Southeastern Arizona with a day trip to Chihuahua, Mexico, September 30 - October 6, 2008
She wrote back with lots of information and so did Doug Danforth. Most of the photographs on the Arizona Odonates site are Doug's and I had been meaning to contact him since last year's DSA meeting in Arizona. He suggested that most of the species on my list could be found in September and invited me down. I penciled the trip on my calendar and didn't really think about it all summer. After a couple of e-mails to see if the invitation was still good, I flew to Tucson and then drove to the town of Bisbee.
I was thankful for four wheel drive as the road into the canyon is so rough it cannot be negotiated with an ordinary passenger car. When we reached the stream it was still cool but it only took a few minutes before we saw a darner fly by into a sunny patch. It circled and I had the good fortune of netting it. A female Persephone's! A great way to start.
I followed Rich up the canyon to check out the remains of some ponds. I was hoping for Arroyo Darner Rhionaeshna dugesi and more Spot-winged Meadowhawks which have been found here in past years. However this year, most of the ponds had been drained to control bullfrogs. On the couple that remained there was very little flying. We headed back downstream and with the warmer temperatures saw more Persephone's Darners. One individual had thinner lateral thoracic stripes so I kept him for his pattern variation. I also caught an ovipositing female darner that we tried hard to make into a female Arroyo but it was a Riffle Darner Oplonaeshna armata. Back by the truck several Spot-winged Meadowhawks had come out along the stream.
After our success in the morning we hit a couple of other streams in the afternoon. One location, dubbed Parker Canyon Schoolhouse, is where my companions found Erpetogomphus elaps two weeks ago, a dragonfly species new to the U. S. We were not so lucky this time but had fun scrutinizing several species of dancer Argia, and looking for a female Red Rock Skimmer Paltothemis lineatipes that I needed. Doug and Rich found another Persephone's Darner, another Spot-winged Meadowhawk, and pointed out the rare Sunrise Skipper butterfly to me.
We then headed to the far side of the lake to look for the darner. We quickly spotted a couple patrolling the swampy vegetated lake edge. They had bright green thoraxes contrasting with brown abdomens, and I found them very difficult to catch. They were very adept at staying out of range and our nets stayed empty for a long while. Rich finally caught one. A fine-looking male, it's beauty a contrast to it's muddy cow-trampled and scented habitat. Doug got some pictures of one that perched in a tree and a couple of good shots of one hovering. I worked the edge of the woods hoping to come across a female. I also tried to catch another male but my efforts left me humbled.
We crossed into Mexico at Douglas and had breakfast in Agua Prieta. We then drove Highway 2 through Sonora into Chihuahua, the highway going up and down mountains ranges with wide arid plains in between. We arrived at the stream crossing at mid-morning and below the highway bridge we quickly found several Yellow-legged Ringtails. The stream was narrow with vegetated banks. There were very few rocks so the ringtails often perched on leaves. I spent the rest of the morning looking unsuccessfully for a female. Other dragonflies we found were Swift Setwing Dythemis velox, Desert Whitetail Plathemis subornata, and Comanche Skimmer Libellula comanche.
After checking some small ponds we headed back, stopping once at a creek in Sonora. However clouds had built up in the afternoon. Flame Skimmers Libellula saturata were mating and laying eggs while Pale-faced Clubskimmers Brechmorhoga mendax patrolled up and down the stream.
I tried stopping at a location on the other side of the Chiricahuas to look for Arroyo Darner but was disuaded by the "No Trespassing" signs when I arrived. It turned out I was in the right spot and the land was public and I should have just ignored the signs. In any case it was already 3 PM and cloudy, so I headed back to Tucson.
Later in the morning Rich and Elaine took me to the next canyon over, Bear Creek. There were more Red Rock Skimmers, several Neon Skimmers Libellula croceipennis, Plateau Dragonlets and a couple of Serpent Ringtails. There were also several Filigree Skimmers Pseudoleon superbus, always a highlight and I managed to catch a female that I needed. Other highlights were a couple of Gray Sanddragons Progomphus borealis which I have seen but never caught before and a new damselfly, the dark Tezpi Dancer Argia tezpi.
My great thanks to my hosts and companions on this trip. Looking forward to the publication of their book. Can't wait to use it next year!
|car window Arizona|
|Red Rock Skimmer|
|Chihauhua - Sonora border|
|view from MX Hwy 2|
|Flame Skimmer female|
|Red Rock Skimmer female|
|Common Green Darner|