Tucson

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.

Unknown.

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.


 


 



 

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