Monday, October 31, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/18/2016

The Black Phoebe is a dapper flycatcher of the western U.S. with a sooty black body and crisp white belly. They sit in the open on low perches to scan for insects, often keeping up a running series of shrill chirps. Black Phoebes use mud to build cup-shaped nests against walls, overhangs, culverts, and bridges. Look for them near any water source from small streams, to suburbs, all the way to the salt-sprayed rocks and cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. (From All about Birds

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy Owl-o-ween!

Photo by Ned Harris 9/30/2016

Yes, it's true that you won't find Burrowing Owls in Sabino; but it's also true that I can't get enough of these owls. If you click on the link above, you'll see one Ned's photos (scroll to Field Marks). And more great Ned photos available, of course, at Ned's flickr site.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/18/2016

Even upside-down, this is a katydid. What's the difference between a grasshopper and a katydid? They do look similar, but one difference is how they make sounds. Grasshoppers (and locusts) use special structures on their back legs; katydids (and crickets) use their wings. More info here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Now for some butterflies!

All photos by Marty Horowitz, various October dates

Empress Leilia on Prickly Pear pad

Texan Crescent on Bur Marigold (Bidens aurea)

Southern Dogface on Bur Marigold (Bidens aurea)

Fatal Metalmark on Narrow-leaf Aster (Dieteria asteroides

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sky and Fall

Photo by Judy Atwell 9/17/2016

September sky in Sabino near the dam

Photo by Linda Stelljes 10/15/2016

Fall color on Mt. Lemmon, near Aspen Draw Trail

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Words on Birds

Photos and Texts by Mark Hengesbaugh

This Gilded Flicker, photographed near the road to Bear Canyon Bridge in Sept., is member of a species at risk of extinction according to The North American Bird Conservation Initiative ( According to the organization’s recently published survey and analysis, fully one-third of North America’s bird species are at risk—432 of 1,154 species. The solution? Conserving vital bird habitat strongholds such as Sabino Canyon.

The Gilded Flicker is one of two species of woodpeckers that excavate holes in saguaros in Sabino. Those openings eventually become high-rise condos for other nesting birds like Purple Martins. Gilded Flickers are year-round residents and eat mostly ants, but also beetles, termites, caterpillars along with fruits, berries, seeds and nuts.

Once Cooper’s Hawks are fledged in spring from that highly productive nest above Sabino Dam, where do all those young hawks go? Well, maybe some of them stick around. We saw this fearsome first-year hawk at the dam, Oct. 6. You can tell it is a first-year hawk because it has yellow rather than red eyes and a streaked breast rather than a roufous chest.

Thanks, Mark, for your words on these birds!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lizards Lately

Photos by Matt Ball 10/15/2016

I haven't seen many Eastern Collared Lizards this year, but when my Honey-Matt and I went hiking on 10/15/2016, we saw two different individuals. Top photo is probably a female; bottom may be a young one.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Welcome back, Julie!

Friends flock to Sabino Canyon in October, and one of our favorites is back in the visitor center. Say 'Hi' to Julie Miller and thank her for these great photos of the dramatic skies from 10/8/2016.

all photos by Julie Miller

Thanks, Julie!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Sphinx of a different color

Photo by Ned Harris 10/8/2016

This lone caterpillar was about as thick as an adult finger! We generally see the bright yellow-green version of White-lined Sphinx Moth larvae, so the identity of this one stumped us initially. As always, though, our favorite bug lady has a blog post on this very topic. And this link shows more photos of variously colored caterpillars.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Vulture Culture

Photo by Ned Harris 10/8/2016

Although we didn't find loads of lizards on the October lizard walk, we did see many other creatures, including this Turkey Vulture, thanks to 7-year-old Anna, newcomer to Tucson and excellent spotter.

Be sure to spend a happy hour at Ned's flickr site for other flyers - and more!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Kitten in a Tree

Story and photo from Bill Kaufman 10/6/2016. Thanks, Bill!

Around 6 pm on Oct. 6, we were having dinner and I spotted something brown coming down the trunk of a large Rhus Lancia tree outside of our back patio. I immediately thought Bobcat and ran outside. We saw the mother down below the patio wall and I spotted a kitten down in the backyard. Then we noticed this little guy in the tree. The mother left and went down into the back yard. The kitten stayed in the tree all night and was still there early the next morning. However, s/he was gone later so I assume the mother came back.

I hope mom comes back soon!

Reminder from Anne: NEVER PICK UP A BOBKITTEN! As vulnerable as they may appear (and, indeed, are), their mother will reject them if they smell of human. If you move a bobkitten, you cause their death. Follow Bill's example: take a photo from a distance and leave them be!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Welcome back, Luke!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/14/2016

Back for the seventh documented season, our partially albino Phainopepla known as Luke! Jean and Mark saw him earlier this month; Marty got this great photo recently.
All the photos from previous seasons are linked to last year's post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Fox!

Gayle and I were walking on the tram road in Sabino Canyon on the morning of 10/6/2016 when we encountered this beautiful gray fox. (Looked like she was digging up a rodent of some sort.) Gayle quickly took a few photos on her phone. The fox looked at us for a while, and we were able to point her out to two more road walkers. What a treat!
More info on canyon canids here.

Photos by Gayle Rowland 10/6/2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fall Fashion Week: Part 2

Five more posts for Best of October 2014. Enjoy!

Tomorrow will be foxy!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fall Fashion Week: Part 1

In October 2014, I did a really fun series on fall fashion. (These posts actually cracked me up all over again!) I hope you enjoy them again, too.

Fall Fashion Week, days 1 through 4:

More fashion tomorrow!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

You're so veined!

I'm skipping ahead to October 2015, because October 2014 has a number of posts that I'd like to bring back. (Stayed tuned.)

October 2015: You're so veined!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Get your shed on!

From October 2013: Shed-a-thon

Friday, October 14, 2016

Lyn lets loose lucky lizard

From October 2012: Lucky!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Caught in the act!

Best of October 2011: Praying Mantis

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Best of October series

Looking through old posts has brought me a lot of joy, I must admit! Some truly outstanding photos (and occasional wit and wisdom). This blog has changed for the better over the years, too. Without further ado, the best of October series.

From October 2010: Zany grasshoppers

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Late Bloomer

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/28/2016

Arizona Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) flower 
among developing fruits

Monday, October 10, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/28/2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016


All photos by Jim Klinger 9/25/2016

Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) flowers unfurl from a tightly wound bud to a big beautiful bloom.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Tree Rattler?

All Photos by Marty Horowitz 9/28/2016

Marty encountered this Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake in a tree! What's up with that?
Fred had never seen a Diamondback in a tree, but he shared this story:

According to my rattlesnake book, Black-tailed Rattlesnakes "are occasionally seen in shrubs and low trees, apparently hunting birds." I was leading a butterfly field trip in Patagonia when one of my participants almost walked into a Black-tailed which was 2 ½ feet off the ground sitting in a grass tussock. I also spoke to a herpetologist [name redacted] who had recently been bitten on his upper arm by a Black-tailed. I assumed he had picked one up and asked how a professional herpetologist could be so stupid. He explained that he never saw the snake before it bit him as it was 5 feet up in a small tree. He said he was lucky not to have been bitten in the face.

Anne says: Don't forget to look up!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Tree Frogs

I've never seen a Canyon Tree Frog in a tree. They're usually seen on rocks (as below) or in the restrooms (ditto) in Sabino Canyon.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/23/2016

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/21/2016

Watch out for those Lyre snakes!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Beetle Love

Photos by Marty Horowitz 9/21/2016

Cactus Longhorn Beetles and a bonus post on mimicry (that includes these beetles) from our favorite bug lady, Margarethe Brummermann.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Banner year for Tumamoc Globeberry

Photo by Mark Hengesbaugh 9/20/2016

Text by Mark Hengesbaugh

Biologist Frank Reichenbacher points to Tumamoc Globeberry (Tumamoca macdougalii), an uncommon vine in the melon and gourd family, growing on the east side of Sabino Creek. Reichenbacher, a volunteer, is the leading expert on this root perennial that in 1986 was only known to grow in a few refuges, including Sabino Canyon, the Painted Hills, and Tumamoc Hill, and so was listed as an Endangered Species. During decades of scouting, Reichenbacher discovered additional populations in southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico; in 1993 Tumamoc Globeberry was delisted. Today, it is a species of conservation concern in the county’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

Tumamoc Globeberry reproduces very slowly, said Reichenbacher. Typically he'll find only a few seedlings in a decade - always in proximity to a mature plant. This leads him to wonder if the seed-bearing fruits are not dispersed by wildlife. Nevertheless, "In Sabino Canyon, they're undergoing a mini-boom. I found 20 new seedlings last year."

Anne says: Fred and Ned also took photos of this great plant.

Photo by Fred Heath 9/12/2016

Photo by Fred Heath 9/12/2016

Photo by Ned Harris 9/14/2016

Photo by Ned Harris, hand by Alexa von Bieberstein 9/14/2016

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this story! Especially to Frank Reichenbacher for clarifying the latest science.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/15/2016

Red Rock Skimmer dragonfly, conveniently perched on a reddish rock! 
Click on the link for more great photos. 

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/21/2016

Filigree Skimmer dragonfly
More photos at the link!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Open and shut

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/21/2016

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/15/2016

Empress Leilia butterflies are quite common in Sabino. Like many butterflies, their wings have different patterns and colors above and below.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I'm a lyre!

Thanks to The Serpent Princess of Dancing Snake Nature Photography for verifying the true identity of the snake in Ned's photo below! (I corrected the post as well.)

Photo by Ned Harris 9/14/2016

This beauty is a Lyresnake, most likely a Sonoran Lyresnake. (I initially misidentified one 6 years ago!) These snakes aren't seen very often in Sabino, because they're nocturnal (except when they find a particularly warm spot, it would seem).

Photo by Marty Horowitz 9/23/2016

The snake above is actually a Gophersnake, though. Now you know!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Can't impede this centipede!

This Giant Desert Centipede was seen on the Sabino scene on the cloudy and rainy September 23, 2016. Bill Kaufman writes:

They do have venom and can bite if interfered with, but the toxin is generally harmless to humans. It could be painful like that of a bee sting, however, and allergies are always possible. Leave them alone. They are nocturnal, so we were lucky to see this one. It was likely out due to the cloudy skies and rain. I count 42 legs.

All Photos by Bill Kaufman 9/23/2016

Anne says: Don't try this move without supervision. Or better, super legs.