Thursday, December 31, 2015

Water Colors

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/9/2015

Let's continue to reflect beauty in all we do! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Leaves, too

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/3/2015

Wild Cotton (Gossypium thurberi) leaves

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/9/2015

Spectacular colors in the riparian area trees!

As we close out the year, I'd like to thank the photographers and guest bloggers who helped make this blog spectacular again in 2015, especially Ned Harris, photographer extraordinaire; Marty Horowitz, Fred Heath, Mark Hengesbaugh (collectively known as HaHoHeHe)!

Also Bob Wenrick, Gene Spesard, and, of course, my very own Honey-Matt!!

Others include: Phil, Bill, Dennis and Lyn; Alan, Vaughn, and Wayne; Dan, Don, and Daniel; Elaine, Linda, Lenor, Marge, and Roger; Angie, Cindy, Jeannie, Julie, Ricki, Suzi, and Terry; and The Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography!

Thank you all for sharing the beauty of Sabino Canyon with Your Daily Dose!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ragged Rock Flower

Photo by Bob Wenrick 12/9/2015

Ragged Rock Flower (Crossosoma bigelovii) is in bloom along the Bluff trail.

And a bonus book recommendation. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf. High time to give Alexander credit for many ideas about the natural world that we take for granted today.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fall in Winter

All Photos by Julie Miller 12/11/2015. Click on photo for larger view.

Thanks, Julie, for the wonderful walk!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Art of the Damsel

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/3/2015

Looking like abstract art, a Great Spreadwing couple. 

Fred Heath reveals that the Great Spreadwing doesn't deposit her eggs in water. He writes:

They are generally common in Sabino late in the year, but I’ve never seen so many as were along the creek above the dam. Lots were sitting in overhanging branches in tandem. I kept watching to see them oviposit in the water, without success. I have since found out why. According to Dennis Paulson (Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West), they lay eggs "in leaf petioles or stems of herbaceous or woody plants, sometimes well above the water (perhaps highest known odonate oviposition at 44 feet above water)." The newly hatched larva then "….leaps and flips about until it gets to the water…" Who knew!!
Now you know, too!

Click on this link for more photos, including of a female ovipositing on a leaf. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Scary Apples!

On the first Ned-less walk of the season, Jane took some photos to try out her new phone-camera lens, including this one we staged.

Photo by Jane Gellman 12/2/2015

I showed the Fantastic Four (Lyn, Fred, Bob, and Marty) this scary fruit on the 2nd walk, too; and staged another shot for Bob.

Photo by Bob Wenrick 12/9/2015

What is this bizarre-looking thing? I'm so glad you asked. It's the dried fruit of Balsam Apple (Echinopepon wrightii) (Echinopepon = from Greek echinos = spiny, prickly; pepon = large melon). Click the link to see photos of the tiny flowers and green fruits of this plant. There's still a seed in the left section in Bob's photo. On the right side in Jane's.

We first noticed this plant last year in the riparian area above the dam, and this year it has spread to several other areas. Good thing it's a native! I think the dried fruits look like little hedgehogs. Or maybe frightened porcupines!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Pea Family Visitor

Photos and Text (lightly edited) by Mark Hengesbaugh, 12/10/2015

It was a quiet morning in Sabino Canyon parking lot, where all the patrollers are smart and all the naturalists are good looking (and smarter). Nothing out of the ordinary, that is, until a pair of vigilant eyes spotted what appeared to be the mammoth pod of a plant in the pea family. Highly trained naturalists Jean Hengesbaugh and Anne Green tasted the seeds and concluded that shape and texture indicate this rolling pea-holder is modeled after Arachis hypogaea.

Photos by Mark Hengesbaugh 12/10/2015

Highly trained naturalists, out standing in the parking lot

Thanks, Mr. Peanut!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Katydid did join us!

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/9/2015

We were able to point out this wonderfully leaf-like Katydid to a few of the third graders on their nature walk. One student said: "I was looking right at it and I didn't see it!" That, my friends, is camouflage.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Here's looking at you!

Photo by Marty Horowitz  12/6/2015

On the second Ned-less Nature Walk of the season, I asked Fred Heath for an explanation of the great increase in Greater Roadrunner sightings over the last month or so. He revealed that we are seeing a lot of juveniles, as 2015 seems to have been a great year for survival of roadrunner chicks. How cool is that?

Monday, December 21, 2015

And now....

The number one post of all time, from the incomparable Ned Harris, Twin Seed.

New stuff again tomorrow! No extra charge!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Three are two

Full disclosure: I did a two plant presentations for the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists; both included this family (Borage). That may be the reason for Three Borages being at the number two spot. Or maybe everyone just loves these plants. I can always hope.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fire place

Maggie and Loren were on the scene, and their photos are the only ones of this fire on April 24, 2011. (Hi, Ratherts!) Fortunately, the fire was contained relatively quickly and the canyon has since recovered.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Science is the way

A nice explanation, if I do say soap myself.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Most hits this year, too!

The fine folks at SARA posted this to their facebook page (thanks, SARA!), thereby carrying it up to the number 5 spot on the all-time list.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Part 2 is 6

I think Lizards to know: Part 2 from April 25, 2011, is number 6 on the list because of the number 3 post. You'll have to wait for it : -)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Luke, you're seven of 10

The Phainopepla known as Luke is back in Sabino Canyon for the sixth documented season. The photos from Dec 4, 2013 are number seven on the top ten list.

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Ate Eight

This once-in-a-lifetime series from Bob Wenrick "Going for the gold in snake eating" (Sep 15, 2011) is definitely a great eight.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Number Nine

It brings me joy that Rants about Plants (from Nov 6, 2012) is number nine of all time.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Top ten!

I'm really busy with work this month, and I contemplated simply putting the blog on hiatus until January. I thought that might be too disappointing, though, so I compromised. I'm going to recycle by bringing you the top ten posts of all time (i.e., since this blog began on July 4, 2010). (And yes, I realize that doing this will basically cement their position in the top ten for all time.) These are the top ten according to this wonderful free blogging software I use, of course. Thanks, Google!

Number ten is Ellen's speech, from May 22, 2012.

Friday, December 11, 2015

You know they're fruits!

Photo by Matt Ball 11/30/2015

These fruits are so intricate, they're sometimes mistaken for flowers! Note the dark seeds surrounded by off-white fluff. The dried spikey things are the sepals (they hold the flower to the stem). These flowers are long gone, of course, but they're light yellow with 5 separate petals in this species. Coulter Hibiscus (Hibiscus coulteri) is in the Mallow family.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Roadrunners are greater!

On a nice afternoon hike, my Honey-Matt and I saw 4 (Greater) Roadrunners! Photos of 2 of them.

All photos by Matt Ball 11/30/2015

Saw two by the creek, but this one came closer. Another one was seen along the road where the Esperero trail crosses.

And the fourth one was along the Esperero trail coming out of the canyon...

... fearlessly pecking at insects. Beautiful colors and patterns. 

It's so great to be able to see so much life in the canyon, no matter the time or season. As the wise man (Ned Harris) says: "The canyon never disappoints!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Name that fruit yet again!

Photos by Matt Ball 11/18/2015

These are the fruits of Rough Menodora (Menodora scabra). To see the flowers, click on the link. Yes, they're yellow, but this plant is in the Olive family, like Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina).
From the link above:

The flowers are followed by pairs of 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide, translucent, round, green to reddish fruits that dry to a tan color.

I took some fruits (at various stages of maturity) apart, in the name of science.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Just-so Videos

How the hummingbird's tongue works!

How predaceous diving beetles work 

And yes, you can find hummingbirds and PDBeetles in Sabino Canyon!

Monday, December 7, 2015

More butterfly names

All photos by Marty Horowitz 11/14/2015

Bonus from Fred Heath in answer to this question. Fred writes:

The Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak is one of many fairly large hairstreaks of the genus Strymon which are mainly found in somewhat open areas, thus the “scrub” designation. All of the known host plants for the Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon istapa) are in the Mallow Family. Although this normally rare butterfly in SE AZ has been regular in Sabino and throughout the region since late fall, we have not yet found which mallow host plant it uses in Sabino. This was one of the butterflies that could be found easily nectaring on the Euryops multifidus earlier this year.
Many of the crescents including the Texan have a small crescent shaped pale mark in the middle of the margin of the hindwing on the underside. This butterfly was most likely originally described from Texas, thus the Texan name. The name is an oddity, as all of the other butterflies in the U.S. named for a state use the state name directly (Arizona Hairstreak, California Crescent, West Virginia White, etc) and not as a resident of that state. There is no Arizonan butterfly, for example.
Metalmarks are a group of mostly tropical butterflies, a few of which (including the some on the East Coast where the family was named) have some markings which, in the right light, look metallic (not shown in Marty’s picture). When folks ask me why the butterfly is called Fatal, I usually tell the following story: The scientific name of the butterfly is Calephelis nemesis and the first collector who saw this butterfly could never catch it and it became his nemesis. One day he saw one nectaring on wildflower just over the edge of a steep cliff and in his haste to catch it lost his balance and plunged to his death. Thus it was “fatal” to him. Except for the scientific name, which is correct, the rest of the story is not true. Actually many butterflies were named after Greek gods and goddesses and Nemesis was the goddess of retribution and vengeance. So because she could determine one’s fate, the English name became Fatal.

Fred knows!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sweetwater Reflections

Photos by Bill Kaufman, taken at Sweetwater Wetlands on 11/12/2015. According to Bill, both animals remained unperturbed by the other.

Great Egret, reflecting

Raccoon, reflecting

All together now!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Over a barrel and snow where to go

Photo by Joe Orman 11/6/2015

After reading about this crested barrel from my June 30, 2015 post, Joe tracked it down. Alas, it had fallen in the meantime. (Joe is the crested cactus hunter whose websites I referenced.) See his crested Saguaro collection here. And other bizarre cactus crests here.

Photo by Vaughn Donlin 11/14/2015

If you see this fluffy 'snow,' you'll know you are looking at the fruit of Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides). This plant is dioecious, i.e., male and female flowers are on separate plants. This one is, of course, a female plant.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Art of the Dragon(fly)

All photos by Marty Horowitz 11/14/2015

Variegated Meadowhawk on Common Cockleburr (Xanthium strumarium) and yes, those spiny-looking things are the fruits. But DO NOT even think about eating the seeds. Poison!

Serpent Ringtail on the rocks

Neon Skimmer on black velvet : -) 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Golden Days

Photo by Dancing Snake Nature Photography 11/25/2015
Sabino Creek

If you'd like to meet The Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography, slither on over to the Oro Valley Festival of the Arts on 12/5 and 12/6!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Don't look, Honey-Matt!

Story and photos from Fred Heath 10/5/2015

While trying to photograph a female Lynx Spider that had subdued a bee,...

I noticed another one creeping slowly towards the female. It was a male and very carefully approached. They did not mate while I was watching (discreet?),...

but I was able to notice how much smaller the abdomen of the male was...

and noticed the boxing glove-like pedipalps which are used by males to transfer sperm during mating.

After mating the female makes a silk egg sac which is attached to a plant and she stays with it until the spiderlings hatch. She actually protects the egg sac by squirting venom at intruders. When the young do hatch she helps by cutting open the egg sac.

The spiderlings are on their own and disperse to find prey. In the photo the spiderlings all have orange abdomens while the pale spider-like things are the shed skin from the first molt.

Thanks, Fred "Spiderman" Heath!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Monarch vs. Queen

It's been two years since this post on the differences between Monarch and Queen butterflies. Time for a review, I say. Thanks to Bill Kaufman for the Monarch photos (taken at Tohono Chul).

Photo by Bill Kaufman 11/7/2015

This one's a Monarch. Use your imagination and you'll make out the peace sign formed by the body and the wing borders.

Photo by Ned Harris 10/18/2015
Taken at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

This one's a Queen. Note the lack of peace. 

Photo by Bill Kaufman 11/7/2015

Monarch, underside of wings. 

Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/2015
in Sabino Canyon

Queen, underside of wings. 

Queens are much more common in these parts : -)
Warning: Tomorrow's post is not for arachnophobes!