A Size Comparison

A joking size comparison of a black witch moth to a blue whale with the size of the moth greatly exaggerated

Since it can be difficult to get a sense of how big the black witch is from pictures, I placed it at scale next to a blue whale. So not as big as the biggest animal to have ever lived, but still pretty big.

(Whale drawing is from Kurzon)

One More for the List

A European starling pokes its head out of its nest in a saguaro in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 21, 2021. Original: _RAC5715.arw

This spring I went down to a rock formation in the neighborhood to try and photograph a pair of starlings, I have mixed feelings about seeing them since while I enjoy watching them they were introduced in the US and have negatively impacted some native species. Thankfully they don’t seem to be making much of an inroads here, I’ve not seem them in the desert (even on trails near subdivisions) and rarely see them in the neighborhood. I was surprised to find them nesting in a woodpecker hole, possibly built by one of the local architects below, this one poking its head out right as the sun was about to dip below the mountains. One more species added to my list in my attempt to photograph every animal in the desert on a saguaro.

A female Gila woodpecker perches on a saguaro near sunset in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 21, 2021. Original: _RAC5482.arw

The Adorable Assassin

A close-up of a common kingsnake (California kingsnake) under the bushes near our front door in Scottsdale, Arizona on September 20, 2021. Originals: _RAC9574.arw and _RAC9585.arw

Speaking of wildlife right outside our door, a couple of weeks after the first black witch appeared my wife was trimming some bushes that had overgrown the water spigot and was startled by this kingsnake. You might not expect it from its adorable little mug but one of the many things these constrictors eat is rattlesnakes. I wish I could keep it on retainer, I’d put up tiny little signs at viper eye level around the yard saying “Beware of Kingsnakes” and I don’t think we’d have to worry about venomous snakes anymore. Not that I don’t love seeing rattlesnakes, just I prefer seeing them in their home rather than mine.

Who Am I?

A macro shot of the pattern in the wing of a male black witch moth in Scottsdale, Arizona on September 5, 2021. Originals: _RAC8911.arw to _RAC8913.arw

I cast no spell but charm
and do not mean you any harm,
for I am not to blame
for my often fearsome names.
I’m the biggest in the land,
almost the size of a hand,
who am I?

Answer is in the tags, I had no idea this creature even existed until my wife woke me one weekend to tell me one was sitting outside our door. This is a male, we’ve since had a female and another male come visiting, though they only stay for a few days. One of the biggest surprises I’ve had since arriving in the desert, just an absolute joy to behold.

This is a macro shot of some of the patterns in his wings, I left it a little dark but it didn’t look quite right if I left it as dark as he was in person as my impression of him as he rested in the shadows was of a void, a hole in our reality. A long exposure (this one is 2.5 seconds) revealed the glory in his details.

The Payoff

Our cat Sam rests on top of the banana catnip toy he chewed open on September 12, 2021. Original: _RAC9345.arw

Years of effort paid off as Sam finally chewed one end of the banana cat toy open, spilling catnip all over the carpet. As a younger cat he would have rolled around in it but at fourteen he was content to just bask in the glory of a job well done.