Camera Trapping

Camera traps are one of the best ways to observe wildlife behavior that you’d likely not see because it’s either dark out or your presence would alter the animals behavior. I bought my first camera trap around 2005 and was instantly addicted. I had no idea there were such shenanigans happening when I wasn’t around.

Mountain lion in the Sonoran Desert. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Now, in 2019, I have about 10 personal cameras set up in the desert around my home town, Tucson, including my backyard. I also have another 10 cameras set up at Audubon’s Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch near Elgin, Arizona. We use these cameras for long-term wildlife monitoring, recording which animals and how often pass through the research ranch.

In this post I’d like to share some backyard wildlife action my cameras recently captured.

A bobcat:

A coopers hawk:

A bat catching a sphinx moth at a cactus flower:

And a cute little western screech owl:

Queen Butterfly Metamorphosis

The Queen and Monarch butterfly season in my pollinator garden was pretty subdued this summer. Not sure if it was the dismal monsoon season with very little rain or other factors. I did manage to catch a couple stages of metamorphosis of a queen butterfly.

First, watch a queen caterpillar turn into a chrysalis:

And the next step is the fully developed butterfly emerging from its chrysalis:

Hummingbird Nest in the Patio

For the third year and second time this summer a Broad-billed Hummingbird raised a new batch of hummingbirds in a re-used nest in my patio. Both the first clutch and the second (seen below) from this summer had two eggs, but only one from each clutch was viable and successfully fledged.

Female Broad-billed Hummingbird. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Here’s a photo of the two nestlings from last summer’s clutch:

A female Broad-billed hummingbird feeding her two nestlings. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Here’s a male Broad-billed hummingbird I photographed at one of my feeders, fully displaying his sexual dimorphism.

Male Broad-billed hummingbird at a feeder in Tucson, Arizona. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Finally, here’s a video of the female feeding her one nestling from the last clutch of this summer:

Monarch Butterflies

The pollinator garden in my yard has been a pretty good place for Monarch butterflies. So far this summer I’ve counted a couple dozen Monarch caterpillars, a number of chrysalis’s and have seen about 15 butterflies successfully emerge. I was able to catch some of the action.

Monarch caterpillar:

Monarch, chrysalis to butterfly:

nectar feeding bats

It’s that special time of year in the Sonoran Desert when the Lesser Long-nosed bats return to the region.  If you live where the bats forage and you leave hummingbird feeders up at night, you will know these bats have arrived by the evidence of empty feeders and sticky sugar water left on the ground in the morning.  They are sloppy eaters.  The Lesser Long-nosed bat is a nectarivore and feeds on the blooms of Saguaros, cardón cactus, agave and other night-blooming cacti.

I recently set up one of my motion-activated wildlife cameras to catch these endangered mammals in action.  First, here’s a video of the bats feeding from a flower on a night blooming cactus in my yard:

And here is a video of them feeding from a hummingbird feeder I set in my yard just for the bats:

Desert Broom

There are several Desert Broom shrubs blooming in my yard.  This plant blooms in the fall, well after the monsoon wildflowers do.  Like last year, I’ve been reminded that a plethora of insects love this plant:

Queen Butterfly on Desert Broom. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Queen Butterfly on Desert Broom. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Snout Butterfly on Desert Broom. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Snout Butterfly on Desert Broom. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Katydid on Desert Broom. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Katydid on Desert Broom. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Metalark Butterfly Species on Desert Broom. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Metalark Butterfly Species on Desert Broom. Copyright: Greg Joder.

metamorphosis – larva to chrysalis

Queen Butterfly Caterpillar.  Copyright:  Greg Joder
Queen Butterfly Caterpillar. Copyright: Greg Joder

I’ve been keeping an eye on the queen butterfly caterpillars that have been feeding on the milkweed and other plants in my yard.  My wish was to see one go through metamorphosis, changing from a caterpillar into a chrysalis.  After a couple missed attempts I was finally able to capture the transformation on video.  The first part of the video starts at normal speed then into timelapse.  The second part shows the main transformation in normal time.  I recommend watching in fullscreen and in HD: