I am enjoying the field trips of the Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association (SEABA) this year. SEABA is a local chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. The monthly field trips, usually on Saturdays, are led by a butterfly expert or someone knowledgeable of the fauna and flora of the destination. Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains, a popular place for both Arizonans and tourists, was the site of May’s field trip on May 9. The leader was Gary Jue of Greg’s Camera Shop (where I bought my own camera), who works on Saturdays.
Hiking the trails takes you through several habitats, from mesquite grasslands at the entrance to oak and juniper forests at mid-elevation, and finally pine and oak at the top. It is a very visitor-friendly place. Just ask this rock squirrel that greeted us early on.
What is Mother’s Day without flowers? The bloom below is a type of milkweed known as “Antelope horns,” Asclepias asperula to botanists. Ordinarily, milkweeds are highly attractive to insects including butterflies, bees, wasps, and flies, but nary an insect was on this one, save for what might be a “seed weevil” in the Chrysomelidae leaf beetle family. I only noticed it when I cropped this image. See if you can find the tiny gray insect in one of the blossoms.
Among the birds we took note of was the ever-present Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus. You will hear them often, even if you don’t see them, but the ones here in Madera Canyon have become habituated to people and frequently land quite close to picnickers.
I have noted some of the butterflies we saw over at “Bug Eric,” but wanted to conclude this entry with the most exciting, yet unfortunate aspect of our group’s visit last Sunday. As we were preparing to leave the canyon, we caught sight of something that nobody wants to see when they are in a forested area: a plume of smoke.
Word quickly made it to those of us at the top of the canyon that a car had burst into flames about half way up the road.
Traffic in and out of the canyon was halted while it was extinguished. Fortunately, the family in the car exited without injury. Miraculously, the fire didn’t touch off a wildfire, despite red flag warnings on this windy day. The flames did jump to either side of the road, but were quickly put out. The whole incident happened close to a creek, so the initial response was a volunteer bucket brigade. Also close by was a bed-and-breakfast, and the folks there strung together garden hoses to stop the roadside fire. Emergency vehicles arrived shortly thereafter, but the car was clearly toast.
Kudos to all who not only prevented what could have become a catastrophe, but who had traffic flowing again in a remarkably short period of time. I hope the afflicted family is going to be ok.