Sunday, November 30, 2014

Soapy Rerun

Time again for this post from January 3, 2013. Science: the way to see in!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Spend a happy hour...or two

Spend some time this season checking out Ned Harris's latest adventures on his flickr site.

Not to be confused with another Ned Harris.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Our favorite bug lady

Spend some time at Margarethe Brummermann's blog Arizona Beetles Bugs Birds and More and check out her great watercolor art.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Snakes are beautiful, too

Our favorite Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography is offering her Striking Beauties 2015 wall calendar. Be sure to get a few extras for gifts!

And here's a post from January 21, 2014 with her photos. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snakes are cool!

Social Snakes is the official blog for the Advocates for Snake Preservation, based here in Tucson!

And a post from Phenomena on mother snakes who go the distance for their offspring!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


It's that time of year again. I need to post some links to other blogs of interest and some re-runs from my own. If you want to take a week or so off, you can always look through the archives at - Over 1400 posts to choose from!

Some cool stuff:
Another great TED talk from Hans Rosling (and his son Ola)

And a book I'm reading (albeit slowly): How not to be wrong: The power of mathematical thinking by Jordan Ellenberg. If you fear math, hate math, and/or don't remember much about math, this is the book for you. Ellenberg explains mathematical concepts to help you better understand (and not be fooled by) graphs, studies, media proclamations, and all manner of surveys. And there's no homework!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Variegated Meadowhawk

Photo by Bill Kaufman 11/17/2014

There are still plenty of insects out and about. You can usually find dragonflies like this male Variegated Meadowhawk near the creek.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Open and Shut, too

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/20/2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Whites and spots

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/10/2014

Checkered White on Bur Marigold (Bidens aurea)

Checkered White on Wire Lettuce (Stephanomeria pauciflora)

And more on spots from Fred Heath:

Some of butterflies (and moths) with eye spots will mostly keep them hidden until attacked and then opening the wings startle the predator for a second and enabling the lep to escape. More info on eye spots in this brief article and short ( less than 2 minutes) video with praying mantis attacks from an Ohio State University study. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dark-eyed Junco

Photo by Dancing Snake Nature Photography 11/11/2014

Dark-eyed Juncos aren't seen often in Sabino Canyon, but they sure are cool! Note the shape of the beak. What do you think they eat?

Thanks to Dr. Greenfield (in Michigan) for recommending The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner.

And thanks to my very own Honey-Matt for this NPR post: How Animals Hacked The Rainbow And Got Stumped On Blue

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Shoo, frog! Don't bully me!

Photo by Fred Heath 11/12/2014

Fred writes:

About a month ago, I saw my first Bull Frog in Sabino. It was in the little wetland south of the Bear Canyon Tram Road, before getting to the Bear Canyon Bridge. Not long after that we had a heavy rainstorm which I assumed (and hoped) washed the frog all the way to the Rillito. Unfortunately, today I noticed and photographed a Bull Frog (the same?) in the same exact place I saw the other one.

Anne says: Never take it upon yourself to rid the canyon of introduced species. Or anywhere, for that matter. That's not what Fred is suggesting. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To be or not to be

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/10/2014

European Starlings, hanging out by the corral near Sabino Canyon.

From the link above:

First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Shoulders of a Giant

Story and photos by guest blogger Mark Hengesbaugh

African invasive Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) is taking over near the popular Blackett’s Ridge trail and a quiet hero hikes up with hand tools to try to stop it. Richard Humprey, Weedwacker and Sabino Steward, has accomplished a huge feat by cutting a lower perimeter to the massive infestation.

Why worry? Look closely at the perimeter that Richard has cleared of Buffelgrass (photo below) and you’ll find nearly every native species of plant dead and no sprouts coming up. All the native plants are smothered or crowded out. Then, when the Buffelgrass goes dry and dormant, it can burn hot enough to melt metal.

Studies by the University of Arizona show that this Buffelgrass takeover reduces the 15-20 native species on our hillsides to just 2-5. You can find this study and other important information on Sabino's invasive species problem here on the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists website 

What you can do: The roads to Sabino Canyon are a principal pathway for this Sonoran Desert-killing invader. When you spot buffelgrass on the road shoulder, note the major cross streets then go to Pima County’s Buffelgrass Complaint Form to report it. This form also allows you to submit photos electronically.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Now you see me...

Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/6/2014

This Red Admiral butterfly is definitely not camouflaged with wings open.

Now you don't!

Same butterfly with wings closed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Arty Marty, too

Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/6/2014

Snake Skin in Repose

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/4/2014

These two birds look similar at first glance (to me, anyway). Both are females, so that's something! But let's take a look at their beaks. Click on the photos for a closer look.
The top bird's beak is all-purpose; good for berries, insects, and good enough for an occasional seed, if need be. The beak on the bottom, though, is specialized for seeds. Note the shape, shortness, sturdiness. That stout triangle can crack seeds like a nutcracker cracks nuts.
The top bird is a female Phainopepla. And they love mistletoe berries (mainly carbohydrates). And they eat insects, too, for protein. Yummers.
The bird on the bottom is a female Pyrrholoxia. Like Northern Cardinals (who are in the same genus), Pyrrholoxias are mainly seed eaters.
Now you know!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The advantage of an eye or two

Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/4/2014

To would-be predators, this Buckeye butterfly looks too tough to tangle with! It's understandable that, over time, those with the most fearsome-looking spots would survive to reproduce, thereby passing along this advantage to their offspring. And that's how natural selection works.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tiny and Fiery

Photos by Marty-fly Horowitz 11/4/2014

Loads of butterflies out and about on these warm and sunny days!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Another great sighting

Photos by Nancy of Alberta/Canada

Nancy and Yvonne, visitors from Canada (and eventual snowbirds), had a great sighting in Sabino Canyon recently. A beautiful Black-tailed Rattlesnake.
You may remember another great sight they photographed in 2012.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/30/2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Another wonder

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/30/2014

Even if you don't know the name of this insect, you can be sure you're looking at an adult. In the insect world, adults have wings : - )
Like all animals, this one started out as a fertilized egg. Dragonflies undergo 'incomplete' metamorphosis, which is not a complete rebuild, but is nevertheless pretty amazing. What hatches in this type of metamorphosis is called a nymph. Nymphs also live to eat - but instead of covering up and taking themselves apart; nymphs eat, grow, shed, repeat. At a certain point, the code for 'build wings' is turned on, and their final shed reveals their adult form. In the case above, a male Filigree Skimmer.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Today's wonder

Photo by Ricki Mensching 10/29/2014

These cool critters have appeared on this blog many times, but never too many times! Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars are amazingly red and fierce looking. Like all animals, they start out as a fertilized egg. After hatching, they look like the above. (Note the tiny one in the upper left quadrant.) Like many insects, these beauties undergo complete metamorphosis. And it is truly a wonder.
The caterpillars above are the larval stage for this insect. They live to eat  - and this species eats Pipevine plants (Aristolochia watsonii) (which are, of course, wondrous in their own right. More on the plants at some point, you can be sure).
After eating their fill, the caterpillars pupate - i.e., they cover themselves up completely, take themselves apart, and rebuild. They come out of their covering - or chrysalis - as adults, specifically as Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies. Wouldn't it be cool to do this, even for a day?? Humans (all mammals, actually) share about 40% or so of the same code as insects. How about we add in their code for wings? I'm in!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

White on Wright

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/27/2014

Say that 5 times fast! White Checkered-Skipper on Wright Bee Flower (Hymenothrix wrightii).  The bonus butterfly in the background may be a Southern Dogface. Or it may be Kate Moss.

Friday, November 7, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/27/2014

Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) is in the Nightshade Family (Solanaceae) (along with tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, tobacco). You can learn a lot more about plants in this family, of course, but one tidbit is that the flowers generally have 5 fused (or connected) petals. You can see the five clearly, in this beautiful photo from Marty 'The Arty' Horowitz.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Morning Glories

Photo by Matt Ball 10/25/2014

Even in late October, a whole field of Bird's Foot Morning Glories (Ipomoea ternifolia var. leptotoma) could be found blooming along the Esperero Trail. It's glorious to live in Tucson!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Photo by Matt Ball 10/25/2014

Rattlesnake creek framed by saguaro ribs. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cornered and Collared

Photo by Matt Ball 10/25/2014

Opened our windows to find this Ornate Tree lizard hanging out on the inside of the screen. Flipped him or her into a box and relocated outside. Just another in the growing list of critters who've come in our house for their own reasons.

Photo by Matt Ball 10/25/2014

It was a warm day, but we were still surprised and delighted to see not one, but two Eastern Collared lizards on the Esperero Trail. Both had this coloration; either young (male or female) or female.

Monday, November 3, 2014


Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/23/2014

Mornings are starting to have a real burrrrr factor! Bundle up and you'll see some great flowers, including Bur Marigold (Bidens aurea), here with Fiery Skipper. Look in and along the creek for these flowers. No guarantees on the butterflies!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/23/2014

Southern Dogface nectaring from another Bur Marigold flower.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Anne learns a new plant!

As many of you know, I'm a plant person. I made myself a booklet of Joan Tedford's list of the plants of Sabino Canyon. I carry it with me whenever I'm in the canyon, and I make notes and highlight the plants I can identify. It's always very exciting (yes, really) when I learn a new plant. (I imagine it's like seeing a new bird, for the birders among you. Or another mountain lion, for Walt.)
I was helping out with the elementary program on 10/23, and had the great fortune of spending some quality plant time with Debbie Bird, who made the positive i.d. of the new-to-me plant, taught me about several other plants, and pointed out a Sonoran Whipsnake, a Wilson's warbler, and a host of other attractions, including Marty Horowitz. I dragged Marty over to the new plant, and he took the photos you see here.

All Photos by Marty Horowitz 10/23/2014
This plant is (drum roll, please) Echinopepon wrightii or Balsam Apple and is in the Gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). Echinopepon is from the Greek echinos = spiny and pepon = large melon. This refers to the fruits, which you'll see more clearly if you click on this photo. The fruits are those elongated (not round), spiny-looking things. The leaves are rather large; the flowers are tiny and white.

The plant is a vine (note the tendrils) and is growing in among the Wild Cotton in the riparian area above the dam. In this photo, you can contrast the Balsam Apple leaf in the foreground (bright green), with the Wild Cotton (Gossypium thurberi) leaves in the background. There are also developing wild cotton fruits (the round, non-spiny balls) in this photo on the far right.

Here's the dried and opened fruit of Balsam Apple. Note the two chambers. And note how strange and scary it looks!

You may be saying: "Anne, this plant looks a lot like Big Root (Marah gilensis)." (page 71 in A Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon, 2nd edition) And, yes, that's what I thought it was, initially. They are in the same family, but Big Root blooms in the spring, and Balsam Apple in the fall. Now you know! Isn't that exciting!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A heart for damselflies!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/23/2014

Desert Firetails, caught in the act!
You can tell dragon- and damselflies apart by the way they hold their wings when perched. There are exceptions, of course, but damselflies (see above) hold their wings parallel to their bodies; dragonflies, perpendicular. And that, my friends, is one of the many reasons to pay attention in geometry.