Friday, November 5, 2010

Exploring Lobo Canyon

Yesterday I went with Brian McKnight, Jim Hays and Sally Johnsen to explore a rarely visited series of drainages southwest of Amado and on the west slope of the Tumacacori Mountains. (Click on any of the images for a larger version.)

The upper reaches of Sardina and Lobo canyons are in the Atascosa Highlands Christmas Bird Count Circle (a 15-mile-diameter circle centered at N31.47006°, W111.17278°), and that was the main reason for our visit. Brian, Jim, and Sally cover the area just east of here (Murphy Canyon and Bear Grass Tank), but, as they say in a lot of remote places, "you can't get there from here."

We drove down Sardina Canyon from Arivaca Road, crossed over to Moyza Canyon, then back over to Sardina Canyon until, 10 miles later, we entered the CBC circle (recognized when my GPS said we were 7.5 miles from the circle center). This is a typical view of the habitat towards the west – open, rolling desert grasslands.

To the  east are the Tumacacori Mountains. The accent is on the middle syllable, and no, it isn't Spanish.

We arrived at Sardina Well, where a pair of Rufous-winged Sparrows and some Chipping Sparrows and Northern Cardinals were.

From here we continued south and over a ridge into Lobo Canyon (also draining off the Tumacacoris), and the road here passes by a nice thicket of oaks and then to the end of the road near Lobo Tank. The only water-associated birds we saw here were two Killdeer and a Black Phoebe.

Farther up the canyon is some nice oak-juniper woodland, but really good, dense woodland (visible on Google Earth) is yet another 1 1/4-mile hike beyond here.

This yucca seems too narrow-leaved for Yucca baccata, and may be a hybrid between it and Y. elata or Y. madrensis.

There were several stands of this prickly-pear which looks like a green version of the normally purple Santa Rita Prickly-Pear.

I spotted this Black-necked Garter Snake just as it disappeared into a bush and then holed up between some boulders.

Grasshoppers were everywhere, at least 10 species that I could recognize offhand. This is an Arid Lands Grasshopper, Melanoplus aridus.

We left the area via a different route, crossing over the northern Tumacacoris and following the Puerto Canyon drainage. It had some very nice thornscrubby hillsides (characterized by high plant diversity including Hopbush and Kidneywood) as well as some riparian thickets that were full of birds and butterflies. This ungainly tangle is the pea vine Schott's Yellowhood, Nissolia schottii, one of the largest I've seen.

In the only lush grove of willow and sycamores were a Black-throated Gray Warbler and a Cassin's Vireo, and Sally spotted this huge Black Witch, Ascalapha odorata, a vagrant moth from Mexico. Its wingspan is about 8 inches.

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