Arizona Sky Islands Week 31

This is more like it!  No long driving days this week and next, just short forays into the species-rich canyons and mountains of SE Arizona.  After several weeks of monsoon rains, "second summer" is now well underway, with lush-green roadsides and grasslands, upland meadows strewn with wildflowers, granite-rock canyons with pools, and wet washes . . . ideal butterfly attractants.  Some 30+ new species are possible here!

Cave Creek Basin Mullin'sHill PortalBC 080215-4 5 6HDR

Chiricahua dawn - photo by Tom Deecken

Leaving the White Mtns. and Mt. Graham, I rolled into the Chiricahua Mtns. west of Portal, AZ, where high floodwaters forced an overnight stay in a friendly rancher’s driveway.  By morning, the high waters had mostly abated, but stream debris gave Chalcedona some tense moments at several mud-and-gravel crossings.  Early that morning I teamed with Tom Deecken of Sierra Vista on the Portal butterfly count.  Despite a day with near-constant cloud cover, we flushed out both Four-spotted and Edward’s skipperlings, Taxiles skipper, and a Drusius cloudywing.  Tom, a knowledgeable, wizened veteran of the Chiricahua high country, joined me at an overnight campsite and through noon the next day, as we notched Pine Satyr and Orange-headed roadside-skipper.  

After lunch, while walking a wet wash on the flats near the entrance to Chiricahua NM, a large, flying “object,” surely a hummingbird or day-flying moth, entered my field of vision from the left.  As it circled about and disappeared briefly into the trees, I realized that no, this was more likely a giant-skipper!  Fortunately it returned for another look and passed within arms-length, close enough to confirm field marks as the Ursine giant-skipper, the only species of its kind flying here at this season. 

Over the next few days, exploration of Hunter and Brown canyons yielded Mexican fritillary and Large and Cassus roadside-skippers.  In the Coronado NM, over a hundred tiny Many-spotted skipperlings dabbled in the mud with sulphurs and blues at the Copper canyon stream crossing; continuing on a dirt road to Parker Canyon Lake, where Dull firetip and Elissa roadside-skipper graced the shoreline of this reservoir, I missed the hoped-for Sunrise skipper.  Ah well, next week I get another chance . . .

New Species: Pine White Neophasia menapia, Mexican Fritillary Euptoieta hegesia, Painted Crescent Phyciodes picta, Pine Satyr Paramacera xicaque allyni, Dull Firetip Apyrrothrix araxe, Drusius Cloudywing Thorybes drusius, Four-spotted Skipperling Piruna polingi, Many-spotted Skipperling Piruna aea, Edwards’ Skipperling Oarisma edwardsii, Taxiles Skipper Poanes taxiles, Large Roadside-Skipper Amblyscirtes exoteria, Cassus Roadside-Skipper Amblyscirtes cassus, Elissa Roadside-Skipper Amblyscirtes elissa, Orange-headed Roadside-Skipper, Amblyscirtes phylace, Ursine Giant-Skipper Megathymus ursus

New Species:  15    Total trip species:  448   Species Photographed:  435


Dull firetip, Parker Canyon Lake, AZ


Pine white, White Mtns., AZ


Fatal metalmark, San Pedro River, Sierra Vista, AZ


Many-spotted skipperling, Brown Canyon, Sierra Vista, AZ

© Chris Tenney 2014