Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sunrise over Sabino

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/24/2014

Life is good!

Let's make 2015 the best ever! It's great to be part of the Sabino Canyon community!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Team Green-Ball

Drawing by Ellen Green

The Organizer, Wunderkind, and Lung Boy wish you happy Christmahanukwanzasolstica (thanks, Jasmin) and merry days in 2015!
Thank you all for your support this year; it really made a difference for my family and me. I'm very pleased to report that my husband and I are (finally) fully employed and he's back at reasonably full lung capacity. Ellen is home from Pomona College - and we are enjoying some family time. 
Your Daily Dose of Sabino Canyon will be back on 1/1/2015. Until then, enjoy the archives on the lower left. As always, at
Finally, a great thought from a great man: 
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Looking back

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/8/2014

Looking back over this year's posts, I've concluded that this is darn good blog! Thank you all for your support this year! Very special thanks to all the fantastic photographers - without whom there would be no reason to blog! Regular contributors and Fellow SCVNers: Ned Harris, Marty Horowitz, Mark Hengesbaugh, and Fred Heath. (Note that their family names all begin with 'H'. Coincidence?) Also The Serpent Princess. Alan Kearney, Wayne Klement, and Gene Spesard. Bill Kaufman and Phil Bentley, too. And Suzi Manthorpe, Nancy Carey, and Ricki Mensching. And, of course, my very own Honey-Matt. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dam Kids

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/5/2014

The Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists have great programs for kids of all ages. Pictured here is a group of elementary school students in the riparian area above the dam.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Saguaro Family holiday card

Photo by Gene Spesard 12/10/2014

Saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) of (at least) three age groups. (Click on photo for a closer look and to see the smallest set.) They didn't get trampled, eaten, or burnt by the sun because the seeds fell (or were deposited) under the mesquite that acted as a nurse tree. The mesquite is on its way out - mesquites don't live nearly as long as saguaros - but it served as nurse for at least three generations. A very nice family portrait!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Backlit Barrel Family holiday card

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/11/2014

One of the third graders on 12/11 corrected me when I said these are Arizona Barrel Cacti; he calls them Fishhook Cacti. We're both right, fortunately. Common names for this species also include Candy Barrel and Southwestern Barrel. (Common names can be a barrel of monkeys!) We're all talking about Ferocactus wislizenii. Fero- from the Latin ferus, which means fierce. And wislizenii for Frederick Adolf Wislizenus, 19th-century German physician and amateur botanist who collected in the southwestern U.S. You can look up the meaning of botanical names at The Botanary at Dave's Garden. Fun for the whole family : -)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Luke's holiday card

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/11/2014

Luke is our favorite leucistic or partially albino Phainopepla, back again for the 5th documented season. I think 'we' should write up his story and send it to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, complete with photos, of course. Who wants to be the 'we'?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Painted Lady

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/8/2014

Another beautiful butterfly! Painted Lady on Wright's Buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Seven Samuri

Story and photos from guest blogger Mark Hengesbaugh, December 9, 2014

Before  (click for larger view)



Mark writes:

On the morning of Dec. 9, seven Sabino Stewards (volunteers) made the steep trek up to Blackett’s Ridge to manually remove soft-feather pappusgrass, a fast-growing invasive from Africa that has made the approach to Blackett’s look like a wheat field.
Janis Findlay, Bruce Miller, Tim Ralph, Cindy Rupp, Tim Wernette, Connie Whippo and Mark Hengesbaugh worked three hours and removed at least a thousand invasive plants. When it was time to head down, a section of Blackett’s Ridge native plants had room to breathe again and the danger of wildfire was reduced.

Anne says: Wonderful work!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Game on!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/8/2014

Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) for the win!

Saturday, December 13, 2014


All butterflies are on Odora (Porophyllum gracile). Crush the leaves or the flowers of this plant and you'll notice the scent.

All photos by Marty Horowitz 12/8/2014

Marine Blue Correction: female Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak

Friday, December 12, 2014

That's what it's all about!

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/5/2014

This Harris's Hawk seems to be doing the hokey pokey.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Oh my, they're fungi!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/3/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/5/2014

Probably more fungi popping up after the rain on 12/4/2014. Do not eat!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Exceptional, too

Photos by Ned Harris 11/25/2014

This Common Side-blotched lizard is actually rather uncommon. Note the whitish band that marks the regrown tail. Yes, many lizards (but not all) can drop their tail in order to escape, but doing so is really a last resort. The regrown tail will never be as long or as sturdy. And the stubby tail probably isn't as attractive to potential mates. Better than being eaten entirely, though. No chance for reproduction in that scenario!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Photos by Ned Harris 11/25/2014

Underside of GDC, finger by Anne

As Ned and I were heading out on a windy day, we saw Heather with a plastic bag o' 'expired' Giant Desert Centipede. Nothing excites the highly trained naturalist more than the opportunity to examine such a find; so we oohed and aahed and arranged a photo shoot. (I volunteered my arm as a stage.) The cause of death was unclear; may have been dropped by a predator.
We (probably) wouldn't have done this with a live Giant Desert Centipede, because their bite is very painful; but not, at least as far as is documented, fatal to humans. Amphibians, reptiles, and even the very small mammal, yes.
Thanks to Heather for picking up and sharing this great critter!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Makin' tracks

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/1/2014

Dragonfly nymphs make these cool tracks in the creek bed. On this blog in 2011 and in 2013.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Black Birds

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/1/2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fred's Finds, too

Photos by Fred Heath 11/26/2014

Fred writes:
I can’t believe I’ve finally seen my very first rattlesnake for the year today at Sabino. Since it is the end of November (11/26), I was giving up hope. I usually see a few every year. I can’t think of how many times someone at Sabino has told me they just saw a rattlesnake up the trail which I could not find. Today on the east side of Sabino Creek below the dam, a couple told me of a rattlesnake they had just seen a minute ago. I ran up the trail and of course never saw it.
Later, I was walking up the Creek Trail on the east side of the creek, when this lovely Black-tailed Rattlesnake slid across the trail. He crawled into a bush and dared me to come closer rattling all the time. I took several photos of him in the bush (one of which is attached), but none were particularly good (of course a rattlesnake in the bush is definitely worth two in the hand). I decided to walk a distance away to see if he might move out of the bush.
He did and I got an unobstructed shot showing his black tail clearly. He was the longest (probably 3 ½ feet long) and thickest Black-tailed Rattlesnake I've ever seen.

Another great story from Fred!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fred's Finds

All photos by Fred Heath 11/26/2014

Fred writes:

While out today [11/26/2014] in Sabino with my wife searching for butterflies (we found an amazing [for November 26] 27 species). We could not find a Reakirt’s Blue, so I started checking the Dalea pringlei which is a known host plant .(I actually raised a few caterpillars a couple of years ago to adults to confirm that they were Reakirt’s Blues.) The only butterflies I could find nectaring on the tiny flowers were Marine Blues. For fun, I decided to look for some Reakirt’s caterpillars which are quite cryptic on the host plant. I wasn’t having much luck until I noticed this odd looking ant. Knowing that blues are sometimes tended by ants, I took a second look and saw the Reakirt’s caterpillar in the attached photos. [Click photos for larger view.]

Caterpillars of some blues and hairstreaks are myrmecophilous (a $50 word meaning they have a relationship with ants). These caterpillars have a gland which produces honeydew when stroked by the ant. This is to “bribe” the ant not to attack; further the ant repels various wasps that parasitize the caterpillars. You can see a drop of honeydew on the caterpillar (directly below the jaws of the ant) in the close-up. Although this relationship is not absolutely necessary, it has been found that caterpillars have a better survival rate where they are ant tended. Unfortunately, in some places where Argentine Ants have formed colonies (near humans as in S. California), they've pushed out the ant species that collect honeydew from insects, including aphids, and some species of blues have disappeared. Luckily, Argentine Ants don’t do too well in our hot and dry desert conditions. 

Anne says: Thanks, Fred, for this great story!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

And the last rerun is about plants (of course)!

I started a series of plant rants in November 2012. This is the first one!

Thank you for continuing to read this blog! New posts start tomorrow. Hooray!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Deck out your cliff dwelling!

Check out this one from 2012!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Deck the halls with galls (Rerun)

And this one's worth another read! Everything you wanted to know about Creosote Galls!

Monday, December 1, 2014

What causes that? (rerun)

From January 2014, this post answers questions from visitors about damage to cacti.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Soapy Rerun

Time again for this post from January 3, 2013. Science: the way to see in!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Spend a happy hour...or two

Spend some time this season checking out Ned Harris's latest adventures on his flickr site.

Not to be confused with another Ned Harris.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Our favorite bug lady

Spend some time at Margarethe Brummermann's blog Arizona Beetles Bugs Birds and More and check out her great watercolor art.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Snakes are beautiful, too

Our favorite Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography is offering her Striking Beauties 2015 wall calendar. Be sure to get a few extras for gifts!

And here's a post from January 21, 2014 with her photos. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snakes are cool!

Social Snakes is the official blog for the Advocates for Snake Preservation, based here in Tucson!

And a post from Phenomena on mother snakes who go the distance for their offspring!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


It's that time of year again. I need to post some links to other blogs of interest and some re-runs from my own. If you want to take a week or so off, you can always look through the archives at - Over 1400 posts to choose from!

Some cool stuff:
Another great TED talk from Hans Rosling (and his son Ola)

And a book I'm reading (albeit slowly): How not to be wrong: The power of mathematical thinking by Jordan Ellenberg. If you fear math, hate math, and/or don't remember much about math, this is the book for you. Ellenberg explains mathematical concepts to help you better understand (and not be fooled by) graphs, studies, media proclamations, and all manner of surveys. And there's no homework!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Variegated Meadowhawk

Photo by Bill Kaufman 11/17/2014

There are still plenty of insects out and about. You can usually find dragonflies like this male Variegated Meadowhawk near the creek.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Open and Shut, too

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/20/2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Whites and spots

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/10/2014

Checkered White on Bur Marigold (Bidens aurea)

Checkered White on Wire Lettuce (Stephanomeria pauciflora)

And more on spots from Fred Heath:

Some of butterflies (and moths) with eye spots will mostly keep them hidden until attacked and then opening the wings startle the predator for a second and enabling the lep to escape. More info on eye spots in this brief article and short ( less than 2 minutes) video with praying mantis attacks from an Ohio State University study. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dark-eyed Junco

Photo by Dancing Snake Nature Photography 11/11/2014

Dark-eyed Juncos aren't seen often in Sabino Canyon, but they sure are cool! Note the shape of the beak. What do you think they eat?

Thanks to Dr. Greenfield (in Michigan) for recommending The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner.

And thanks to my very own Honey-Matt for this NPR post: How Animals Hacked The Rainbow And Got Stumped On Blue

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Shoo, frog! Don't bully me!

Photo by Fred Heath 11/12/2014

Fred writes:

About a month ago, I saw my first Bull Frog in Sabino. It was in the little wetland south of the Bear Canyon Tram Road, before getting to the Bear Canyon Bridge. Not long after that we had a heavy rainstorm which I assumed (and hoped) washed the frog all the way to the Rillito. Unfortunately, today I noticed and photographed a Bull Frog (the same?) in the same exact place I saw the other one.

Anne says: Never take it upon yourself to rid the canyon of introduced species. Or anywhere, for that matter. That's not what Fred is suggesting. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To be or not to be

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/10/2014

European Starlings, hanging out by the corral near Sabino Canyon.

From the link above:

First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Shoulders of a Giant

Story and photos by guest blogger Mark Hengesbaugh

African invasive Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) is taking over near the popular Blackett’s Ridge trail and a quiet hero hikes up with hand tools to try to stop it. Richard Humprey, Weedwacker and Sabino Steward, has accomplished a huge feat by cutting a lower perimeter to the massive infestation.

Why worry? Look closely at the perimeter that Richard has cleared of Buffelgrass (photo below) and you’ll find nearly every native species of plant dead and no sprouts coming up. All the native plants are smothered or crowded out. Then, when the Buffelgrass goes dry and dormant, it can burn hot enough to melt metal.

Studies by the University of Arizona show that this Buffelgrass takeover reduces the 15-20 native species on our hillsides to just 2-5. You can find this study and other important information on Sabino's invasive species problem here on the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists website 

What you can do: The roads to Sabino Canyon are a principal pathway for this Sonoran Desert-killing invader. When you spot buffelgrass on the road shoulder, note the major cross streets then go to Pima County’s Buffelgrass Complaint Form to report it. This form also allows you to submit photos electronically.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Now you see me...

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/6/2014

This Red Admiral butterfly is definitely not camouflaged with wings open.

Now you don't!

Same butterfly with wings closed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Arty Marty, too

Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/6/2014

Snake Skin in Repose

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/4/2014

These two birds look similar at first glance (to me, anyway). Both are females, so that's something! But let's take a look at their beaks. Click on the photos for a closer look.
The top bird's beak is all-purpose; good for berries, insects, and good enough for an occasional seed, if need be. The beak on the bottom, though, is specialized for seeds. Note the shape, shortness, sturdiness. That stout triangle can crack seeds like a nutcracker cracks nuts.
The top bird is a female Phainopepla. And they love mistletoe berries (mainly carbohydrates). And they eat insects, too, for protein. Yummers.
The bird on the bottom is a female Pyrrholoxia. Like Northern Cardinals (who are in the same genus), Pyrrholoxias are mainly seed eaters.
Now you know!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The advantage of an eye or two

Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/4/2014

To would-be predators, this Buckeye butterfly looks too tough to tangle with! It's understandable that, over time, those with the most fearsome-looking spots would survive to reproduce, thereby passing along this advantage to their offspring. And that's how natural selection works.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tiny and Fiery

Photos by Marty-fly Horowitz 11/4/2014

Loads of butterflies out and about on these warm and sunny days!