Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Mystery, a Parapet, and an Impostor

I had a great time roving at Tohono Chul Park yesterday with my buddy Sue. As we walked the trails, Sue noticed something very odd: shredded leaves and twigs lay beneath many creosote bushes. What made this particularly strange is that not many creatures eat creosote, which contains a number of potent  and presumably bad-tasting chemicals.

Mystery (creosote) 4-1-2013 9-32-10 AM 3255x2532MYSTERY: who is attacking the creosote?

We continued our walk, and at the top of a hill we saw this:

round-tailed ground squirrel creosote 4-1-2013 9-28-16 AM 1808x1425

It was a round-tailed ground squirrel, dismantling a creosote branch. We said in unison: “Mystery solved!” We assume that he or she was using the little twigs and leaves to line a nest.

A little farther on, in a different part of the Park, we saw this beautiful example of a wolf-spider parapet.

wolf spider parapet 4-1-2013 9-35-19 AM 2520x2138Wolf-spider hole with parapet

A wolf spider creates a hole in the ground, usually alongside a trail, and builds a very nicely-constructed parapet all the way around the hole. I have heard different stories about why they do this; some say it is to give them a better vantage of approaching prey, but I have NEVER seen a wolf spider on a parapet.

Finally, in the front of the Park, we saw something I’ve never seen there before: a hummingbird moth (white-lined sphinx moth) busily sipping nectar from a field of penstemons. The below photo is courtesy of Sheri Williamson, of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (http://www.sabo.org/):

Hummingbird moth

Here’s a video illustrating why these insects are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds:

Hummingbird Moth (White-lined Sphinx Moth) and penstemons at Tohono Chul Park


  1. Maybe the parapet is to keep water from running in the hole. Interesting tales you tell.

    1. I like that theory! If I ever find out for sure, I'll let you know.

  2. Anonymous5:54 AM

    What a good morning and you tell it so well. Sue

    1. Thanks, Sue! Couldn't do it without you!

  3. I think I've seen those moths around here, but I could be wrong. That is one fascinating Park! Always a surprise.

    1. Yesh! Something different every day. I don't know how anyone could get bored working there.