Friday, July 31, 2015

Hummingbird and bonus : - )

Photo by Ned Harris 7/26/2015

And a live webcam of the activities in and on a well-wired nest at the Environmental Building (still under construction) at the U of A.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hear ye, hear ye!

Photo by Ned Harris 7/19/2015

This Rock Squirrel is pleased to announce that Your Daily Dose of Sabino Canyon receives an average of 500 views each day. Wow! Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Blooming now! And bonus video

Photo by Ned Harris 7/16/2015

Copper Purslane (Portulaca suffrutescens) is blooming in the sand in the dam area. Go take a look.

And check out this fun video about plants! (Mustards are featured : -)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Climbing Milkweed

Photo by Ned Harris 7/19/2015

Climbing Milkweed (Funastrum cynanchiodes ssp hartwegii) is blooming at higher elevations. All kinds of insects - including this Sonoran Bumblebee - nectar from this beautiful plant.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Counting Butterflies

Bill went on the butterfly count in Sabino Canyon on Saturday 7/18/2015. He counted - and photographed - these beauties.

Photos by Bill Kaufman 7/18/2015

Fatal Metalmarks on Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) flowers

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Photo by Ned Harris 7/16/2015

A developing fruit of a Limber Bush (Jatropha cardiophylla). Remember, a fruit is the thing that contains/holds/transports the seed(s).
Speaking of seeds, I highly recommend the book: The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson. (Yes, Thor.) Written for the non-expert, full of wit and wisdom. A true delight.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Photo by Ned Harris 7/16/2015

Regal Horned lizard, as large as Ned's open hand. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Things with wings

In the insect world, (the vast majority of) adults have wings.

All photos by Ned Harris 7/16/2015

Note that AZdragonfly dot net has moved to

Gray Bird Grasshopper

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Still-y Rabbit

Photo by Ned Harris 7/16/2015

Desert Cottontail uses protective stillness to escape notice. Doesn't always work on keen-eyed photographers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tripping over the nighthawk fantastic

Photo by Don Eagle July 2015

Don is a docent at Tohono Chul Park; he and others have seen two eggs under this Lesser NighthawkShe's incubating, then, not just waiting for you to trip over her. T. Beth Kinsey (of The Firefly Forest) says it best:

Because Lesser Nighthawks nest on the bare ground and are so well camouflaged with their mottled plumage, it is possible to unintentionally stumble across one of their nests.

Thanks to Peggy for the initial news of this extreme camouflage.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Teaching a tiger to read

Photo by Marty Horowitz July 2015

If you can't go to the critters, make the critters come to you. Marty won't be able to go to the canyon for a bit, so he's staying home and teaching this young Tiger Whiptail to read. (No one was harmed in this project.)

Monday, July 20, 2015


Mark Hengesbaugh is today's guest blogger:

This morning (7/19/2015) I heard the frantic, continuous chirping, buzzing, and ticking of a mob of small birds in the copse of willow and ash on the east side of the creek at Sabino Dam. I slipped in and found Lesser Goldfinch, Abert’s Towhees and Verdins popping in and out—noisy and furious. Even pairs of Broad-billed Hummingbirds zipped in and out of the canopy like kids chasing each other at a picnic. Nothing gets birds as excited as the presence of a small owl. Mobbing is when individuals of different species cooperate in harassing a nearby predator. After 10 minutes I finally spotted this cryptic Western Screech Owl, which according to the book weighs 5-ounces and is about 8-inches long.

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 7/19/2015

Thanks, Mark!

Anne says: In German, Mobbing means bullying. (Hi Alexa!)

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Photo by Dancing Snake Nature Photography July 2015

You'll want to click on this photo for a larger view of the light off the wings. Looks like tiny jewels. And go to page 5 here for fun cicada facts.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pincushions in bloom

Photos by Matt Ball 7/12/2015

Fishhook Pincushion (Mammillaria grahamii) cacti are blooming again in the canyon. This species is usually fewer than 6 inches tall, so look low and look under other plants. The flower petals can be various shades of pink, sometimes they look striped. The flowers are perfect; that means they have both male and female parts in each flower. The male parts are the orange things; pollen is in the tips. The female parts are taller and lime green; the egg(s) is (are) at the base of the tube formed by the green things. (As is my custom, I'm using simple terms for the flower parts. You can look up the specifics, if you are interested.) Insects help the reproductive process.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mean Squirrel

Photo by Gene Spesard 5/25/2015

Don't be fooled by their playfulness and outright cuteness. Round-tailed Ground Squirrels can turn to the dark side. This one, photographed by Gene at great personal peril, is known as Darth Nibbler.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Plant Rant

Photos by Gene Spesard 5/25/2015

This unusual-looking plant is in the Sedge family (Cyperaceae). I'm pretty sure it's Bearded Flat-sedge (Cyperus squarrosus) (but there are very few good photos online of plants in this family, besides Gene's above). They are often overlooked, because they aren't particularly showy. The mop heads (not the scientific term : -) are the flowers. Look for these along the creek. The flowers will turn brown, sometimes almost rust colored, as they age.

And a bonus book recommendation: A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants by Ruth Kassinger.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hide 'n' Seek

Photo by Gene Spesard 5/25/2015

Click on the photo to find the animal. If this is your spirit animal, it's your 21st birthday! You know who you are!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Blooming Bush

Photos by Matt Ball 7/5/2015

Limber Bush (Jatropha cardiophylla) is blooming. The white flowers are tiny; you'll walk right by them if you aren't paying attention. As its English common name suggests, the stems are very flexible. The sap in the stems stains a blood-red color; hence the common name in Spanish:  Sangre de cristo (blood of Christ).

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sabino Secret

Photo by Matt Ball 7/5/2015

Yes, there are snails in the hills! In David Wentworth Lazaroff's book Sabino Canyon: The Life of a Southwestern Oasis, you'll find his very similar photo on page 39. On this same page, David writes:

Dwelling inconspicuously among the fallen boulders that litter the slopes is a fascinating but little-known animal named for this canyon, a snail called the Sabino sonorella. Living sonorellas are rarely seen, as they spend most of their time hidden beneath the rocks, emerging at dusk in wet weather to feed on lichens, mosses, and decaying vegetation. Empty shells found in the open are evidence that feeding snails are often ambushed by predators, and a shell's condition is a clue to the predator's identity. Small rodents bite holes through the tops of shells to extract the snails, but carnivorous beetles and the voracious larvae enter through the front door, leaving the shells intact. 

If you don't already have this book, you can purchase a copy in the visitor center bookstore.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Beam me up!

Photo by Gene Spesard 6/24/2015

And check out this video and article about the Pluto flyby on 14 July.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Never too many

Photo by Gene Spesard 6/3/2015

You can never see too many Gila Monsters!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Past Butterflies

All Photos by Marty Horowitz 5/5/2015

Texan Crescent, on window

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Another crest

Photos by Mark Hengesbaugh 5/5/2015

Even chollas can form crests. This Chainfruit (aka Jumping) Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida var. fulgida or var. mammillata) is located on the path between the parking lot and the fence along Remount Rd.

As I've mentioned, there are various reasons for crest formation, but all crests form at a growing tip. Other plants form crests as well. Kim Gregory sent in this link about fasciation (cresting) that's fascinating : -) Thanks, Kim.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Corrections, too

A Desert Spiny was mislabeled as a collared lizard in the series. Oops.

Photo by Gene Spesard 6/26/2015

Yes, there is a collar, but this is definitely a Desert Spiny lizard.

Photo by Ned Harris

The other spiny in the canyon is Clark's Spiny. Note that both spiny lizards have dragon-like scales.

The collared lizard in the canyon is the Eastern Collared lizard.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Corrections (aka Arizona Daily Star) recently ran a series of lizard photos; several were mislabeled. Let's take a look at two that are easy to misidentify: Greater Earless vs. Zebra-tailed. Both species are about the same size and shape, and both wag their tails to distract predators. Using a few tips and tricks, you can tell them apart.

Photo by Ned Harris 6/26/2015

Click on the photo for a larger view. Note the two bars near the back leg. Note also the lack of black bands on the tail. This is a Greater Earless. (Obvious bars near the groin mean male.) Bars at all near the groin - think: G for groin, G for Greater Earless. (More photos at the link.)

Photo by Gene Spesard 6/13/2015

Click on this photo, too. Note the dark bars are NOT by the back leg. They are by the front leg (armpit). A for Armpit means A Zebra-tailed : -) Note also that the dark bands on the tail go all the way around. (Look, too, at the photos on the linked page.)

Photo by Ned Harris 6/26/2015

In the lizard world, females and juveniles are generally more subtle in terms of colors and markings. Nevertheless, you can tell that the lizard above is a Zebra-tailed because 1) the bars, though subtle, are closer to the front legs than the back; and 2) the dark bands are clearly on the top of the tail. (They'll also be clear underneath, but the top is the tell.) Click on the photo for a larger view.

Photo by Ned Harris 6/26/2015

Again, this one is subtle. Look for the bars. Which leg are they closest to? Yes, G for Groin. You've got a Greater Earless here. (If that weren't enough, note the lack of dark bands on the top of the tail.)

Of course, I'm occasionally in need of a correction (or two). I'm always happy to learn something new. And here's the latest from this Jackrabbit post (I corrected the post as well.) Vivian writes:

I think these may be Antelope Jackrabbits. I know they are similar, but the Black-Tailed have black on the tips of their ears, and usually have black coming up from their tails a little. I could be wrong, but I walk daily in Saguaro Park East, and these are my favorite things to look for. I see many more Antelope than Black-Tailed, but always love to see both.
And I received a similar info from Jean. Thank you both!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hear all year

Photo by Ned Harris (Ned is now over 3 million views on flickr!) 6/26/2015

Close up by Ned Harris 6/26/2015

The aptly named Curve-Billed Thrasher is a bird you'll see - and hear - here all year. Males and females look the same. Hooray. Their call sounds like: whit-wheet. A bit bigger than a cardinal, a bit smaller than a dove.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Odd couple

All photos by Ned Harris 6/26/2015

Sonoran Desert Toad (click photos for larger views)

From this link:

The bullfrog is native to the eastern United States. The date of first introduction to Arizona is unknown, but they were introduced to California in the 1890s, and by the late 1920s the species was reportedly common on the Colorado River at Yuma. Bullfrogs are awesome and voracious predators. Predation by bullfrogs has contributed to the decline and extirpations of native leopard frogs and gartersnakes. They are one of the biggest challenges to the recovery of the Mexican gartersnake and threatened Chiricahua leopard frog. Elimination of bullfrog populations is achievable in small, manageable wetlands, but is difficult or impossible in lakes, rivers, agriculture, and other complex habitats. Bullfrogs are also a vector for chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that is killing frogs and toads around the globe. By Jim Rorabaugh

In terms of reproduction, these pairings aren't going to be successful (as these are different species). We might want to find out how big of a problem the American Bullfrogs are in Sabino Creek. Any experts out there?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

It's like looking in a mirror!

Photo by Matt Ball 5/8/2015
taken at Saguaro East

Jackrabbits face off!
Thanks to Vivian and Jean for the update.
These are probably Antelope Jackrabbits (not Black-tailed). 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Five years ago today

Eastern Collared Lizard
Photo by Matt Ball

Five years ago today, I posted for the first time! A lot has happened, of course, and this blog has become Your Daily Dose of Sabino Canyon. Thank you for your support and readership!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Water Art

All photos of Sabino Creek, by Marty Horowitz




And a bonus poem by Ofelia Zepeda. Thanks to Patricia for sending.