Sunday, January 31, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/18/2016

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/19/2016

Take yourself out to Sabino Creek - and see if you can catch some waves!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sabino Suds

Good name for a microbrew, too!

Photos by Marty Horowitz 1/13/2016

I've posted about this before (here, with Deep Purple); (here, with Marty-art). I'll reproduce the Anne-approved explanation here: (entire post, with photos, here)

Water normally sticks to itself. This allows tiny critters like Water Striders to 'walk' on water. As tiny particles - dissolved organic carbon, to be exact - get washed into the creek after it rains and get further churned up as they flow downstream, they reduce the stickiness of water to itself and allow air to be trapped as bubbles. The bubbles then congregate on the surface where the flow isn't as swift. You can sometimes see inches of thick foam around rocks and near the 'shore.'
The source for this organic carbon is - you guessed it - anything that was once living. Algae, plants, animals - we're all carbon-based life forms. Bottom line: harmless and 'natural' in Sabino Creek.
Yes, detergents, soaps, fertilizers, and other substances can cause foam; and that's not usually optimal. I'm reasonably certain that good ol' dissolved organic carbon is the source for the soapy foam on Sabino Creek.
(You might wonder what 'inorganic carbon' is. Best example: diamonds. Made of carbon, but not alive. If you find any when you're panning, be sure to let me know.)
See you in the canyon!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Creek Week

Marty's creek photos have been so popular, that I decided to do a creek week. And that rhymes nicely, too.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/18/2016

Plants add even more colors to the creek shots!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/20/2016

I asked Marty to stage and take this photo. Looks like a javelina took too big of a bite of this prickly pear. Don't try this at home.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

First blooms of Spring

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/19/2016

My favorite mustards, Lace Pods (Thysanocarpus curvipes), are blooming - and fruiting. Click on photo for larger view and note the developing fruit still in the flower at the mid-point of the stem. Below are more fruits; above, more developing fruits in flowers; at the very top, flowers to be pollinated.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/19/2016

Borage family plants are also first bloomers in the Spring. This is one of the Cryptantha species. There are three in Sabino; they are difficult to tell apart - and the experts generally need the fruits to confirm the identity. We'll have to wait on that!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Perch here often?

Photo by Terry Garlow January 2016

Tandem Feeder
Gila Woodpeckers. Male on the left, female on the right. 

Terry writes:

These two woodpeckers like to hang out at my hummingbird feeder in the Sabino Canyon Volunteer RV Compound. I realize there are differing opinions on bird feeders, but I have sure learned a lot about bird behavior having this show out my window. I never realized how much hummingbirds and even the verdins protect their food source territories. It’s interesting to see which other hummingbirds the owner of my feeder – an Anna’s hummingbird - let’s in. And how much he chatters when the verdins or Gila woodpeckers take over.

Thanks, Terry, for this amazing photo!

Check out this amazing map of bird migration (from our friends at All About Birds)

And this concludes your week of birds. For this month, anyway.

Monday, January 25, 2016

One I've learned from Ned

Photo by Dan Weisz 1/12/2016

If Ned has taught me anything about raptors (he'd be rather amazed), it would be that this is an American Kestrel. Thanks, Ned!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Portrait of a Mockingbird

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/15/2016

Northern Mockingbird against a pale sky.
Listen to some of their many sounds.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers

Photos by Marty Horowitz 1/12/2016

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, female

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, male

Friday, January 22, 2016

Who's Abert?

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/15/2016

Cool Facts from the site above:
  • Abert's Towhee pairs generally remain bonded for life.
  • Mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that of the three brown towhees of the American Southwest, California and Abert's are the most closely related, even though California and Canyon towhees were once considered a single species.
  • Abert's Towhee was named by Spencer Baird in 1852 for Lt. James William Abert, who obtained the first specimen.
  • The oldest Abert's Towhee on record was at least 8 years and 7 months old, when it was recaptured and rereleased during a banding operation in Arizona.
Now you know : -) 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Giving you the birds

Photo by Marty Horowitz  1/15/2016

Common Ravens are uncommonly smart. They're well known for unzipping packs and making off with just the food they want from your lunch. Bob told the story of one who not only unzipped his pack, but unzipped the zip-lock on his sandwich. S/he left a hungry Bob holding the (empty) bag.

Don't call them crows. (American Crows are an entirely different species.) Read more at the links.

And spend some time with another smart bird at Ned Harris's flickr site.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/15/2016

This vintage water gauge at the top of the dam was unearthed during the great Giant Reed eradication project. It's not near the water now, but was in the past. Remember, there once was a lake!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Photo by Dan Weisz 1/12/2016

Yes, Patricia, it's a fruit! Specifically, a fruit of the Common Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium). Looks pretty cold, too. (Those white specks are frost.)

From the Firefly Forest link above:

The seeds and cotyledons are dangerously poisonous and contain the highly toxic glycoside carboxyatractyloside.
In short, it's very, very bad for animals, especially mammals.
In shorter, do not eat. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sabino Dam Art

Marty writes of these photos from 1/15/2016:

It was unexpectedly dark today, so when life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Dark scene, long exposure, and high F-number results in the “fluffy” water.

Anne says: I'm sure you'll agree, these are gorgeous!
Don't forget to click for larger views. And remember, I always downsize photos for the blog. The originals are even better.

All photos by Marty Horowitz 1/15/2016

Every day is a beautiful day!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Strange encounter of the insect kind

On the (alas, still Ned-less) Nature Walk last Wednesday, I noticed some very strange growths on a dried out Bush Spiderling (Commicarpus scandens) stem. (As I moved some of the brush around for a photo, the stem broke off in my hand. Even highly trained naturalists have occasional 'oops' moments. We put it back near the plant and are hoping for the best.) Heather took the first photo to show just how small this is. 

Photo by Heather Jaeger 1/13/2016, Hand by Anne

The group gathered around, more photos were taken, ideas tossed out. The pattern is so regular - really quite beautiful.

Photo bys Marty Horowitz 1/13/2016,  Hand by Anne

Fred turned it over to get a closer look at the underside. We were pretty convinced that these are eggs of some kind. (Although Lyn was sticking to her theory of aliens : -)

Hand by Fred

And again Fred for the win. He writes:

I knew I had seen those eggs pictured somewhere and sure enough I found them in the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of NA (Eric Eaton/Kenn Kaufman). They are the eggs of the one of the angle-winded katydids, most probably the Greater Angle-wing (Microcentrum rhombifolium). Anne’s blog of December 23 had a couple of Marty’s photos of the adult we found just above the dam (not too far from these eggs).

And now you know - Katydid it!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Snow? Go! And flow info...

Photo by Jim Hunter 1/2016

Snow at General Hitchcock Grove, weekend in early January

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/13/2016

Water flow sensor, just above the dam
Sends info to the USGS station, data is recorded here
You can run all manner of reports, too!

Photo by Dan Weisz 1/12/2016

Rushing water over the dam

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/13/2016

Marty noted that there were about 8 inches of water at the Bear Canyon Bridge (at about 9:30am on 1/13/2016) when flow rate was about 40 cubic feet per second. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Makin' Tracks

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/13/2016

On Wednesday's (alas still Ned-less) Nature Walk, Marty led the group to multiple mountain lion tracks in the sand by the dam. Even though some had been trampled by human boots, there were still many to see. We think there were multiple lions, as some of the tracks were smaller than the photo above. You'll note the lack of toenail indentations. Cats (mountain lions, bobcats) can pull their nails back; dogs (coyotes, foxes) cannot.

Be watchful out there. Mountain lions are very large carnivores. They don't mess around OR listen to reason!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

It's all Greek to me!

It's so great to do this blog! (I wish I could devote more time to it.) Readers share their stories, answer questions, make corrections. What a nice community!

From the fox post, this story from Linda and Mort:

Linda and I were sitting on a rock off trail about 2 miles up the phone line trail a few weeks after the Aspen Fire (2003). Suddenly a grey fox went past us at close range. We got up to try to see it again and we saw what we think was a second fox a little further off trail. The hair on "both" animals seemed singed and we speculated that when the fire spread to the lower elevations they had been caught up in it and were fleeing the area. Although the trail was fairly quiet, it was mid-morning and it seemed extremely surprising that they would be heading south on the Phoneline trail.

Sally and Robert aka Bender consulted their friend Gerald E. Kadish, Ph.D., Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of History and Near Eastern Studies at Binghamton University about the Phainopepla and Pyrroloxia post. He wrote: 

Phainopepla is based on two Greek words: phainos (shining) and peplos (robe). Our Webster's Third International Dictionary, p. 1692 defines it as "as monotype genus of passerine birds of Mexico and the southwestern U.S. of which the male is uniform glossy blue-black with a white spot on each primary." My classical Greek dictionary confirms the two root words.

And for Pyrrholoxia:

The pyrrho part is 'red'. The loxia refers to a genus of crossbill. Pyrrhuloxia refers to a genus of finches related to cardinals. Both roots have Greek origins but also appear in Latin. The best I can do.
Thanks, Gerry!

And, because we're feeling all warm and learned, two short videos. 

This one about jerboas (not in Sabino, but relatively similar to Kangaroo Rats, so I'm going for it.) 

And Neil deGrasse Tyson is always worth watching. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fancy Plants

I've written about plants in the Mallow family before (and I'll do so again), but these photos from Marty really show the fruits in their glory.
All together now: The fruit is the thing with the seed(s)!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/10/2016

These are the fruits of Wild (aka Desert) Cotton (Gossypium thurberi). Note the chambers; they contain the seeds. You can even see the sparse cotton fibers inside the chambers. Very cool.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/30/2015

These fruits are from the Indian Mallow Abutilon reventum. There are four species of Abutilon in Sabino; this one has large, very soft leaves. And the fruits are rounded at the top, as you see here, and have multiple (more than 5, usually 10-12) chambers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Truly Buggy

Our favorite bug lady, Margarethe Brummermann, has made it easy to have true bugs in the house.

copyright Margarethe Brummermann 

That's right! Her latest poster brings Arizona true bugs to you in a form you'll want to display - not spray!

She writes: 

I am releasing the third of my Arizona Arthropod Posters, True Bugs of Arizona. It presents even more diversity than the two others. I invested a lot of time in this one because there aren't really many good books available about True Bugs, but they are really an amazing group.

On the poster, 28 families (29 if you count Phymatidae) are represented by 73 identified species. A black and white template and the species list organized in taxonomic groupings comes with the poster. The posters are again 18 in x 24 in and cost $20 plus shipping.

 See all three posters at her blog Arizona: Beetles Bugs Birds and More and order by sending her an email (listed at the link).

Start this new year with true bugs of Arizona!

Monday, January 11, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 1/10/2016

I can't get enough of these reflection photos! Click photo for larger view of the colors in Sabino Creek!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sun and Surf

Photo by Dan Weisz 1/1/2016

With all the rain we've had, I'd bet there's even more water over the dam today.

Photo by Dan Weisz 1/1/2016
As found in the dam area

And now that the sun's out, you can get out in the sun!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Phainopepla and Pyrrholoxia

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/23/2015

Phainopepla, female. The name (allegedly*) comes from the Greek and means 'shining robe.' The shining part refers to the glossy black male. 

*Not to doubt the reliability of Wikipedia, but I tried several translation sites (including ancient Greek) and couldn't independently confirm this. Might be the sites I chose, but if you know for sure (and aren't just repeating what you also learned on a nature walk), please let me know. 

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/18/2015

From the Audubon site:

The odd name "Pyrrhuloxia," formerly part of this bird's scientific name, combines the Latin term for the Bullfinch with a Greek reference to the bird's bill shape.

Again, I call on Greeks, Romans, and bird people to confirm.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The vireo and the damselfly

Photo by Bill Kaufman 12/21/2015

Cassin's Vireo munching on an unlucky damselfly

And a bonus from local bird blogger Henry Johnson with more birds of Sabino Canyon.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sunning and Mooning

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/18/2015

Exposing their darker feathers to the sun helps Greater Roadrunners warm up, but it sure looks like this one is mooning Marty!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Rock Wren on a rock

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/18/2015

And check out this amazing bird mural!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Time flies like a sparrow

According to the Santa Catalina Ranger District Bird checklist, there are 19 species of sparrow in the area. That's a lot of sparrows! Four were seen recently in Sabino.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/16/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/18/2015

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/18/2015

Photo by Dan Weisz 1/1/2016

And if you like birds, consider eating fewer this year.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hawk Talk

Photo by Ned Harris 12/6/2015

Photo by Ned Harris 12/6/2015

For more great photos of things that fly, spend a happy hour at Ned's flickr site.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/21/2015

Cooper's Hawk, getting ruffled

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Series of Birds

Time to give you the birds for a week!

First up, from Marty Horowitz on the cold, cold morning of 12/16/2015....

Mourning Dove on ice

What is she mourning, you ask? That it's so darn cold!! 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Like a fox...

Photo by Ned Harris 12/27/2015

You may have noted a paucity of photos from Ned on this blog in the past two months. Alas, he's still suffering from extreme back pain, doing physical therapy to try to avoid surgery. Recently, he's been able to go out and photograph from or near his car. This photo wasn't taken in Sabino, but there are Gray Foxes in the canyon. I don't know anyone who's seen one there, although we have seen evidence of them (in the form of scat). All the better that Ned 'caught' this one after The Serpent Princess (of Dancing Snake Nature Photography) spotted him/her in this tree.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Insects are amazing!

Photo by Bob Wenrick 12/9/2015

The photo above shows evidence of Lac Scale insects on a Coursetia (Coursetia glandulosa) branch (on the Bluff trail).

According to this site by Michael J Plagens:

There are a number of Lac Scale insects species that might be found within the Sonoran Desert. Superficially they all look very similar - like glistening blobs of hardened shellac arranged along twigs of woody shrubs. Each species is quite specific as to the host tree or shrub used. Tachardiella fulgens is to be found on stems of the woody shrub Coursetia (Coursetia glandulosa). Not every shrub examined will have these scale insects present. Indeed, it may require searching dozens or hundreds of these plants before one of the conspicuous colonies is spotted. The hard material surrounding these bugs is a byproduct of the sugary sap that bugs take up from the plant's stems through their piercing-sucking mouthparts. It protects them from the elements and from some predators.
The hard coating around lac insects has been used by people for millenia as a sealant and as a natural adhesive. Some species of lac scales have brightly colored pigment in the lac that has been used for dying fabrics.
 More on shellac here.