In the Bleak Midwinter

Click on any image to enlarge.

East of El Paso, the scent of the creosote bush blew in the open window, the crescent moon strung between Saturn and Jupiter above. In the morning the wings of Dogface butterflies flew from the grills of semis. Just the Road, and more Road, as the odometer passed 387,000 miles, 35,000 for the year. It seems no place, no time, to be doing what I’m doing. But then beyond Jacumba, across Tecate Divide, I meet Koji under a cold blue sky. As the first day of December warms, we climb the Laguna Mountains in search of the ornamental eggs (like fancy-syped tiny tires) of Mountain Mahogany Hairstreaks—and find them! 28, in all. Then down into the western hem of the Colorado Desert, where a caterpillar of the California Giant Skipper awaited, plump body in the sun, shiny black head dug into the succulent leaf of a Desert Agave. Yes! (see pics. [below])

At home, heavy winds and rains — which we are about to flee, Thea and I, to Hawaii.

Photos below by Kojiro Shiraiwa, author of the forthcoming book The Butterflies of San Diego County.

Below: RMP in the Laguna Mountains, hunting for hairstreaks again

Below: RMP with Kojiro Shiraiwa in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego County

Below: Habitat of the Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak (Satyrium tetra)

Below: A mass of hairstreak eggs on Mountain Mahogany leaf

Below: Close-up of Satyrium tetra eggs

Below: Desert Agave, hostplant of the California Giant Skipper, in eastern San Diego County

Below: California Giant Skipper (Agathymus stephensi) with its head burrowed into agave leaf

The two photos below: California Giant Skipper larva, head withdrawn, on agave leaf


  1. With all that rain in Hawaii, I’m truly amazed that you and Thea managed to find 14 out of 17 species of butterflies. Hope you manage the last few to make 500 while you’re in Florida.
    Bet you’re about ready for this year to come to an end so you can go home an relax a little.

  2. These images are absolutely sublime. Is there any chance you can link them to the full, high res version? I wanted to make one of them my desktop wallpaper.

    Also, do you guys have a flikr account by any chance?


  3. I just bought Kohiro’s book on the butterflies of San Diego county. It is fantastic! I had been looking for a book of local ones and came across an offer for this on It is meticulous in its detail and breathtaking in its scope of photographs. Bravissimo to the author/photographer. From a butterfly lover!

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