Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Canyon in Santa Cruz County

My friend and I had planned a black-lighting trip to the northern Tumacocaries for a while. His schedule is super busy, so I was so happy he could fit the excursion in.  I was not too happy to find out that I was on gallery duty for that same day. It turned out okay though,  I met too few customers (it's hot!) but a very nice tarantula. Once invited to climb on, she hardly wanted to leave me again.

After 6, we headed south into Santa Cruz County and the north part of the Tumacocari Mountains. The evening was beautiful and the light lovely until the dirt road turned west and became quit invisible in the glaring sun through dirty car windows (my car, mea culpa).  But we got to our destination.

Our black light brought in pretty good bug activity at a great secluded spot close to nearly riparian drainage through the mesquite grassland. It even had some Mexican Blue Oaks.  We met one border patrol car on it's way out and then had the lush canyon all to ourselves.

I used a Mercury vapor lamp and 2 fluorescent UV tubes. Here is a small sample of the bugs that came to the sheet - Rich took many more photos than I this time.

We also put several LED black lights on a ground sheet right into the thick vegetation along the mostly dry creek. There we got scores of Trogidae, both Trox and the larger Omorgus. Also in this picture are 5 shiny little Pseudocanthon. While the Trogids are a welcome addition to the teaching collection for  this summer's Coleoptera Course in Portal, I was glad that we never found out why there was such a concentration of Hide Beetles in that part of the canyon.

Western Screech Owls called all night close to the sheet - that bug eater probably collected with us.  Early in the morning we went birding. Montezuma Quail males were whistling all around and came even closer to Rich's call. Gray Hawk and Thick-billed Kingbirds were hanging around our camp site.

Walking among sloping hillsides  crowned with copper-colored cliffs, we listened to and watched Varied Buntings, Blue Grossbeaks, Summer Tanangers, Chats, Cardinals, Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. Botteri's Sparrows, Rufous-winged Sparrows.  Have you ever heard a Black-throated Sparrow called a Diamond sparrow? It makes sense seeing the shape of his black bib and hearing his song - like cutting diamonds! 3 wren spp: Bewick's, Cactus and Canyon. We constantly heard Crissal Thrashers calling, but the only one we saw flew very quickly over our heads.

By the time we turned around the surprisingly cool morning had begun to warm up, so insects were getting day-active. The Tarantula Hawk, like us, covered both shifts. Pepsis males hill-top and tree-top in the morning hours and both sexes fuel up on nectar, but we also had several at night at our sheet. Considering that tarantulas are mainly night active, the big wasps may also hunt at night.

A nice Cerambycid, Rhodoleptus femoratus, had us mistake him for a Cantharid or a Lycid at first. But look at those deeply divided eyes! A very good mimic of the group of bad-tasting to toxic beetles of those 2 other families.

Real Lycids were also getting active. I think these were Lycus simulans.

We had seen Kuschelina jacobiana, now  Alagoasa jacobiana at the black light. So now we examined its host plant, Desert Honeysuckle. No A. jacobiana, but instead both color morphs of Kuschelina tenuilineata

Also present:  the other renamed species of Flea Beetles Capraita durangoensis now Walterianella
durangoensis. Too bad, Kuschelina was so easy to remember and Capraita reminded me of bouncing  goat kids - very fitting for those little hoppers.

Packing up camp took time - we had so much stuff with us for just one night! The frame for the black light sheet, generator and gas can are of course the bulkiest items.

A beautiful Antelope Jackrabbit waved good by with its huge ears and mournful eyes. Don't worry, I will be back one day. There is much more to explore in that canyon!