PCMN Spring Assessment – 31 July 2019
By Franklin Lane & Jessie Rack
Taking advantage of a beautiful (cloudy) morning, a team of Pima County Master Naturalists met at the Douglas Spring trail head to complete a ‘Monsoon’ cycle spring assessment for Sky Island Alliance (SIA). The team was joined by an SIA intern; University of Utah graduate student Taylor Cunningham. Taylor is involved in an exciting new field of study called Environmental Humanities.
The target was Rock Spring, located about a 2+ mile hike into the foothills of the Rincon Mountains. The spring is behind (and once fed) the cattle tank at the intersection of Three Tank Trail and Carrillo Trail. Old timers might remember the tank when it contained up to a meter of water and dozens of Koi (a colored variety of Amur Carp) to control mosquitos. The tank was drained sometime after 2004.
PCMN participants: Franklin Lane (Cohort 1), Jean Boris (2), Jessie Rack (3), Peggy Ollerhead (3), Dre Hoerr (3).
Photos by Jessie Rack unless as noted.
The hike in was even more deliberate than last year when Cameron (Cohort 2) and Hank Verbais (1) assisted in the assessment. There were so many interesting things to examine along the trail plus we had our collective expertise to truly appreciate and discuss. Among the insects were a Cactus Longhorn Beetle (Moneilema gigas) and a Leaf Footed Bug (probably Mozena lunata). The Longhorn is a pretty large, flightless beetle that feeds on both cholla and prickly pear.
We also spotted several Graham’s fishhook cacti (Mammillaria grahamii) in bloom. Including this one with a visiting honey bee!
Once at the spring it took the team less than an hour to sample water quality, measure the three distinct pools, capture flow data and record the saturation levels for each section of the 62m run. Another task was to record any new flora and fauna. Everyone in cohort 3 already knows how passionate and enthusiastic PCMN resident herpetologist Dr. Jessie Rack can be. But all Tucson probably heard her whoop when she spotted the biggest Sonoran desert toad (Incilius alvarius – also known as the Colorado River toad) any of us had ever seen!
I. alvarius is the largest native toad in the United States. It can get up to 7.5”. This guy had to be close to that. They have paratoid (skin) glands that produce 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin. These are both toxic entheogens that can kill even large dogs. Interestingly, raccoons have developed a cool method to flip them on their back and eat them from the belly side to avoid the glands. Humans have been known to capture and dry the toxin for burning and inhalation. Supposedly providing a “warm sensation”, euphoria and hallucinations.
The team also spotted some Spikemoss, (Selaginella sp.) not previously seen and reconfirmed a large stand of Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis) seen for the first time during the ‘pre-summer’ assessment in June.
Photo: Jean Boris
Thanks Peggy for expert record keeping and observations.
Photo: Jean Boris
Jessie and Taylor use a field expedient depth gauge.
The sun caught us for the hike out so it did warm up. We still managed to spot some Arizona Blue-eyes (Evolvulus arizonicus) and Coues’ Senna (Senna covesii).