Friday, October 25, 2013

Autumn Miscellany, Here and There

In most parts of the country, there’s an autumnal nip in the air. Here, we’re grateful for chilly mornings and daytime highs only in the low nineties.

To celebrate the season, here are some recent random photos from Tohono Chul Park and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

Palm Canyn 10-11-2013 8-23-30 AM 3264x2448

Palm Canyon, the newest “habitat” at Tohono Chul. It’s slated to officially open next week.

Big Boojum 9-17-2013 11-12-24 AM 2442x3174This weird-looking, alien-seeming plant is a boojum tree, from another part of the Sonoran Desert. At the Desert Museum.

Little Boojum 9-17-2013 11-11-12 AM 2442x2835 And a smaller boojum tree, close-up.

Gila Monster Escape 9-13-2013 11-02-06 AM 413x397 Lately at Reptile Ramble, the Gila Monster has been trying to escape.

Inca dove laying egg 10-24-2013 12-35-14 PM 872x1153I wish this were a better photo. It is an inca dove, in the process of laying an egg in the Desert Museum walk-in Aviary. Her poorly-constructed nest was so small that her cloaca hung out over the end of it. I didn’t wait for the inevitable sad moment when the slowly emerging egg finally fell to the ground.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


This morning I noticed that something had been chewing on the leaves of my grapefruit tree, and that there were fresh bird droppings all over it.

bird poop... or 2-15-2013 2-21-39 PM 3312x2076

Then… the bird poop moved. It raised its head. As I drew closer, it stuck its tongue out at me!

orange dog larva 2-15-2013 2-21-19 PM 1574x790

This was something I had read about but never seen: the caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), the largest butterfly in the United States. Called “orange dogs” because of their larval habit of feeding on citrus leaves, these beautiful butterflies are found throughout the US and Canada, and as far south as Central America.

                         Giant Swallowtail 9-17-2010 9-03-47 AM 322x251

The larva, as you can see if you look closely, has eyes on either side of its head and eye spots on its “forehead.” When alarmed, they evert their osmetereum, a specialized reddish organ that emits a foul odor (though I smelled nothing). It has been speculated that the forked nature of the osmetereum might resemble the tongue of a snake, adding another layer of cryptic protection.

A couple of years ago I saved the life of a newly-pupated Giant Swallowtail. You can read about it here.