Friday, June 30, 2017

AZ State Butterfly

Photos by Bill Kaufman 6/15/2017

The Two-tailed Swallowtail is our state butterfly. What a beauty!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Unicorn in the canyon

On a recent outing in the canyon, Bill captured this mantis. He writes:

[The] Arizona Unicorn Mantis (Pseudovates arizonae) was my most interesting creature. I have never seen one before. It was identified thanks to Margarethe Brummermann. The wings look like a leaf folded around the abdomen, providing great camouflage. This one may be a male. The males have longer antennae and the wings extend past the end of the abdomen (That looks like the case here).

Photo by Bill Kaufman  6/10/2017

Thanks, Bill (and Margarethe)!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No tail to tell

Photos copyright Gene Spesard

This Greater Earless lizard is nearly tail-less. Better to lose your tail than your life, of course. But, as you can see in the photo below, the tail doesn't grow back with the same flexibility and length as the original.

A bonus book recommendation: The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Don't be intimidated by its length; Mukherjee writes in a very accessible way.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Life unfolding

Photo by Matt Ball June 2017

I've been putting off this announcement; I know it will disappointing to many of you loyal followers of Your Daily Dose of Sabino Canyon. I'll post here for the last time on 7/7/2017.

As many of you know, I've been juggling various part-time jobs this year and have been in Sabino Canyon very infrequently. (I need to be gainfully employed for at least another decade and don't want to move from Tucson.) Being a substitute teacher in the local school district was a great learning experience - and it made me realize that I need to be in the classroom again. I'm thrilled I was able to use math and science credits from my undergraduate days (now more than thirty years ago, but who's counting?) to become a middle school science teacher for the 2017/18 school year. The state of Arizona has a program whereby qualified candidates can teach while taking classes to get a teaching certificate. (My PhD doesn't qualify me to teach at the K-12 level.) I'm very fortunate to be able to take advantage of that program, of course, but it means I'll also be going back to school on top of teaching full time. Bottom line: I'll no longer have time for this blog.

The good news is that I'll keep paying for the url for at least the next few years (and probably until I retire. I may be back :-)  That means you can view the archives (i.e., every daily post from the past 7 years) at any time. I know it's more trouble than getting an email every day, but if you bookmark - you'll be able go to the site quickly. You can search the site via the 'search this blog' field, too.

In other good news, Marty Horowitz, one of the very fine photographers featured here regularly, has offered to ease any withdrawal symptoms you might have. He will make you part of his friends and family list. If interested in receiving photos, IDs, and explanatory text from Marty on a semi-regular basis, send him an email at LHOROWITZ33 at comcast (dot) net (You know what to do.) (EMAIL UPDATED)

There's always Ned Harris' amazing flickr site, of course. I recommend bookmarking that and spending a happy hour or two there on a regular basis. This blog wouldn't have been possible at all without the support of my mentor and friend Ned. I am so grateful for his encouragement, generosity, and photography. Thanks, Ned!

Thanks, too, to Gayle, Nancy, Patricia, Marty, Fred, Jean and Mark, Gene, and, as always, my Honey-Matt. It's been a great 7 years! I hope you can say that this blog brightened your day every now and then. Happy trails!

Anne Green, the Science Queen

Monday, June 26, 2017

Fruity goodness

All kinds of birds taking advantage of Saguaro fruits. Yes indeed, Patricia! Fruits are the things with the seeds.

Photos by Marty Horowitz 6/13/2017

Who, me?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Squirrely Goodness

Photo by Gene Spesard 6/10/2017
Round-tailed Ground Squirrel incarnation of the Buddha
(Finally, a female)

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Dan Weisz and company went on a night walk in Sabino on 6/11/2017. (Many of the critters Dan photographed are in a class that goes unappreciated by my Honey-Matt; they won't be blogged here.) Dan writes:

Crossing the bridge to Bear Canyon, we saw a Variable Sandsnake. About ten inches long, this snake spends most of its life buried in sand, gravel, or surface debris which it “swims” through in search of insect prey.

Photos copyright Dan Weisz 6/11/2017

This critter was also seen by a lucky Kindergarten class in 2012.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Bluets and Blues

Photo by Marty Horowitz 6/3/2017
Taken on Mt Lemmon

Wright's Bluets (Houstonia wrightii) with Reakirt's Blue and Acmon Blue that's what I call blue-ti-ful!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Peregrines on parade

Like many of us on these hot June days, Marty took a trip to Mt. Lemmon. In addition to the many flowers blooming, he also photographed this Peregrine Falcon.

Photos by Marty Horowitz 6/3/2017

For more of these amazing raptors, check out Ned's photos from his recent trip to Torrey Pines at his flickr site.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Clark's wear bracelets

Marty caught two Clark's Spiny lizards on one fine day in June. (Specifically, 6/2/2017) According to Reptiles of AZ:

Base coloration is blue-gray, gray, or gray-brown, often with powder blue or blue-green accents of the body and tail. A dark wedge-shape marks each shoulder and there are dark, bracelet-like crossbars on the forelimbs. Juvenile animals and females often have brown or gray crossbars on the body. Males have a large blue or blue-green patch on each side of the belly and one on the throat. These patches are often outlined with black. Belly and throat patches are faint or lacking in females.

Photos copyright Marty Horowitz 6/2/2017
 I think this one might be a female...
Update from Fred: This is a male : -)

and this one a male. Update from Fred: This is a female.

Let's ask Fred, though. He knows everything : -) Thanks, Fred!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lucky Ducks

Mallards in actual water in Sabino Creek in early June. I'm looking forward to the monsoon rains! How about you?
Photos copyright Marty Horowitz 6/2/2017

Lucky duck enjoys some muck

Out for a slow paddle

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rattle around

This beautiful Black-tailed Rattlesnake was seen by Gene (and company) on 5/31/2017.

All photos copyright Gene Spesard 5/31/2017

Thanks, Gene, for capturing the whole enchilada!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Secret from 2015

Sabino Secret

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lounge lizards

Photo by Marty Horowitz 5/31/2017
From Live Science, Facts About Gila Monsters:

A group of these lizards is called a lounge, which is appropriate since they love to lie around and soak up the sun's rays.
Now you know!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Beginning to End

Marty photographed this New Mexico Thistle (Cirsium neomexicanum) plant over the course of several weeks, from bud to post-seed dispersal. Thanks, Marty!

All photos by Marty Horowitz
Buds begin.

Flowers follow.

Fruits form. 

Generally, if the fruits look like dandelion fruits, the plant is in the Sunflower/Aster family. The dark things at the bottom of the fluffy stuff are the seeds. Yes, these are wind dispersed.

Seeds away!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Remembering Bryna

Greatly missed

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Photo by Marty Horowitz 5/31/2017
This little bunny is using the if-I-don't-move,-I-won't-be-seen tactic, commonly known as protective stillness. If you're a well-camouflaged creature, this can work well.

Monday, June 12, 2017


Photo by Marty Horowitz 5/31/2017

Click on the photo for a larger view of Creosote (Larrea tridentata). Note the white fruits [fruit = thing with the seed(s)] with the darker seeds showing through in the centers.

Some interesting info on creosote from the Desert Museum in this article:

There is a legend that creosotes inhibit growth of any other plants around them. Not exactly. The roots will excrete a substance which inhibits growth of bursage, its main competitor, and it will also inhibit germination of its own seeds so competing new creosote bushes will not grow nearby. But, the creosote is an important nurse plant for small cacti and many other plants.

And even more interesting science from the Joshua Tree National Park site:

Although creosote bushes produce large numbers of fuzzy seeds at each flowering, few of them are able to germinate. It takes decades for creosote bushes to return to areas that have been cleared of native shrubs. Even a one-foot high plant is probably at least ten years old. As the shrub grows, branches continue to originate around the periphery of the original stem crown. The branches grow upward for about six feet giving the whole shrub the rounded shape of an upside down cone.
As growth continues, the oldest branches gradually die and the stem crown splits into separate crowns. This happens at an age of 30 to 90 years. Eventually, the original stem and early branches die and rot away; the connections between adjoining segments of the stem crown thus disappear. The plant has now become a clone, composed of several independent stem crowns all descended from one seedling. The process continues until the clone spreads across the ground in a circular or elliptical shape.

Although the creosote in the Sonoran Desert is older that that of the Mojave, the creosote from the Chihuahuan Desert is the oldest, i.e., closest to the common ancestor. (Also from this Joshua Tree site.)

Actually, what botanists classify as a single species in the North American deserts is now known to consist of three genetically different shrubs. Creosote bushes of the Mojave Desert have 78 chromosomes, those of the Sonoran Desert (southern Arizona) have 52 chromosomes, while those of west Texas (Chihuahuan Desert) have only 26. Such an increase in the number of chromosomes in plant evolution is not that unusual. Seedless watermelons, for example, were the result of doubling the number of chromosomes of regular watermelons, the lack of seeds being a side effect. In the case of the Mojave creosote, the increase in chromosome number may have been accompanied by an increasing ability to survive on the less summer rainfall in the Mojave.

Whenever you're out and about, take a closer look at this fascinating plant!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cooper's Hawk and company

Photo by Marty Horowitz 5/18/2017
Cooper's Hawk with ground squirrel snack

Have chicks been seen this year? 

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Eastern Collared Lizard

Friday, June 9, 2017

Birds past


Elf Owl

Purple Martin

Thursday, June 8, 2017

To look for

Brunch Buffet

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Monday, June 5, 2017

Gene was on the scene

Great collections from Gene Spesard from three of the April Nature Walks in Sabino Canyon

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Old and older

Photo by Karen McWhirter 3/11/2017

As has often been the case this year, I've kept photos long after they were taken. (More on that topic later this month, I hope.) Thanks for your patience!

Karen writes:

I took this photo of a bee-fly on March 11th. I had seen what looked like a small bee hovering over the same patch of dirt in my backyard for several days. It occurred to me that it seemed rather odd that I rarely saw it go to any flowers. Searching online for "hovering bees" I learned that it was a Bee-Fly. This fly is in the Bombyliidae family. Though it has a long proboscis for feeding on nectar, they do not sting. The larvae parasitize ground-nesting insects.

Here's another from Ned

Saturday, June 3, 2017

New and Old

More science on cresting in plants came to my attention not long ago, and then I read the book I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong, which blew me away. Well written, accessible, entertaining, and filled with wonder. New science on how life (all life, not just plants) works. Truly awesome!

In short, phytoplasmids are one of the causes of cresting in many plant species. From the Plant Pathology site at the USDA:

Phytoplasmas are very small bacteria that are enveloped only by a single membrane and do not possess a cell wall like typical bacteria. According to results from phylogenetic studies of various genes, phytoplasmas descended from ancestors that did possess walls. In their descent from walled bacteria in the Bacillus/Clostridium group, the genomes of phytoplasmas became greatly reduced in size. Phytoplasmas thus lack some biosynthetic pathways for the synthesis of compounds necessary for their survival, and they must obtain those substances from plants and insects in which they are parasites. Many bacteria can be isolated and grown in artificial media in the laboratory, but so far, no one has been able to accomplish such a feat with any phytoplasma.

(In the book above, you'll read that this type of interaction is part of many, many, many different species. And species within species.)

The article about cresting (fasciation) in cactus is here, if you'd like to get into those weeds.

And now for the barrel cactus re-runs:

Friday, June 2, 2017

Damselflies: The Next Generation

Photos and story from Marty Horowitz 5/23/2017

Marty writes of these Arroyo Bluets: In this sequence, the female (with the male firmly attached in tandem), goes under the water to oviposit among the submerged vegetation. I wasn’t sure whether this was bad intent by the male or something under the surface dragging her down. But, it turned out to be "normal" according to Rich Bailowitz, our local expert who literally wrote the book A Field Guide to Damselflies & Dragonflies of Arizona and Sonora.

Rich writes:

Consider yourself lucky to have seen this process. Often the female does not totally submerge herself as appears to be the case with your photos. What happens on species like this is that once the pair is in tandem, the female backs down into the water so that she can deposit the eggs where she wants - on or under or near plant material. The male stays attached throughout the process.

Note that in the photo below, she is completely submerged with only her wings above the surface - amazing!

Thanks, Marty!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Colorful Damsels

All photos by Marty Horowitz 5/7/2017