Those Emperors in that White Tank Mountain Regional Park in west central Arizona sure caught my attention. In a bone dry arroyo, they flew alone, short distances, and almost always returned to the same spot that they left moments before. They much resembled Hackberry Emperors and Tawny Emperor butterflies, but their behavior was so very different.
Closer approach revealed that they were Empress Leila butterflies, western USA cousins to the above cited Emperors. They were my 3rd Emperor butterfly, and I was pleased to meet them, very. They can be seen in New Mexico, Arizona and western Texas.
We will not be posting on wingedbeauity.com for a week or two, because I am moving to a new home in Macon, Georgia. Moving, as some of you know, is a bear, and near totally time consuming.
That bone-dry arroyo was working just fine for me. I’d found this dry creek bed on an earlier trip to White Tank Mountains Regional Park, just west of Phoenix. I have a vague recollection of a sign posted near the arroyo, something about not entering the arroyo ever, for a flash downpour miles away could prove deadly here. In retrospect, I might have honored the sign, but . . . hours of searching White Tank produced almost nothing. When I drove to a 3-car parking area, and happened on the arroyo, that earlier year, I descended down to its bed, and Bingo! Butterflies, not lots of them, but there were plants in bloom here and there, and I tried waiting at a plant with flowers, and almost every wait yielded, drew butterflies.
This one flew in to these diminutive blooms, and I knew at once, my first ever Queen butterfly. We don’t have them in the places I lived in before (Brooklyn, Queens NY, Long Island NY, Sheffield Mass or Pittsburgh). He was a dashing Queen and I decided on not gambling, not moving in with my Macro- lens, to get the full benefit of those magical 18″ from this large butterfly.
I planted my feet, loved that this was a tall wildflower, and I shot away. This image was captured with Fuji slide film and yes, his color was as rich as you see. That deep blue Arizona sky added to my delight when this slide was returned to me.
The wildflower? I still do not know its name. How do they flower despite many weeks of xeric dry 97F weather? I think they have very deep roots, and take moisture several feet down in the arroyo bed.
My first Queen.
I so admire those who share rare butterflies on Facebook. I went to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in December 2017, and Whoopee!! I had several fantastic days, seeing butterflies that there’s no way you could expect to see, in a year or in a decade. Examples? Erato heliconian, Red rim, Tropical greenstreak, Malachite and Gold-bordered hairstreak.
Sharing images and anecdotes? I enjoy doing that. Especially when the butterfly’s like this one, a rare and little seen Arizona arroyo (dry stream bed) butterfly, the Arizona Powdered Skipper.
Where’d we meet? In that arroyo I found in White Tank Regional Park, 35 minutes southwest of Sun City West. Won’t discuss the advisability of those hours scouring the long arroyo, partly because working that boulder strewn bone-dry arroyo nearly cost me, everything.
Pleased to share one that you might never ever see, I am.
That River Grand Valley trip, a week at the National Butterfly Center, Bensten State Park and the nearby ‘Wall,’ dished up dozens of butterfly species new to me. A constant rush-rush-rush of butterflies I had never seen before. I mean, as I work to recall what we saw, and without instantaneous digital feedback, I am now and then gifted with a recollection, like the one I had yesterday, that a mental vignette: Not only did I want to see the uncommon Mexican Fritillary, but my luck cashed in, when I saw and shot away at a fresh pair of mated Mexican fritillaries!
So now I spend good time recalling so many of the butterflies of the USA that I have been fortunate to have seen, and shot.
High on the list of what Jeff’s seen is this one, a fresh Arizona Powdered Skipper, met just where it should have been, some years ago, in a bone dry arroyo, in White Mountain Regional Park, west of Phoenix, Arizona. I found this one, on a boiling hot day in the desert, in these low mountains, and if you can keep a secret, in the bed of the arroyo (where I actually should not have been).
I count myself among the 0.0014% of Americans who have ever had the pleasure of a meet-up with the Arizona Powdered Skipper. Am I a Lucky Boy, or what!
Southwest Airlines flew me from Pittsburgh to Phoenix, Arizona. Depart from the temperate eastern United States to the southwestern desert that’s most of Arizona. Oak and maple slip away from my view, replaced soon by cactuses and a host of plants that are new to me.
Here in the White Mountains Regional Park, I park my rental car and hike to this arroyo (dry river bed). I’ve been here before. It is a source of fascination for me and here I’ve found a large number of butterflies.
That’s the wonder and mystery of this habitat. Hiking in an arroyo is generally not promoted. If there were to be an instant storm above, there is Big risk of raging floodwaters surging down through the bone-dry arroyo, and you’d risk being swept away. Gone. So the element of distant danger, even on such a day as this, is understood.
We’ve noted the relative abundance of butterflies in earlier arroyo posts. I’ve not studied arroyos. Are there aquifers resting below? Is that why plants endure the dry arroyo bed? Do the steep banks of the arroyo carry down the morning dew? Is there morning dew? Let us hope that we will find answers to these questions, from Comments made by our Arizona friends.
Working the rock strewn arroyo, you are constantly reminded of the presence of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, spiders and more. They peek out at you, or dart away as you quietly traverse the rocks. There is scat here and there, both tiny scat and sightings of considerable scat. I found both herbivore scat and carnivore scat. I walk this arroyo in the morning. Who and what move in it during the black night?
I like the arroyo. It never disappoints.