Monday, June 30, 2014

Empress of the Rock

Photo by Ned Harris  6/21/2014

Empress Leilia butterflies are common in Sabino Canyon. Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida) - now in the Hemp family - is the host plant for the caterpillars. But don't smoke 'em!

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Photo by Bill Kaufman 6/24/2014

Don't let that friendly face fool you! Sonoran Whipsnakes slither up trees and snatch young birds from the nest, as these photos from Bob Wenrick show - one, two, yum. Sonoran Whipsnakes won't cause you harm, though, unless you're as small as a bird...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sabino Chick Report

Photos by Ned Harris 6/21/2014

What you lookin' at? 

It would appear that only two Cooper's Hawk chicks remain in the nest above the dam. Ned and I saw only two on Saturday, 6/21, and the KIDCO Lizard Walk team saw two on Tuesday, 6/24.

Photo by Bill Kaufman 6/24/2014

What happened to the other two? There are, of course, a number of predators of small birds (owls, for one; snakes, for two). It's also possible that the bigger/stronger/more aggressive of the chicks pushed their sibling(s) out of the nest. Then there are those predators...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Chick visit

Photos by Matt Ball 6/23/2014

We knew of the well-hidden nest in the big tree beyond our back wall (because we've heard numerous warning calls and been swooped by the parents several times), but hadn't been able to see any chicks until they were big enough to really stick out. We confirmed two.
On Monday, 6/23, I noticed (was startled, actually) this one had become a fledgling. She stayed on this little table for quite a while, then flew onto another table, a chair, to the wall, to the other wall (and missed); she walked around a bit (to regain her dignity), then succeeded in flying to the wall, to the tree, to the nest. (We cheered her on from inside, of course.)

And speaking of cheering, 1000 cheers for your generous support of this blog! I am truly grateful for your contributions, your encouragement, and your kindness. I'm ready for four more years : -) (First post was 4 July 2010)

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Photo by Alan Kearney 5/16/2014

Can't get enough of these little guys! Round-tailed Ground Squirrel in the shadows.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Flower and Fruit

Photos by Ned Harris 6/21/2014

Saguaro fruits are bursting with seedy goodness!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Now with feathers!

Photos by Phil Bentley

These photos are of the same birds, from 13-20 days after hatching. (Those black and yellow worm-like piles are - you guessed it - hummingbird poop. )

Note how short their beaks are!

A few days makes a big difference!

On day 20 after hatching, one flew off and landed on the porch while the other looked on. 

Monday, June 23, 2014


All photos by Phil Bentley

Just how small are hummingbird nests? Phil added a postage stamp to this photo for scale. Yes, the nest is that small. And there are two hatchlings in it!

These photos are from a few days after hatching. You can see some bits of shell in the photo above.

They don't really look like birds, though, do they?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Good to the last drop!

Photo by Ned Harris 6/15/2014

This Round-tailed Ground Squirrel licks the last of the water from an irrigation pipe in Sabino Canyon. These little guys are often mistaken for baby/mini/little prairie dogs (even by locals who should know better). Good info (for kids of all ages) on actual prairie dogs available here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bugs these days...

Photo by Ned Harris 6/15/2014

Giant Mesquite Bug, breaking through to adulthood.

Photo by Ned Harris 6/15/2014

The same individual, about a minute later. Those yellowish things are the wings. (That's how you know this is now an adult.)

Photo by The Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography 6/15/2014

Here you can see nymphs (no wings); 'fresh' adults (wings haven't fully hardened, are still yellowish), and not-so-fresh adults (mostly black wings - look in the lower right quadrant).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Saving this parking spot

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 6/15/2014

Mark reminds us that summer is a great time for lizard spotting in Sabino Canyon. They aren't usually hanging out in the parking lot, but this Regal Horned lizard likes the hot spot.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kids these days...

All photos by Marty Horowitz 6/18/2014

No dessert until you clean your room.

Marty is back on the scene! He writes:

There were 2 Cooper's Hawk chicks visible today, plus one parent nearby . Both chicks wandered up about a dozen feet above the nest. One of them jumped/flew about 8 feet between branches. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Photo by Ned Harris 6/6/2014

Bryna, we miss you. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Blue Dasher

Photo by Ned Harris 6/13/2014

Blue Dasher (female) against a blue sky. If you like dragonflies (and who doesn't?), check out the great photos and info at Arizona Dragonflies (damselflies, too).

Answers from Lizard Quizard, too:
One: Zebra-tailed. Note that the two stripes are near the front legs (the armpits, as it were). A for armpit means A to Zebra-tailed.
Two: Ornate Tree. Conveniently on a tree.
Three: Greater Earless. Note that the two stripes are near the back legs (the groin, as it were). G for groin, G for Greater Earless.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lizard Quizard, too

Lizard One  -  Photo by Ned Harris 7/7/2009

Lizard Two  -  Photo by Ned Harris 7/7/2009

Lizard Three  -  Photo by Ned Harris 7/26/2009

Click on the photos! Identify the lizards! Answers in tomorrow's post.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cool Summer Hummingbird

Photo by Ned Harris 6/7/2014

Male Anna's hummingbird in the aviary at the ASDM. Take advantage of the Desert Museum's 'Cool Summer Nights' program, Saturdays from 5-10pm through the end of August.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A little Ocelot and more

This recent post on Arizona Highways deserves a wider audience. Cats are where it's at!

And I missed this the first time around, but the AZ Daily Star has a Critters of Southern Arizona photo database. Spend some time as you wait for the rains to begin....

Friday, June 13, 2014

One giant leap for chick-kind...

Photos from Mark Hengesbaugh 6/10/2014

Mark writes:

Today [6/10/14] at the dam we saw three Cooper’s hawk chicks in the nest and one on the ground … This may be a good time to remind people if they see an immature bird that’s not in the nest, it doesn't mean the bird is abandoned. Almost certainly a parent is around. It’s just that fledging is an awkward process.

The chick on the ground may be the 'runt.' It's possible that s/he was kicked out of the nest by parents or siblings. Later that same day, though, no one was seen on the ground. I'll continue to bring you the updates as they come in. Back to you, Houston. Over.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Chicks!

Photo by Alan Kearney 6/1/2014

Reports of 4 chicks in the Cooper's Hawk nest in the riparian area above the dam are confirmed by Alan's photo. Two are easy to see; one is on the far right, past the branch - part of the head is sticking out. On the 4th, you can just barely see an eye. Start with the one who's looking at the camera; draw a line from the eye next to the branch to the lower right corner of the photo. Underneath that branch, almost in the middle of the photograph, you should see a dark spot. As always, click photo for larger view.
Ned and I could only make out 2 chicks on Friday (6/6/2014), but one of the adults was in the nest, too, presumably with food.
I hope to bring you more photos as the summer progresses. Photographers, start your cameras!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blast from the past

Coming (back) to you from June 2012!

Monday, June 9, 2014

More Canyon Color

Photo by Ned Harris 6/6/2014

Chainfruit Chollas (Cylindropuntia fulgida) are blooming! The flowers are rather small and always bright pink. The flowers grow from the fruits of previous year, and the fruits thus form chains. Also known as Jumping Cholla, the stems and fruits detach easily, so watch your back around these plants!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Canyon Color

Photo by Ned Harris 6/6/2014

We had no trouble spotting these Coral Bean (Erythrina flabelliformis) flowers on the Bluff Trail. Unlike most flowering plants, these flowers generally appear (as here) before the leaves. (page 99 in Rose) This plant is in the Pea family, but all parts are toxic, especially the fruits (beans). Do not eat.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Another Spiny Jewel

Photo by The Serpent Princess at Dancing Snake Nature Photography 

You'll want to click on this photo for a closer look at the colors! What a handsome guy. And spend some time at the Dancing Snake Nature Photography site. Colorful snakes and more!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Big Sap Ball (and bonus video)

Photo by Honey-Matt Ball 5/23/2014

Big evidence of a Mesquite Girdler Beetle. (Click on the photo to see the scratch on the left, just to the left of the bump on the lower side of the branch.) You can see why the female MGB cuts a ring into the branch and lays her eggs in the scratch beyond the cut (on this branch, that's left). If she hadn't made the cut, all the sap that pooled (and hardened) would have washed away her eggs.
As you'd expect, mesquite sap is sweet. You can actually see the sugar crystals on this sap ball, if you look closely.
Thanks to Ken for sending this video made by the Park Service, A day in the desert. Watch it inside : -)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Big Blue

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 5/30/2014

This male Clark's Spiny lizard shows his true colors. You can tell he's a Clark's (and not a Desert Spiny) by the two bands (or bracelets) on his forearm. Desert Spiny lizards don't have those. Click on the photo for a larger view.
For more canyon critters, check out this new feature on the website of the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists, namely: Canyon Critters!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Flowers and Fruits

Photo by Ned Harris 5/12/2013

Our state flower, the Saguaro blossom (pages 68 and 69 in your Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon), and a pollen-covered Cactus Wren, our state bird (pg 19).

Photo by Ned Harris 6/10/2009

Soon we'll be seeing more of this sight; White-winged Doves (and many other birds) eating Saguaro fruits. This dove is the primary day-time pollinator of the saguaro flower. (Yes, I read that in A Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon, pg 21.)

Photo by Ned Harris 6/23/2010

This close-up photo of the Saguaro fruit shows the hundreds of seeds in each fruit. Maybe one seed (from the entire crop) will sprout and make it into adulthood. Maybe none.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Get out your copy of A Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon (2nd edition, 2012) and fix the typo on page 36, under Sonoran spotted / Gila spotted group. Should be: (parthenogenesis). Thank you!

Photo by Ned Harris 5/23/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 5/23/2014

Some experts disagree that Sonoran spotted and Gila spotted Whiptails are separate species, but everyone agrees that all are females who reproduce by parthenogenesis, i.e., individuals put an entire copy of their genetic material in their eggs; all hatchlings are clones of the mom. Not the best strategy for disease, climate change, or any other threat to survival, but it gets the job of reproduction done.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Photo by Ned Harris 5/23/2014

One of the many great things about the internet is that you can get ideas, corrections, and answers from people from around the globe. Ned posted the photo above and a fellow flickr photographer (bleu.geo) suggested that it's a pollen wasp's nest. Fred, what's your take?

Photo by Ned Harris 5/23/2014

Any ideas on this mystery cocoon? Ned says: It was soft to the touch and about 3 inches long.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Photo by Ned Harris 5/23/2014

Golden-flowered Agave (Agave chrysantha) is also known as Century Plant, but it doesn't live that long. The plant dies after flowering, but it does go out in a blaze of golden-flowered glory.
These agaves used to be in the Agave family, but they are now in the Asparagus family. What's up with that? As genetic sequencing becomes ever cheaper, more DNA comparisons can be made (but not by me). As scientists find that X species is more closely related to Y species, a species can be reclassified. Sometimes entire families are renamed and so on. Science. It's golden.