Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ferruginous Hawk

All photos by the unflappable Ned Harris
All info from, yes,
Their Ferruginous Hawk page has a photo from Ned : -) 

Ferruginous means rust-colored, and refers to the reddish back and legs of light-morph birds (which are more common than dark morphs).

Found in prairies, deserts, and open range of the West, the regal Ferruginous Hawk hunts from a lone tree, rock outcrop, or from high in the sky. This largest of North American hawks really is regal—its species name is regalis—with a unique gray head, rich, rusty (ferruginous) shoulders and legs, and gleaming white underparts. A rarer dark-morph is reddish-chocolate in color. Ferruginous Hawks eat a diet of small mammals, sometimes standing above prairie dog or ground squirrel burrows to wait for prey to emerge.

Raptor Free Flight at ASDM

Acrylic painting by Ellen Green

My very own offspring painted this Ferruginous Hawk from a photo taken at the Raptor Free Flight.

A story of theft from the archives of Living Bird magazine...

Juvie Ferruginous Hawk
Ned took this photo during a banding program he took part in.
That's all, folks!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Swainson's Hawk

All photos copyright Ned Harris

Adult Swainson's Hawk

The Swainson’s Hawk initially suffered from a case of mistaken identity, when a specimen collected in Canada in 1827 and illustrated by William Swainson was confused with the common buzzard (Buteo buteo) of Europe. A nephew of Emperor Napoleon eventually corrected the error: in 1832, while working in Philadelphia, French biologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte identified the hawk as a new species and named it after the original illustrator—although he based his own description on a drawing by John James Audubon.

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk

A classic species of the open country of the Great Plains and the West, Swainson’s Hawks soar on narrow wings or perch on fence posts and irrigation spouts. These elegant gray, white, and brown hawks hunt rodents in flight, wings held in a shallow V, or even run after insects on the ground. In fall, they take off for Argentine wintering grounds—one of the longest migrations of any American raptor—forming flocks of hundreds or thousands as they travel.

Adult Male

Adult Female

Though they can be quite variable, most Swainson’s Hawks are light-bellied birds with a dark or reddish-brown chest and brown or gray upperparts. They have distinctive underwings with white wing linings that contrast strongly with blackish flight feathers. Most males have gray heads; females tend to have brown heads. Dark individuals also occur; these vary from reddish to nearly all black, with reduced contrast on the underwings.

Tomorrow's hawk: Ferruginous

Monday, November 28, 2016

I'll take mine to go!


Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT.

Ospreys migrate through southern Arizona and are known to fish in koi ponds, as these photos by Ned Harris of a juvenile Osprey show.

All photos © Ned Harris

According to the link above:

Ospreys are brown above and white below, and overall they are whiter than most raptors. From below, the wings are mostly white with a prominent dark patch at the wrists. The head is white with a broad brown stripe through the eye. Juveniles have white spots on the back and buffy shading on the breast.


Here's an adult Osprey

And to complete this osprey entry...

Photo © Ned Harris

The V-22 Osprey is a tilt rotor military aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Peregrine Falcon

A few year's ago, I ran this Peregrine post (again, with photos by Ned Harris). Photos by Ned in today's post, too.

Info from Peregrine Falcon pages at

Powerful and fast-flying, the Peregrine Falcon hunts medium-sized birds, dropping down on them from high above in a spectacular stoop. They were virtually eradicated from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning in the middle 20th century. After significant recovery efforts, Peregrine Falcons have made an incredible rebound and are now regularly seen in many large cities and coastal areas.

Adults are blue-gray above with barred underparts and a dark head with thick sideburns. Juveniles are heavily marked, with vertical streaks instead of horizontal bars on the breast. Despite considerable age-related and geographic variation, an overall steely, barred look remains.

Steely look, indeed!

Tomorrow: Got koi? 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

American Kestrel

You'll want to check out the link at All About Birds for the American Kestrel. As you might expect, Ned has a photo on there!

From the link:

North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body. It's one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place.

Photo © Ned Harris
Male American Kestrel

Photo © Ned Harris


Also from the site above:

It can be tough being one of the smallest birds of prey. Despite their fierce lifestyle, American Kestrels end up as prey for larger birds such as Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Barn Owls, American Crows, and Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, as well as rat snakes, corn snakes, and even fire ants.

American Kestrels nest in cavities, although they lack the ability to excavate their own. They rely on old woodpecker holes, natural tree hollows, rock crevices, and nooks in buildings and other human-built structures. The male searches for possible nest cavities. When he’s found suitable candidates, he shows them to the female, who makes the final choice. Typically, nest sites are in trees along wood edges or in the middle of open ground.

 Tomorrow's post: Peregrine Falcon

Friday, November 25, 2016

Raptor Days

I'm occasionally asked to go beyond "big bird" when identifying creatures in flight, so I thought I'd review raptors using photos from Ned "Raptor Man" Harris. First up, Red-tailed Hawks.

All photos by Ned Harris

As Ned wrote on page 26 in A Naturalist's Guide to Sabino Canyon, the adult Red-tailed Hawk is:

19" long with 4 ft wingspan, broad wings and a short tail, frequently seen soaring over Sabino Canyon. Adult has a red tail. 

Note the reddish feathers in the photo above. As always, click photo for larger view.

Front view of adult 

Ned again: 

In flight, all ages show dark marks (patagial marks) on leading edge of the wing adjacent to the body. 

You can clearly see these patagial marks in the photo above. Also note the reddish cast to the tail.

As with all living things, there are variations in the same species. This is an adult rufous-morph Red-tailed Hawk. Rufous refers to the cinnamon-brown color on the body and wings; morph simply means form or variety. 

For our final number...Red-tailed Hawk landing on saguaro!

Tomorrow, American Kestrals - photos from Ned Harris, of course. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Critter Correction

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/06/2016

Received a few corrections about the critter above from this post (which I also fixed), including this in-depth update from Fred Heath. Thanks to all who help me keep telling the truth on this blog!

Fred writes:

Carol Otto reminded me to take another look at Marty’s beetle photo. My first reaction, as was Carol’s, was that it was a whirligig. Her first clue was that it was on the surface of the water. Although whirligigs can sometimes go under water to grab a morsel or escape from a predator, because of their buoyancy they can’t stay under unless they hold on to submerged vegetation. The water scavengers on the other hand spend most of their time under water.

In addition, the shape of this beetle looks just like a typical whirligig. However, since I had no idea what a water scavenger looks like, I certainly had to double check. In my books and on the internet, although both families of beetles have many variations, the water scavengers have slightly longer bodies while the whirligigs are more compact and pumpkin seed shaped. This is a relative thing and doesn’t hold for all species.

One final difference (in general…again with lots of exceptions) is the small triangular plate (called a scutellum) sandwiched between the elytra (front wings) and the thorax is usually obvious on the water scavengers, but missing or very small in the whirligigs. In Marty’s photo there is a strong reflection of light at the spot where the scutellum might be, but I believe if it was a water scavenger the triangle would be clearly visible.

Now that I know there is a such a thing as a water scavenger, I will be keeping an eye out to see if I can find one in Sabino Creek.

Carol also noted:

Found an idea on internet that when whirligigs swim in circles they may be generating waves they can use like echolocation to find prey or other whirligigs. Intriguing.
Thanks, Fred and Carol!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Photo by Ned Harris 9/10/2016

The area in at the base of the dam is popular with artists and engineers of all ages. I've seen elaborate sand sculptures, mini pools made with sticks, and, of course, rock towers like this one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dueling Empresses

Photo by Marty Horowitz 11/12/2016

Empress Leilia butterflies are probably just waiting (not dueling) on this rock. And they might all be males. From the link above (Butterflies and Moths of North America):

Life History: Males perch most of the day to watch for females. Eggs are laid in groups of 10-15 on the top of host plant leaves. Third-stage caterpillars hibernate.
Flight: All year in South Texas, April-November in Arizona. 
Caterpillar Hosts: Tree Celtis pallida in the elm family (Ulmaceae). 
Adult Food: Sap and dung, occasionally flower nectar.

The host plant for the larvae (caterpillars) is our favorite Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida). As far as I know from Joan Tedford's most up-to-date list, this plant is in the Cannabaceae (Hemp) family (not the Elm family).
As Fred tells us in this post, the Empress Leilia caterpillars use only this plant as their host. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Super Moon

Super thanks to Julie Miller for these great November Super Moon shots!
Super Moon info from

Photos by Julie Miller Nov 14/15 2016

As always, click photos for larger view.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Blast from Mt. Lemmon's Past

Plants and Animals from Ned's Mt. Lemmon Walk of August 24, 2016

Pages from Mountain Wildflowers of Southern Arizona, By Frank S. Rose

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/24/2016

Beebalm (Monarda citriodora var. austromontana) (117)

Photo by Ned Harris 8/24/2016

Golden Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) (153)

Photo by Ned Harris 8/24/2016

Photo by Ned Harris 8/24/2016

This Greater Short-horned Lizard was about 1.5 inches long, most likely born that summer. Unlike the Regal Horned Lizards in Sabino Canyon, the females of this species bear live young. More here

Photo by Ned Harris 8/24/2016

Richardson's Geranium (Geranium richardsonii) (112)

Photo by Marty Horowitz 8/24/2016

Longtube Ipomopsis (Ipomopsis tennutuba ssp. macrosiphon) (144) or Longtube Hippopotamus, if you prefer.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Queen, the Skipper, and the Blues

All Photos by Marty Horowitz 11/4/2016
All butterflies are adults : -)

Ceraunus Blue, closed

All blues on Willow Smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Two of Hearts

Photos, title, and text from Marty Horowitz 11/3/2016

Spine-tipped Dancers

Desert Firetails

Marty writes:

Spine-tipped Dancers and Desert Firetails, respectively, mating on the same grass plant at the base of the dam (clearly a favorite trysting location). Males are forward and on top (grasping the females behind the head with their terminal appendages). Females curl their abdomens underneath to receive sperm from the males’ secondary genitalia on segment two.

Anne says: Now you know!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Creek Critters

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/06/2016

Water Scavenger Beetle

I'm going to take Marty's word for it on the identity of this beetle; but if you want to learn about this difference between the Water Scavenger and the Predaceous Diving beetles, take a look at this in-depth explanation.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/29/2016

Giant Water Bug

Look for these and other insects in the creek!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Opportunity for Growth

Photo by Ned Harris 9/10/2016

A small crevice in a tree is room enough for the tiny saguaro seed to sprout and grow. Let's all make the most of our opportunities.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sunrise of the Mothership

Photo by Marty Horowitz 10/31/2016

You'll want to click on this photo for a larger view of these beautiful sunrise clouds.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Blue hue, too

My Honey-Matt photographed this colorful Roadrunner on a recent walk. Click on the photos for a larger view.

All photos by Matt Ball 11/5/2016.

Look at those tail feathers!