With practice, I have been getting better at identifying different species of butterflies. With some skippers, the first step to take is to make sure it actually is a butterfly. I learned an easy way to sometimes distinguish between a moth and butterfly. The coloration isn’t what gives it away- many skipper butterflies have similar dull color patterns as some moths however, some moths have distinct hairy antennae. This was a dead giveaway when trying to identify this one:
However, not all moths will have the easily distinguishable hairs on their antennae.
This one is missing the distinct hairs on the antennae but I also read that butterflies tend to have a little bulbs on the tips of their antennae. This moth is also missing those slightly thicker tips on its antennae. I am still going to look through the butterfly identification book I am using to be sure it is not a butterfly but for now it most likely isn’t.
This is an example of a thought process I go through while being out in the field walking the transects, looking through binoculars, and flipping through the identification book to be able to say which species of butterflies are present on the field.
And just because I thought it was really awesome, here is a picture of me standing next to a milkweed that was basically the same height as I am (5’3″). The monarch butterfly solely relies on milkweed as their host plant so it made me really happy to see this one growing so well!
Last week the river was dry but teeming with life all waiting for a single summer storm to bring water back to the river. Then, on July 8th around 9pm a storm hit the upper Santa Cruz River valley, the first storm of the monsoon. The rain gage I have at home registered 0.35 inches of rain. On my day off, July 9th at around 2pm, a storm hit the border towns of Nogales Arizona and Nogales Sonora producing a massive flood. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported a gage height of 7 feet in the Nogales wash. It has rained around the area everyday producing beautiful clouds and lightning strikes.
Check out the USGS water data here:
I was excited to return to work on Tuesday and take a hike to the river. I wanted to know if the river had water and the extent of the flood damage in the cottonwood habitat. As I hiked the Anza trail leading to the river I noticed all kinds of wildlife. Birds were chirping in every tree. Lizards rustled in the leaves and bushes as they ran away from my incoming feet. Tiny flying bugs were seen clumped in the air enjoying the morning breeze. Once I arrived to the river I noticed the same frogs I saw last week. They were enjoying their new source of water.
The river was no longer dry! The rains that occurred the last few days returned the river to life.
It is always nice having a long weekend to wind down and go exploring. Especially when it involves family. Luckily, my family was able to stop by for a visit to Colorado this past weekend. I was able to spend a few days with them in Denver meeting other family members of ours, and show them around central Colorado and the Florissant valley.
The downside to having a long weekend is that the following work week is short and generally hectic. Such was the case here at the Florissant Fossil Beds. With meeting after meeting and visit after visit, there was never time to catch a break.
There was a lot of planning going on at the monument this past week. Most of us have been incredibly occupied with preparation for the Preserve America Youth Summit coming up next week. I was in charge of putting together a virtual tour of the paleontology lab, which will premier at the summit next week. Preparing a script, testing GoPro equipment and running several takes with the crew took up much more time than I expected. However, the end results were amazing and I am looking forward to running the tour this coming week.
Also in preparation for the Preserve America Youth Summit, my supervisor, Dr. Herb Meyer, and I worked together on putting together a PowerPoint presentation where he will be covering the incredibly intricate history of the Florissant valley and the vast array of fossils found here at the monument and the geologic processes responsible for creating an environment set up for fossils.
I think what counted for me as a “break” this week was the visiting Girl Scouts group from Kansas. Dr. Sarah Allen and I spoke to this group about how we came to work for the National Park Service and what steps we took to get here. After our brief introductions, we took the group on the Petrified Stump Loop trail and did an activity on stratigraphy. At the end of the hike, we had the group split into three small groups and discuss what they think happened in the Florissant valley 34 million years ago. The groups were able to draw very similar conclusions to what our scientists have concluded occurred in the valley during the Eocene. I believe this young and aspiring group of students are on the path to success. And I am confident many of them will go on to become scientists!
Yesterday, a day camp group came to visit the monument and we took them on a nature walk. I was able to snap some pictures of many of the flowers in bloom. I normally never take the time to admire the wildflowers in the monument but due to the frenetic environment we had this past week, it felt incredibly appropriate to stop for a moment and really take in the beauty the wildflowers add to our community here.