July 25-28, BugGuide gathering

In the interest of time, this blog will be done journal style, with a single slide show at the end.

7/22 Canton to Dalhart, TX

There was a big storm over Kansas just north of the highway.  I pulled over a couple of times to photograph
it, resulting in it catching me for a short distance.  Driving the RV in wind is the worst, and I
caught the gust front.  It was windy off
and on that day.  Once I hit Texas the speed limit
increased to 75 mph.  On a two-lane
highway. Sadly, the RV doesn’t feel safe to drive at that speed in any kind of
wind. There was a construction stop that made me about 20 minutes later.  I stayed in Dalhart, TX,
and when I pulled into town I thought I had a leak in my sewage tank.  When I got out I found that the smell pervades
the whole town.  The reason was revealed
the next morning when I drove through the huge feed lots to the West.

7/23 Dalhart to Tucson,
AZ

The next day I stopped to photograph some weed flowers.  I wish I had been able to stop for the nice
mule deer, including a large buck, and pronghorn at the roadside.  Once I crossed the border into New Mexico, the speed
limit went back down to 65.  When I got
to Tucson, my exit
was closed for construction.  Even the
frontage road, which the GPS wanted to send me on, was being worked on.  The road to the campground was all torn
up.  It was certainly not the nicest
campground I’d ever stayed in.  Most
curiously, the parking site was too narrow. 
A nice guy was helping me try to squeeze it in, but the RV was an inch
or so too wide.  I had to unhitch the
car, back up, pull around and back into the spot. 

Around that time, my old school buddy (dating back to 5th
grade) Dan Uroff showed up.  I hadn’t
seen him since our 10-year class reunion, 22 years ago.  Like me, he is still thin and has all his
hair!  We had an outstanding dinner
(including Mariachi) and caught up on each other’s lives.

7/24

In the morning I went to Ft. Lowell City Park,
which I had visited back in 2006.  There
were many lizards and birds, but not many insects.  Had a nice conversation with an 80 y old
couple.  The guy was a weed
scientist.  They were watching Beechey
ground squirrels.  I didn’t tell them I’d
killed hundreds of them in my youth.  I
stopped and bought a couple of fresh avocados and made guacamole for lunch.

In the afternoon I went to the nearby Camping World and
picked up a few things we were needing. 
Later I went to Dan’s condo and met his roommate.  We went out to pizza dinner and got more catching
up done.  It had rained while we were
eating and when we came out the streets were flooded.  There are few storm drains in Tucson.

7/25 Tucson
to Santa Rita Experimental Range, AZ 

Since I was going to be in the neighborhood anyway, I thought I’d join the BugGuide Gathering in southern Arizona on this trip.  

While striking camp I pulled the cover off the
power cord plug.  I didn’t want to go
back to Camping World again, but I luckily found National RV Center along Hwy
10 & got a new plug.  The road to the Florida field station, where the BugGuide gathering was to be held, turned to gravel,
but it only got rough through a big wash. 
The RV had no trouble with it.  I
met my old friend Eric Eaton, then a whole lot of new people.  First, we went bugging down the road and
around the station.  There were lots of
beetles, etc.  The most exciting for me
was the Snow’s toothpick grasshopper and the big blue/green iridescent Chlorion wasps.  Almost everyone had dinner at Los Agaves,
good Mexican food.  I met lots of nice,
interesting people.  That night we did blacklighting
around the station.  (You set up a black
light above or in front of a white sheet; bugs come to the sheet and you can
catch them.  There were lots of moths,
large & small, beetles & more. 
Strangely, there’s no late night partying with this group because
everyone is up late tending the black lights. 

I was dry camping, which Stacey and I seldom do, in a gravel
lot far from the field station.  So I had
no shore power, no A/C or water supply. 
This was a good experience because I learned some of the
limitations.  Propane and battery power
actually last a long time.  I ran out of water
before anything else.  I shuttled it in
big jugs from the field station as needed. 
I slept fine, although I always sleep well in the RV, plus I was pretty
tired from hiking each day.

7/26/13

I woke early.  I made
coffee using a new percolator we had bought many years ago but never used.  It made great coffee, for the first time. I
used a hand grinder for the coffee beans. 
I took the long lens up the hill and shot the Cooper’s Hawks that hang
around the station.  They were very
cooperative.  I went to hardware store
for a UV flashlight (for scorpions) and other stuff.  I met the others at a restaurant for
breakfast, but I just had OJ.  I rode
with Lou from Williamsville/Poplar Bluff, MO to Montosa Canyon.  We stopped in the Santa Cruz riverbed, which was dry.  There were lots of beetles.  One cottonwood tree was nearly defoliated by
a great number of big, green Cotalpa
beetles.  Farther up the canyon, a guy
released a huge centipede and a tiger rattlesnake.  I saw a hummingbird on the nest as well.  More toothpick grasshoppers lined the
roadside.  That night we blacklighted in Madera Canyon.  More big moths and beetles.  Most people are interested in tiny, obscure
things.  All the big, pretty insects have
been thoroughly described and, as such, are considered old hat and ignored.  Except by me and the children.  Yes, some people brought their kids.  Using the blacklight flashlight I was able to
find a few small scorpions.  They really
like to hide in the cracks of rock walls. 
They don’t just glow faintly, they shine like a darn beacon.  I made some preliminary efforts at
photographing them while they glow.  I
helped a couple of nice people start up their brand new Honda generator (for
powering their black light and mercury vapor lamp).  I told them they could thank the Canton R-V
Fire Protection District for those skills.

7/27/2013

A few of us took a short walk in the morning up the nearby
trail.  We saw some grasshoppers,
beetles, and the dreaded cactus weevil.  I
packed a lunch and dinner because we planned to go to Pena Blanca reservoir at
11 and not return until long after nightfall (because of the blacklighting
again).  I rode with John in his rented
Ford Escape and another rider, Michael. 
First we went to the grocery store in Green Valley
so that everyone else could buy food. 
That’s when I found out Stacey had been in a car crash.  I had a hard time getting cell reception
there at first.  I knew we’d have none at
Pena Blanca, so John and Michael rode with some other folks, and John loaned me
his rental car.  I waited in the
McDonalds until I had sorted things out with Stacey.  She’s fine; car’s totaled.  Naturally, it was the Prius, only a year
old.  She was all worked up about
it.  I know our insurance is good.  Toyota
will be happy to sell us another one. 
It’s only material goods, and readily replaceable.  She was in Indiana
visiting family at the time with Savannah
and the dogs.  Fortunately, her sister
Krystal would drive them to Champaign, IL, where they could pick up Savannah’s car.  I went back to the field station where I was
able to relax, work on this journal and fill the RV with water.  I didn’t really want to go to Pena Blanca for
that long anyway.  It’s very close to
Ruby, where I’ll be for a long time. 

I worked on processing my photos and updating this
journal.  Lou didn’t go to
Pena Blanca either, and I invited him down to barbecue and beer at my
camp.  We had a good time telling hunting
stories.  In the evening, he put up his
blacklight rig while I spotted scorpions. 
I found a large cooperative one, and got all the settings worked out for
the photos.

7/28/13

Most people left on this day, and we said our goodbyes.  I mostly hung out in the classroom or around
the station, though we did chase down a nice Black Witch Moth.

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July 18, 2013 — Heat wave

Much of the recent past was spent on home improvements and completing deferred maintenance on the house, which didn’t leave much time for fun.  But when my brother  Mike and sister Marlene arrived from California, the fun began.  We started with a tour of Lock and Dam 19 in Keokuk, which was celebrating its 100-year anniversary.  It was a rare opportunity to see its inner workings.  We went to Primo’s here in Canton for lunch, where Mike was rather taken with their sandwiches.  

The next few days were mostly occupied with fireworks.  On the 2nd, we went to the nursing home grounds to see their fireworks.  On the 3rd we bought a huge batch of our own to light off.  Note that all these types of things are illegal in California.  When we were gathering our things to go to the LaCounts and set off our fireworks.  I said we needed to put some beer in a cooler.  Mike said, “You mean we can get drunk and light fireworks too?”  I said, “Welcome to Missouri.”  It was a good time.  I bought all the insect-themed fireworks I could find and filmed them for a possible paper to write on cultural entomology.  On the 4th of July we went to the Illinois Veteran’s Home to see the big Quincy fireworks.  The park band was playing when we arrived.  I cracked a smile when they played John Phillips Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell”, the theme to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  
Stacey and Savannah took Marlene on a shopping expedition to Quincy, while Mike and I went out to Lowell’s.  We toured around the place in the UTV, and, using the chainsaw, I dropped some dead oak trees in the lake for fish habitat.  Mike filmed some of these.  I need to post them somewhere.  Over the course of the week, Mike and I accomplished many projects.  We put new tires and chain on the Honda 70, and got it running again.  There is still a bedeviling headlight problem.  We changed the oil on the Minnie Winnie.  We salvaged a seat from one of Lowell’s old mowers and put it on mine (which was also Lowell’s, come to think of it).  And in our bonus time (see below) we fixed the fence where the tree had fallen on it a couple of months ago.
We went to Hannibal on the 5th, while they were having Tom Sawyer Days.  I’d never been to that event, and there was quite a craft show.  We looked at all the downtown shops and went on the evening riverboat cruise.  We had a nice dinner, and my colleague Steve Parke was playing trumpet with Ben Bumbry and the Messengers.  
Saturday we went to St. Louis to see the Arch and other sights before their plane was to depart.  There was a big Fair happening in the Arch grounds.  We stood in line, but the Arch “ride” actually sold out.  I stayed out while everyone else went in to see the gift shop.  I saw a new band playing that I now like, Scarlet Tanager.  Named after a bird–you have to like that.  At some point Stacey learned about the plane crash in San Francisco.  As that was the airport that Mike & Marlene were flying into, we figured there would be implications. We went to the Budweiser plant and while on the tour we found that their flight was cancelled.  To make a long story short, we ended up having dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack and drove back to Canton.  We found productive things to do with our time, including one last trip to Orscheln’s Farm & Home, which has become another favorite of Mike’s.
Stacey’s patient phone work got them booked on another flight, so it was back to St. Louis again.  This time we made the arch tour, although it was almost certainly made more interesting by the presence of 1000 (or so it seemed) children in that confined space.  We had lunch at a nice barbecue place and i dropped them off at the airport.  Ultimately, they did get a late flight out.
Seeing the sights.
The following week brought us the Lewis County Fair.  Stacey and I went and got some of Jayme’s famous lemon shake-ups.  We watched the cowboy shoot out, which, thanks to perfect high overcast light, I got some great shots of.  
Cowboy shoot out.
My prairie is in full bloom and I’ve had a lovely time photographing yard bugs. We’ve had gazillions of bumblebees visiting our Monarda. Sadly, the honeybee colony in our hollow black locust has absconded.  At least I was present to see the swarm form and take some photo and video.  We do have a single monarch caterpillar munching on our milkweeds in the front yard.  He’s provided many minor mysteries as he moves from plant to plant and we lose him then find him again.  We let the milkweeds grow there mostly for monarch food.  The pleasant-smelling blossoms and lush vegetation are a bonus.  I still have a wasp farm in the back yard.  I spotted a carpenter wasp with a caterpillar in a bush outside our window.  It should be the last image in the slide show below.
I had a great day fishing out at Lowell’s, catching about 10 largemouth bass, a crappie and a bluegill in a few hours.  We saw a fox cross the road on our way to lunch.  And on the way there I hit a meadowlark, or, rather, it flew into my car.  Later that night Savannah found it still lodged in the grill!  

Wildlife

I’ve been spending most of this past week preparing for my research expedition.  The RV is prepped and packed.  The current plan is to go to the BugGuide.net meetings near Green Valley Arizona, visit an old friend in Tucson, spend three weeks or so in Ruby doing wasp research, then swing through California on my way back.  Details will follow, but not for awhile.  
This time I’m embedding slide shows in this blog.  You probably need to have the current flash player installed.  If they don’t play, you should be able to click through and see each image gallery.