tedford to confirm. Or deny. Thanks to Ned, for taking photos for me whenever I ask. And to Gene, for getting the close up.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Definitely butterflies

All photos by Marty Horowitz 11/7/2013

Southern Dogface on Bur Marigold (Bidens aurea)

Reakirt's Blue on Willow Smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia)

Variegated Fritillary on prickly pear pad

Friday, November 15, 2013

They might be mites

Photo by Ned Harris 11/6/2013

Photo by Gene Spesard 11/6/2013

On Ned's first nature walk of the season, we noticed what look like webs on many and various plants. In the riparian area about the dam, Lyn noticed bright red on some of the webs. Fred Heath, highly-trained and fearless naturalist, picked up some of the red to show us these tiny animals. Spider mites, most likely. See this site for more info. Thanks to Lyn Hart for the link!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

There's a fungus under us

Photo by Ned Harris 11/6/2013

Leafcutter ants are amazing critters. Scientists are looking at their fungal-bacterial gardens for ideas on making biofuels. Watch this video for some amazing footage of these ants at work. Then head to the canyon to find evidence of their life underground.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reflecting on Gila Chub

Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/7/2013

The more the pools of creek water shrink, the longer the Black-necked Garter Snakes reflect on Gila Chub. Eating them, that is. Marty has seen several of these snakes out fishing.
If you are a snake enthusiast (and who isn't?), you'll find this site useful.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A flicker in time

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 11/7/2013

Mark writes:

Here's a Norther Flicker we saw at Sabino Dam this morning. The flicker species in Sabino recreation area year-round is the Gilded Flicker, one of the two woodpeckers that drill nest holes in the Saguaros. The Northern Flicker passes through lower Sabino during migration. Watch for the flash of red under the wings and tail of the Northern Flicker and gold on the underside of the Gilded Flicker, otherwise they're nearly indistinguishable.

Best who-ate-whom theory from yesterday's post is from the photographer herself:

I photographed this pile of poo near Sabino Creek. What I found interesting is all the metallic green bits in the poo. I'm thinking fig beetle parts. I do not know what animal this belongs to, but I am kind of thinking skunk, because I have seen them in that area, and I have seen them eat fig beetles.
Got a better idea? Please let me know!

Monday, November 11, 2013

CSI: Shiny

Photo by Dancing Snake Nature Photography 11/7/2013

You'll want to click on this one for a larger view. The Serpent Princess was out and about near the creek, and she photographed this pile o' poo. Tune in tomorrow for the best who-ate-whom theory.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why do some saguaros form crests?

Photo by Pam Bridgmon 10/31/2013

Pam sent in this photo of a wonderful crested Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) located in her neighborhood. We don't yet have a definitive answer why some saguaros form crests, but I'm partial to the cancer theory. As with all living things, the longer you live, the more your cells have divided and continue to divide. The more often your cells divide, the more opportunity for errors to occur. As with all living things, the bigger you are, the more cells you have. The more cells you have, the more you need to replace. Saguaros like the one in the photo are both big and old. Note, too, that the crest (or cancer) is occurring at one of the growing tips.
Some cancers are caused by exposure to certain toxins (e.g., in humans, lung cancer from cigarette smoke). I think that the many crested barrel cacti in my neighborhood are examples of this type of cancer. Yes, it does make me wonder about the soil in my neighborhood!
Interesting summary of George Johnson's recent book "The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Western Patch-nosed Snake

Photo by Dancing Snake Nature Photography

The Serpent Princess saw this Western Patch-nosed Snake on the Esperero Trail a while ago. I've never seen one in the wild; didn't even know they could be found in Sabino Canyon. Click on the link to read more about them and to confirm that they are in our range.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fall Color Cotton

Photo by Ned Harris 10/30/2013

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/26/2013

Wild Cotton (Gossypium thurberi) is showing some great reds! The balls in Marty's photo are the developing fruits.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shed-a-thon, piecemeal division

Photos by Marty Horowitz 10/26/2013

Marty looked up the info on lizards and shedding. And cited his sources : -)

All lizards grow continuously throughout their lives. However, their skin doesn't grow to accommodate their changing size, so they must shed their skin regularly to allow for proper growth. This is called ecdysis... How often a lizard sheds depends on its age. Lizards that are younger and growing faster will shed more frequently than older lizards... Almost all lizards shed their skin in pieces (rather than in one piece like a snake). Source.
They will also tear off pieces in their mouths, and in most cases eat the the old skin does contain vitamins... Source. 

Don't try this at home!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Got Guests?

Photo by Ned Harris 10/27/2013

Photo by Ned Harris 10/27/2013

It doesn't matter how many times you've gone to the Raptor Free Flight program at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, it's always a treat. (Just ask Ned.) (Or better, go with Ned.) Take your guests in time for the 10 o'clock show. And then come back again at 2. If your guests have stayed too long, well - there are those raptors...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

That's Wright, Buckwheat!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/31/2013

This beauty is in the Buckwheat family (Polygonaceae). (The plant, of course!) Named after the 19th-century American botanist, Charles Wright, this is called Wright's Buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii). The butterfly beauty is a Checkered White. Sure looks pale blue to me. Maybe I've had too much buckwheat.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Insects like the Broom

Photo by Ned Harris 10/30/2013

Photo by Ned Harris 10/30/2013

Many people look forward to the bloomin' Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) about as much as they look forward to going to the dentist. But Ned - and anyone who has a bit more interest in bugs than they have allergies - knows that when the broom blooms, the insects sweep in. Okay, that one was bad, even for me. But don't let my puns stop you from enjoying these insect magnets!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Photo by Ned Harris 10/30/2013

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/31/2013

As the days warm up, you can still see some butterflies on the bloomin' plants. Bur Marigolds (Bidens aurea) are popular with the Variegated Fritillary above and with the Monarch below.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rock on!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/26/2013

Marty gets arty with this one! You'll want to click to view it larger.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Deer here

Photos by Ned Harris 10/12/2013

Young White-tailed Deer, female.

Young White-tailed Deer, male. Click on the photo for a better view of the antlers.

And a book recommendation, because I'm thinking about it:
Clive Thompson Smarter than you think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better