After what seemed an eternity of dry hot weather, the monsoons have finally arrived.

This is the time the desert plants and animals become more active and the Sonoran Desert morphs into a living terrarium with the simple addition of rain. Because of this it is my favorite time of year, despite the high temps and humidity.

This afternoon I set two new camera traps in a mountain range SE of Tucson. On the way to the sites I had selected I came across some common, but beautiful insects:

Figeater beetle, Cotinis mutabilis. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Pepsis wasp/tarantula hawk. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Queen butterfly. Copyright: Greg Joder.


It’s been a long few months since finishing my tour on Sea Sheperd’s Operation Milagro. I worked on-board as a deckhand hauling in illegal nets, briefly as quartermaster on the bridge and primarily as one of a few drone operators.  Here’s is Operation Milagro’s season end recap video:

During this time my dad passed away and I spent a few week back in Tucson with family.  I officially left the Sea Shepherd campaign after my three month commitment ended at the end of April.  At that point I needed a break to re-energize and reflect on the loss of my dad.

Since that time, I’ve been back in Tucson working on my house and volunteering again at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  I’ve also been catching up with my wildlife camera-trap projects at home, the Catalina Mountains and at the Audubon’s Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch.  I’ll be posting regularly now that things have settled down.

Here’s the best so far from a camera in my yard:

Here’s another mountain lion from one of my Catalina Mountain cameras:

A bear showed up at the Audubon research ranch:

Camera Trap Action

I recently set up a white-flash camera trap on the waterhole in my backyard.  The difference between this camera and other traditional camera traps is that it uses a white-flash, just like your camera flash, to capture the photo or video of the animals when the motion sensor is triggered.  Many camera traps, including several of mine, use IR, or infrared light to capture the action of the animals.  Infrared light is not visible to you and me or wildlife.  Because of this the camera can be triggered and the action captured without the animal being startled by seeing white light.  The risk of using a white-light flash with a camera trap is that the animal will see it and run away.

Here is an example of a non-visible IR camera trap capture:

In this case, the animals were revealed by the infrared light, but they did not see any light and everything remained dark for them.

In the following video my camera used a white-light flash to capture the action.  This is the same as using a flash on a DSLR in low light to catch everyone’s smiles.  Since the animals can see this, it often startles them thus changing their behavior.

In my back yard it seems the animals are adjusting to the white light when they approach the waterhole:

Catching up, moving forward

Mount Lemmon. Copyright: Greg Joder
Mount Lemmon. Copyright: Greg Joder

Yes, I’m still dealing with post-election depression, facing the fact that the president elect’s views and cabinet choices will do their best to destroy nature in return for profit. A lot of damage can be done in four years.  There is a lot of talk about de-regulation and fewer rules.  Given that the GOP will control all three branches, it’s a no-brainer that many important and functioning environmental rules and acts will be cut or debilitated.  Under the next GOP-led administration, say goodbye to the Endangered Species Act, clean air and clean water (EPA).  Not to mention back-peddling on women’s rights, equal pay, pro-choice and public schools.

I despised G. W. Bush, but the next administration promises to be much much worse.

I recognize that I may lose what little viewer-ship I have by stating my opinion here, but that’s OK by me.

For those of you that stick around, thank you!

Here’s the latest… Lot’s of action at the backyard waterhole:

And, chasing a train:

caterpillar ~ chrysalis ~ butterfly

The queen butterfly chrysalis that I’ve been watching went through another stage of metamorphosis this morning (video below).

Queen butterfly chrysalis. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Queen butterfly chrysalis. Copyright: Greg Joder.

This time from chrysalis (pupa) to butterfly. It took 9 days for the chrysalis to go through the cell growth and differentiation to become an adult butterfly. Visually, we can see the morphological changes which is magical in itself.  What we can’t see are the changes the insect goes through on a cellular level, from larva to pupa and pupa to butterfly. The next photo, taken late at night before the complete metamorphosis, shows the chrysalis clearing to reveal the nearly developed adult butterfly.  The video of the whole process follows.

Chrysalis metamorphosis. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Chrysalis metamorphosis. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Watching this process I’ve been wondering if the ‘mind’ of the insect remains intact through the whole process: did it know it was a caterpillar, then a chrysalis before becoming a butterfly? Please watch the following video in HD and full screen for best detail.  To see the butterfly emerge from the chrysalis, skip to the 4:00 minute mark.

Adult butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Adult butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Copyright: Greg Joder.

mountain lion

I took the following photos of Cruz, an orphaned mountain lion, at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Cruz... Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Cruz… Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Cruz. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Cruz. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Cruz. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Cruz. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. 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: