Friday, February 28, 2014

Sara and the fiddle(neck)

Photo by Ned Harris 2/12/2014

If you've been in the canyon lately, you've probably seen this butterfly and flower combination. Sara Orangetip butterflies nectar on Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia) flowers. They also nectar on plants in the mustard family. Their larvae eat mustard family plants; adult females lay their eggs on plants in that family.
In the insect world, generally speaking, adults have wings. If you see an insect with wings (like this butterfly), it's an adult. Adult are going to do what adults do, namely, reproduce. That's the end of their life cycle as individuals.
Butterflies go through 'complete' metamorphosis: eggs hatch to larvae (caterpillars); larvae eat and grow, then pupate. In the pupa stage, they cover themselves, take themselves completely apart, and rebuild. They emerge from the pupa (cocoon, chrysalis) as adults. With wings.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/9/2014

Echo Azure puddling on moist horse scat.

Photo by Ned Harris 2/10/2014

A whole herd of Reakirt's Blue butterflies on - you guessed it - fresh horse scat. Puddling is pretty common in the butterfly world. It's a way for many species to get necessary nutrients and amino acids.
One animal's scat makes another fat. Okay, that was bad. One animal's poop is for another to scoop. Possibly worse. If you've got a better pun, send it in.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hungry Gilas

Marty writes:
FYI, you were right about the Gila Monsters being out early and in force. I came across two (in different locations) today with a group of 1st graders on their nature walk. They got pretty excited. I don't carry my "big" camera when teaching elementary kids (they deserve my full attention), but pack a point-and-shoot, just in case. So pardon the resolution :-)

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/25/2014 - Gila One

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/25/2014 - Gila Two

Anne says: Gila Monsters store fat in their tails. (Most other lizards can detach their tails to escape predation; not so the Gila Monster. Their tail is too important.) The two pictured have relatively skinny tails (especially Gila Two). That means they now have very little fat to draw on for fuel. Those first graders must have looked mighty tempting...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Birds you don't see everyday

Dancing Snake Nature Photography 2/12/2014

Cedar Waxwings are some of the most beautiful winter visitors to Sabino Canyon.

And Rene of Dancing Snake Nature Photography recently had a photo in Arizona Highways Friday Fotos !!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Yes, it's a flower

Photo by Gene Spesard 2/12/2014

This is the flower of the Pipevine plant (Aristolochia watsonii). The larvae (caterpillars) of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly eat this plant; but it's toxic to the rest of us.

And a correction from Fred Heath about the wasps in the mantis egg casings.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Study in Blue

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/9/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/9/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 2/10/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/9/2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Primary Colors

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/9/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 2/10/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 2/12/2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

Night moves

Photo courtesy of Bill Kaufman 2/13/2014

These coyotes look exceptionally healthy! I've been hearing much more singing at dusk this month (but that may be because I've had the windows open more often than usual for February)!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rare sighting: Spotted Owl

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 2/9/2014

Photo by Alan Kearney 2/11/2014

Jean and Mark spotted this Spotted Owl in their neighborhood (across the street from Sabino Canyon); and Alan (who lives in the same neighborhood) spotted it again two days later. How about that?!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Record Gila!

Honey-Matt and I went hiking in Pima Canyon on 2/16/2014. As he was taking pictures (of plants, of course) for me, I walked ahead and nearly stepped on this Gila Monster! Yes, it was Pima, not Sabino Canyon; but still very early for even the smaller ones to be out and about.

Photos by Matt Ball 2/16/2014 in Pima Canyon

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The bird's the word

This recent post from Margarethe Brummermann is ripe for a wider audience!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hop Bush fruits

Photos by Marty Horowitz 2/3/2014

These beautiful winged things are developing Hop Bush (Dodoneae viscosa) fruits. (Remember, fruits are the things that hold/have the seeds.) The reddish ones are a bit further along. But don't eat any part of this plant.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fish story

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/3/2014

The Gila Chub is the fish in Sabino Creek. THE fish. The only fish.
As the water in the creek starts to dry up, people often ask: "What happens to the fish?" Short answer: the snakes (especially Black-necked Garter Snakes) have all-you-can-eat fish dinners. Not all the chub get eaten, of course. There's water somewhere upstream and some chub survive to spawn in the summer.
(Alas, I've been guilty of perpetuating a myth about Gila Chub eggs. Now I know the real story. The eggs do NOT overwinter under the sand. That's a really fishy fish story.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Coming soon!

Photos by Roger Rittmaster

Painted Lady on New Mexico Thistle (Cirsium neomexicanum)

Tiny Checkerspot on a gneiss rock

Roger Rittmaster will soon be taking photos in Tucson, but his book Butterflies Up Close: A Guide to Butterfly Photography is already available.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bluebirds of Happiness

Photo by Alan Kearney 2/5/2014

We were blue on our Ned-less nature walk last week, but these Western Bluebirds brought us some happiness (as did other winter visitors from British Columbia, Wisconsin, and Minnesota). The three on the left are males; they're bluer than the females. Not sure about the one on the lower right, except to say: cold!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mantis Egg Casing

If you said: "Mantis Egg Casing" - you win! See this post for photos of the nymphs coming out of the egg casing. And this for more on Mantises.

Photo by Gene Spesard 1/29/2014

The holes here are not from the mantis nymphs, but rather from the larvae of an opportunistic wasp. The female mantis lays her eggs in the froth she extrudes at the same time; the female wasp lays her eggs in the mantis' egg casing before it hardens. *Yes, the wasp larvae do eat some of the mantis eggs, but not all of them. So don't worry if you see holes in the egg casing. There are likely still plenty of mantises to go around.
*Correction from Fred: (even weirder than I imagined!)
The wasp larvae (grubs) actually continue to eat mantis eggs until they pupate within the egg case and are protected. When the adult wasp emerges from the pupa, it then chews its way out of the egg case making the exit holes.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Time for another quiz

Photo by Alan Kearney 1/22/2014

What's the story of this thing? Answer in tomorrow's post.
(Again, please don't send me your answer. Thanks.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/29/2014

Verdins look like their heads have been dipped in mustard. That's how even I can recognize them! They are notorious nectar thieves. They peck into the flower from below and 'steal' the nectar without pollinating the flower. They try this method on hummingbird feeders as well. See photos below!

Feeder Photos from Joe Dupont 2/4/2014

"This works for other flowers!"

Monday, February 10, 2014

Twin Seed

Photo by Steven Kessel 1/27/2014

This tiny beauty is Twin Seed (Dicliptera resupinata). This plant likes a bit of shade, and it can bloom nearly any time of the year.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Time for a girdle(r beetle)

Yes, yesterday's photo is of sap from a Velvet Mesquite that's been girdled by a Mesquite Girdler Beetle. In the photo below, you see a girdle (without sap) and three tiny scratches (downstream) where the female Mesquite Girdler Beetle laid her eggs.

Photo by Ned Harris

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Time for a quiz

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/29/2014

What is this and how did it get there? Answers in tomorrow's post. (Please don't send me your answer. Thanks.)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Not my best side

Photo courtesy of Bill Kaufman 1/26/2014

I count five javelinas in this photo. And you can always count on smelling them.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

You'll gopher this again!

Photo by Fred Heath 1/28/2014

Fred saw this Botta's Pocket Gopher along the road into Bear Canyon. In this post, I said that these gophers are rarely seen. This one appears to have buried her fears and made a lunch date with a prickly pear pad. Yum.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ornate is great

Photos by Sheryl Mink 1/31/2014

You'll want to click on these photos to find the two Ornate Tree Lizards hiding in plain sight!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sara and the Wolf

Photo by Ned Harris 1/29/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 1/29/2014

Photo by Gene Spesard 1/29/2014

Butterflies and flowers out and about on Ned's nature walk. Sara Orangetip butterflies in abundance nectaring on Wolfberry flowers (Lycium exsertum).

Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy Ending

Photo by Ned Harris 12/11/2013

Mark Hengesbaugh writes: 

On Dec. 11, we found a dead Peregrine Falcon (photo above) below a power pole on the border of Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. There was no visual cue that the falcon had been electrocuted, but we reached out to Tucson Electric Power and explained what we found. The day after our report, a company representative wrote orders to modify poles to protect raptors a recommended distance along Remount Dr. and N. Sabino Canyon Rd. past the entrance to the visitor center parking lot.

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh  1/28/2014

Photo by Fred Heath 1/28/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 1/29/2014

Photo by Fred Heath, with arrows added to point out the raptor protection

On January 28th and 29th, raptor protection was installed on the power lines on the southern and western borders of the Sabino Canyon recreation area. 

Mr. Larry Weigel of Tucson Electric Power responded to Mark Hengesbaugh's thank you e-mail: 

TEP takes pride in our robust raptor protection program and we rely on community members like yourself to partner with us to report raptor activity or unfortunate incidents involving our facilities.
It appears from the pictures that you’ve had a chance to interact with Sturgeon Linemen, who provide a significant amount of support to the program as well. As you may have gathered from talking with them, linemen are also very passionate about protecting these birds.
Thank you for your help with this location and for the volunteer work you do at Tucson’s lovely Sabino Canyon.

Huge thanks to Tucson Electric Power and the Sturgeon Linemen for getting the job done!
And many thanks to Jean and Mark Hengesbaugh, Peggy Wenrick, Fred Heath, Ned Harris, and Matt Ball for their contributions to this story.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Yellow Desert Primrose

Photo by Ned Harris 1/29/2014
The recent cold temperatures notwithstanding, spring has sprung here in Tucson. This beauty is a Yellow Desert Primrose aka Desert Evening Primrose (Oenothera primiveris). You need to go out early to see this flower; it closes up by mid-morning. There are quite a few along the road into Bear Canyon, before you get to the Bear Canyon bridge. Look low and look early.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cats rule!

Photo courtesy of Bill Kaufman 1/28/2014

Bobcat on the prowl.