The Chiricahuas

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October 3, 2008
I love this old hotel, especially for the splendid windows, which depict the flora and topography of the Sonoran Desert. The scarlet flowers of the ocotillo are especially fine.

Otherwise, the “grand” part is a bit past. But the place (and this whole border town) exists in a time warp. You wouldn’t be surprised if Pancho Villa charged in the front door and up the marble staircase, guns blazing, as he once did.

As I work through the last of the several sky islands I’ve visited here in Arizona — the Chiricahuas — I am thinking a lot about phenology: the progression, or procession, of natural events through the year. Without a time machine or the ability to disapparate, or at least a big budget (and appetite) for aeroplanes and rental cars, I don’t know how anyone would see all the American butterflies in a year, or even most of them.
Each species has its own particular flight period, often keyed to the phenologies of their larval host plants and adult nectar sources, in turn militated by patterns of precipitation and temperature. So in order to see the full fauna in a given area, you’d have to return several times — and then too, the emergence of a given species can vary by weeks, depending on the weather.

So, in short, I got here a little too late for the whole, rich roster of roadside skippers. But by doing so, I arrived just right for the amazing Giant Skippers in the Huachucas, not too late for the Red-rimmed Satyr, and just in time for Terloot’s Pine White. So the phenology is a keen challenge — and will remain so, on into Texas.

The great naturalist-photographer Bob Behrstock came afield with me in the Huachucas — his photos show two of the big skippers.

Both photos below by R.A. Behrstock/Naturewide Images:
Dull Firetip (two crops). Fort Huachuca. A very worn individual we were lucky to see as the flight is about over.

Photo below by R.A. Behrstock/Naturewide Images:
Huachuca Giant-Skipper. Fort Huachuca.

Photo below:
Bob and Bob Behrstock in Karen LeMay and Behrstock’s back yard.


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