Another great day for insect photography in Flagstaff

Until just two or three weeks ago it’s pretty safe to say I knew nothing about butterflies and moths (except that they like milkweed), let alone other insects.  (Well, of course I knew a bit about honeybees, bumblebees, wasps, flies, mosquitos…) But did I know anything about butterflies? Only monarchs. Dragonflies? Re. the order “Odonata” (dragonflies and damselflies) I knew the name of one subgroup, and only its common name— darning needles (which I now know are damselflies like the “familiar bluet” [Enallagma civile]). So, knowing of the existence of damselflies,  knowing a handful of butterflies along with one beautiful moth, and knowing  the difference between moths and butterflies (unclear as that difference sometimes is) represents progress, right?

Still, I have no idea what sort of grasshopper this is.

July 19 Photo #1

Hanging on for dear life on a windy day
Hanging on for dear life on a windy day

Nor do I have a clue what sort of dragonfly this is.

July 19 Photo #2

Dragonfly of unknown type
Dragonfly of unknown type

The grasshopper photo was taken in Buffalo Park, and the dragonfly in the mostly dry bed of the Rio de Flag—  a much maligned, little understood, often dry creek (i.e., an “ephemeral stream.”)

Every day of late, I’ve traversed the path that follows “the Rio,” as it’s known. It is a very important part of the ecosystem of the city I call home, Flagstaff  Arizona. Among the many animal species supported by the Rio are colorful (and not so colorful) insects and birds. The grasshopper’s relative lack of color can be translated into positive terms as an exquisite camouflage.

I visit Buffalo Park less frequently, but it is Flagstaff’s most important park from the perspective of an ecologist. It covers many acres and, like the Rio channel, is host to diverse flora and fauna, including the grasshopper clinging to the stem of a tall grass plant (pictured above).

Another path I visit almost daily, the FUTS trail (Flagstaff Urban Trail System) meanders through Flagstaff and is a boon to walkers, runners, cyclists, and a representative range of northern Arizona plants and animals. Wildflowers, like the blue flax pictured below, grow along the path.

July 19 Photo #3

Blue flax (Linum lewisii)
Blue flax (Linum lewisii)

The fourth and final “path” traversed is Highway 180, which links Flagstaff with the Grand Canyon, and with the US Forest Service’s Fort Valley Experimental Forest (a 10 minute drive from the Museum of Northern Arizona and our home). After my wife and I participated in a guided tour of the Experimental Forest, we pulled off the highway on our way home to get a better look at the native thistle being visited by a honeybee.

July 19 Picture #4

This thistle looks like a Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare), but that identification is uncertain.
This thistle looks like a Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare), but that identification is uncertain.

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