Monday, March 31, 2014

Raven Lunatic

Photo by Ned Harris 3/19/2014

Ned writes:

Lyn saw this Raven flying in with nesting material and alerted us as it landed in the Cooper's Hawk nest south of the Bear Bridge.

Anne says: Probably not such a wise plan to take over the nest of a Cooper's Hawk.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Any way you fly at it

All photos by Marty Horowitz 3/17/2014

Male Costa's Hummingbird at Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) flowers.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Live Flyers

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/12/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/14/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/14/2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Popcorn and Poppy

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/14/2014

We'll use the name Popcorn Flower for the Cryptantha species. The yellow-orange one is the more easily identified Mexican Gold Poppy (Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

First Tortoise

Photo by Ned Harris 3/19/2014

This Sonoran Desert Tortoise was on the move by the Bear Canyon bridge.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fred's fix and other updates

Fred wrote about New plant for me and thee (I updated the post as well.):

I hate to tell you this but I believe that plant is Wright’s Bee Flower (Hymenothrix wrightii) in the Sunflower Family. Later in the year it will put out a 2 foot + flower stalk with white flowers which are attractive to bees and other insects. You can see two of the dried stalks from last year at the back of the plant. For what it is worth, I know this plant well because it is a food plant of the Dainty Sulphur. We see lots of these plants and the butterflies in the sandy areas from below the dam to the Dam Bridge.
Anne says: I was out and about on 3/22 and saw a bunch more of these plants along the creek. As expected, Fred is correct. Alas, not a new plant at all. But I'll keep looking!

More news from the field:
Veterinary student Laura S wrote about Fred's pick:

We in the veterinary world call this Cuterebra jellisoni! Rare to find, especially at that size!!

Roger Rittmaster wrote about Mission to Lichens:

The green lichen is a Rhizocarpon species. I’m not sure what the grey/green species on the left is. However, it is a different genus.

Thank you to all readers, writers, and photographers for making this a fun learning blog!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/10/2014

Marty asks:

Marine Blues, above and below views, expired and floating in the Rattlesnake trail pothole - why?

Fred answers:

As to your question about why butterflies seem to be drowning themselves, I've never heard a completely satisfactory answer. In the late summer, we can sometimes find hundreds of butterflies in rocky pools like these in the mountains. Occasionally, we've seen butterflies fly to them to get water and misjudge where the edge is.
Once a number of butterflies are trapped it may be that others follow thinking it is a the place to be. A few times, I've seen a praying mantis surrounded by the wings of many butterflies all of the same species. Once the mantis consumes one, leaving the wings on the ground, other butterflies of the same species are naturally attracted to the spot - to their doom.
Finally, some folks have suggested that the butterflies see the reflection of the sky and don't realize it is actually water. The fact is that no one knows for sure and it could be a combination of any or all the above explanations or none of these. In my next life, it will certainly be the subject of a doctoral dissertation for me.

 Anne says: I look forward to reading that one!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hey, hey, I'm a monkey

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/10/2014

Yellow Monkey Flowers (Mimulus guttatus) like a bit of water. Look for these now along the creek.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dr. Seuss Plant

Photo by Gene Spesard 3/5/2014

I think Chia (Salvia columbariae) looks like a plant out of the Dr. Seuss world. It has very nutritious seeds that have been 'rediscovered' in recent years and put to better use than for growing Chia pets.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What is that?

Photo by Sheryl and Larry Mink 3/4/2014

I turned once again to Fred Heath for the identity of this weird and wonderful caterpillar. He wrote:

It’s a Red-spotted Purple. There is a decent photo of the adult and caterpillar in that Butterflies of SE AZ fold-out brochure [available in the visitor center]. Although the caterpillar is a good mimic of bird poop, the adults get protection by mimicking unpalatable Pipevine Swallowtail. Willows are their host plant in Sabino, so my guess is that it was found along the road up where the Sabino Creek is nearby.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hi Ho Silverpuff!

Photo by Gene Spesard 3/5/2014

Silverpuff (Uropappus lindleyi) flower (Yes, it's in the sunflower [Aster] family.)

Photo by Gene Spesard 3/5/2014

Silverpuff fruits. The black parts are the seeds.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Julie's Rainbow

Photo by Julie Miller 3/1/2014
Remember that great rain we had on Saturday, March 1st? Julie caught the best double rainbow I've seen! And with her phone, no less. Start your spring out right by going into the visitor center and saying hi to her.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New plant for me and thee

Photo by Gene Spesard 2/26/2014

Gene sent me his photo of this beauty that was seen in and around the rocks by the dam. Now that I know what it is, I see it all along the creek. What is it, you ask? update 3/26: not what I thought!
Fred says:

I hate to tell you this but I believe that plant is Wright’s Bee Flower (Hymenothrix wrightii) in the Sunflower Family. Later in the year it will put out a 2 foot + flower stalk with white flowers which are attractive to bees and other insects. You can see two of the dried stalks from last year at the back of the plant. For what it is worth, I know this plant well because it is a food plant of the Dainty Sulphur. We see lots of these plants and the butterflies in the sandy areas from below the dam to the Dam Bridge.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/5/2014

Filaree (Erodium cicutarium) is also know as Redstem Stork's Bill, because of way the fruit looks; namely, like a stork's (or heron's) bill. If a naturalist who stops for plants were to show you how the seeds get around, it would look something like the photos below.

Photo by Marty, Hand by naturalist who stops for plants

Another look, same hand: Photo by Gene Spesard 3/5/2014

The seed is actually the thing at the end of the corkscrew. (There are multiple seeds in the photos above.) It starts out long and straight and, slowly but obviously, moves itself around. The photographers had to work fast because of all the flipping. It's bizarre and, as Gene said, a bit creepy to watch. This movement helps seeds bury themselves in the soil - and sometimes in the fur of animals.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Photo by Ned Harris 3/5/2014

Common Buckeye on one of the many Cryptantha species we'll call Popcorn flower.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mission to Lichens

Photo by Marty Horowitz 

Anyone interested in looking into lichens? Specifically, what's up with these distinctly different colors?
To help you on your mission, if you choose to accept it, Debbie Bird sends this info:
Some of us were discussing the cryptogamic soil on our Tuesday Nature Walk. It was particularly noticeable after the weekend rain. There is a really nice FREE field guide to biological soil crusts that includes some keys to common lichens, and keys to some of the common mosses. Might be a lot more than you want to know, but well worth perusing. You can download it at the following site, , it’s about 16 mb PDF. You might be able to click on the link below and get it. I didn’t print it out as it’s 104 pages, mostly keys, but the information is well worth looking over.
A Field Guide to Biological Soil Crusts of Western U.S. Drylands: Common Lichens and Bryophytes
By Roger Rosentreter, Ph.D., Matthew Bowker, Ph.D., Jayne Belnap, Ph.D. [16mb PDF file]

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Blue Beauty

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/3/2014

Reakirt's Blue butterfly on Engelmann Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii).

Friday, March 14, 2014


We've been seeing a lot of nesting activity these days; Ned sent Mia McPherson's blog post on this topic. It deserves a wide audience.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Now for some Lizards

Photo by Ned Harris 2/26/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/22/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/5/2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fred's pick

Allison Waibel of Through The Lens sent this photo on 3/4/2014 and asked for an i.d.

Photo by Allison Waibel, Through The Lens

I asked Fred 'I'll-pick-up-anything' Heath if he had any clues.
He wrote: 

Not only do I have clues, but I know exactly what it is. A few years ago on a Tuesday Sabino walk, we found one of these wandering across the Bear Canyon Trail not too far from the stables. It completely befuddled me. I took some photos and did a little digging. I finally realized it was a maggot (fly larva) and then was able to come up with a Horse Bot Fly (Gasterophilus intestinalis). This U of Florida website has an excellent discussion of its life cycle: including the fact that larva I had in my hand in the photo had recently came from a horse’s butt….yuck!!
It should make for an interesting blog, especially the warning that people should be reluctant to shake hands with me!

Photo by Fred Heath 2/22/2011
Anne says: I think he's washed his hands a few times since then.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Now for some flowers : - )

Photos by Matt Ball 2/25/2014

Coulter's Hibiscus (Hibiscus coulteri) on the way out (closed) and on the way back (open). In the Mallow family.

 These delicate beauties are, along with agaves, in the Asparagus family. Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. pauciflorum).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nest (or theft) in progress

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/22/2014

Is this Verdin building a nest in a Staghorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor)? Doesn't look like a verdin nest just yet. Perhaps he's stealing materials from another bird's (cactus wren's) nest. Wouldn't be the first time.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

More flowers

Photo by Alan Kearney 2/26/2014

If you've been out and about, you've see Desert Chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana) in bloom. And yes, that's a Lace Pod Mustard (Thysanocarpus curvipes) on the right.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/19/2014

Silverpuffs (Uropappus lindleyi) are also in bloom; so called because the fruits look like - you guessed it - silver puffs.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wishbone Bush

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/19/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 2/29/2014

These beauties are Wishbone Bush (Mirabilis laevis var. villosa), so called because every branch splits in two, like the furcula (wishbone) of birds. Don't use this plant to make a wish, though.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ragged and Woolly

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/19/2014

Ragged Rock Flower (Crossosoma bigelovii) is a shrubby plant that's found on rocky hillsides. Look up for these.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/24/2014

Look down for these. They are the tiny (and aptly named) Miniature Woolly Stars (Eriastrum diffusum).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nest, Interrupted

Mark writes:

A Cooper’s hawk was beginning to refurbish the nest at the dam area this week [2/19/2014]; you can see the re-weaving material in his left talon. But an unwelcome visitor, a Great Horned Owl, interrupted nest work.

Photos by Mark Hengesbaugh 2/19/2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Peas are Fab(aceae)!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/19/2014

Close up of Dalea flowers (Dalea pringlei

Another photo by Marty Horowitz 2/19/2014

We call this one Marina (Marina parryi). 
And yes, it's in the Pea Family. 

Photo by Honey-Matt Ball 2/20/2014

Close up of Indigo Bush flowers (Dalea pulchra). 
Another fabulous Fabaceae plant!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Both Lupines

Photo by Ned Harris 2/24/2014

There are two species of lupine in Sabino Canyon. Hooray! The one above is Desert Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus). Occasionally, you'll see one with all white flowers. That's just a variant, not a different species. Lots of these along the road into Sabino Canyon.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/19/2014

This is Elegant Lupine (Lupinus cocinnus). This species has very hairy leaves, as this photo shows well; and it 'likes' the sandy soil of the dam area.
Both are in the Pea family; and both are blooming now. (Unlike many pea-family plants, though, these are not edible. The seeds of the Desert Lupine are particularly nasty.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fully loaded

Photo by Ned Harris 2/10/2014

Bee with loaded pollen sacs on a Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceas).

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/23/2014

And another one on a Brittlebush flower (Encelia farinosa).

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/26/2014

Third one's charming the Goodding's Willow flowers (Salix gooddingii). The canyon's buzzing!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Synchronized Perching

The Winter Olympics may be over, but that's not stopping these Cedar Waxwings from going for the gold in synchronized perching.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/19/2014

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/20/2014

In other bird news, a new blog by Steven Kessel.