Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You can never have too many glorious mornings!

Photo by Ned Harris 9/19/2014

And you can never have too many morning glories! This one's a Bearded Morning Glory (Ipomoea barbatisepala).

Monday, September 29, 2014

Snake with a view

All Photos by Wayne Klement 9/21/2014

On his hike up Blackett's Ridge, Wayne saw this Black-tailed Rattlesnake taking in the great view.

Close-up of this beauty!

That's the end of this tale : -)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another Tort Report

All photos by Alan Kearney 9/14/2014

Alan saw this beauty on the Esperero Trail. Not sure if male or female, but surely a Sonoran Desert Tortoise.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Not a lizard : - )

Photo by Ned Harris 9/12/2014

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. Starts as an egg on a pipevine plant, hatches as caterpillar (larva), eats pipevine plant, pupates, comes out as this beauty above.

And the lizard from yesterday's post is a Zebra-tailed. How do I know? Well, I am highly-trained naturalist #27, after all. But seriously, Greater Earless lizards have bars near their groin. G for groin, G for Great Earless. (Thanks to Larry Jones for that mnemonic.) Zebra-tailed Lizards have bars near their front legs - armpits, if you will. A for armpit means A Zebra-tailed!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lizard Quizard

Photos by Ned Harris 9/13/2014

Click on photos for larger view!

Two shots of the same lizard.
Two choices: Greater Earless or Zebra-tailed.
One correct answer in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Loafers see gopher

Photo by Ned Harris 9/13/2014

There was a group of "stragglers" (but I won't name names) on the lizard walk - and we saw this beautiful Gopher snake. At first glance, gopher snakes are sometimes mistaken for Western Diamondbacks. Lack of a rattle isn't always definitive for i.d. purposes, as rattlesnakes can lose part or all of their rattle. The shape of the head plus the lack of rattle led to us to "gopher" a closer look at the pattern.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Photos by Ned Harris 9/13/2014; Hands by highly-trained naturalist #27

A lode of garnets (and magnetite) settled out in a depression on the dam bridge. More on the main minerals of Sabino Canyon here. You'll find garnets on sandpaper, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Regal Horned Lizard

Photos by Ned Harris 9/13/2014

On the second-to-last Lizard Walk of the season, we saw lizards (!) - including this fine Regal Horned Lizard, hanging out by an ant parade (and munching on some of the marchers).
Last Lizard Walk of the season is on Saturday, Oct. 11. Meet in front of the visitor center at 8am.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sitting pretty, too

Photo by Ned Harris 9/13/2014

Remember those little balls of fluff? Here's the teen-aged version! Cooper's Hawk juvenile, hanging out in the riparian area above the dam.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Purslane season

There are three species of Purslane family (Portulacaceae) plants in Sabino Canyon; all are blooming now. We saw all three species in the riparian area above and in the sand below the dam. (Individual species in other areas as well.) Big thanks to Ned for always shooting what I point at, even when he's leading a lizard walk.

All photos by Ned Harris

First up, Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea = milk carrying edible vegetable, but don't eat plants in the canyon, please) page 150 in Rose.

Shrubby Purslane (aka Copper Purslane) (Portulaca suffrutescens = milk carrying, somewhat shrubby) has the biggest (and thus the most noticeable) flower. Also page 150 in Rose.

I posted this purslane recently, but Ned captured some blossoms on this Crownpod (aka Wingpod) Purslane (Portulaca umbraticola = milk carrying, shade-dweller). Page 151 in - you guessed it - Rose.

You can look up botanical names in the fantastic botanical dictionary - the Botanary - part of the wonderful Dave's Garden site. (Try biebersteiniana and you'll find one of Alexa's relatives.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Scarlet Creeper

Photos by Ned Harris 9/13/2014

It's Morning Glory season! Another fine Morning Glory is Scarlet Creeper (Ipomoea cristulata). Page 80 in Frank Rose's Mountain Wildflowers of Southern Arizona.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sitting pretty

Photo by Ned Harris 9/7/2014

You'll want to click on this photo for a closer look! Sometimes it's easier to identify Common Side-blotched lizards!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Now for some dragonflies

All Photos by Ned Harris 9/10/2014

Common Green Darners, male in front, female depositing eggs. (Male is making sure the eggs he fertilized are deposited.)

Big Oops. I mislabeled this originally. He's really a Neon Skimmer  (click on the link for more great photos)! Thanks, Ned. (9/20/2014)

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (male) (click on the link for more great photos)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tale of the Black-tailed

All Photos by Ned Harris 9/10/2014

Steve K called Ned after locating a Black-tailed Rattlesnake behind the bathroom from this post. Looked a bit bigger than the bathroom snake, but it could be the same one; snakes do like to occupy a familiar area and take the same pathways. They also like to use the same bathroom, as evidenced by Bruce P's story (in the comment section).

Advocates for Snake Preservation will also be at the Tucson Reptile and Amphibian Show. Slither over and say hi!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Get your garter on!

These great photos of Black-necked Garter Snakes brought to you by the Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography. She will be at the Tucson Reptile and Amphibian Show at the Tucson Expo Center on October 4th and 5th, selling, among other items, her 2015 Striking Beauties Calendar (Snakes of the U.S.A.) and Greetings From Arizona postcard.

Monday, September 15, 2014

MIni Tort Report

Photos by Ned Harris 9/7/2014

Very possibly hatched this year, this tiny Sonoran Desert Tortoise is helpfully hanging out on a none-too-fresh prickly pear pad. (The pads on this species are about the size of a spread-out, non-professional-basketball-playing adult's hand.)

Look, mom! I'm a model.

My best side

According to the link above:

[The Sonoran Desert Tortoise] mates from June through early August and lays a single clutch of up to 12 eggs the following June or July. The eggs are usually buried inside the burrow. (emphasis mine)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Take me to your leader!

Photo by Ned Harris 9/5/2014

The red-pepper-looking things are the fruits of the Fishhook Pincushion cactus (Mammillaria grahamii). Remember the flowers? The fruits are the result of successful reproduction!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

High and Low

Photo by Ned Harris 9/5/2014

Right before we saw the tourist taking a photo of the tortoise, Ned noticed flowers climbing high in a mesquite tree. This aptly-named Climbing Milkweed (Funastrum cynanchoides ssp. hartwegii) plant seems to be taking over! We saw flowers at least 15 feet up the tree. Look for this on the left as you take the road into Bear Canyon, just before the Bear Canyon Trail intersects with the road and the Lake Trail begins (if I'm remembering correctly). (No guarantees!) 

Photo by Matt Ball 9/4/2014

I was excited to see the developing fruits of this Crownpod Purslane (Portulaca umbraticola) on the Esperero Trail (well into Esperero Canyon). I hadn't encountered (or more likely, noticed) this plant before and I put my Honey-Matt to work on a photo. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Toad in the road

Photo by Ned Harris 9/5/2014; Hand by Highly-trained Naturalist
(Do not attempt!)

We should see many more of these little Red-spotted Toads this month. (Products of the mating frenzy in August.) Look for them when you're out and about, especially near the creek.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's the story, Morning Glory?

Photos by Matt Ball 9/4/2014

Morning Glories are blooming gloriously! There are a number of species in Sabino Canyon, including three in the photo above, from left to right: Bird's Foot (Ipomoea ternifolia var. leptotoma) (pale purple); Bearded (Ipomoea barbatisepala)(2 of them here, larger blue); and Arizona Blue Eyes (Evolvulus arizonicus)(dime-sized or smaller blue).

Along the tram road, you can see many of the white Jacquemontia (Jacquemontia pringlei).

And this is another Bird's Foot - with a White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar underneath. Those caterpillars were everywhere on this hike!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

'pillars of the community

Photos by Matt Ball 9/4/2014

This photo by Ned Harris 9/5/2014

My Honey-Matt and I went hiking on the Esperero Trail and came across literal fields of White-lined Sphinx Moth larvae (commonly known as caterpillars : -) Click on the top photo for a larger view and note the yellow lines on nearly every plant. Multiply that by 100 and you'll have a sense of what we experienced several times on our hike. (The tail is the tail end.)
The caterpillars are eating their way to bigness. If they don't get eaten, stepped on, or washed away by floods, these caterpillars will pupate in shallow ground burrows. During the pupa stage, they'll take themselves apart and rebuild into moths that are often mistaken for hummingbirds. Look for the moths later this month. I predict a bumper crop!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tort Report

Photo by Ned Harris 9/5/2014

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 9/5/2014

Ned and I saw a woman taking a photo along the road to the Bear Canyon Bridge. Naturally, we went over to investigate. She pointed out the Sonoran Desert Tortoise in Ned's photo. Several others came by, including our pals Jean and Mark, and many photos were taken. Later that same day, Mark reported they had seen the tortoise in the lower photo.

Mark did some digging and found info from the Nevada Fish and Wildlife office website about Mohave Desert Tortoises:

...Males have longer curved gular horns which protrude from their lower shells underneath their neck and head. They use these horns to combat other males and for butting and nudging females during courtship. Males also have shallow depressions in their lower shells while the females lower shell is flat. Most people cannot tell the difference between male and female until they are between 15 to 20 years old or eight inches in length.

Two different species, of course, but it's likely that they share these characteristics. We think the top tort is a female; the bottom one, a male.

Anne says: Never flip a tortoise over to try to figure out the sex!! That's harassment and against Arizona law.

PROTECTED throughout Arizona
It is against Arizona State law to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect this animal in any part of the state. It is also illegal to attempt to engage in any such conduct.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rattle Tale

Photos by Ned Harris 9/5/2014

Ned and I were out and about on Friday; we saw loads of friends, flowers, and critters. Elissa (aka The Hummingbird Lady) let us know that a visitor had reported a 'baby rattlesnake' in the nearby women's restroom. (Of course, we had to investigate.) It turned out to be a valid report of a small Black-tailed Rattlesnake! Ned got great photos, including this one with some tongue action.

To complete the circle of kindness, Elissa made us this sign, and we posted it at the entrance. (When I returned home, I put some note paper in my pack for a future rattle tale.)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Flowers o' Barrels

Photos by Matt Ball 8/28/2014

Arizona Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) flowers are delightful!