Monday, August 30, 2010

A Visitor to A Mesquite Tree

A hummingbird stops by a mesquite tree near our rig

A Tour with Gary Tenen

I had a real treat yesterday! With only two weeks left in our stay at Kartchner Caverns, I got to go on a tour led by Gary Tenen, one of the cave's discoverers!

Gary, along with "Doctor Bob," Kartchner's resident scientist, led a group that had won the tour in a charity auction. I, along with a couple other excited volunteers, tagged along. We learned a lot about geology, speleology, cave exploration, and a whole lot of other "ologies" mixed in with just plain fun stuff.

While it was a bit groupy-ish and embarrassing, I did ask Gary if he would pose for a photo with me. He kindly said, "yes," so here it is:

John, unfortunately, didn't get to go on the tour -- he was driving the tram. Someone had to do it!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another Peak In The Hole: Guarding the Tarantula

What you see today if you look in the hole (see yesterday's post):

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Tarantula Lost

Back in April 2009, I posted about our sighting of a Tarantula Hawk (see bottom section) at the nearby Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. I'll spare you the gory details of what the Tarantula Hawk does to the Tarantula -- you can read the summary on that post if you want -- but suffice to say that the Tarantula Hawk, actually a wasp, is large enough and mean enough to capture a full grown tarantula.

While I didn't see the actual battle, I did get to witness the aftermath as the Tarantula Hawk pulled the now-paralyzed tarantula into its nest. Click to enlarge the images if you need to -- the surrounding plant life makes some of the details difficult to see.

The tarantula lies near the Tarantula Hawk's hole. The Hawk will return in a moment:

The Tarantula Hawk is on the left. The previous blog showed one with red wings -- that is a juvenile, and their wings go to blue as they age:

The Hawk pulls the tarantula towards the hole:

Just the legs left to go in:

A peek in the hole after the tarantula disappears into it:

Lunch will soon be served.

Monday, August 09, 2010

He Ain't Heavy, He's My "Moth"er

The ants here are quite cooperative, apparently.

I was walking out to the car when I spotted a moth, moving slowly over the ground. Something seemed odd, and I finally realized what it was -- its wings weren't flapping! This gave it the detached, ethereal moving style of the "floating nuns" in the Blues Brother's movie!

A closer look found that the moth was quite dead, and was being carried by an ant:

This was a heavy load! The ant was not dragging the moth, but was actually lifting it off the ground as it carried it in its mouth. As I watched, a second ant jointed the first, taking the opposite side of the moth. Together, and cooperatively, they navigated over rocks and sticks:

I finally lost them in the brush, so I wasn't able to see what finally became of the moth.

I later saw two ants similarly dragging a fallen blossom across the parking lot:

This makes me wonder how big a "find" they can manage to get back to the nest!

Another Desert Visitor

As we (myself, John, and fellow volunteers Art and Bob) sat around the "happy hour" table today, we had a visitor -- this Sonoran Coralsnake slithered right under our legs!

It quickly hid under a rock, curling into a ball. When the rock was moved, it zoomed off. We all tried to remember how the little saying goes -- is it black next to red that makes Jack dead? Or yellow next to something makes him a happy fellow? And just what color was this? Looked more white to us!

But the final verdict is that it was a venomous Sonoran Coralsnake. Certainly to be avoided, but no one has ever died from its bite.

And the right way the snake memory aids goes is, "Red touch yellow (or in this case, white), kills a fellow. Red touch black, friend of Jack."

Sunday, August 01, 2010

We Are Visited By A Tarantula!

We were casually sitting around with our neighbors, enjoying Happy Hour, when we got a surprise visitor!

And, from the looks of things, he brought his own bug to the party! But, alas, another guest at the party was not to be -- he didn't want to share his bug with us, and we didn't want to share our drinks with him. So he took off down the road -- quite literally as he apparently left by our driveway and made a right on the road (that's John in the yellow shirt by the rig):

I guess he didn't like that I followed him with the camera -- this is a defensive posture, abdomen up in the air and fangs spread, that says, "I'm willing to fight you!" I, however, took the coward's way out and returned to the rig. He continued on to wherever huge spiders with a 'tude hang out for the night: