In the last week or so I finally starting seeing Monarch caterpillars on the milkweed in my pollinator garden. I counted about twenty in different instar states. Since then all the leaves of the milkweed have been eaten and the caterpillars have slinked off to find a safe place to hang out and morph into a chrysalis and eventually a butterfly. I was lucky enough to find one of the caterpillars in the classic “J” pose, ready to morph. The first video is filmed at normal speed so you can watch in detail the moments leading up to the emergence of the chrysalis. The second video compresses about 1/2 hour into about a minute and a half. Which ever video you watch, I recommend watching in 4k, full screen.
As many of us living in southern Arizona know, it’s been a comparatively dry monsoon. Normally, in my neck of the desert, Bear Canyon creek is running from all the rain dropped in the Catalina Mountains by summer monsoon storms. As of today, it is dry as a bone from the trailhead crossing on up to the last remaining pools.
However, a storm system is moving our way from the south (remnants of Lorena) and the forecast is 70% rain Monday and 80% Monday night. I’m so hoping for a localized drenching where the washes flood and Bear Canyon creeks flows again. Here’s an aerial I took of upper Bear Canyon at Seven Cataracts after winter rains earlier this year:
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.
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 coopers hawk:
A bat catching a sphinx moth at a cactus flower:
And a cute little western screech owl:
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.
Here’s a photo of the two nestlings from last summer’s clutch:
Here’s a male Broad-billed hummingbird I photographed at one of my feeders, fully displaying his sexual dimorphism.
Finally, here’s a video of the female feeding her one nestling from the last clutch of this summer:
This trail cam capture was a fun surprise, a band of white-nosed coati foraging in a creek-bed. I set up the cameras about two weeks earlier, hoping to catch bears or mountain lions. I was happily surprised to see the cameras had captured the action of this band of coati as they worked their way down the creek. Pay close attention to the youngsters as they climb up and down trees and explore:
I don’t want to mislead everyone that my blog is all about trail camera captures. It is much more than that, given time. Currently, however, trail cameras have been a focus of my outdoor life (I’m not a hunter, but rather want to protect wildlife). I have other adventures in mind that will not involve trail cameras. I hope you’ll stick with me to see those adventures. In the mean time, I have more trail camera action to share with you. First, is a video of scouting a new location to set up a couple trail cameras:
Second are two videos that represent patience and luck when choosing a trail camera location.
A Desert Bighorn Sheep:
A Juvenile Black Bear:
When I first learned about game cameras I was immediately interested in how such camera traps could catch activities of wildlife undisturbed by human presence. I was also excited by the possibility of catching images or video of large predators in action, specifically mountain lions. I am no hunter and do not support trophy hunting or predator hunting and abhor these practices for many reasons. That said, so-called ‘game cameras’ are an essential tool for wildlife research and monitoring.
It took me several years to learn how to find the right place to set a camera trap that would catch large predators like mountain lions, but I finally caught on and learned to see their activity by tracks and associated preferred haunts.
Here are a few mountain lion videos that my camera traps have captured this year.
Mountain Lion & Fawn:
Mountain Lion in the Desert Heat:
Bear, Skunk, Bobcat and Mountain Lion:
Mountain Lion on the Move:
First Mountain Lion of 2018:
This little Broad-billed Hummingbird is likely the same one that built a nest in my patio last summer. Either way, she was able to successfully fledge two youngsters. There were plenty of hanging-plant options on which to build her nest, but she chose the green hook.
During her time incubating the eggs and feeding the nestlings the temperature in the patio was between 100 and 111 degrees (38 to 44 c.). She had her work cut out for her.
Here she is incubating her eggs:
Here she is feeding her kids a few days before they fledged:
The camera traps I’ve set up have captured some very nice mountain lion activity. The following two videos show two different mountain lion families some 20 miles apart.
The first video is from Cat Canyon:
The second video is from Lion Wash, which I have had camera stationed on and off for over two years:
On my way to check my wildlife cameras in the Rincon Mountains near Tucson I came upon these butterflies. Does anyone know what plant this is?