Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Crested Mystery

Photo by Jeannie Hutchins, March 2015

Jeannie sent this photo to Mark Hengesbaugh, then to me, wondered if it might be the world's shortest crested saguaro. It looked to me, though, like someone tried to re-plant a crest that had broken off. Mark investigated further and solved the mystery.

Photo (and shadow) by Mark Hengesbaugh 3/24/2015

Mark writes:

Jeannie Hutchins's cactus find turned out to be a cristate barrel, which accounts for its stubby shape. It is in a very difficult spot under a low-hanging mesquite so it’s unlikely to have been re-planted.

Close-up view by Mark Hengesbaugh 3/24/2015

Anne says: Note the curved spines on the crest. Saguaros have straight spines.

See this site for crested saguaros, and this post for more crested barrels.

Thanks, Mark, for solving this mystery.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Scat and Tracks

For some time now, I've been keeping a rainy-day file of photos and stories that aren't necessarily as time sensitive as, say, mating Sonoran Desert Toads. For today's post, I'm reaching into that file to share a scat story and an update to a post about tracks.

Photos (and shoe) by Wayne Klement, March 2015

See page 16 of your copy of A Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon. Hair - check; black color - check. Carnivore. Segmented - check, relatively large - check, lots - check. Looks like Mountain Lion scat.

And an update on the Talkin' Tracks post from January 2015. Jim Chumpley sent in this answer (I've put his answer on the post itself as well):

Those are skunk tracks, either striped or hooded. Raccoon would be much larger. Ringtail more round and the claw marks wouldn't be so far out in front of the track.

Now you know!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Before and After

Photo by Bill Kaufman, May 2015

Looks imposing, rising from the depths, but this exoskeleton of a dragonfly nymph is not going to pursue you. After hatching from eggs, nymphs eat, grow, and shed their exoskeletons. Their final shed brings wings - and you know what that means! Adulthood. Hooray!
According to bug expert Carl Olson, this is the nymph exoskeleton of a dragonfly from the Libellulidae family, which is the largest family and includes the skimmers.

Photo by Bill Kaufman 5/22/2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Raven Lunatic

Photo by Matt Ball 5/8/2015

Raven practices yoga on saguaro. Don't try this at home!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Creek Critters

Photos by Ned Harris 6/10/2015

This critter may look like a bit of debris, but she's actually a Backswimmer. These insects inject their prey (other insects, and even tadpoles and small Gila Chub) with digesting enzymes and suck out the resulting goo. Yum.

This little tadpole (most likely a soon-to-be Canyon Tree Frog) might want to swim away...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bone Dry

Lyn writes:

We've had a number of Great Horned owls on our property over the years, some (mostly juveniles) died. Dennis found a carcass last year, and he made a hardware cloth "cage" that allowed insects access, but nothing else. He wedged it securely in an area where we wouldn't smell it and other animals could not carry it away. He unearthed it this morning (6/14/2015) and [the photos below show] the result. The skull has been exposed and one of the scleral ring bones (the structure that looks like a collar of sorts extending out of the right eye socket) was preserved. This structure is what causes ocular immobility in the owl, hence the need for the great range they have in turning their heads. The bone stabilizes the eye, which is not a "ball" per se, but is more tube shaped.
This article has more info

Photos by Lyn, Hand by Dennis, skull of unnamed Great Horned Owl 6/14/2015

Big thanks to Dennis and Lyn for this eye-witness report. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bee Smart

Photo by Ned Harris 6/3/2015

This Carpenter Bee, though large, could probably fit into the very large Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) flower; but instead, s/he is using another strategy to get nectar, namely, crewing a hole at the base.

Bonus Notes from Ned on Carpenter Bees:

The only really large bees in the Southwest that are metallic blue-black to black. The most common ones are about an inch long and as wide as your thumb. They chew into different types of wood to create nest sites. Female carpenter bees have a stinger and can inflict a painful wound.
Male carpenter bees are similar in size to females, but are blond or tan-colored in some species. The local ones that nest in Yucca, Agave and Sotols are black (both males and females).
They excavate a tunnel about 10 inches long within wood. The female bee then visits local flowers to gather pollen and nectar. The female rolls the pollen into a ball, and pushes it to the back of the tunnel where she lays an egg. She loosely plugs the end with sawdust chips and other materials, forming a chamber roughly one inch long. She then goes to get more pollen and repeats the process until the tunnel is filled with chambers full of growing bees.

And a great bee post from Margarethe Brummermann that deserves another read!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Birds of various shapes and sizes

Photo by Ned Harris 5/20/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 5/24/2015

Northern Cardinal, male - looking like a blond in the light

Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/11/2015

Photo by Ned Harris 6/10/2015

Cooper's Hawk fledgling

And a bonus bird i.d. tool made possible with support from Google, the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, and the National Science Foundation. Thanks to Gene Spesard for sending this article about it. Try it out for free!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Coachwhip on the rocks

Photo by Ned Harris 6/8/2015

From this site:

This fast moving and alert snake forges on the surface during the day. It often hunts with its head elevated high off the ground. [Anne says: See this post.] It is often active in hot conditions when other snakes seek shelter in cool retreats. Encounters with this snake are usually brief as it wastes little time disappearing into nearby cover when threatened. It spends most of its time on the ground but it is a capable climber that is occasionally encountered in trees and on cacti. It hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter. When captured it does not hesitate to bite. If persistently harassed it may feign death by tucking the head down close to the ground and remaining motionless.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Growing pains

Photos by Bill Kaufman 6/3/2015

Canyon Tree Frog getting his/her wings...I mean legs and lungs, of course!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Some Cereus beauty

Honey-Matt and I changed the hummingbird feeders on 6/17/2015. On our way to the site, we stopped to smell (and photograph) the two flowers on the Night-blooming Cereus (Penicereus greggii) plant under the mesquite just past the Esperero trailhead off the main path. On our way out of the canyon, they had both started to close up. So glad we were there early! What a treat!

All photos by Matt Ball 6/17/2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Button Bush Stop

Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) in bloom means that butterflies swoon. Well, they like the flowers, anyway! Some recent visitors to the Button Bushes on the Bear bridge and near the creek by the heart-of-the-canyon rock formation.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/2/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/2/2015

Photo by Ned Harris 6/6/2015

Photo by Ned Harris 6/10/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/2/2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Toad-ally cool!

Photos by Ned Harris 6/10/2015

It rained a bit on Tuesday, 6/9, and Ned and I saw dozens of Sonoran Desert Toads in the pools near the dam the next morning. They were great fun to watch! We let a number of visitors know about them. Click on the link above for more info on these cool critters.

Here comes trouble!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

No love for this

Graffiti in Sabino Canyon. Let's make it stop. Report any information on taggers to the Forest Service. (Or to me, if you'd rather.) The last three are clearly by the same person.

Documented by Ned Harris 6/8/2015, except where noted

Documented by Ned Harris 6/10/2015

I'll let you know if volunteers can help with clean up (and/or supervision of clean up by the perpetrators, who would use toothbrushes and elbow grease, if I were queen). (But don't get me started...)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Love on the rocks, too

Photos by Wayne Klement 5/30/2015

Close up of happy male

Monday, June 15, 2015

Love on the rocks

Desert Spiny lizards, male on the left in the first and third photo

All photos by Alan Kearney 6/3/2015

Love bites!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Purple Martin pair

Photo by Ned Harris 6/6/2015

Purple Martin pair (male on the left)

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Photo by Bill Kaufman 6/2/2015

Greater Roadrunners, strutting their stuff on the Bear Bridge. Who will be the greatest?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hooked on Dancers

Marty has a weighty tome about damselflies and he knows how to use it! He's got a camera, too! Today's selection: Six dancers dancing!
(All photos by Marty Horowitz.)


Aztec Dancer, female