Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Back to Sabino Canyon

We returned to Sabino Canyon for our walk this morning and were rewarded with some colorful birds:  a Cardinal,

a Lesser Gold Finch,

and a Roadrunner.

On the flora side of the coin there were a matching pair of barrel fishhook cacti with some strange red spines or fruits,

a lovely Elegant Lupine fuzzy and dripping with morning dew,

 some Fiddlenecks silhouetted so you can actually see their fiddle necks, and

several Desert Yellow Evening Primroses.

Where there are flowers open and some warm sun there will be some butterflies.  A few even stayed put long enough to focus on. After you get the picture you have to figure out what they are and though we bought a nice folder that purports to help identification, the pictures and the real thing often don't quite agree.  For instance this fellow seems to be some sort of Checkerspot.  Of three in our guide we can't agree on which one it might be.

This one seems to be an Empress Leilia or maybe a Hackberry Emperor.  On the other hand they both may be the ubiquitous Texan Crescent.

We are pretty sure of this one.  It's a Dainty Sulphur. 

This one we got down to two.  We lean toward the Desert Marble, but could also go with the Checkered White.

Warm sun also brings out the Side Blotched Lizards.
Ta Ta for another sunny day in the canyon.













Monday, March 02, 2015

Notched a Gila Monster at Saguaro East

Given the crowds at Sabino Canyon on Sundays, we decided to try Saguaro East National Park for our Sabbath walk.

 It was not at all crowded as we drove slowly along the loop road.  A van looked kind of small and lonely at one of the overlooks.

At the Cactus Forest North Trailhead  we pulled off and started our walk.

This trail is mostly wide and fairly flat; they even let people on mountain bikes use it though we only ran into one pair of cyclers.  We ran into a Cottontail almost immediately, but he was moving too fast for photos. We saw a few more later and they too were moving or at a distance.  It soon became apparent that Saguaro East was behind Sabino Canyon in flower development and of course fewer flowers also diminished the number of butterflies.

The only one that sat still long enough for me to catch was this one.

It may be a Painted Lady or our old friend the Texan Crescent.

On the other hand there were still plenty of sightings to keep us occupied.   We saw some fiddlenecks, desert zinnias, and cryptantha and were especially happy with the nicest and brightest stand of Christmas Cholla that we had seen this year.
Stand of Christmas Cholla

Close-up shot of Christmas Cholla fruit

There were spider webs to admire and 

Nice spider web
about 3/4 of a mile along, we did come across one of the remains of the old lime kilns that dotted this area prior to the park's creation.  We were reminded that producing lime for mortar was a major industry, that along with cattle grazing, almost destroyed the saguaro habitat here. Below is the lime kiln site. 

A closeup of the old chimney base is below.


Other ruins were a tribute to the remarkable resilience of the saguaro even in death.

Lone Saguaro Sentinel

You cannot take a walk in the desert without finding a mystery or two.  This was ours this morning. It was a plant we had never seen before and we are still uncertain what it is.

In spite of the mystery we returned to our car mildly disappointed that there weren't  a few more things to see on the trail. We particularly missed hearing and seeing a lot of birds.

That disappointment turned to exhilaration when, on the drive out, less than a half a mile from the park exit,  we spotted a Gila Monster lumbering along the side of the road. Luckily nobody was behind us and Jan was able to stop the car long enough for me to snap one long range photo of him before he disappeared into the brush at the side of the road.   He is that thin dark line in the gravel just in front of the prickly pear about center in the photo. Click on it to enlarge for a slightly better view.







Saturday, February 28, 2015

Weekend Clouds at Sabino Canyon

There is no question that sunny days bring the greatest number of visitors and joy to Sabino Canyon, but when the day dawns cloudy with intermittent sun, there is a change of coloration and tone that beckons the amateur as well as the professional photographer. 

Take this Saturday morning Feb. 28, 2015.

Approaching the park on Sabino Canyon Road.

Approaching the Visitor Center after parking the car.

On the Bear Canyon Trail

Just off Bear Canyon Road

The noble Saguaro with Brittlebush

Panorama City
 MORAL: Don't stay home if the sun don't shine! 

Unusual flora right on Sabino Canyon's main road

I had just written about how great Ann Green's Sabino blog was and this morning more proof appeared.  I can't improve on her so will just quote it and add my own pictures that were taken on Wed. Feb. 25th when Fred showed the plants to us.

Desert Broomrape

Desert Broomrape

"They are the root parasite Orobanche cooperi, with the English name Burro-weed Strangler or Desert Broomrape. (What a nasty name)

To my knowledge, all of the members of the Orobanchaceae family can be root parasites. Recently plants in the genus Castilleja (paintbrushes and owl clovers) were added to this family. Orobanche cooperi which has no chlorophyll is considered an obligate parasite because it cannot complete its life cycle without a host plant.
Common host plants for this plant are in the Sunflower Family especially the Ambrosia genus (such as Canyon Ragweed, Triangleleaf Bursage, and Burro Brush in Sabino) and Encelia (Brittlebush). These Orabanche plants were all somewhat near to Brittlebushes and thus is host plant for those in the photos."

These things ain't pretty but clearly few of the thousands who walk that main road would ever see them much less ask what they were.  But there they are and I nominate them for the title of most unusual of all the plants we've come across in the last two months.