Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sabino Canyon

I downloaded these pictures over a month and a half ago and I never got round to finishing the post - what on earth possible excuse have I got for neglecting my blog for so long? Umm none really. Every time I had some free time I just didn't feel like sitting in front of a computer (I know, lame, but that's all I've got.

Whenever we visit Arizona I have a little personal wishlist of animals I really want to see. Last time we were there I managed to see two that were really high on the list. We were visiting Sabino Canyon. I am not a big fan of hiking when it is hot so my husband had used the incentive of visiting the hummingbird monitoring site at the bottom of the valley to entice me. As we were heading out to it, this delightful little horned lizard scuttled across our path - check one! Somehow I had always thought they were bigger but I was quite entranced. It seemed as though he was so confident of his camouflage on the rocky ground that he just ignored us and went about his business which gave us a great opportunity to photograph him. However with the sun directly overhead and him being the same colour as his surroundings it was surprisingly difficult to get a good shot. Now I will have to pour over my reptile books and try to find out which species of horned lizard this is.

The very top of my wishlist, surprisingly wasn't a 'herp' but a mammal. I love pigs, always have and while this next character isn't actually a member of the pig family it bears enough of a resemblance to pigs to have won my heart. I have so wanted to see a Javelina and when we arrived at the hummingbird monitoring area there it was rooting about in the undergrowth! Perfect.

Ironically the hummingbirds were a bit of a let-down because the only two species that I saw were the two I most commonly see at my own feeders and the light was nowhere near good enough to get decent pictures. (You'll have to visit my other blog to see what they really look like.)

However I was so delighted with the Javelina that it really didn't matter. The classification of the Javelina is that it belongs to the same order as pigs and even to the same sub-order but it is from the family Tayassuidae which is (ironically) the 'new world pigs!' Their outward appearance is obviously very 'pig like' even down to that lovely snuffly snout but the foot structure, digestive process and the dental structure distinguishes them from true pigs.

By now it was really starting to warm up and most wildlife was very sensibly lying low and avoiding the heat, apart from the silly humans of course. The few exceptions were the endless array of beautiful lizards striking the pose as they thermoregulated on various rocks along our path. Again - one of these days I will get down to trying to work out the species of some of these but for now I just want to get this post out!
Check out the length of the toes on the hind feet of this guy.

Eventually even the lizards realised that it was too hot to be out in the sun and as they disappeared into the undergrowth we made our way back to the car and to a long, cold and much needed, drink. But hey - I got to see two new species on my wishlist so the sweating was worth it.

Photo Credits - CJT & DominickV


Kathiesbirds said...

Celeste, how wonderful that you got to see these critters! Usually one can also see Anna's hummingbirds at that feeder station. If you go up Mt. Lemmon to the visitor's center you can usually see broad-tailed and magnificent hummingbirds. You can see all kinds if you visit Ramsey Canyon's feeders!

I can't believe you saw the javalina there in Sabino! In the 3 years I did the IBA survey with Tucson Audubon I never once saw a javalina in the canyon (though I did see footprints. I have see Gila Monsters in the canyon twice and farther up the canyon I once found a juvenile Black hawk! So, I hope you go back again and take the tram ride, at least once!

I am so glad you composed this post!

Kathiesbirds said...

Celeste, here are 2 helpful links for Identifying lizards and snakes in AZ:



Arija said...

Welcome back Celeste! Great dry-land critters. The Javelina looks like a tailless rat in the second shot.The second lizard looks like our goannas but I guess he is much smaller. Nice post.

Celeste said...

Thanks for the links Kathie. I have got lots of books too, just not in Chicago!
We did actually hop on the tram too that day but I am not so good at taking photos of scenery I tend to just enjoy looking at it :)

Celeste said...

Looking at your link Kathie, I think it is a Regal Horned Lizard - thank you :)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Lovely nature post. Thanks for sharing with us.
It's great to hear from you, too.

I was given two horned toads when I was a little girl, from my Uncle Tex (yes he was from Texas. lol!)
My evil stepmother wouldn't allow me to put them in a terrarium and bring them inside for the winter, so we kept them in a cardboard box on the back porch. Of course they didn't survive. We lived in Maryland, for Pete's sake. I was heartbroken!

We did some pet-sitting for some friends in Benson, AZ, about 6 years ago and they had herds of javelina come through their front yard each night. I think I was most surprised at how huge the male javelinas are!
Then we ended up adopting a tail-less Manx cat for my daughter, while we were in AZ and we named her Javelina!
We still have her and every time we call her name, I am reminded of those interesting pig-like critters we saw while staying in AZ.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh and I meant to add, just this week we've gotten a new and different colored hummingbird visiting our feeders. It's got a copper colored back.
Any ideas what species it might be.