Saturday, April 30, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/30/2016

The flower of the Pipevine (Aristolochia watsonii) plant is unusual. It doesn't look so much like a flower as it does a strange funnel. Or maybe a bug's ear.

Photo by Ned Harris 4/8/2016

We didn't find any flowers, but we think these two faint reddish dots are eggs of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. See this post for more on their life cycle.

And the whole story here from our favorite bug lady, Margarethe Brummermann.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The thing with the seeds

Both photos by Marty Horowitz 3/30/2016

You remember Jewel Flower (Streptanthus carinatus ssp. arizonicus) from the Mustard family tutorial, of course. These are the fruits, looking for all the world like pea pods on the outside, but arranged, as we'd expect, in a spiral staircase pattern along the stem.

Multiple seeds inside. (If this were a pea pod, the seeds would alternate on either half of the pod.) Now you know : -)

Thursday, April 28, 2016


All photos taken on 3/30/2016

Photo © Gene Spesard
(Anisacanthus thurberi)

Photo by Marty Horowitz
(Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana)

Photo © Gene Spesard
(Erythranthe guttata)

Photo © Gene Spesard 
Canyon Grape flower buds
(Vitus arizonica

Photo by Marty Horowitz 

Photo © Gene Spesard 
Blue / Indigo
(Glandularia gooddingii

Photo © Gene Spesard 
(Stemodia durantifolia)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

And the answer is...

Photo credits: © 2016 T. Beth Kinsey ; © 2016 T. Beth Kinsey

Photo credits: © 2016 T. Beth Kinsey

Photo (c) Gene Spesard

And a bonus photo of Stickseed (Lappula occidentalis) from Sabino Canyon. Thanks to Gene for crawling to get this shot!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

One more set : -)

Because I can, I'm giving you another round of plants to look at to determine which family, Borage or Mustard, each belongs to. Answers tomorrow.

Both plants are in the same family

same species, different views

Monday, April 25, 2016

Wayward Nymphs

Photo by Ned Harris 4/8/2016

These Giant Mesquite Bug nymphs are on the wrong plant. Ned and I thought they might have all fallen at once from the Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) branch above. For more on these cool bugs, check out Margarethe Brummermann's great post.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Some kind of wonder gall

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/30/2016

On another morning filled with wonder, Lyn pointed out galls that look like lumpy caterpillars covering the Four-wing Saltbush (Atriplex canescens) above the dam by the creek. The more we looked, the more we found. 

Photo (c) Gene Spesard 

Using a protective hand mitt (normally used to pick up trash) (thanks, Gayle), a highly trained naturalist broke open one of the galls for some CSI (Critter Scene Investigation). Note the exit paths in the pieces. 

Fred "Bug Man" Heath did some digging. He writes: 

I'm certain that the stem gall is made by a midge (a fly thus Order Diptera) and further that it is in the Family Cecidomyiidae (Gall Midges). I am not sure but think it may be in the genus Asphondylia - of which there are 100s of species including a number that use saltbush as a host plant.

How about that?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Don't pet the Chia!

Photo © Gene Spesard

Photo by Ned Harris 3/19/2016

Chia (Salvia columbariae) is a nifty plant in the mint family. The seeds are one of the many wonder foods to have been rediscovered in the past decade. Don't make a chia pet out them!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Worth two in the cactus

Photo by Ned Harris 4/8/2016

Curve-billed Thrasher on budding Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)

Photo by Ned Harris 4/8/2016

Black-throated Sparrow on budding Staghorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fatal attraction

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/30/2016

On a recent Ned-less nature walk, our band of roving naturalists stopped to inspect a blooming Brownfoot (Acourtia wrightii).

Photo by Marty Horowitz, hand by Lyn Hart 3/30/2016

We stood still to view the Tiny Checkerspot butterfly, but that wasn't necessary.

Photo (c) Gene Spesard

Attracted to the blossoms, the butterfly was ambushed and sucked dry by a spider (not pictured) still lurking in the plant.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wild Carrot

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/25/2016

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/25/2016

Photo © Gene Spesard

Wild Carrot (Daucus pusillus) flowers and developing fruits. Yes, you can eat the root! 
You are correct in thinking that this plant looks like Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota); both are in the same genus. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Interesting Cases

Photo © Gene Spesard

Yes, it's a mantis egg casing! Click here to see what happens when the nymphs emerge!

And check out this zombie mantid story (not from Sabino, but still...) Thanks, Gene, for both of these interesting cases.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Climbing Milkweed

Both photos by Marty Horowitz 3/30/2016

Climbing Milkweed (Funastrum cynanchoides ssp. hartwegii) allegedly has stinky foliage. Not having a nose for anything less than overpowering, I can't verify. But it does have gorgeous flowers!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fun in the sun

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/29/2016 

Esperero Canyon Middle School students captured (and released, after photos) the first documented Sunburst Diving Beetles in Sabino Creek during their Critter Scene Investigation on 3/29/2016. Wonderful!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 4/1/2016

This Backswimmer, a common critter in the creek, takes a turn in the sun.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sabino Sparrows Crowdsource Safety

Photo and text by Mark Hengesbaugh

White-throated Sparrow 4/2/2016

Sabino's lush creekside habitat has been hosting a large number of sparrows in mixed flocks this winter and spring. The White-throated Sparrow in the photo above is unusual to see here, but in eastern North America they are among the most common sparrows. We spotted this one on April 2 among the more usual White-crowned and Chipping Sparrows. Why do sparrows gather in groups composed of different species? They're looking for seeds on the ground, so they're vulnerable to surprise from above, like a Cooper's Hawk attack. By joining a flock, they take advantage of many alert eyes; the combined watchfulness allows them to get out from under protective vegetation and brave more open ground. If this White-throated male or female - both sexes have the yellow lores and white throat - can rest and feed safely in Sabino for a short time, s/he will continue north. Perhaps headed 1,500 miles into Alberta, Canada or even farther into the northeastern hardwood forests.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Cactus Flower Power

All Photos by Marty Horowitz 3/30/2016
As members of the same family (Cactaceae), cactus plants have flowers that look similar to each other. Fruits are similar as well : -) And for foliage, they've got spines.

Hedgehog Cactus flowers (Echinocereus fasciculatus

Saguaro flowers (Carnegiea gigantea)
State flower of Arizona

Engelmann Prickly Pear flowers (Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mixed Metaphor

Photo by Lyn Hart 4/8/2016

A Gambel's Quail at Lyn's decided to put all her eggs in one pot!
Lyn sneaked in (where Gila Monsters dare to tread) for this photo when the future mom was out for some breakfast.

Photo by Lyn Hart 4/12/2016

Lyn writes on Day 12 of nest watching:

Mama just left the nest to get a snack... couldn't detect any cracks in the eggs, but if you [compare this photo with the photo from 4/8, you'll] note how the eggs have been moved around. My favorite is the one with the big grayish spots. I have noticed that mama also changes her position on the nest. Quail don't really build a nest; they make a shallow depression for the eggs. The mama lines it with some of her own feathers... judging from size & coloration, I think the feathers are from her breast.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Lizard Expressions

Move along. Nothing to see here.
Ornate Tree Lizard
Photo by Ned Harris 3/26/2016

When I'm queen...
Regal Horned Lizard
Photo by Marty Horowitz 4/6/2016

Hot! Hot! Hot!
Greater Earless Lizard
Photo by Marty Horowitz 4/6/2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Banner Year for Sand Bells

Maybe I just noticed them more, but it seemed to be a banner year for Sand Bells (Nama hispidum). They're in the Borage family : -)

Photo by Gene Spesard 3/16/2016

Photo by Ned Harris 3/19/2016

Monday, April 11, 2016

Damsels are back in town!

All photos by Marty Horowitz 3/19/2016

And be sure to visit for all your Arizona dragon- and damselfly needs : -) And spectacular photos of this amazing critters. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cute as a javelina's ear

Bill Kaufman's yard was visited by a javelina herd of females and babies on 3/29/2016. I think you'll agree, these babies are adorable.
And for those of you who like to know the origin of expressions, here's a great link!

All photos by Bill Kaufman