Insects were hiding in this weather, but we still found them, gleaning, sweeping, or using a beating sheet. Arizona Claptrop, pink mimosas and white-blooming Acacias proved good places to look.
The weather also brought out a few reptiles, though not as many as we would have hoped. The Desert Tortoise showed up early, along River Rd in Rio Rico, the Gophersnake was stretched across the dirt Road close to Lochiel and was smart enough to coil up tightly when my car straddled it. Alice called him 'one majorly pissed gopher'
|The wash looked much more impressive in real life. It was very noisy, too.. That's the rancher's truck coming towards us Photo Joyce Gross|
By late afternoon we hit the first deep wash south of the Huachucas. While we stood contemplating the already raging flood water a rancher came down from the other side and made clear in no uncertain gestures (we could not hear him over the noise of the stream) that we were not going to cross.
|by Joyce Gross|
The south flank of the Huachucas was greener than I had ever seen it. Where I remembered tiger beetles running on bare soil, there were thick grasses harboring legions of chiggers. I was beyond caring because I'd been thoroughly exposed just a week before and still itching, but Joyce later stopped counting at 220 bites. As we climbed to higher elevations, Joyce got her first opportunity to look for gals on oaks. There were fewer flowers and hence fewer flower visiting insects than I had seen in other years.
A little orange-blooming clover was full of nectaring insects. If I'm not mistaken, that's the plant that years ago stirred Doug Yanega's curiosity because he thought he had observed a close relationship between the flower anatomy and a certain bee. I did see only one species of little bees in attendance. these bees are in the genus Calliopsis (John Ascher det.) Most species in this genus are oligolectic or monolectic (they collect pollen from a few related species or just one species). In addition, there also many individuals of a bee fly species that also seemed, for the moment, specialized on the orange flowers. Skippers were visiting as well.
We had planned to spend our first night in Copper Canyon, but now arrived there in the early afternoon. So we first made a trip up to Montezuma Pass. Behind us the view includes the Hereford/Sierra Vista area on the left and Mexican borderland on the right. Coronado marched through here on his tryst towards northern cities of gold.
|Beetles from Montezuma Pass and Montezuma Canyon Road|
|Montezuma Canyon Rd descending through Coronado National Monument|
|Our MV/UV set up by Joyce Gross|
|A sample of Alice's haul at Copper Canyon at night|
|Copper Canyon day-activity|
We first stopped at the Railway Road where only some Milkweed patches were buzzing. Clerids, Tarantula Hawks, and little Milkweed Longhorns posed nicely. Sleeping colorful blister beetles hugged fleabane flowers like feather beds
|Alice and I, fishing in murky water. Photo by Joyce|
Flat puddles of the color of coffee au lait bubbled with the activity of air-gulping tadpoles - baby spadefoods are huge and ravenous, not shy of biting off the tails of smaller toad larvae.
Several freshwater shrimp species were bobbing up and down, impossible to photograph. But when we found triops, I remembered Piotr Naskrecki's beautiful photos and got out a bowl with clear, fresh water. It was worth it. I had never seen the red underside, nor seen their gills constantly fanning.
Even in the dunes along Blue Sky Road, Tiger beetles were rather scarce. Not too surprising, as other entomologists had reported the main emergence by the end of July. But a few were still mating and thus not too easily disturbed.
Driving up Pinery Canyon Road we were greeted by a male Montezuma Quail who was not afraid at all and posed willingly with different backgrounds. In fact, he was back 2 days later when we had to say good bye to his mountain range.
Our campsite in the oak belt allowed Joyce to search for more galls. As the night was humid and warmer than at Copper Canyon, and our light was the only one around, we had a nice variety of bugs flying in.
Alice's oatmeal trail also brought a nice number of Jerusalem crickets, camel crickets, shieldbacks, and and an impressive Rove Beetle.
In the middle of the night a huge boulder, dislodged by all the previous rain, rolled down the mountain slope towards our camp, but luckily its momentum ended harmlessly on the other side of the creek. I saw my first snake fly, ever, also thanks to that creek.
Rustler Park was our high elevation goal for the next day. I had been up there shortly with Robyn and Gary the week before. Since then much of the Sneezeweed in the meadow had wilted, but many other flowers were still in their prime. But there was little insect activity.
Interestingly, I found my second ever Calligrapha multiguttata on a flower in the exact spot where I'd seen my first in 2008.
Also just like back then, a Pine Sawyer came flying to our parked cars.
|Content of my aspirator vial after collecting under bark|
We stopped at many promising oak-gall-sites on the way down, always with an eye on building thunderheads. While Joyce searched for galls, a little Short-horned Lizard played hide and seek with us.
We gave Willcox Playa another chance - this time at the bird viewing area at the golf course. There were lots of Black-necked Stilts and other wading birds, but I've rarely payed as little attention to them before. Instead we were again tiger beetle hunting. They tantalized us with all shades of blue, but in the end, none of them was the famous Black Sky Tiger Beetle. Alice and Joyce found an amphibian friend, though. And you can see we were rather sun-baked by then, but quite happy.
Our last stop as gang of three was in Picture Rocks. Home, for me! The dirt roads had a thick new layer of loose sand and Randy said that we had gotten a lot of rain over the last 2 days. We showered, gave Randy some short account of our exploits, played with the dogs, and heated some Pizza - and all the while the MV light was already shining out over the Creosote flats and Ironwood washes of our property.
And the bugs came! Some surprises even for me, and I've black lighted in that spot pretty regularly since 2007.
In the morning, when Alice and Joyce left for some more days of adventure, I was quite envious. Let's do something like this again, soon! But I had to process (photograph on white back ground) the score of beetles that I'd brought home with me. That took at least as long as the whole trip. - and then there was this blog to write ... but now I'm ready for my next trip, too - It'll be to Sonora, Mexico.