More Monsoon Critters, Summer 2015
Ah, sporadic sunshine! Now give us a couple of days to dry out… In the meantime, I have more pictures of the critters.
One afternoon, I saw this Rustic Sphinx moth (Manduca rustica). It had probably just emerged from its cocoon and was drying off on a pillar of the back patio. From its head to the back edge of its wings, it was a little more than 3 inches long, and its body was as long and a bit fatter than my little finger — so quite a big moth!
The scales on its wings aren’t flat as one would think, but more like really thick hairs. The next little moth shows off those hairy scales. The scales on this one are mostly a medium gray, except for the faint white dot in the middle of each forewing. The scalloped pattern on the wing is not due to coloring but a result of the different layers of scales.
After viewing literally thousands of pictures of moths (and I do know what “literally” means), my best guess is that this is an Elegant Prominent moth (Odontosia elegans). It’s purely a guess though, as that species is not marked as native to Arizona. But there are (again, literally) thousands more pictures of moths to look at, and I gave up.
This next critter is Arizona’s very own Western Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes).
Wikipedia says there are 900 species of spiders that might be called tarantulas, all belonging to the Theraphosidae family. When I lived in Florida, I had large hairy wolf spiders living in the garage, and we called them tarantulas too, but wolf spiders are members of the Lycosidae family and are not even closely related to tarantulas. Here in Arizona, I have seen wolf spiders — even had them in the house — and they are not as big nor as hairy as this.
I kept well away from this spider when taking its picture. I got close enough that it briefly put its front legs up in the air (their first threat response) and then I backed off a bit. They are said to fling their barbed and irritating hairs at you when threatened. I wondered if that bald patch on its back means it had done that recently. If so, those hairs won’t grow back until it molts again.
They’re friendly enough though. The day after I took this picture, I saw another one about a third the size of this one and it was trying to get in the back door. At some point while I was going in and out and not paying attention, the spider managed to get inside, which I found out that evening when it crawled out from under the couch I was sitting on. Eeyaah! It wasn’t in a clear area where I could catch it, so I spent the evening poking it with a yardstick so that it would stay away from me and out of sight until I could think of a way to scoop it up. The next night, I didn’t see it until very late, when I found it in a corner of the foyer, obviously heading for the front door. Once it ate the cricket in the living room, there wasn’t anything much left for a tarantula to eat inside the house. There is plenty of floor space in the foyer, so I coaxed it out of the corner to where I could put a plastic container over it, shove a piece of cardboard underneath and move it out to the front yard. Yay!
The power pole on the hill behind the house is the highest spot nearby, so it’s a favorite spot for birds to sit and check the area for food. These three American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) stopped to look around.
I find this picture a bit weird. The crows are so completely black that you can’t really see them, but only as silhouettes against the sky and the pole. There are ravens hereabouts too, but the ravens are the size of barnyard chickens (and not bantams, either!) so they’re bigger than these, and ravens’ beaks are thicker and more blunt. So these are crows. Another thing I can tell from this picture is that the temperature was over 100°F. How do I know? Because of the way the crows are sitting. When it’s really hot here, birds sit with their mouths wide open and their wings at sort of half-mast, held away from their bodies. It’s about heat dissipation, I’m sure.
Sightings of crows are supposed to be an omen, especially if there are three of them. The direction they’re facing is also supposed to be crucial in reading the omen. So for clarification, two are facing West (toward me) and one is facing South. I’ll leave the rest of the interpretation up to you. 😉