2003 - Arizona in October

A week in Arizona doing family things with Kurt and Angie but also sneaking in some time to look for critters.  Locations visited included the Salt River Recreation Areas north of Mesa, Seven Springs north of Scottsdale, the Water Ranch in Gilbert, Agua Fria River Preserve north of Phoenix, Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, and Sycamore Canyon near the Mexican border.

My primary reason for visiting this time of year was to look for various species of odonates (42 species; 21 new bugs for Arizona and 16 lifers) so birding was at times somewhat incidental.  It is always fun, however, to see some old friends like Inca Doves, Cactus Wrens, and Curve-billed Thrashers.  Angie's dad, Steve Kinder, had not had a lot of opportunity to bird the areas around Phoenix so we spent the first half of the week finding him a few new birds.  Thanks to friends Pete Moulton and Russ Widner for joining us on various days.  Later in the week I was joined by friends Bud Gode and Rich Hoyer as we looked for odes in Sycamore Canyon near the Mexican border.

Burrowing OwlThe story of the Burrowing Owl is a bit interesting.  The town of Gilbert has done a wonderful job creating urban riparian areas through the use of water treatment facilities.  Because these little owls have been terribly stressed from urban sprawl, the city has introduced them into the park called the Water Ranch and created man-made burrows from large pipe.  This little guy seemed to be claiming the pipe as his home.  I hope the project shows some success.

Most of my time was spent at these two locations.  As you can see from the photos of each, the habitats are extremely varied so have very different critters.  As always, click on the thumbnails for a larger photo.

Oak Creek CanyonOak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon is between the towns of Sedona and Flagstaff.  It is beautiful country and we hiked the trail up the West Fork.  The third stream crossing was the best for bugs.  The day consisted of only four species but three of those were lifers - Canyon Rubyspot, Persephone's Darner, and Apache Spiketail.  Not bad!

Sycamore Canyon

Sycamore CanyonAfter a day in the north with clear mountain streams and great smelling pines, I went south almost to the Mexican border.  Sycamore Canyon is famous among bird listers because several US records have been found here and it was a place I had never been.  Here the pines were replaced by mesquite but there were a number of great bugs.  Although we didn't go far enough down the canyon to experience the gruesome part of the hike, we found several pools of water as well as some running water.  Another Persephone's Darner was a treat as were Spot-winged Meadowhawk and Neon Skimmer.  There were enough damselflies to drive one crazy but we managed to identify a few of them.  Black-and-white Damsel may have been the prize of the day.

Anxious to see and photograph some southwestern dragonflies, I managed to do pretty well considering the time of year.  I had good company while looking for odes.  On Thursday, October 23, I picked up Rich Hoyer in Tucson and old Iowa friend Bud Gode in Green Valley and we headed for adventure along Ruby Road and in Sycamore Canyon.  This is a place I want to do again sometime as I'm sure we missed a few species.  

I saw Pale-faced Clubskimmers in several places which was kind of surprising to me.  Up north in Oak Creek Canyon we found a total of only four species but three of those were lifers.  A couple of unsuccessful attempts to net an Apache Spiketail (Cordulegaster diadema) was disappointing because this is a magnificent critter, but I did manage to get a few good photos of some other species throughout the week.

Persephone's DarnerThis was perhaps my most-wanted critter on this trip and I wasn't disappointed.  Expecting obvious wide thoracic stripes on this guy, when I caught the first one in Oak Creek Canyon I fully expected to find it was something else but the claspers were a perfect match for Persephone's Darner.  After finding another in Sycamore Canyon, I did a bit more research and found that there is an obvious difference from north to south.

After summarily dismissing all sympetrums as Variegated, Spot-winged was a nice surprise in Sycamore Canyon.  I didn't get the greatest shots but the basal wing spots are evident.

I certainly saw more damselflies than these pathetic shots would indicate but here are a few.  Great Spreadwings (Archilestes grandis) were nearly everywhere as were Arroyo Bluets (Enallagma praevarum).  Painted Damsel (Hesperagrion heterodoxum) still has to be one of the most outrageous bugs I've seen.  Several forktails were new, but the highlight may have been one we just couldn't identify while on Ruby Road near Sycamore Canyon.  Friend Bud took the specimen home and finally identified it as a Black-and-white Damsel (Apanisagrion lais), a tropical species not well know from the US.