Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Make a Wish!

Photo by Gene Spesard 3/11/2015

Wishbone Bush (Mirabilis laevis var. villosa)

Photo by Matt Ball 3/5/2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

High and low

Photo by Phil Bentley 3/18/2015

Parry's Penstemon (Penstemon parryi) up high on the Esperero Trail.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/18/2015

Barestem Larkspur (Delphinium scaposum) has been seen on the Esperero and Phoneline trails, as well as along the road into Bear Canyon. Wow.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/16/2015

Marty saw this lone Desert Mariposa Lily (Calochortus kennedyi) on the Esperero trial just before the intersection with the Rattlesnake trail.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/18/2015

Arizona Blue Eyes (Evolvulus arizonicus) is in the Morning Glory family. And lowest, but not least, Miniature Wool Star (Eriastrum diffusum) is in the Phlox family.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

One tiny egg for hummingbird-kind!

This report from Phil Bentley about the return of the hummingbirds to his yard (near Sabino Canyon). Phil writes:

This is the third year hummingbirds have built a nest almost on the same branch of our little lemon tree. The first picture was yesterday (3/20/2015) when I first noticed the nest and the second picture is this morning (3/21/2015) with one egg in it. That is a standard US stamp with the appropriate image next to it to show the scale.

Photo by Phil Bentley 3/20/2015

Photo by Phil Bentley 3/21/2015

Thanks, Phil! And all the best to the new parents for a successful hatching, feeding, and fledging!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Perfect Pea

Photo by Ned Harris 3/11/2015

Coursetia (aka Baby Bonnets) (Coursetia glandulosa) is blooming in force in Sabino Canyon. It's a great example of plants in the Pea Family (Fabaceae), which is the third largest family represented in the canyon (after Sunflower/Aster and Grass families).

The rest of this post is for the more interested learner, like you!
What makes Coursetia a great example of the Pea Family, you ask? Let's take a look at the three Fs: Foliage (green stuff), Flowers, and Fruits (things that contain/hold the seeds).

Photo by Matt Ball

The foliage of many Pea family plants can be described as: a line down the middle with leaves on either side. (See examples above.) The leaves are directly across from one another; size of leaves is irrelevant. If you see a plant that has this type of foliage, look at the flowers and/or fruits to determine if it's in the Pea Family. Most of the time, if  two of the three Fs are 'correct,' you can say with reasonable certainty that you are looking at a Pea Family plant. Remember this phrase: Two out of three, must be a pea. 

Close up of Coursetia flower by Matt Ball, finger by Anne
Don't try this on flowers in the canyon, please

The typical Pea family flower has 5 petals - one banner petal at the top (I'm holding this one in the photo above), 2 wing petals on either side, and 2 petals that form the keel (like the bottom of a boat), sometimes (as above) the 2 keel petals are fused.** Again, 5 petals - banner, 2 wings, 2 keel petals, sometimes fused together. (The non-petals you see above are the male and female reproductive parts.)
**Does every Pea family plant have this type of flower? No. Remember: For our purposes for Pea family plants in Sabino Canyon, 2 of 3, must be a pea.

Close up of Coursetia fruits by Ned Harris, hand by Anne

The typical Pea family plant has fruits (fruit = the thing that holds the seeds) that are pods. (Think Mesquite beans).**
**Does every Pea family plant have this type of fruit? No. Remember: For our purposes in Sabino Canyon, 2 of 3, must be a pea.

Will this work 100% of the time? Again, no. But it's a way to take a first step in learning more about plants. Try it out, if you'd like. You'll find that there are many, many plants in the Pea family (Fabaceae)!

Friday, March 27, 2015

More 'New' Flowers

We saw some new-to-me and/or seldom-seen plants on a recent Ned's Nature Walk. Thanks to Bob and Marty for these great shots.

Photo by Bob Wenrick 3/18/2015

You're not alone in thinking this plant looks like countless others! Yes, it's in the Sunflower/Aster family. Sand-wash Groundsel (Senecio flaccidus var. monoensis).

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/18/2015

We saw this beauty by the dam. Water Speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) is in the same family (Plantain) as the penstemons and Snapdragon Vine (aka Roving Sailor) (Maurandya antirrhiniflora).

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/18/2015

We've seen this plant before, but not in such numbers. Marina (Marina parryi) is in the Pea family. We saw loads in the area around the dam, also along the Esperero trail, especially after the intersection with the Rattlesnake trail.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bird Updates

Photo by Lenor Lavelle 3/12/2014

As of 3/12/2015, the 'baby' Mourning Doves were still in Lenor's yard. She writes:

The adolescents are still in our yard! I was just out there watering my little wildflower bed and thought I'd give the Brittle Bush a squirt. When I did these two little guys walked out from behind it. I apologized profusely for disturbing them. Then got the camera and took their picture, using the zoom of course.

Photo by Kris Benson 3/14/2015

Kris caught this male Northern Cardinal waiting for the shuttle. 

Photo by Ned Harris 3/11/2015

Beautiful Black-throated Sparrow on blooming Creosote Bush (Larrea divaricata var. tridentata)

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/13/2015

And this male Anna's Hummingbird would like to remind you to check out the hummingbird banding in Sabino Canyon. Schedule available here

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Eastern Collared Lizard Sightings

Photo by Ned Harris 3/11/2015

Photo by Alan Kearney 3/11/2015

The two photos above are of the same individual, an Eastern Collared Lizard, likely an immature male.

Photo by The Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography 3/15/2015

If we had our lizard-pattern scanner, we could check if this is also the same individual. Seen days later, but in the same general area of the Esperero Trail.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/16/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/14/2016

As always, click on the photos for larger views. And look, but don't touch or try to catch, these and all lizards.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Empress and the Pea

Photo by Ned Harris 3/11/2015

Empress Leilia on (Pea family plant) Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Snake sightings - and great bonus video!

Photo by Mary Horowitz 3/18/2015

Photo by Ricki Mensching 3/14/2015

Photo by Elaine Padovani 2/24/2015

Two males in sync! They aren't dancing, though, they're fighting. See Elaine's video here! And note the comment from the rattlesnake expert. What a great capture!! Thanks to Elaine for allowing me to post this. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Speaking of the Borage family...

Photo by Bob Wenrick 3/18/2015

Next to the gneiss rock, you see a fine example of a flowering plant in the Borage family (with a bonus caterpillar). Click on the photo and note the hairy foliage (i.e., green stuff) characteristic of this family. This is Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia).

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/18/2015

This Borage family plant is serving a White Checkered-Skipper some nectar. Again, click on the photo for a hairier view of the foliage (stem, leaves). This is one of the Phacelia species (probably Phacelia distans).

For the more interested learner:
In order to figure out to which family a flowering plant belongs, we look at the three Fs; Foliage (green stuff), Flower, and Fruit (the thing that contains/holds the seeds). For the Borage family, we're looking for hairy foliage, small flowers with parts in fives, and tiny fruits (usually need a magnifier to distinguish between species).**

For the even more interested learner:
When you recognize that a plant in Sabino Canyon is in the Borage family, you can narrow things down further by consulting Joan Tedford's plant list (that I'll provide upon polite request). There are only 21 species of Borage family plants in Sabino Canyon. I know you're thinking: "Anne, that's a lot of species." But you know that Amsinckia species (2) are yellow-orange; all the Cryptantha (3), Pectocarya (3), and Plagiobothrys species (2) are white; the Phacelia species (5) are purple/blue; well, that's 15 (of the 21) right there. (Make those notes on your list and you'll know as much as I do!)
More importantly, though, once you can recognize plants in the Borage family, you'll be able to recognize this family in other places.**

**Will this family approach work 100% of the time? Of course not, but in my experience, it's easier to learn this way than to memorize each individual plant. Try it out and see how it works for you.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Monster sightings

Photo by Wayne Klement 3/1/2015

Wayne saw this Gila Monster on the Phone Line trail, before the turn-off to Blackett's.

Photo by Bob Wenrick 3/18/2015

We saw this beauty on Ned's Nature Walk. Compare Bob's photo to Wayne's and you'll see that these are two distinct Gila Monsters. Their patterns are unique, like human fingerprints.

Photos by Marty Horowitz 3/18/2015

After the Gila Monster crossed the road, s/he stayed around to be photographed by Marty.

Click this photo for larger view

In this zoomed-in view by Marty, you can also see some plants : -) Specifically, the developing fruits of a Borage family plant (in the lower left) called Arch-nutted Comb Bur (Pectocarya recurvata). This plant has white flowers that are even tinier then the white flowers of the Cryptantha species; and, of course, the hairy foliage characteristic of this family.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bye Bye Birdies!

Photo by The Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography 3/4/2015

As spring in the desert winds down (and dry summer season starts heating up), we say farewell to our favorite snow birds (both avian and human). To you and to this flock of Cedar Waxwings we say: See you next year!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New plant for me (and maybe thee)

Photos by Matt Ball 3/5/2015

Close up of flowers and developing fruits

Along the Phoneline trail, I noticed a bushy plant in bloom that I didn't recognize. I knew what it wasn't, but didn't know what it was. (That happens frequently.) Asked my Honey-Matt to take some photos, then did some digging. It's in the Madder Family, like Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) (which blooms after the monsoons) - and is called Desert Bedstraw (Galium stellatum var. eremicum). Go out and take a look!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Phlox Family

Photo by Matt Ball 3/5/2015

This is a Gilia (I think it's Gilia mexicana, but please correct me if needed). Seen on the Phoneline trail - and other places.

Another Phlox family plant that's blooming now is Miniature Wool Star (Eriastrum diffusum). Look for it along the main path from the parking lot into Bear Canyon. Look low.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet at Sabino Dam

Photos by Bob Wenrick 3/7/2015

Text by Mark Hengesbaugh: 

This 4-inch fowl's name is a riddle. Why is a flycatcher species that travels no farther north than southeastern Arizona "northern"? For that matter, what bird isn't "beardless"? And how tyrannical can a quarter-ounce critter get?
Research enlightened me. It’s a tyrannulet because it is a small member of the Tyrant Flycatcher family, which includes cheeky flycatchers like the kingbird. "Beardless" because it lacks rictal bristles, those stiff hair-like feathers projecting from the base of a bill. Rictal bristles help protect delicate facial parts like nostrils and may play a sensory function, like antennas. Northern? It is the northern-most representative of a large subfamily of tyrannid flycatchers mostly native to South America.
Only five percent of Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets venture into our southeastern Arizona backyards, most live in central Mexico. They are found in riparian woods and mesquite groves eating insects, spiders and berries. We saw two at the dam, which may be a nesting pair.
So, if a group of crows is called a "murder," what’s a group of beardless tyrannulets? A "shaving."
You can look it up.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Two Mustards

Hiked the Phoneline trail, took the link across the creek, picked up Rattlesnake trail, and went back along Esperero. My Honey-Matt photographed many and various flowering plants for me. (And he cooks, too!)

Photos by Matt Ball 3/5/2015

Many plants in the Mustard family (Brassicaceae) are blooming now (and I stop for all of them, as those on Ned's nature walks know well). Plants in the Mustard family generally have small, 4-petaled flowers and elaborate fruits. Note the distinctive spiral-staircase pattern along the stem.
White Bladderpod (Physaria purpurea) mustards (photo above) are on the Phoneline trail and Phoneline link in great numbers.

These beauties are not as numerous on the Phoneline and link trails, but they are worth looking for. The flower petals of Rockmustards (Dryopetalon runcinatum) are scalloped, sometimes tinged with pink, and the fruits are long and thin.

Thanks, Honey-Matt!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Two Lupines

Photos by Ned Harris 3/4/2015

Two species of lupine in Sabino Canyon; the blue-purple one above is Desert Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus). The pink-white flowers below have already been pollinated. The color changes so that the insect pollinators know not to bother with that flower - it's on its way to developing fruit. There are loads of these along the roads.

This one has likes sandy soil, has hairy leaves, and blooms pinkish. (It doesn't grow as tall, generally, as the Desert Lupine.) It's called Elegant Lupine (Lupinus concinnus). They are numerous in the sand by the dam.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sabino spring mornings

Text and photos by Mark Hengesbaugh: 

Spring (February, March) in Sabino Canyon is excellent for wildlife viewing. Birds, for example, are now defending territories, finding mates, and building nests. They are bold, singing out, and their feathers are especially resplendent. Other animals are astir as well. Here are a few recent photos from mornings in the canyon:

Gila Monster (not a bird : -)

Thanks, Mark!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Butterfly Whisperer

Photos by Ned Harris 3/4/2015

Patricia was a butterfly whisperer on Ned's Nature Walk! This Red Admiral stayed quite a while on her arm.

Photo by The Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography 3/6/2015

A few days later, another sighting in the same area. May be waiting for Patricia...