Friday, January 31, 2014

Like - don't lick - the lichen

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/22/2014

Lichens are composed of fungi and algae or photosynthesizing bacteria (fka blue-green algae, now called cyanobacteria).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sabino is for lovers

Photo by Ned Harris 1/15/2014

Sand art on a rock in the creek. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's lonely at the top

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/22/2014

Male Costa's Hummingbird on Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Creosote Galls

Loads of insects use the creosote bush in some way. The larvae of a species (or two) of  creosote gall midge, for example, live in the leafy ball-like galls pictured below. The female midge fly deposits her eggs in the stem. (Other species deposit other places.) The plant produces the gall to heal the 'wound;' the eggs hatch and the larvae say: yum.

Photo by Ned Harris - This gall is relatively 'fresh' 

Photo by Ned Harris - Same kind of gall, but dried out.

Other species of midge lay eggs in different areas/parts of the creosote bush. The corresponding galls look different. The gall below looks like it's composed mainly of crystallized sap.

Photo by Gene Spesard 1/15/2014

The fruits of the creosote bush (fruit = the thing that has/holds the seeds) are furry (not spiny) and white.

Monday, January 27, 2014

You'll gopher this

Photo by Ned Harris 1/22/2014

On Ned's nature walk, we saw a number of piles of fresh dirt with no visible opening or hole. The ever-helpful visitors asked: "Who makes these piles?" And Ned was able to tell them about Botta's Pocket Gophers.

Photo by Ned Harris, Mt Lemmon 7/10/2013

You don't often see these little guys, because they spend most of their time underground. You may only see a tug-tug-disappearing plant as they pull vegetation into their burrows. (I've witnessed that and, after recovering from being startled, it was pretty amazing to watch.)

Beth of Firefly Forest writes:

Botta's Pocket Gophers and other Pocket Gophers leave a fan-shaped dirt mound in front of their burrows, and the burrow entrances are usually kept securely closed up with dirt. Even though they live in areas with many others of their own kind nearby, Botta's Pocket Gophers are solitary and territorial, and they will fight any other gopher that dares invade their burrow.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 1/25/2014

Mark writes:

We spotted this bobcat coming out of a road culvert across from Sabino with another bobcat about two-thirds her size, probably her kitten. Mom paused to see if we would follow. Interesting thing: though bobcats are the most common wildcat in North America, a sighting in most of the U.S. is a rare thing. We’re lucky here in Tucson to see them as often as we do.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A snow bird's snow birds

Photos by Alan Kearney 1/22/2014

Female Phainopepla

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this is a female Western Bluebird

Friday, January 24, 2014

What causes that?

Photo by Ned Harris 1/8/2014

The splits in the saguaro 'skin' are the result of freezing. Water expands when it freezes, as you know. And when water freezes in a cactus, the skin can only expand so far before it splits. The saguaro can live a long time after this kind of damage, provided it's not too extensive.

Photo by Ned Harris 1/8/2014

Idiots caused this damage. You can see rocks embedded in this saguaro. (If I were queen, there would be a lot more beheadings.)

Photo by Ned Harris, hand by Lyn Hart 1/8/2014

The only animal who can make a cut like this is a human with a knife or a machete. See note above about beheadings.

And finally, my post "Prickly Pear Theories" caused a bit of confusion. Some people thought that damage was caused by (or actually was) cochineal. Nope. (And nope.) The damage might not have been intentional, but it was caused by rocks. You see prickly pears with pressure damage along the road and along trails that get a lot of traffic. Small rocks get kicked up (or picked up). Yes, the cochineal insect does feed on the prickly pear, but even a big infestation wouldn't cause that damage. More info on cochineal.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gathering of Saguaros

Photo by Allison Waibel 1/8/2014

You often see saguaros of the same relative size in a group like this (called a cohort). If saguaro seeds fall (i.e., get pooped out) in a good location (e.g., under a mesquite tree) at a good time, they may sprout. If the sprouts don't get eaten, trampled, fried, or frozen, they may just make it past the first decade. If they make it past the first decade, (and most do not) they may make it another decade. 
What can we say about this cohort? Most are at least 50 years of age. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Birds

Photos by Marty Horowitz 1/14/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 1/15/2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Desert Patterns

Dancing Snake Nature Photography

You may not be fond of the creepy-crawlies, but this Desert Millipede sure makes beautiful patterns. This photo was featured in Arizona Highways Friday Fotos!

Dancing Snake Nature Photography

You probably don't want to get this close to a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake in the wild. Click on the photo for a larger view!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Paper Wasp Nest

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/14/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 1/15/2014

Paper Wasp Nest (say that 5 times fast), one day apart. We saw this on the button bush on the north side of the Bear Canyon Bridge. Please let it be. Or, better, let it wasp.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Warm enough for lizards!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/16/2014

The smaller lizards are coming out during these warm afternoons. This is a Greater Earless, reminding you to go to Reptiles of AZ for all your herpetological needs.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/11/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/11/2014

Acmon Blue on foliage of Elegant Lupine (Lupinus concinnus). (Yes, it's in the Pea Family.)

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/16/2014

Marine Blue on Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla). (Yes, another Pea Family plant.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Whose feather?

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/8/2014

Probably belonged to one of the mallards; definitely beautiful floating down the creek.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Portrait of Luke

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/11/2014

For more of Luke's story, please click here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why horses?

Photo by Gene Spesard 1/8/2014

People often ask: Why are horses allowed in Sabino Canyon, but not dogs? There are a number of reasons, but one has to do with diet. Horses are herbivores. [Yes, those big, strong creatures get all the energy (and the protein) they need from plants and only plants.] Dogs, like coyotes, are omnivores. And, as you know, you poop what you eat. Horse poop doesn't smell appealing to carnivores like mountain lions and bobcats. Dog poop does. And, let's face it, not every dog walker is as responsible as you about picking up.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Photo by Dan Granger 1/10/2014

Photo by Dan Granger 1/10/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/11/2014

Both Dan and Marty saw this White-tailed buck along the road into Bear Canyon. Marty sends this info on points:

This buck's antlers had 7 points, but would get penalized according to the "rules" of counting points because of asymmetry (if you are interested in such arcane stuff!)

Why do antlers sometimes grow asymmetrically, you ask? Well, why are some people supermodels and others not? Genetics and environment.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Merry Singer

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/8/2014

This Curve-billed Thrasher was singing a merry tune on Wednesday's Nature Walk with Ned and Friends. Speaking of birds, it's time again to recommend Cornell University's site All about Birds.

Photo by Ned Harris 5/2/2008

And a bonus photo of the same species from Ned Harris. Click the photo for a better view of the yellowish eye.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

First Fairy Duster!

Photo by Ned Harris 1/8/2014

For me, the Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) is the first bloom of spring here in the desert. We found this one on the Esperero trail.
Fairy Dusters are in the Pea family : -)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Signs of Spring

Photo by Ned Harris 1/8/2014

Close-up by Gene Spesard 1/8/2014

This little beauty has the unfortunate common name Annual Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus). We saw this  (and many other things...stay tuned) on Ned's nature walk.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Gneighborhood Gnarlies

I promised I'd post some of the crested Arizona Barrel Cacti from my neighborhood near Sabino Canyon, and so I took my favorite husband (really) for a walk with his camera on 1/4/2014.

All Photos by Matt Ball 1/4/2014

Not too exciting, you say? But wait, there are more!

And my personal favorite ....

Gnarly Man

Yes, each photo is of a different individual. And yes, there are more than my Honey-Matt photographed.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is one of the relatively few flowering plants that has separate sexes. Most flowering plants have both male and female parts on the same flower; some have separate male and female flowers. But Jojoba has male plants and female plants. How cool is that?

All Photos by Matt Ball 1/4/2014

Both photos above show the male plants. If you see clusters of rather nondescript greenish flowers, then you're looking at a male plant. 

The female flowers are never in clusters. The two photos above show female flowers. Now you, too, can amaze your friends and family!