Friday, September 30, 2016

When a bird is a grasshopper

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/23/2016

White-lined Bird Grasshopper (adult) in a Foothills Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Takin' out the grass!

Text by Mark Hengesbaugh
Photos by Kenne Turner and Bill Kaufman

Thirty-one fans of Sabino Canyon spent a beautiful fall morning removing invasive grasses around the picnic tables and roadsides of lower Sabino Canyon Recreation Area on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. Target invasives were Soft Feather Pappus grass and Lehmann Lovegrass, annuals that have taken over sections of the canyon with the abundant monsoon rain. Participants concentrated efforts on the area where Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists teach thousands of elementary school children every year.



Public lands day helpers collectively worked 131 hours and filled and hauled out 78 65-gallon bags - our biggest total ever. Removing the unwanted intruders allows remaining native plants the sun and space they need to thrive. 

Well-deserved water break

Participating, beginning with team leaders, were Tom Skinner, Marius, Elissa Fazio, Bob Veranes, Alison Maricic, Alice Bird, Bill and Louise Kaufman, Kenne Turner, Phil Brown, Susan Andersen, Bob Fernandez, Linda Matson, Sylvia Young, Jeanne Anderson, Tim Wernette, Ray Chappa, Alexa and Armin von Bieberstein, Marty Horowitz, Jim Klinger, Janet Shannon, Deb Langeloh and son Vaughn Donlin, David Engelsberg, John Coombs and organizers Jean and Mark Hengesbaugh. Coronado National Forest participants were Catalina District Ranger Ken Born and Zach and Felicia, two seasonal employees.

 Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bee-ware the Robber!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/24/2016

Robber Fly with Bee-reakfast 
Don't try this at home!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Snake out on a stakeout

Photo by Ned Harris 9/14/2016
UPDATED 10/1/2016
Actually, this is a Sonoran Lyresnake - oops!

Gopher Snake in restroom vent. Probably waiting for an unsuspecting Canyon Tree Frog...or two.

This is a powerful constrictor that preys on a wide variety of animals including rats, mice, rabbits, lizards, birds, snakes, eggs, and insects.

Read more here!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Good to know!

Photo by Ned Harris 9/14/2016

This is a bee fly. (Flies have only one pair of wings.) Before you swat it, know that:

Bee flies do not bite or sting and are completely harmless to humans and their pets.

For this, and everything else you wanted to know about flies, check out this site!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sabino Sunrise

Photo by Marty Horowitz

Click for larger view. This photo is amazing! So grateful to be able to live in Tucson!

Saturday, September 24, 2016


If you were sleeping in class (I'm looking at you, Paul), you'll want to review the Mallow family tutorial that starts here!

Photo by Ned Harris 9/14/2016

Mallow family flowers have 5 separate petals. (The fruits are really interesting, as you'll see if you go through the entire tutorial.) They also have reproductive parts that stick out/stand up, as shown in the photo above of Fendler's Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea fendleri).

Photo by Ned Harris 9/10/2016

Another fine Mallow is Wild (aka Desert) Cotton (Gossypium thurberi). Inquiring minds wonder about the pink spots. They're pretty, to be sure, but they may also lead pollinators (insects) to the target. Insects can see in the ultraviolet range, and those spots may be even more prominent to them.

As always, you have more info from a credible source, please send it my way.

Friday, September 23, 2016


I've blogged about these critters before, but they are well worth another look!

All Photos by Ned Harris 9/14/2016

Tortoise Beetles undergo complete metamorphosis (egg > larva > pupa > adult). In other words, the larval stage looks completely different from the adult stage. Click on the photo above for a closer look at these larvae. (And be grateful that the photo isn't scratch and sniff.) The larvae look like 6-legged worms with their tails in the air. Those black things on their ends are their feces in a sac. (I'm not making this up!) They wave their poop sacs around (presumably) to deter predators.
Canyon Ragweed (Ambrosia ambrosioides) is their host plant.

These are rather fresh adults (recently emerged from pupal stage). See this great post from Margarathe Brummermann about the color changes the adults undergo.

And the above is an example of a mature adult. Click on the photo for a better view of the iridescent colors.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

New Rescue

Jim Klinger sent these photos from the emergency evacuation he witnessed on Blackett's Ridge on 9/11/2016. A hiker was stung multiple times by bees.

All photos by Jim Klinger 9/11/2016

Be careful out there!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New Queen

Photo by Debbie Bird 9/11/2016

Debbie and Jerry Bird located another Night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii) on the Bear Canyon trail. The red football-shaped things are the fruits. Yes, the fruit is the thing with the seeds!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Album

Photo by Ned Harris

John, Paul, George, and Ringo release "Vulture Road" - their freshest yet!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Your comments wanted!

It's time again to make a public-service announcement.

As you may recall from this blog, the Forest Service asked last year for comments on the proposal to give the shuttle service in Sabino Canyon a(nother) 20-year contract. As announced on on Thursday, 9/15/2016:

A draft environmental assessment by the Coronado National Forest presents four alternatives for future operation of the Sabino Canyon shuttles, and members of the public have until Oct. 13 to submit comments on the proposals.

Here's the link to the article. And reproduced below are the ways to submit your comments. PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM TO ME. Please follow the instructions below. 

How to submit comments
Written comments must be submitted via mail, fax, electronically, or in person (8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays) to:
Ken Born, c/o Rudy Bowen, district recreation staff officer, Santa Catalina Ranger District; fax to 760-2506. Electronic comments, including attachments, can be submitted to: 
Email messages should be sent to 
Persons commenting should include:
1. Name, address, telephone number and organization represented (if applicable).
2. Title the correspondence: Environmental Assessment for Sabino Canyon Shuttle Authorization.
3. List specific facts, concerns or issues, and supporting reasons why the comments should be considered.

 And a bonus photo from Ned Harris from 9/10/2016.

You know you're a canyon regular,
when you can recognize people from behind!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

And finally...

Caterpillar-y action from September 2015 concludes the Best of September series!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Snake Tails

Rattle Tale and Snake with a View are both from September 2014.

Friday, September 16, 2016

This one's great, too

Without really trying (as hard as I do to learn plants), I've learned quite a lot about insects over the years. Dragonflies have become one of my favorites.

Pretty Predators is also from September 2013. It was a good month!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

3 for 2013

Three (mainly) butterfly posts from September 2013 are worth another look:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Learning Opportunity

The opportunity to learn something new is a great benefit of doing this blog, and the post Creek Circles, from September 2012 is just one example.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A merry Robber - September 2011

As you can imagine, it was sometimes difficult for me to choose just one post! I tried to make the selections representative of September, but not to duplicate critters or plants.

If you are a relatively new reader of this blog and you have some time to spare, I recommend going to and browsing the archives on the lower left.

A merry Robber is from September 2011 (and was the first time I ever heard of Robber Flies).

Monday, September 12, 2016

Best of September begins...

Because I received many positive comments about the "Best of August" series, I decided to take it to the next month. Here's the Best of September 2010.

Maybe we should call it Coyote Canyon - September 17, 2010

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Green Acres

Photo by Matt Ball 8/31/2016

Click on this photo for a larger view of this gorgeous field of green! (And show this to anyone who says our desert is only brown.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Milkweed and bonus article

Climbing Milkweed (Funastrum cynanchoides spp. hartwegii) in bloom is an insect magnet. This plant is located east of the southeast corner of the parking lot. Loads of butterflies and other insects flitting around.

photos by Matt Ball 8/31/2016

And an interesting article on the National Park Service's plans for adapting to climate change in the National Parks.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Beetle Lady

Photo by Ned Harris 8/24/2016

Whenever Margarethe Brummermann is in your company, you'll always see a lot of insects that you wouldn't otherwise have noticed. She's a particular fan of the beetles :-) This one's a Metallic Wood Borer Beetle. And she recently posted about a whole lot more on her bug blog. Check out her watercolor art, too.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Some Solanaceae

Photo by Matt Ball 8/31/2016

Both plants pictured here are in the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). (If you missed my tutorial, it starts here.) Plants in this family generally have flowers with 5 fused petals, as in the Desert Tobacco (Nicotiana obtusifolia) above. You don't want to ingest any part of this plant, though. Native, but nasty.

Plants in this family generally have tomato-like fruits. (The cactus in the background of this photo has spines; this plant does not.) Wolfberry (Lycium exsertum, most likely) fruits are perfectly edible. As with anything you intend to ingest, make sure that you know for sure what it is. Many plants are only edible once.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Creekside flowers

All photos copyright Marty Horowitz 8/20/2016

Plants in the Evening Primrose family (Onagraceae) generally have flowers with four separate petals. Hooker Evening Primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hirsutissima) flowers are a fine example.

These plants like a little extra water. You'll see them blooming creekside through the end of the year (usually).

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Root Loose

Photo by Deb Langeloh 8/28/2016

No one likes to see a Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) in this position, but this one may have toppled because of the monsoon rains. Saguaros have shallow roots at all stages of their life cycle. Unlike many other tall-growing plants (like trees), saguaros have no tap root. Their roots do extend radially, about as far as the plant is tall, but the deepest main root is only about 2-feet under the soil. Their shallow roots allow saguaros to quickly and efficiently take in rain water, but the roots can't anchor the plant if it gets too heavy or if the ground becomes saturated and muddy.
Trying to re-root a fallen saguaro is almost always an exercise in futility, especially if the saguaro is more than a foot or two tall. The saguaro pictured above simply has too much mass; the broken roots wouldn't be able to sustain it. Unlike some other cactus, you can't grow a saguaro from a piece (say, an arm) that's broken off. Again, there's simply too much mass - and roots won't sprout from the piece, anyway.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sabino Stewards are Superheroes

Photo and text copyright guest blogger and Chief Sabino Steward Mark Hengesbaugh

Anne says: You, too, can be a superhero like Paul Kriegshauser!
No tights necessary!

If you walked the canyon in August you may have seen Sabino Stewards busily trying to control the spread of invasive plants. The invasive problem is complex and long-standing, but I like to describe it simply: wherever these invasive plants take over, wildlife habitat is destroyed or significantly degraded. Many of you remember how the Sabino Giant Reed (Arundo donax) thickets surrounded and killed native plants and trees. We all love Sabino for its butterflies, lizards, bobcats and birds so we need to protect the native plants that provide them food, shelter and nesting areas.

But enough preaching to the Sabino choir. When you see us volunteers in the canyon with backpack sprayers, we are spot-treating five perennial invasive grasses that are impossible to dig out effectively. They are buffelgrass, fountain grass, natal grass, Johnson grass and Giant Reed. Spot-treating means we go into every nook and cranny along the creek and roadside and when we find a target invasive, we direct a light spray of herbicide, marked with blue dye, on it. We use a 5 percent solution of the lowest-risk category herbicide. It is not toxic to humans or wildlife and is fully absorbed into the plant within 20 minutes. After all the spraying is completed, the total amount of active ingredient used is only ounces per acre. Because the herbicide is not persistent on dormant invasive plants, we have only brief windows of time—like monsoon green-up—during which we can treat the plants. So far in August, our team—Janis Findlay, Wayne Klement, Jim Klinger, Phil Bentley, Steven Boley and myself—in four sessions totaling 74.5 hours, have treated these invasives from Tram Stop 9 downstream to Bear Bridge, both on the creekside and on the roadside.

If you would like to help, either with manual removal such as our upcoming Public Lands Day Event Sept. 24, or with the herbicide application, email me at sabinostewards (at) gmail (dot) com. Read more about Sabino Canyon conservation efforts at A related note, there will also be USFS contractors in the canyon in the near future treating the higher, steeper canyon walls for buffelgrass.
Mark Hengesbaugh, Sabino Stewards

Sunday, September 4, 2016

It's Four O'Clock time!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/20/2016
Red Spiderling (Boerhavia coccinea)

A number of plants in the Four O'Clock Family (Nyctaginaceae) are monsoon bloomers, including the one above. Also blooming now in Sabino Canyon are Trailing Four O'Clock (Allionia incarnata), Erect Spiderling (Boerhavia erecta), and Bush Spiderling (Commicarpus scandens).

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Barrels o' Flowers

More Arizona Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) in bloom! All photos copyright Marty Horowitz 8/20/2016.

In this last photo, you can see various stages. Some buds haven't opened yet; some flowers are fully open, and some are developing fruits. You'll note the dried looking stuff at the top of the pineapple-looking green things. The dried part is the spent flower (already finished its job of attracting a pollinator); the green part is the developing fruit. The fruits are yellow when ripe and are edible, albeit a bit tart.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Lone Gall

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/20/2016

Gall on Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)

Next time you see a Creosote Bush, take a closer look and check for galls. (Yes, I've blogged about this before; see this post.) Once you know to look for them, you'll see them all over! Basically, galls are the plant's response to insect invasion.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tiny toads on the roads

All photos by Marty Horowitz 8/20/2016

If you've been out and about in Sabino recently, you've noticed many tiny toads hopping along. These are the offspring of the recent pairings of Red-spotted Toads. (But there are likely other tiny toads on the move.)