Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Doctor is in!

Photo by Gene Spesard 2/18/2015

Doctor Canyon Tree Frog waits patiently in one of the restrooms by the dam.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fred's find (really Mary's)

Fred writes:

While walking with Mary Klinkel along the main Sabino Canyon road the other day, she noticed an odd patch of plants. They are the root parasite Orobanche cooperi, with the English name Burro-weed Strangler or Desert Broomrape.

Photos by Fred Heath 2/16/2015

To my knowledge, all of the members of the Orobanchaceae family can be root parasites. Recently plants in the genus Castilleja (paintbrushes and owl clovers) were added to this family. Orobanche cooperi which has no chlorophyll is considered an obligate parasite because it cannot complete its life cycle without a host plant.
Common host plants for this plant are in the Sunflower Family especially the Ambrosia genus (such as Canyon Ragweed, Triangleleaf Bursage, and Burro Brush in Sabino) and Encelia (Brittlebush). These Orabanche plants were all somewhat near to Brittlebushes and thus is host plant for those in the photos.

close up of flower

Note that the paintbrushes and owl clovers which have leaves containing chlorophyll are able to make their own food and don’t necessarily need a host plant (so they are not obligate parasites). Owl clover will sometimes use lupines as a host and the reason that you might find lots of owl clover in fields of lupine (like in Catalina State Park).

Thanks, Fred and Mary, for another great find!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My favorite Mustards

Spring (i.e., February and March) in Sabino Canyon means plants in the Mustard family (Brassicaceae) are blooming. Plants in this family generally have small (sometimes very tiny) four-petaled flowers. Flowers - and, of course, the subsequent fruits - are arranged in a spiral-staircase pattern around the stem. You can see this pattern well on the two examples below. 

Photos by Ned Harris 2/16/2015

Lace Pod Mustard (aka Fringe Pod Mustard) (Thysanocarpus curvipes) bears intricate fruits. Take a closer look and be amazed.

Jewel Flower (aka Silverbells) (Streptanthus carinatus ssp arizonicus) is blooming now. Head out and take a look!

Big thanks to Ned for taking photos whenever I point!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

That's right, you're not from Texas...

All photos by Ned Harris 2/16/2015

These delicate beauties have the unfortunate common name Texas Toadflax (Linaria texana). They are now in the Plantain family, like Snapdragon Vine (aka Roving Sailor) (Maurandya antirrhiniflora) and Parry Penstemon (Penstemon parryi).

Another in the purple color range is Desert Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus). This same species sometimes blooms white. Still waiting to see the other lupine in bloom, namely Elegant Lupine (Lupinus concinnus). Both are in the Pea family.

And another beauty with a rather unfortunate common name: Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. pauciflorum). In the Asparagus family with the agaves and Bear Grass.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Big Root and Fruit

As we like to say, this one's in the book! Page 71 in A Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon.

Photos by Ned Harris 2/16/2015

Big Root aka Wild Cucumber (Marah gilensis) is growing in the Hackberry (and other) bushes along the road before the Bear Bridge. Loads of it along the road into Sabino Canyon, too. Look for this vine among bushes in trees. A big patch is growing on the ground just after Bridge 5.
Big Root is the spring bloomer; Balsam Apple (Echinopepon wrightii) is the fall bloomer in the same family.

This is the developing fruit (fruit = the thing that holds/contains the seeds) of Big Root. Note the flower is still attached. The fruits are generally about the size of a golf ball when ripe and are covered with spikes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter showers give us flowers

First up for flower week, Evening Primroses...

Photos by Ned Harris 2/16/2015

Both above are Yellow Desert Primrose (Oenothera primiveris). These beauties grow low to the ground. They have 4 pale yellow, heart-shaped petals. The flowers open late at night and close early. Look low and look early. We saw a number of these along the road into Bear Canyon, before you reach the Bear Canyon Bridge. 

This one is called Mustard Evening Primrose (Camissonia californica). It looks like a mustard in the way the flowers are arranged along the tall stem. This particular plant had the thickest stem I've ever seen! Mustard Evening Primroses are usually much more delicate, less trunk like!
We saw these along the east side between the Bear Canyon and Dam bridges; also in the dam area, under and among other plants. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Today in Butterflies

Photos by Marty Horowitz 2/13/2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Harris's v. Cooper's

Mark writes:

For the first time in eight years of birding Sabino Dam, we saw a Harris's hawk perched in the riparian area (2/14/2015). This beauty was on the snag between the dam structure and the Cooper’s hawk nest tree. It was closely shadowed by two adult Cooper’s hawks. After after a tense stand-off one Cooper’s hawk dove at the Harris hawk letting out a raucous KACK-KACK-KACK and chased it off.

Photos by Mark Hengesbaugh 2/14/2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nest is best

Photo by Alan Kearney 2/11/2015

Anna's Hummingbird on her beautiful nest. Click on the photo for a closer view. Note the webbing integrated with the plant materials.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ragged Rock Flower

Photo by Ned Harris 2/11/2015

Ragged Rock Flower (Crossosoma bigelovii

This plant is a shaggy bush that likes a bit of elevation. There's at least one plant on the Bluff Trail (where this photo was taken); a lot more on the Phoneline Trail. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wolfberry in bloom

Photo by Ned Harris 2/11/2015

Sara Orangetip (male) nectaring on Wolfberry (Lycium exsertum) flower. You're sure to ask: "How do you know that's a male butterfly?" My answer: "Fred said." And Fred Heath knows butterflies.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/11/2015

Queen nectaring on Wolfberry (Lycium exsertum) flower. Wolfberry is in the Nightshade family; fruits look like very mini-tomatoes. And they are edible. As with all things you find outside, don't make haste to taste, unless you know what you are doing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It doesn't matter what you wear...

Tohono Chul photo

Our very own Lyn Hart, tapestry artist and naturalist extraordinaire, has another work in the upcoming Tohono Chul show! (That's her tapestry in the photo above!) Here are the details, most importantly:  RECEPTION WITH THE ARTISTS  Friday, February 20, 5:30 - 7:30pm

Sonoran Desert: Large and Small
February 20, 2015 – April 26, 2015 | Main Gallery
The exhibition honors the 30th anniversary of TOHONO CHUL as it investigates the contrasting wonders of scale, space, and sequence unique to the flora, fauna, and landscape of the Sonoran Desert, the most biologically diverse desert in North America.

Photo by Ned Harris 2/11/2014

Get out there!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Winter Bird Love

Marty saw about a dozen of each species - Western Bluebird and Cedar Waxwing - respectively, in this mesquite, but only these two got cozy on that windy day!

All photos by Marty Horowitz 2/12/2015

Aren't they gorgeous?!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bunny Love

Alan and Marty were the only people quiet enough to see (and photograph) this Desert Cottontail! (Record crowd for Ned's Nature Walk on 2/11/2105.)
Desert Cottontails are well camouflaged and they also use stillness to avoid detection. As the first graders (in my group a few weeks ago) explained it, when Desert Cottontails hear a predator, they freeze.

Photo by Alan Kearney 2/11/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/11/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/11/2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Snout and about

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/11/2015

American Snout hanging out on Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmanni var. engelmanni) pad

Photo by Ned Harris 2/11/2015

American Snout nectaring on Wolfberry (Lycium exsertum) flowers

Loads of these and other butterflies are out and about in Sabino Canyon. Get out there!

Friday, February 13, 2015

And the award for year's first Gila Monster goes to....

Fred and Mary! Here's their story:

While at Sabino today (2/9/2015) searching for butterflies, Mary came across this lazy and slow moving Gila Monster near some Euryops just off the main tram road. Since I was descending the Bluff Trail when she called me to let me know, she promised to keep an eye on it while I hurried to the scene. Luckily, it was somewhat slowing moving and she didn’t have to grab it by the tail to hold it until I got there. [Anne's note: He's kidding about touching a Gila Monster.]
We noticed that he (or she) was not as skinny of some of the monsters we saw early last spring. However we noticed it was fairly dull-colored. As you can see from the head shot and more clearly from the back leg photo, it was clearly in process of shedding. The bottom of the legs where the skin has been shed is a brighter pinky-orange than the rest of the creature.
Because finding Gila Monsters appears to be a regular occurrence in Sabino Canyon, it is just enough reason why the place is so special and we are lucky to live nearby.

All photos by Fred Heath 2/9/2015

Head shot

Back leg, close up

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Plant pulling party!

Photos by Marty Horowitz 2/2/2015

Both butterflies are nectaring from an invasive plant called Sweet Resin Bush (Euryops multifidus). (Yes, it's in the Sunflower/Aster family.) Some of the Sabino Plant People will be pulling (and probably digging) out a patch of this (north of the main trail) on 2/13/15. If you see us, stop and chat!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Two Houses

Thank you to everyone who wrote in about yesterday's bird. I got the sparrow part! Really, though, you're looking at a House Sparrow. I fixed the post, too.

Time for a plant rant! Hooray!
Please note that explanations on this blog are generally at the curious 10-year-old level; not for the expert or specialist. Please alert me to errors within that context.

The flowers of most flowering plants have both male and female parts on the same flower; these flowers are called perfect. Some flowering plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant; these plants are called monoecious. (e.g., Arizona Black Walnut Juglans major, Mexican Blue Oak Quercus oblongifolia).
A few flowering plants have separate male and female plants. These plants are called dioecious. Let's look at one example that's blooming now, namely: Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis).

Photos by Matt Ball 2/7/2015

This is the male plant. These flowers produce pollen; pollen is the plant equivalent of sperm in the animal world. There's always a lot more pollen than eggs!

This is a close-up of a female flower (on a female Jojoba plant : -) As in the animal world, the female has the egg(s)! If this female flower is pollinated (the egg is fertilized), the embryo will develop into the seed (which is contained in the fruit). The seed is the (potential) next generation.

Other dioecious plants include Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) and Fourwing Saltbush (Atriplex canescens).

Further reading for the plant curious.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

No Vacancy

Photo by Matt Ball 2/6/2015

House Sparrow (thanks to all for the correction) taking advantage of a ready-made nest in a saguaro near Sabino Canyon.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lizards are out!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/7/2015

Common Side-blotched lizard soaking up some heat!

Photo by Matt Ball 2/7/2015

Matt and I saw this speedy Gila Monster in Saguaro East!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Doozy from Suzi

Photo by Suzi Manthorpe
Object in photo is larger than actual!

Mantis Egg Casings have appeared here more than once, but they are worth a closer look. Usually found on some type of plant (often, a tree), some mantises go for a gneiss spot. If you see holes in the casing, you know that a wasp took advantage of the slow hardening.
In the coming weeks, look for signs of mantises hatching.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Spring is in the air!

Photos by Marty Horowitz 2/4/2015

Spring has sprung! Spring Azure butterflies are fluttering about and nectaring on Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla), one of the first flowering plants to bloom in the spring.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Closer Look

Photos by Marty Horowitz 2/4/2015

AZ Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) spines, commonly known as fish hooks.

Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) fruits, commonly known as berries.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Other birds seen and heard

Photo by Ned Harris 1/21/2015

House Finch, female

Photo by Ned Harris 1/21/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 2/4/2015