Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Arizona So Far

I am into the second phase of the Arizona trip right now, and the word of the week is monsoon. The monsoon rains have been very strong this year. It’s a mixed blessing. On one hand the desert is beautifully lush at the moment. There’s lots to see- at least while the sun is out. But it’s been raining a lot.

Mt. Lemmon with approaching rain

On Friday night, Leon and I flew down from Chicago and met up with our friends Michael and David from Phoenix. For Phase 1 of the trip, we hung out together staying at a nice B&B in downtown Tucson. Saturday we drove up Mt. Lemmon in the rain. It was fun, but the views were nonexistent. We tried one brief hike and got caught in a sudden downpour for our efforts. Saturday night we enjoyed a Mexican meal and conversation with fellow blogger Homer. Meeting other bloggers is an aspect of blogging that is very new to me. Homer is every bit as witty and charming in person as he is on his blog. I’m glad that we met.

Tucson Mountain Park

Mammillaria sp.

Sunday was beautiful. We attempted to drive up Kitt Peak, however Saturday’s rains caused a rockslide that closed the roads. So instead, the four of us went for a walk in Tucson Mountain Park. The desert is incredible after all of the rain that has been falling. I’ve never seen so many Mammilaria cacti in bloom together before. After the walk, we bid goodbye to our Phoenix friends. Leon and I then enjoyed a second walk in Tucson Mountain Park, hiking up to a small pass that overlooks part of the city. I then got Leon on a plane back to Chicago and hung out at the airport to await the start of Phase 2 of the trip with the arrival of my collecting buddy John.

Trimerotropis grasshopper in Tucson Mountain Park

The motley crüe in Tucson Mountain Park.
L-R: Michael, Leon, Me, David

Monday, John and I went to French Joe Canyon, our favorite collecting spot in the Whetstone Mountains. Alas, it was cloudy there and little was out. So we departed early and headed to our main goal of the day: Wilcox Playa and tiger beetles.

Wilcox Playa. The light sandy area on the left was teeming with
abundant and diverse tiger beetles.

Wilcox Playa is a mostly dry lakebed that sits at the north end of Sulphur Springs Valley. I’m not sure why, but there are three tiger beetles- two subspecies and one full species- that are found there and nowhere else. There is also a tremendous species diversity overall there. We saw a total of eight species, including one of the endemics. Alas, no tiger beetle photos. It was so hot that they were very active and just too fast to photograph.

The view down canyon in beautiful Madeira Canyon

The view up canyon in beautiful Madeira Canyon. Uh oh.

Today we attempted to climb into the Santa Rita Mountains at Madeira Canyon. There were clouds over the mountains when we set out. These got thicker and thicker as we approached. The rain started just after we got there. We moved down instead of up, moving away as the rain caught up with us. Bu lunchtime we left for another location, but the rain eventually found us there as well. We drove back to Tucson in a blinding thunderstorm. The up side? This afternoon, I’ve been able to update my blog. Tomorrow evening we begin phase three of the trip with the beginning of the conference.

Metallic wood boring beetle (Buprestidae) in Madeira Canyon.
Hippomelas planicosta

Neumogenia poetica, one of my favorite Arizona moths.
I usually see it at black light- the gold scales on the forewing
are beautifully reflective and it glows.

Sleeping antlion

The rain is coming
The rain is coming
The (ant)lion sleeps today...
(Apologies to The Weavers)

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At 05:08, Anonymous Lemuel said...

That is a GREAT picture of the four of you! I like the composition.

At 10:12, Blogger Kevin Z said...

I love the Neumogenia poetica photo, an appropriate specific epithet if I do say so myself.

Nice post! I lived in Mesa/Tempe for 6 months in 1999, while attending the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. Brings back memories of the area. Make sure you spend some quality time in the Sedona region and up north of Flagstaff.

At 10:33, Blogger Ur-spo said...

good photos as always
I hope you are not being washed away down there; we had a massive storm last night - cascades of water. I see in Homer's blog lots of floodwater.

At 11:24, Anonymous Mark H said...

Great material, Dr. Taron! I've NEVER even been in Arizona....wanted to avoid the heat....so you've brought me more beauty via this writing than I've known. Now I think Arizona may be a fun visit...in winter, possibly........

At 18:33, Blogger rodger said...

Wow...nice specimens! Just what I'd want to find on a nice nature hike! Oh...the bugs are cool too!

At 16:45, Blogger burning silo said...

Looks like you're managing to have a good trip in spite of the weather. I'm making a mental note about those tiger beetle at Wilcox Playa!
We've encountered some of the craziest weather during past visits to AZ. In February 2001, we left behind freezing rain and snowstorms here in Canada, arrived in 80F sunshine in Phoenix, but within a couple of days, a big snowstorm swept through quite a wide area of the state. When we visited Boyce-Thompson Arboretum, everything was covered in 4 or 5 inches of snow (nothing weirder than saguaro and cholla covered in snow!). There was even a bit of snow down around Tucson. We felt as though the snowstorms were chasing us wherever we went. However, one nice thing about the snow was that the desert came so alive after the it melted. Everything began to leaf out or flower. It was wonderful

At 10:03, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Lemuel- Thanks. The composition was entirely accidental. This was my first attempt to take a photo by holding the camera at arm's length and shooting.

Kevin - Thanks for stopping by. Arizona has been wonderful- but very rainy this time around.

Spo- I did get caught in the storrm Homer blogged about. We have had more interesting weather since then. I'll try to get another post in later today.

Mark- I think that you and Rodger would love Arizona. The natural world here is somthing that grabs you very quickly.

Rodger- Heheh. There are lots of bears in Arizona.

Bev- Yeah, I've encountered some really wild weather here, too. Like a major hailstorm right on the Mexican border a couple of summers ago. The tiger beetles of Wilcox are world famous. I'd love to see what you did with them from a photographic standpoint.

At 18:40, Blogger Tony said...

I love elements of Arizona. The Natural beauty there amazes me sometimes, considering how arid it can come off as.

EWWW! Critters that blend in with natural surroundings freak me out sometimes, just like the bug under the tree branch.

At 07:28, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me you are always on an adventure!!

Great pics as usual!!

At 22:01, Blogger Ur-spo said...

it is August 6th; where are all the bug convention entries? GT fans are disappointed!!


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