July 19

Thursday I dropped Stacey off at her office then went over to mine.  I plowed through a lot of emails, unloaded the car of all the gear, then went to main campus.  I talked to the lady about the Galapagos trip.  Things look very promising at this point.  I met Stacey for lunch (Mexican), and picked up two mice at the pet store.  I had to race back to my office to relieve the revenge of the Mexican food.  I went home, got Savannah, and took her to the doctor for another UTI.  I took a long late nap.  At about 2 A.M. Stacey’s pager went off.  A semi overturned on the highway.  She was gone for a couple of hours, cutting the guy out of the cab.  He was a big dude, and it took a long time.

Friday I took Savannah to Palmyra to take the written driver test, but they weren’t giving it there so I got the canoe reregistered.  I dropped her off at the pool on the way home.  We passed Stacey on her way to a job interview.  Cross our fingers on that one.  They had closed the highway where they were righting the semi from the night before.  Looked like it had been attacked with a large can opener.  I spent a lot of time trying to identify all the species in my photographs from this year and last year.  Stacey came home and slept a long time.  I also succumbed to the nap.

Frog on the edge of our fish pond.  The minnows I put in there have really multiplied.

Saturday I picked up the downed limbs in the yard and took them down to the brush dump.  I threw out my little limbs and loaded a good number of large branches for firewood.  I had Savannah chop the twigs off of them with a machete, then she got to drive the truck home.  I chainsawed the wood and added to my stack.  I did more species identifications, and fell under the influence of another nap (dang, it’s good not to work).  I tried out a new macro lens Stacey got me for my birthday.

Prairie blazing star, whole inflorescence with regular lens.  I’m glad I got back from my trip in time to see this bloom.

Prairie blazing star, single floret with macro lens.

Katydid, regular lens.

Katydid, macro lens with flash.  See how the background looks dark, even though it’s broad daylight.  This katydid became gecko chow.

Sunday morning I went out to Lowell’s.  We started by felling four trees and pulling them out of the woods.  It was harder than it sounds.  Two trees hung up on neighboring trees.  I cut down one of these until it slowly fell backward–right toward where Lowell was standing.  I was yelling as loud as I could, and he got out of the way.  We pulled a couple more trees out of the woods that we had felled, oh, months ago.  We had time for one round of the lake before lunch.  We each caught a couple of bass.  We had enchiladas that Stacey had made and frozen for us.  Yum.  We watched some Planet Earth while enjoying a nap.  We took two more rounds of the lake.  Lowell has done a lot of work in my absence, especially in putting more cedar trees in the lake for fish structure.  The bass were hitting my hula popper a bit better, and I ended up with 9 fish.  I filleted the keepers, and the catfish came up into that arm of the lake to eat the carcasses, as they have for years now.  They have a long memory, apparently. 

Five-lined skink.  He greeted us when we returned to the dock.  I saw a baby one on one of the logs we pulled out.

Heal-all, Prunella vulgaris.  A flower in the gully.

Savannah got her drivers permit.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  She passed on the 6th attempt, breaking the family tradition of passing the written test on the first try, in multiple states.  Some of her friends took more, I guess.  We’ve mostly been driving to the pool and back.  She’s been giving lots of swimming lessons, going to swim practice, and lifeguarding.  She is now as brown as stained walnut. 

I’ve been rescuing firewood from the brush dump.  It’s good exercise. 

Stacey had a couple of job interviews, and we received the good news today that she was hired by Douglass Community Services as Director of Retired Senior Volunteers.  I’m not entirely clear on the job description yet, but at least she won’t be at Chaddock anymore.  She did get to meet a country music star at Chaddock last week, Rodney Atkins, who came to speak and play some songs for the kids. 

Saturday I went to the car show.  I judged 11 cars in three categories.  Most were in the late model original category.  I don’t see the point of keeping a relatively new car garaged all the time except for shows, and never doing anything to it but cleaning.   The best car I judged was an AMC AMX. 

I went for a bike ride on Sunday.  It was largely uneventful, except that when I stopped to take some pictures by the old iron bridge, and old dude in a rusted out S10 stopped to talk to me.  He gave me the whole history of the place: the bridge, the grinding mill, and the old school bus.  Fascinating.

Maybe a milkwort.  Only a half-inch across.

Unknown skipper.

Monday I took my friend Andy Walsh out to Lowell’s.  In the morning we fished for bass on the main lake.  We caught small numbers of bass (6 for me) on spinners and surface lures.  We had lunch in Lewistown and came back for one more turn around the lake.   I filleted the 4 undersize ones we had culled, and saved the skin.  We went to the catfish pond and used the skin for bait.  Lowell used smoky links, and caught two catfish in rapid succession, one over 5 pounds and another 8 lb, 14 oz.  I used my spinnerbait and caught a bass that looked pretty big, but the deliar said it was 2 lb 3 oz.  I put on some of the bass skin and left my rod unattended while I went to take some photos.  After awhile I looked over and something was tugging on my rod.  It had spooled my reel.  It took some doing to reel it in on the little baitcasting outfit.  It turned out to be a catfish of 8 lb, 12 oz.  Lowell had beaten me by 2 oz.  Of course, we were trying to be guides for Andy and give hime the peak fishing experience, but we couldn’t make the fish bite his hook.  It was still a pretty good time. 

Savannah had a friend over to spend the night.  They were watching a scary DVD in my bedroom when I went upstairs to get some ice cream.  The room was dark.  I sneaked over, reached around the corner, flicked the light on and off and screamed.  They about jumped out of their skins, and averred as how they now hated me.

Blue Vervain.

Great Golden Digger Wasp: still trying to get the perfect pic.

Missouri Ironweed

Wasp; mayby Ammophila or Prionyx

Big Cat. 

Andy Walsh: the American Fisherman.

California to Missouri

June 13

Dad took me up to the hills for what most likely will be the last time before they are sold. It’s not much different, except that there weren’t many squirrels around. We stopped at the old homestead and I picked up some eucalyptus nuts for my buddy Chuck. We stopped at the grower’s packing shed to pick up a case of sweet corn. Paul, the huge guy that runs the place, thought I was Mark at first. He said he couldn’t tell us all apart. I said, “It’s easy, I’m the good-looking one.” He said, “Yeah, and that Mike is an ugly *&^%$#.” We went to Brentwood and bought oil and filters for my car. When Mike got off work he came down and changed the oil and checked everything over. I should be ready for the drive home now. We went over my sister Marlene’s, where I sent out the last update. It’s only a few blocks from there to my brother Mike’s. We had a barbecue, and everybody came, including my brother Matt, Carolyn, our friend Scott Vinecour and his wife Tracey. It was delicious food.

A small grove of live oaks “up in the hills”.

Eucalyptus tree at the old homestead.

Black widow with egg case in Dad’s garage.  She’s a shy one.

June 14

In the morning, Mark washed his car, so I washed mine as well. We all went to the 15th Annual Brentwood Cornfest. Mike and Scott each had vehicles in the car show. Mikes Cadillac was featured on the official T shirt, and he gave me one. There was a midway, bandstand, lots of food, and various vendors of stuff. It was fun to see it all (and eat it all), but mostly we sat in the shade, talked, and people-watched all day. I did appreciate the chocolate-covered frozen banana. Mark’s daughter Kristen showed up with her husband DJ and son Jordan, neither of whom I had met before. DJ is a big dude who apparently likes to fish as much as I do. So he must be OK. In the end, Scott’s ‘63 Nova won best race car (let there be no doubt: it is fast) and Mike’s ’50 Cadillac won for best feature car. Afterward we celebrated by going to Mike’s for…another barbecue! We got chicken and tri tips (and plenty of beer) at the local grocery. It was a festive evening.

Scott’s Nova.

Mike’s Cadillac.

Scott, Dad, Mike, and Racin with trophy plaques.

June 15

Sunday morning Mark and I washed Dad’s pick-up and took it to the Portuguese Festa in Oakley, which I had not attended in many years. Maybe 7 or so. I saw my Aunt and my uncles and a few cousins I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We had to wait a long time to be fed, but beer and conversation took up the slack. We finally were let in to eat sopas in the back. It was more delicious that I even remembered, and I overate accordingly. Scott’s parents came, and it was delightful to see them. We went to Mike’s afterward, but not for another barbecue. Most of us took naps during NASCAR. Later on, Cindy made scrumptious brownies and ice cream. I showed my nephew Racin some new karate techniques. He demonstrated his kata, which I thought was very crisp and certainly more powerful than I expected from someone his age (10?). In summary, the side trip to California was essentially one long party of eating, drinking and visiting. What could be better?

June 16

Monday morning Dad made me a massive breakfast, including toasted Portuguese sweet bread. I rolled out and headed east. The traffic through Sacramento and the Sierra Nevada wasn’t bad at all. Some of the forest had clearly suffered from wildfires, recent or old. I stopped at a rest area, only to find that 3 busloads of school kids had gotten there just before me. Given the line for the bathroom, I elected to go on. In Fallon, Nevada I saw a yellow-headed blackbird. Not that uncommon, but I’ve only seen about 3 in my life. Highway 50 across Nevada is officially “The Loneliest Road” in the USA. And it is. There was no traffic. I haven’t made the drive since 1990. The pavement is better, and the speed limit is 70 now. Whoopee! I passed the usual landmarks, like Sand Mountain and the Pony Express Route. Incredibly, it rained on me several times. For those geographically disabled, this is all in the great basin desert. When I was in Utah, on the last leg of the day, a cottontail ran out into the left wheel track. At 70 mph, I had no time to swerve or brake. Thump-er. I spent the night at the West Bestern in Salina, Utah.

The Truckee River.

Sand Mountain.

Unknown establishment just outside Fallon, Nevada.

Does this LOOK like the loneliest road in America?  Hell, yes!

Wildfire in western Utah.

June 17

I didn’t sleep well, and was fighting fatigue all day. Going across the remainder of Utah and into the rockies was, of course, beautiful. I thought this would be the first time I went through Glenwood Canyon without a construction delay, as they were working on a tunnel throughout the ‘80s when I passed through frequently. But no! They had one tunnel closed and condensed traffic. Rafters were going down the Colorado River. Also going up Loveland pass there was some scary construction. I was afraid the Lil Egg would get its shell cracked. There were a lot of dead trees, I guess from bark beetles. Going down the east side was also interesting, as it poured down rain much of the way. Eastern Colorado and western Kansas were freakin’ boring! Flat. Wheat fields. Say no more. I stopped at a funky little independent motel in Oakley, Kansas.

Salt wash overlook, southern Utah.

Spotted Wolf Canyon, Utah.

Eagle River, Eagle, CO

June 18

I slept well and late, then got a good breakfast and plenty of coffee. I had a lot of Kansas to cover. It got more interesting in the eastern portion. There was one lovely sunflower field, but I couldn’t get the camera up fast enough to snap a decent picture. The trip was largely uneventful. I returned to a joyful reunion with Stacey. Savannah was at a friend’s and I saw her later. So ends the 19-day trip of 5222 miles, a semitranscontinental solo flight.

Scenic overlook, western Kansas.

Fragment of sunflower field.  How can Kansas be The Wheat State, but have the sunflower as their state flower?  Schizophrenic people.


July 8
 I was having a Twilight Zone moment when, knowing I had turned back my watch to Mountain Time, my phone was showing an hour earlier.  I realized, during the half-wakefullness of the morning, that Arizona does not use Daylight Savings Time.  Mystery solved! We left Willcox fairly early. Reasoning that the wasps would be out earlier at lower altitudes, we decided to go straight to Tucson, Arizona.  Plus, Eric Eaton, our contact there, had been catching them.  Chuck found a nice campground in town, complete with pool, showers, wi-fi, and many amenities.  We picked up Eric and went out to Ft. Lowell City Park, where there’s an artificial wetland.  There were lots of interesting beasts, but cicada killers were few and fast.  I caught one small male.  We calculated with the time four Ph.D.s spent trying to catch it, it was worth about $1600.  I took lots of photos of things.  It was pretty hot.  We were in the shade most of the day, but our shade gradually went away.  On the way home we stopped at a used book store and I bought a thin guide to butterflies of the southwest.  So now I’ve identified almost all the ones I’ve photographed.  In the evening we swam and went out for authentic Mexican food.  That green chile burrito was delicious, but it came back to haunt me!

Scaled quail on the run in the Willcox Cemetery, Gambel’s quail at the Tucson campground.

Chuck discovered this black-chinned hummingbird nest.  Later one of the babies fell out, and we put it back in.

There were a lot of cooperative dragonflies at this park, so prepare for a long gallery.

Flame skimmer, Libellula saturata

Roseate skimmer, Libellula sp.


Green darner, Anax junius, flying and resting.

Desert cottontail, Sylvilagus audobonii.  They’ve got some ears.

Zebra-tailed lizard, Callisaurus draconoides.  I was so excited to see one again after 25 years.

Honey bee on the fountain in our campground.  Here, all honey bees are African (killer) bees.

July 9

When I poured the milk in my cereal on this morning, the milk was of significantly higher viscosity than I would like.  The convenience store was out of milk, and the grocery store wasn’t open.  I ate a banana and some bacon.  We picked up Eric and went to a county park.  We didn’t see any cicada killers, but there was a lot of other wildlife there.  I found a sign that said fairly explicitly that collecting was not allowed.  I tracked down the other guys and we got out of there.  We drove to Madera Canyon via a windy, one-lane gravel road through the mountains.  There are a lot of records of cicada killers from there, but we only heard a couple of cicadas.  There had been a big fire there earlier in the year.  We found a roadkilled rattlesnake, the only one we’ve seen this trip.  We came back to Tucson on a paved road and went to the little park where we had caught a male cicada killer yesterday.  We saw a few, but didn’t catch any.  Skunked again.  It had been a long, hot day.  Chuck and I took advantage of the swimming pool and hot tub. 

Great egret at Agua Caliente County Park.

The Queen butterfly, a relative of the monarch.  Finally, I got one to sit still long enough.

Broad-billed hummingbird, male.

The fire in Madera Canyon damaged some of their signage.  I love the way the little people look like skeletons, but I feel sorry for the little guy in the wheel chair.

Black-tailed rattlesnake, Crotalus molossus.  After all, what is a roadkill but a natural moment frozen in time.

A big hemipteran on a yucca bloom.

Green tree frog at the city park.

The Giant Swallowtail, perfectly posed on mesquite.

July 10, 2007

The day did not start out well. I awoke at 4 a.m. to a thunderstorm. I got up and went outside to close the window of my car and got soaked. I dried off and went back to bed. Later that morning we were pulling up stakes to head to Ruby, AZ. I was going to move my car so that Chuck could hitch up the truck to the trailer, but my car wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. I yanked it, and Jon drove me to the nearest WalMart to get a replacement. We hit the road at 8 or so, and drove down to Arivaca. We found the campground and dropped the trailer. We drove 20 miles over a rutted 4-wheel-drive road, only to find that the Ruby mine was closed. They’re only open Thursday to Sunday. We were fairly angry. We continued down the road to Sycamore Canyon, which is another place that our wasps should be. It’s in a big, beautiful valley, where no one lives but the cows. A lot of the oaks are dead from long-term drought though. We ran into a guy that was driving his motorcycle around the perimeter of the country. He had come from the Florida Keys, around the gulf coast and along south Texas. He was probably in Big Bend the same time we were. We hiked up the canyon along a creek bed, and were immediately taken with its beauty. There was a constantly changing arrangement of rock formations, little pools (tenajas) with fish (desert pupfish?), birds and lizards. We never saw any of our wasps, but were never put out by that. They say it gets used by illegals crossing the border, but we saw only slight evidence of that. Along the road, however, there were lots of discarded plastic water bottles. On the way out, we saw a hawk in a tree. We stopped so I could photograph it, and I caught it just as it took off. We saw a coyote too, but I only got a bad pic of it running away. We stopped at Arivaca lake and looked around. There were a lot of mule deer foraging about the place, but it was otherwise unremarkable. We went back to the campground, ate, showered and relaxed. Jon made arrangements for us to get into Ruby the next day.

July 11

In the morning I found that a lot of insects were on the outside walls of the bath house because of the lights being on all night. Birds came around and were picking them off. I picked off a few myself, but not to eat. In front of the doors of both men’s and ladies’ rooms was a tarantula. We had some time to burn before going out to Ruby, and we stopped at a nearby wildlife refuge, where we found yet another tarantula. Oh, and there was one in a burrow behind my car at our campsite. We drove out to Ruby again to meet the caretaker at 9. We arrived at the gate right on time. He didn’t. After waiting 20 minutes, we honked the horn. Still no response. Chuck decided to walk in and look around (in spite of the no trespassing signs). That got the attention of the caretaker. He drove out to the gate in an old, beat up Suburban. Sundog was his name. Long hair and beard, shirtless, he looked the part of a desert rat. Fortunately, he seemed to be sympathetic to our aims. He showed us to the site on the mine tailings where an aggregation of the Pacific cicada killers had been present last year and at since about 1991 when a documentary, The Ghosts of Ruby, was filmed. No wasps were present. We were early by a week or two. On the walk out to the mine tailings, Chuck spotted a coati mundi. I got a glimpse of it, but thought it was a big squirrel. We wandered around the place for an hour or so, then decided to go. Chuck and Jon were going on to Yuma to keep looking for wasps, in part because they had nothing else to do until they met up with their respective families. I decided to head to California to visit my family, as I was only about a day’s drive away. We said our goodbyes and I followed Chuck and Jon for a ways until our paths split. I stopped in Redlands, California to stay with my old college buddy Dave Jones. I met his wife and his adorable 3-year-old son. We caught up on 20 years. Oh, it was my birthday. I’m 45—as Chuck says, “A good caliber.”

July 12

In the morning I headed north, and endured the stop-and-go traffic on the 210. I saw a couple of traffic accidents (one rollover). A Ford dealership had a big flashing sign that said JESUS. I thought that pretty evangelical for a car dealer. Then it flashed a picture of a dude and “OUR SALESMAN OF THE MONTH.” It had been a very long time since I’d made that drive, so it was like doing it for the first time. I had a great sense of relief when I came down out of the mountains into the Great Central Valley. I met my brother Mike at his work at about 2:30, and we went to my Dad’s and surprised him, as I hadn’t told him I was coming. They showed me all the clean-up they’d done around the ranch. It was an impressive amount of work. Sheds were cleared that had not been clear in living memory. My brother Mark came home too. We went to dinner at Chili’s, where my sister Marlene, her husband Jim, and my brother Matt and his wife Carolyn met us. We had beer, good food, and rude jokes. I spent the night in Dad’s trailer, which was remarkably similar to Chuck’s, and hence, very familiar.

Moth on the bath house wall.

Tarantula in defensive posture at the Refuge.

Yet another whiptail.  I swear it’s the last one.


Ammophila, a caterpillar-hunting wasp.

The lake at Ruby.  We heard it’s clothing optional.

The mine tailings.  Jon and Chuck are on the left in the distance, where the wasps ought to emerge.


Barn owl outside Dad’s house.  I picked up a bunch of owl pellets (barf) for teaching purposes.  It was worth the 3000-mile drive just to get my first decent photo of an owl. 

Honey bees clustered outside their hive in the walls of the old dairy pump house.  If they’re doing this on a cool morning, it means there are too many to fit inside.  I predict a swarm!

Mount Diablo</ST1, as seen from the ranch.

Western Scrub-Jay

California Whirly Bird, for you aviation enthusiasts.
Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, taking his morning sun bath.

<ST1 American Crow.




The Chiricahuas

July 5

We got elephant blaster showers at the KOA, then hit the road.  It was a fine, cool morning, with lots of cloud cover.  We crossed the flats of the Texas pan handle west through El Paso to New Mexico.  I’m sorry, but El Paso smells bad.  We crossed the southern part of New Mexico without incident, except for stopping at a WalMart for supplies.  It was then up a windy, narrow road to Portal, Arizona and the <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>Chiricahua</ST1laceName> <ST1laceType w:st=”on”>Mountains</ST1laceType>.  We camped at the Sunny Flats campground in the National Forest.  This is the first place we’ve stayed without full hook-ups, so we conserved water and electricity.  At the bottom of the valley, we are in thick woods with pines, oaks and sycamores, but the tops of the peaks that surround us are sheer, rocky crags.  The scenery is unbelievable.  We drove up to the place where Jon did his doctoral work on the western cicada killer back in the 80s, but there were none present.  In the afternoon we hiked up the South Fork of Cave Creek, which is known for it’s wildlife.  Right away, we saw the biggest gopher snake I’ve ever seen, followed shortly by a Coues whitetail deer buck.  We hiked up to a saddle that had breathtaking views.  Apparently, illegal immigrants are using this trail at night to sneak into the US.  They’ve left trash behind on some areas of the trail.  We saw lots of wildlife, including a painted redstart, more cicadas, and lots of butterflies.  My legs got sunburned, and whatever rash I have spread to the front of my shins.  Long pants from now on!  When we returned, I cooked a huge batch of spaghetti.  We scarfed.  In the evening, it rained, which cooled things down nicely.  Jon and I took a night hike and drive to look for wildlife, but not much appeared.

Stacey says I’m not allowed to bring home infectious diseases, but this was caused by contact with plants unknown.

Pretty little lizard, as yet unidentified, like many species here that await access to my reference material.

Coues whitetail deer, about the size of a large dog.

Lovely butterfly, the California Sister.

Cliff face over our campground.

Acorn woodpecker, Mexican Jay.

White-striped longtail.  A skipper.

I never get tired of whiptails…

…or fence lizards.

Red-spotted purple.

July 6, 2007

We awoke to 60 degree air: it was wonderful.  After breakfast I took a short hike down a trail.  Saw lots of birds, including the highly prized elegant trogon.  Upon my return, it was calling fairly close to camp, so we all went out to look for it.  On the way, we ran into a local naturalist who, learning we were scientists, showed us where the nest was.  I went back to camp and got a chair and tripod, then sat down across the trail from the dead sycamore with my camera aimed at a hole 25 feet up.  45 minutes passed, but no trogon appeared.  I gave up and returned to camp.  Meanwhile, Jon had been up south fork and been face to face with two trogons.  We took Chuck’s truck and drove up a narrow, windy gravel road and over the pass.  We didn’t find any cicada killers again.  We returned to camp, had lunch, and I took a nap.  I hiked back up south fork again to look for the other trogon nest.  I found the spot the guy described, but didn’t see the birds.  Chuck and I went to a scenic overlook that was pretty spectacular.  There was a yucca in bloom there that had two huge tarantula hawks on it, so naturally we collected them.  We went back to the trogon nest again, but they weren’t home.  We saw some old explosive depots built into the rock.  Must be leftovers from the old mining days.

Three agaves and a view.

Cliff cave.

Yet another red-spotted purple.

“The Cathedral”

The inside of this would make the most cruel solitary confinement.

My best elegant trogon picture, and none too good at that.

July 7, 2007

While Chuck hitched up to the trailer, Jon and I went up to south fork, where two male trogons were have a territorial dispute.  It was fairly early, with no sunshine in the canyon yet, so the pics didn’t turn out that well, even though the birds were cooperative.  We all convoyed out and headed west again, stopping at an RV park in Willcox, Arizona (full hook-ups and wi-fi again!).  We drove out to a wilderness area near the Willcox Playa, a huge lake, mostly dry right now.  It’s probably best known for its sandhill cranes, which aren’t there in the summer, of course.  It was hot and very dry.  The area has been under a drought for about two years.  Quite a contrast to Big Bend and even the Chiricahuas.  Though the tamarisk was in bloom, there were hardly any insects visiting it.  Most of the other vegetation was dead or dry.  I did spot one cicada killer.  We chased it around, but didn’t catch it, and it disappeared.  We looked long and hard for that one, or any others, but didn’t find any.  There were only about 3 cicadas calling in the whole place.  Chuck and I had lunch in historic (= tourist trap) downtown Willcox at a place called Rodney’s.  I had the chile verde burrito plate, and it was delicious.  We drove to Cochise to look for wasps, but didn’t see any likely habitat.  I got a load of laundry done and checked my email. 

A tree lizard who’s got it made in the shade.

Willcox Playa.  A sign reads, “Cranes may not be at lake”.  How about, “Lake may not be at lake.”

Big Bend 2007

Big Bend 2007

Friday, June 29
 I left home at 7 A.M. sharp.  It was 58 degrees, strangely cold. 

It rained most of the way across Missouri.  I stopped at Missouri

Wildflower Nursery south of Jefferson City.  This is the Mecca of prairie

plant lovers, but a frustrating experience because I couldn’t buy

anything.  I got the catalog.  I was supposed to meet Chuck at the first

rest stop west of Springfield at noon.  He got there five minutes before I

did, so we were fairly synchronous.  We motored out on the interstate

until the signs indicated there was a crash and lane reduction ahead, so

we took a detour through the southwest corner until we ran into Oklahoma. 

We made a similar detour around Oklahoma City, otherwise we would have hit

it at rush hour.  The scenery was really nice, even in the rain.  After we

got down into Texas we got back on the interstate again.  It was raining

hard and dark—very difficult driving conditions.  We could see the leading

edge of the storm north of Dallas.  It looked rather menacing.  We got to

our campground at Mineral Wells Lake State Park, west of Fort Worth just

after 10.  To get into the campground via the main entrance, you have to

cross the spillway of the dam.  It was running about an inch of water,

which was interesting, to say the least.  Chuck was hooking up the water

to the trailer when he tried beating a small oak tree with his head. 

People say that oak tree is washed up, but I think it’s got a few good

years left in it.  He got a good scrape on the forehead.  I slept well,

perhaps owing to road weariness, even though it stormed on and off all


Big gopher snake.

Mating walking sticks.

Large neuropteran, maybe an antlion adult.

June 30
The next morning one of our neighboring campers was manipulating something

in the road with a big spatula.  By the time I identified it as a snake,

he flung it into a tree, clearly already dead.  I was irked that the guy

probably killed it, and I didn’t get to see it, much less photograph it. 

The exit across the spillway was closed because the water was too high. 

We went out an alternate route.  It rained on and off that morning, but

the desert was in bloom.  There were fields of flowers.  Just amazing,

compared to the previous years of hot, dry weather and brown landscapes. 

As we traveled west, the clouds thinned and the air warmed.  We stopped at

Monahan Sand Dunes State park in the afternoon.  By then it was hot and

cloudless.  We walked around on the dunes observing and taking pics of

wildlife.  A gopher snake was the first exciting thing.  Many cool insects

followed.  There were lots of flowers in bloom, which was fueling the

insect abundance.  We went from there south to Balmorhea.  The state park

campground was closed, so we stayed at a private campground a short

distance away.  It was only a couple of years old.  It had not many mature

trees yet, but a nice nature trail, where we found lots of tarantula hawks

feeding on a stand of flowers on a ditch bank.  They occupied much of our

evening.  For once, we were not in a park, so we collected some insects. 

We bought beer at the gas station and drank it back at the trailer, where

I write this paragraph now. 

Pepsis, the tarantula hawk.

Wasp-mimicking fly.

Polistes, a paper wasp.

Western kingbird.

July 1
I had a research idea so we took advantage and caught a big mess of

tarantula hawks.  We motored down to Balmorhea State Park and swam in the

huge spring.  There are many small fish and a few catfish in it.  The

water is crystal clear, cool, but unchlorinated.  There was a scuba class

there.  We left after the boy scout troop showed up.  It was probably all

in my mind, but I felt 10 years younger…for awhile.  We motored down to

Alpine and stopped to buy groceries and eat our last prepared meal for

awhile.  It was a gorgeous drive through the Davis mountains.  There were

lots of wildflowers, and the agave and sotol were in bloom.  We got into

the Rio Grande Village campground at 5.  The river was so high they were

flooding some of the areas to irrigate them.  The ditches have always been

dry before.  Jon Hastings showed up after dinner. We took a little walk,

while Jon took his daily run.  We saw dozens of cicadas, and a few

javelina.  We all had a beer afterward.

Blue dragonfly

Pronghorn doe.

Dolomedes, giant water spider.

Tiger beetle

Unidentified flower–a token plant.

July 2, 2007

We started out at the old burn area here near our campground, but there

were no cicada killers there.  We went out to Boquillas canyon, and saw

none there either.  Next was Hot Springs.  Finally, we saw some cicada

killers, the eastern and western species.  Chuck collected several of the

western, which Jon wanted for their DNA.  Everywhere we went were lots of

cicadas.  Sometimes they were loud enough to rival choruses of periodical

cicadas.  Some are infected with a fungus.  We think it affects their

behavior, so we’re doing a study on it.  There were only a few of the

little Bembix wasps, which had been so abundant in previous years.  I had

some ideas to do with them, but they’re not happening.  I wanted to

actually bathe in the hot springs this year, but there was a large family

occupying it by the time I got down there.  Oh, well…


Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus

Dueling butterflies.  Round metalmark and a sulfur.

The Wheel Formation.

Pipevine Swallowtail.

Dasymutilla magnifica, a velvet ant.

Dasymutilla gloriosa, another velvet ant.

July 3
I hiked the nature trail near the campground in the morning.  I was looking

hard for cicada killers and their burrows, but saw none.  I did see a lot

of neat wildlife, though.  We went up to the Chisos Mountains in the

afternoon.  It was cooler, and the lodge had wi-fi.  We all checked our

email.  Jon did a literature search on cicadas and the fungus.  We did

more observations on the cicadas later.

The Bordered Patch.

Big, green buprestid beetle.

Desert snail.  Really.

Colorado checkered whiptail, Cnemidophorus

Summer tanager.

Cute little basket-shaped nest.  Two different eggs.  Cuckoos in the area.  Draw your own conclusion.

Big Polistes nest.  Don’t mess with us!

Two cicadas.  Note pink butt on fungus-infected one on the right.

Vermilion flycatcher, finally.

July 4, 2007

We were trying to boost our sample size for the cicada study, but things

were really slow early on.  I did a load of laundry because I knew we were

leaving later.  The rangers stopped and checked our permit.  They thought

we looked a little too conspicuous walking around with our insect nets. 

But there was almost nobody else there.  They ran wants and warrants, of

course.  None of us was wanted, but my car was not in the system as a

registered vehicle (though I do have current stickers and registration

sheet).  Thanks, Missouri!  In the later morning the cicada activity

really heated up, and we got what I hope were enough observations for a

solid study.  I watched a cicada fly up to a calling male and land nearby.

 As it walked toward the caller, the end of its abdomen fell off,

revealing the pink butt characteristic of the fungal infection.  Weird. 

Then another infected cicada approached the caller, which flew away.  The

two infected ones got together and, uh, attempted something neither was

capable of, their relative parts having been lost.  Their party broke up

fairly quickly. 

We left about 1:30 and headed west through Big Bend Ranch State Park.  It

was a windy, mountainous road along the Rio Grand, but the scenery was

spectacular.  The desert was extremely green and the scattered clouds made

for great landscapes.  We headed northwest through some fairly unpopulated

areas, but again with great scenery.  We ended up staying in Van Horn,

Texas, at the KOA.  It had wi-fi, from which I send this.

  Big Bend Ranch State Park, view occluded by strange primate.

View of Rio Grande.  Mexico on the left, USA on the right.

Floating radar unit.  Big.

Black-necked stilt: we got legs.