Sunday, July 25, 2010

Aravaipa Canyon

I am terribly behind in documenting places I have been this year. Way back on May 16, 2010, I had the pleasure of visiting Aravaipa Canyon in Pinal County, Arizona with my good friend Margarethe Brummermann and three visitors from elsewhere. Yen Saw was visiting from Texas, and Christian Ludwig came over from Germany. Mike McNichols came from next door: New Mexico. The heat was a bit too much for Yen and Mike, so they elected to depart in the early afternoon, but a good time was had by all before and after our party split.

A good portion of Aravaipa Canyon is a wilderness area managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the United States Department of the Interior. It is closed to motor vehicles, with hikers forced to wade in the creek through the narrower portions of the canyon. The remainder of the canyon is mostly privately-held land and one trespasses at their own risk.

Our party had barely entered the lower reaches of the canyon when our caravan came to a screeching halt in front of a large Gophersnake, Pituophis catenifer stretched across the road. It was a truly magnificent reptile, and we were able to get multiple images before and after it attempted its retreat.

Actually, it retreated a bit too far for my tastes, looping a coil up my pant leg. Having encountered a rattlesnake the week before, I was a little bit edgy; and a whole lot embarrassed by the serpent’s affection.

Yen and Mike were looking mostly for mantids, and at this time of the year in Arizona most of those predatory insects are in immature stages, quite small and difficult to detect. Ground mantids in the genus Litaneutria can be found as adults, however. Mike also knows ants quite well, and he helped Christian find several colonies of different species. Margarethe was literally beating the bushes for beetles, and I was seeking photo ops for anything I could find in the quickly withering landscape.

Mike and Yen headed back to their hotel in Tucson after finding a dead cow. Their discovery and departure had nothing to do with one another.

Margarethe, Christian and I then continued up the canyon, finally coming to shadier and cooler places by the creek. As we pulled into our final stop along the road, a Common Black-Hawk took off from a low perch in a tree, the black and white bands of its tail both startling and exciting us.

By now, in late afternoon, the wind had picked up and the gusty conditions made photography more difficult. So did the dim sunlight under the tall cottonwoods. Still, we enjoyed seeing creatures like bombardier beetles (Brachinus) and Rubyspot damselflies.

We turned around in the parking area at the entrance to the wilderness area, and were treated to spectacular rimrock views. I look forward to visiting again, and hopefully walking the wilderness area. Aravaipa Canyon is certainly a gem in a state full of truly magnificent landscapes and natural attractions.

Many thanks to Margarethe for the transportation, and to Yen, Christian, and Mike for sharing their own knowledge of insects. I’m already counting the days until they visit again.

NOTE: Special thanks to Yen Saw for letting me use the image of Margarethe, and the one of the group. We are, from left to right: Yen Saw, myself, Margarethe Brummermann, Mike McNichols, and Christian Ludwig.

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