Thursday, July 31, 2014


Photo by Alan Kearney 7/28/2014

No, it's not upside-down. Yes, there's water in the creek - enough for this fine reflection of saguaros.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Skinny dipping

Photos by Ned Harris 7/26/2014

Black-necked Gartersnake enjoying the pools.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shoo, Fly!

Photo by Ned Harris 7/26/2014

Photo by Ned Harris 7/23/2014

Robber Flies are out and about - in Sabino Canyon (top photo) and on Mt Lemmon (bottom). All flies (Order: Diptera = two wings) undergo complete metamorphosis (egg, larva, pupa, adult), but adults have only one pair of wings (see order name). As you see in the Mt Lemmon photo, adult Robber Flies eat other insects. The plant is a Bearded Penstemon (Penstemon barbatus), by the way. (pg. 140 in Rose)

Monday, July 28, 2014

They're really beetles!

Photo by Gene Spesard 7/16/2014

This great post from Margarethe Brummermann explains the difference between 'bugs' and beetles. Read all three posts (click on the blue) and amaze your friends and family with your insect knowledge!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

When Peeps go bad...

Photo by Ned Harris 7/23/2014

Ned and company saw these mystery goo blobs on a downed tree trunk on Mt. Lemmon. Fred thinks they're fungi. I'm going with Peeps gone bad. Who knew those could rot? As with all Peeps, do not eat!

Photo courtesy of Peeps fan site

Saturday, July 26, 2014

In case you missed it...

Photo by Ned Harris 7/19/2014

The AZ Star, recently re-branded as, ran this great article on cicadas. Check it out!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Head to tail

Photos by Marty Horowitz 

This Coachwhip is sporting one of the many color patterns this species can have. Perfect summer fashion!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Showing her colors

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh, click for larger view

Mark writes:

I’m seeing largish, very blue whiptails down by Bear Bridge and it’s confusing. The whiptail in Sabino Canyon Rec Area known for a blue tail is the immature Tiger Whiptail and this is too big to be an immature and isn’t a Tiger. So I contacted USFS’s retired lizard guy, Larry Jones, editor of Lizards of trhe American Southwest. Larry said he’d sent similar photos to various experts and they all identified her as a member of the Sonoran Spotted  / Gila Spotted group, even though the books don’t mention the blue. An especially interesting feature of this individual is that the blue tail has an orangish tip.

Anne says: The Sonoran Spotted / Gila Spotted lizards are always females. Yes, all of them. They reproduce via parthenogenesis.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On the road

Photos by Matt Ball 7/18/2014

Gayle and I took Matt out for a walk and we saw this Roadrunner running and leaping, snatching bug snacks out of mid-air. What a treat!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Just what makes that little velvet ant?

Photo by Ned Harris 7/15/2014

Neither velvet nor ant, the Velvet Ant is actually a wasp. Females (like the one above) are wingless, but not stingless. Click on the link....if you dare!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pincushions in bloom!

Photo by Matt Ball, home on 7/15/2014

These are in our backyard, but there are loads of Fishhook Pincushions (Mammillaria grahamii) blooming in Sabino Canyon, too. Look low (they aren't usually more than 6 inches tall) and late morning!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Amblypygids, anyone?

Text and photos by The Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography.



The Serpent Princess writes:

I recently went on a late night hike up the Tram Road with a hiking group. Pictured are male and female Amblypygids, more commonly known as Tailless Whip Scorpions or Whip Spiders. However, they are neither scorpions nor spiders. They are arachnids with the first pair of front legs as highly modified sensory appendages. They are found in warm, humid regions, (which is why we only see them during Monsoon season). They are nocturnal, and kind of look like a cross between a spider and a scorpion. They move sideways like a crab and can be found under leaf litter or other covered places. (Although I found the male totally out in the open.) They are not dangerous or venomous, but can give a pinch if handled. I think the difference between the males and the females has something to do with the length of the modified "legs." The group leader (who is extremely knowledgeable about bugs) IDed the sex of these two individuals. I thought this might be cool for your blog.

Anne says: Thanks, Serpent Princess! Very cool. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Various and sunny : -)

First up, to pick up or not to pick up, that is the question I received about Desert Tortoises from this post. To clarify, you don't want to pick up Desert Tortoise, as a rule, because they retain water in their bladders - up to 30% of their body weight, as it says in A Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon, pg. 41 - and picking them up startles them (to put it mildly). They will void their bladder; yucky for you, potentially life threatening for them. Unless they can tank up quickly (and, let's face it, water's in short supply here most of the time), they'll die.
There are situations, though, when the risk to the tortoise could be greater if you didn't pick him or her up. One situation could be if the tortoise has (been) flipped over (not by you, of course) and is struggling to get on 4 legs again. (Sometimes they do slip and flip.) The bigger they are, the more difficult it can be to get right. Watch, first; then help them flip gently, without lifting too much off the ground. Always make sure you're needed before intervening.
Another situation that may warrant intervention is impending doom by a vehicle. If you can stop traffic (without risk to life and limb) and allow the tortoise to take his or her time, that's the best option. If you can't, though, choose the shortest path to safety, and, by keeping the tortoise as close to the ground as you can, gently and swiftly move him or her. Again, though, only intervene if the life-threatening risk to the tortoise is greater than the potentially life-threatening risk of being picked up.

Second, a post by our favorite bug lady, Margarethe Brummermann - on the Queen of the Night in her backyard.

Third, a correction by the same favorite bug lady on the 'Dare to Compare' post. (also in the comment section.)

While we did see the very big antlion Vella fallax, I have to point out that this one is an Owlfly, in the same order, Neuroptera, but with a very different larval strategy. To read more, go to this blog post

Fourth, find out how much it's rained and where at the Pima County Flood Control website. I know you love rain gauges!

And finally, tomorrow's post is not for arachnophobes. That means, you, Honey-Matt.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Before and After

Photos by Marty Horowitz: Tail-less


Good eating at Marty's and Linda's place, if you like bugs : -) This Desert Spiny likes to hang out there and Marty got this shot of the re-grown tail. You'll note that the 'new' tail isn't quite as good the original. Lizards don't drop their tails willy-nilly. Only to save their life. Better to be tail-less for a while than eaten entirely!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dare to compare!

Photo by Ned Harris 7/11/2014

Ned and Linda went out 'black lighting' with Margarethe Brummermann and got some great captures. Ned shot this adult Antlion with an actual ant next to it for scale.* UPDATE: Approximately the same size as an Antlion, the adult above is actually an Owlfly. SEE the comment, too. Thanks, Margarethe.
(Click on the photo for a larger view.) Antlion larvae make those great holes in the sand. (Click on the link for the hole view.)
And for more beautiful flying things, head to Ned's flickr site.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

With a gleam in my eye...

Photos by Marty Horowitz 

This Sonoran Spotted Whiptail makes short work of a beetle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Short vs. Regal

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh  7/9/2014

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 7/9/2014

Greater Short-horned Lizards stole the show on Ned's Nature walk on Mt Lemmon. Mark and company saw young and several mature lizards with vastly different coloration. Greater Short-horned lizards inhabit higher elevations and give birth to live young. The young are in an amniotic sac, though, and have to break out. (Shorter breeding season is probably the reason for that adaptation.)
We see Regal Horned Lizards in Sabino Canyon (and other low areas) and they lay "real" eggs. How about that? 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Photo by Ned Harris 7/6/2014

This male Broad-billed Hummingbird thanks Terry and Marc for changing the hummingbird feeders in Sabino Canyon!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Birds' Eyes' Views

Photos by Marty Horowitz

That ring of blue around the eye is skin, not feathers. 

Thanks, Marty, for these views of birds' eyes : -)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fungus among us

Photos by Bob Turcotte 7/9/2014

Do not eat!

Maybe not among us, but among some soaked logs on Mt Lemmon on the Marshal Gulch trail. Bob says this is Nectria Cinnabarina, an orange-colored sporodochia. (And I believe him!) As this is a very poisonous fungus, I think the common name should be Mr. Bubble Trouble.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Frog on log

Photo by Ned Harris 7/6/2014

Canyon Tree Frog blending in 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tort Report

Photos by Mark Hengesbaugh 7/7/2014

Mark writes:

So I’m hiking down the steepest, narrowest part of Blackett’s Ridge this morning (7/7/2014) when find a Desert Tortoise coming up the trail. He’s heroically climbing rock steps that are taller than he is long. Steely determination in his eye. Then next to me, a movement. I look down to find a second Desert Tortoise near my foot also watching Hercules the Climber. Is she batting her eyelashes at him?
Awkward moment for hiker. But I grab my camera, she slinks into her stone boudoir, he scoots down the way he came up.

Anne says: Remember, never pick up a Desert Tortoise! Not even for love.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/29/2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rain Song

Photo by Ned Harris 6/26/2014

This Black-throated Sparrow must have sung a compelling rain song! Hope it rained where you are, too!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Giants in the canyon

Photos by Ned Harris 6/27/2014

Click on these photos for a closer look at the exceptionally long tail of the Giant Spotted Whiptail, a sub-species of the Canyon Spotted Whiptail. Info on page 36 of your Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon, but we didn't have these photos in 2012!!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Selfie with Bore(r)

Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/21/2014

This looks like one of those plastic bugs your kids/grandkids/friends hide in your bed in order to freak you out. But it's a real, live Banded Alder Borer. Mistook Marty for a rotting tree. Totally understandable : -)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pocket Gopher

Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/21/2014

You rarely see these cuties, but there's lots of evidence of their presence - in Sabino Canyon and on Mt Lemmon (where the photo above was taken). From the Firefly Forest site:

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.
 Keep out!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Snake 'n' Bake

Photos by Mark Hengesbaugh 7/3/2014

Jean and Mark, Linda and Mark and their children saw this very glossy black Coachwhip finishing off another snake. From the end they could see, it looked like a Sonoran Whipsnake. Circle of life, anyone?

Thursday, July 3, 2014


All photos by Marty "don't give me the bird" Horowitz 6/29/2014

House Finch dining on Saguaro fruits 

Male Gambel's Quail, foot-less...I mean footloose...and fancy free!

Male Costa's Hummingbird doing some kind of impossible yoga move. The preening bird, perhaps.

Portrait of a female Broad-billed Hummingbird. You'll want to click on this one for a better look!