North To The Flatlands

How the time has flown! I arrived in Bisbee, Arizona early in January, exhausted from a harrowing bus ride and generally feeling and looking rather bedraggled.

That was about eighteen weeks ago, and during that time I’ve made sporadic efforts to chronicle my time in this fascinating part of the country, using both prose and photographs in an attempt to convey the feelings and impressions the landscape has sparked in me.

Later today Bev and I will set off in her van, following a meandering course, the interim destination being Quincy, Illinois. There I will retrieve some possessions (I’ve missed my guitar!) and revive my pickup truck, rudely awakening the mechanical beast from from a winter’s somnolence. Bev will proceed north and east to her house in Nova Scotia, while I will make my way back to Arizona.

This won’t be a hurried journey, as we plan to spend some time in the red-rock country of southern Utah. If the weather cooperates I should have some wonderful photographic opportunities: landforms during the day and moths at night.

This will be my thirty-fourth post from Bisbee and environs. I’ve had to make daily choices involving priorities. Should I write posts or explore a new trail or canyon? Usually I would pick the easy way out and go out walking, either alone or with Bev. Thus I’ve neglected certain experiences, such as the time I’ve spent mothing.

My first experiences photographing moths were several years ago when I worked the night shift as a clerk at a Hannibal, Missouri gas station. The BP station was just a few blocks from the Mississippi River and its associated bottomland forests, and the station lights attracted many beautiful species of large moths.

That when was I first met Bev. She was and is a skilled photographer of moths, and somehow she ended up at my blog and offered comments on the identification of certain moth species I had photographed.

This winter Bev introduced me to the practice of luring moths to an illuminated bedsheet, in this case a square of Tyvek agricultural row-cover material draped over an old bug-zapper with the zapper part disabled. The zapper’s light is an effective lure for moths, and several times during the night one or the other of us would venture outside and photograph confused moths clinging to the checker-patterned surface of the Tyvek. Here’s Bev kneeling and preparing to photograph:

She is holding a square LED lamp in one hand and her camera in the other. It’s sort of difficult to coordinate the two hands and end up with a focused shot, but it’s a useful skill.

Here are a couple of my moth photos. The standard view-from-above is more useful for identification purposes, but I also enjoy taking head-on shots.

This first one is probably Nemoria caerulescens, a species found only in the Southwest:

Here is Drasteria pallescens, a species found generally throughout the West:

One of my moth “character shots”:

And finally, here is a Dainty Sulfur butterfly (Nathalis iole) feeding upon a rosemary bush. The back side of the large patch of rosemary out in the courtyard is the exclusive province of the collie Sage, and while she was pooping back there I was on the near side, squatted down taking this photo:

I’ll miss Cochise County, as it is so rich in dramatic landforms and species of various organisms, but I’ll be back in a few weeks!



1 Comment

Filed under Arizona, Essays and Articles, Natural History, Photos

One response to “North To The Flatlands

  1. Joan

    Great pictures. That bug zapper, however, it the biggest one I have ever seen. It could zap small animals!
    Does a flash scare away the moths? I should know this before I attempt mothing. So far butterflies are few and far between around here. But it’s early.

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