Fulltime Roadrunners

Fulltime Roadrunners
Staying Put at BLM Oxbow Campground on the Colorado River, Cibola, AZ

Desert’s Dangerous? Critters

April 26th, 2014

I want to write a post basically devoted to the dangerous critters of the Sonoran desert and truths about their actual danger.

But first just a note to let you know we are doing fine out here.  The weather hasn’t gotten hot yet, just relatively warm.  That’s a good thing since it may take a bit longer than we’d hoped to get shore power. It seems the bid came in quite high, prohibitively high.  The powers that be are trying to find a work around and/or get the electric company to revise their bid somehow.

One of our regular guests was fishing the other day and caught a turtle.  The only turtles we have out here are Soft-shell Turtles and I’ve been told they are quite aggressive, their heads look like snapping turtles.  This lady turtle had a 10 inch shell.  Cliff decided to keep her, butcher her and make a meal or two from her.  She had 32 eggs in her in various stages of development.  I’m not sorry she won’t be laying those eggs, we don’t need a bunch more turtles in our pond.

Okay, on to the “Dangerous Critters”.  I’m only going to share what I have found out about the ones I’ve managed to see and take photos of.

One thing to keep in mind in the desert – where bugs are concerned, red usually means danger, keep a wide birth.

Starting small, the Velvet Ant is very wide spread and there are several different kinds.  I’ve seen the Red Velvet Ant (very pretty) which comes in Red, Orange, White and Beige; and the Thistledown Velvet Ant (camouflaged as a thistledown blowing on the ground).
0708rdvlvtant2about 3/4” long

thistledownvelvetant-1010thistledownvelvetant-1017About 1/2” long

The velvet ant is actually a female wasp without wings who wanders the desert looking for a nest of a ground wasp.  She lays her egg in a hole she’s eaten into the legless pupae of the ground wasp which becomes the food for her baby until it matures.  The female Velvet Ant has a stinger and her sting is very, very painful.  They are not aggressive and will try to avoid you if possible.  The name "Cow Killer Ant" was given to the velvet ant because of the reputation of the female’s sting. It is said that the sting is so painful that it could kill a cow.  Don’t allow your children to go without shoes in the desert, even around your yard, and don’t YOU go barefoot.  If you get stung by this lady, you’ll wish you never took the shoes off.

Blister Beetles

Arizona Master Beetle
0406blisterbeetle2About 1-3/4” long

These blister beetles get very large, up to 2 inches long.  They respond to disturbances by reflex bleeding from knee-joints and other body parts. If this clear green blood gets on your skin it causes painful, itchy blisters which take a very long time to heal. In the process of mating it also secretes this blood and transfers it to the female.  I’ve experienced the blistering of the Master Beetle personally.  We were in Quartzsite and they were on the ground and climbing the grass plants to breed.  Apparently they’d left their blood on the plants so when I walked through the little plants the chemicals got on my ankles.  I broke out in painful blisters that took 1-1/2 months to heal.

Inflated Beetle (AKA Desert Spider Beetle)
0406inflatedbeetleAbout 1” long

Upper surface coated with yellow or white nitrogenous secretions which can cause painful blisters if it gets on your skin.  These beetles are not always yellow, sometimes their secretions will be white or greenish.  These beetles will also appear mostly black.  When I see one of these, I think of it as a “trundle bug” because it’s goes trundling around the desert floor.

I’ve only seen the Blister Beetles in the spring.

Tarantula Hawk
tarantulawasp3-1101Nearly 2” long

The Tarantula Hawk is not aggressive except with a Tarantula spider or if you annoy it somehow…. swatting, etc.  The female tarantula hawk captures, stings, and paralyzes the spider, then either drags her prey back into her own burrow or transports it to a specially prepared nest, where a single egg is laid on the spider’s abdomen, and the entrance is covered. When the wasp larva hatches, it creates a small hole in the spider’s abdomen, then enters and feeds, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep the spider alive. After several weeks, the larva pupates. Finally, the wasp becomes an adult, and emerges from the spider’s abdomen to continue the life cycle.

Because tarantulas are not easy prey, tarantula hawks are equipped with a powerful venom that is reputed to create one of the most painful stings in the insect world. In fact, according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index — a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by some insect stings — the tarantula hawk rates as the second most painful sting ever measured.
This is a good link for more info on the Tarantula Hawk:


Tarantulas give some people the creeps because of their large, hairy bodies and legs. But these spiders are harmless to humans (except for a painful bite), and their mild venom is weaker than a typical bee’s.


Most of the scorpions we see in the Quartzsite, Yuma area are Giant Hairy Scorpions which can get up to 5” long.  They look dangerous, but their sting is no worse than a bee’s.  If you open this photo to it’s larger size, you can see the hairs on it’s appendages.

We do have a scorpion with a rather potent venom: the Arizona bark scorpion, found at higher elevations on trees, under bark. I wouldn’t recommend sitting against a tree to take a nap.  At best, a sting from that scorpion can be rather annoying, or, at worst, the scorpion sting can be extremely painful with longer lasting effects.

Deaths from scorpion stings are very rare. People who are prone to have allergic reactions to stings, and those with undeveloped or compromised immune systems (the very young and very old), may have strong or severe reactions. Small pets may also have adverse reactions.


Western Diamondback

Speckled Rattlesnake


I love snakes, they can be so beautiful.  Rattlesnakes can be a bit scary though.  I can be comfortable around one as long as I can keep my eye on it at all times and it’s at least 6 feet away. Rattlesnakes rarely bite unless provoked or threatened; and if treated promptly, the bites are rarely fatal.  They are more afraid of us than we are of them.  They will try to get away rather than attack you.  Snakes don’t see us so much as feel the vibration of our approach and sense the heat of our bodies.  If we surprise them before they feel these two senses they will rattle to warn us we are too close, otherwise they will move away.

Rattlesnakes can control the amount of venom they deliver (babies cannot).  Many times they don’t deliver any venom with their bites and it’s quite rare for them to deliver all their venom.

I’ve not got a photo of the Mohave but it is usually a darker version of the Western Diamondback.  I do need to warn you with a quote from DesertUSA regarding the Mohave:  “The Mohave rattlesnake may be the most dangerous venomous snake in the Sonoran Desert. Quick to go on the defensive, the Mohave has very toxic venom that has caused human fatalities. Venom toxicity varies among different populations. The seriousness of a bite from this rattlesnake, as from any rattlesnake, depends on many factors, including, but not limited to, the amount of venom injected and the health and size of the victim. A person bitten by a Mohave rattlesnake should seek medical attention immediately.”

Another quote from one of the sources I found:  “Rattlesnakes tend to avoid wide open spaces where they cannot hide from predators and will generally avoid humans if they are aware of their approach. Rattlesnakes rarely bite unless they feel threatened or provoked. A majority of victims are males, often young and intoxicated. Approximately half of bites occur in cases where the victim saw the snake yet made no effort to move away. Caution is advised even when snakes are believed to be dead; rattlesnake heads can see, flick the tongue, and inflict venomous bites for up to an hour after being severed from the body. Most species of rattlesnakes can control how much venom to inject and have hemotoxic venom, destroying tissue, causing necrosis and coagulopathy (disrupted blood clotting).”

When I get a photo of a Centipede and hopefully Giant Desert Centipede, I’ll share it.  In the meantime, know that they do bite (pinch with pincers), and it can be painful, but not dangerous.

That’s all for now ya’ll.

Please feel free to share this information with people you think need to know.  My blog is open to the public.  I do monitor comments so spammers can’t use the blog to spread their evil.

Ya’ll stay healthy and happy!


Easter Weekend at Oxbow

April 20th, 2014

Apparently we have two groups that come here every Easter Weekend, one a large family & friends group and the other a large friends group.  Both groups camped on the point so they got acquainted and turned into one big group – boating, jet-skiing, swimming, ATV’g, motor bikes and evening partying.  Both groups were very nice, fun people so it’s not been a chore having them here.  It will be nice to have a quiet, peaceful campground when they are gone today.  One of our regular boaters is friends with the family group and they came out to go boating with them.  When they got here yesterday, the gal came over with an Easter basket for Thom and I.  There was a note on it saying “thank-you for all you do.”  That was a nice pick-me-up.

Last Friday we had several military helicopters fly by, mostly over the river.  I was told it was the Marines doing training for terrorist attacks.  They flew by at least 5 times.  Yesterday we had the military jets fly the river.  Here’s a couple of shots of the helicopters.

They were both quite low and loud, especially the 2nd one.  I kinda like the “whomp whomp” sound of the big blades.

We still haven’t started building our garden.  I was hoping to have it ready for my seedling cukes and jicama.  Probably won’t be ready for the cukes, but maybe the jicama.  The jicama hasn’t sprouted yet, it takes quite a while for them to grow but they are heat tolerant plants.  We certainly have a long growing season here , so I’m not worried about that.  We’re supposed to take two days off every week, but Thom is so intent on making this campground better and keeping it well maintained, I’ve not yet managed to get him to take a full day off work at the campground.  I’m trying to get him to give some time to the garden.  I can’t lift those big concrete blocks without hurting my back.

The birds out here sure know it’s spring.  The Grackles are all doing their whistling, screeching and calling while stretching, puffing, fluffing and bobbing to attract a make.  We have both European Collared Dove and White-winged Dove puffing, fluffing, cooing and chasing to try to get a mate.  When the dove start chasing each other the flap of wings almost sound like small guns.  The bull-frogs are calling, woodpeckers pecking trees to mark territory and squawking when any critter gets too close to the boundary, and the warblers are singing their beautiful songs.  Spring is definitely not a quiet season here, especially when you consider the people coming out in their noisy boats and the jet-skis (I call them river maggots) buzzing and blasting up and down the river.  I’ll take the critters any day!

Here’s a couple of the migrating birds that go through every year.  We had the Lazuli Bunting in Ogden Canyon all summer long up in Utah, but they only come through here on their way to their summer homes.  This guy hasn’t quite got all his spring finery on yet, but I’m sure he’ll be bright and handsome when it’s time.

And this one is a new one for my Life List.  It’s not really a remarkable looking bird, just tiny and cute.  This is a Cassin’s Vireo.

We have a whole bunch of hummingbirds out here, mostly black-chinned hummers.  They go through approximately 5 cups of sugar water a day… if I make it every day.  I mix it light on sugar, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.  Standard mix is 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and I mix it a little less than 1 cup sugar to 5 parts water.  That still means I use nearly 1 cup of sugar every time I make it.  I have 4 feeders, but many times I’ll let one or two sit empty for a day or two.  If a feeder has nectar in it this is what it usually looks like.  Quite often we will see a hummingbird with a tuft of feathers sticking out on the the back of it’s neck or back… that’s from the other hummers poking at it with their beaks.

Tomorrow we are going to Quartzsite so I can pick up some more beads for an order I got for another Anna’s Hummingbird.  Since we are going to be there, I placed an order at the East Side Breadery to pick up while there.  Jenny makes yummy breads and goodies!  Gonna get gas at the Flying J (cheaper than Yuma even) then head over to Blythe to do a bit of grocery shopping.  If we’ve time we will stop at Lee & Ilse’s place for a short visit.  I’m going to do my best to keep us away from the campground as long as possible.  We definitely need a day off!

The day’s half over now, but I still want to leave this sentiment for ya’ll.



Back to Normal

April 16th, 2014

Our Motorcycle group trickled out Sunday morning.  It’s taken this long for me to get to a point where I want to talk about it so I’ve just stayed away from the blog for a few days.

We had well over 100 people in here from toddlers to grandpas.  Friday night was non-stop noise until after Thom went out to try to quiet them down around 2:30 a.m.  Then they were back at it around 7 a.m. Saturday morning.  Bill, our supervisor and another ranger, Ray, were here all day Saturday.  The booming of rap music and foul language flying around all day (from both the music and the campers) was hard to take.  About 3:30 Sat. afternoon, Bill told Thom and I to lock up the house, hop in the car and get away from the nearly over-powering noise for an hour.  It was heaven.  We just went to check mail and took a drive through the refuge.

The campground did very well income wise, but it also took a bit of a beating.  In spite of the fact that we handed out 1-1/2 cases of 55 gal. trash bags, Thom picked up 3-1/2 fifty-five gallon trash bags of trash, 3 broken camp chairs, an empty ice chest, cardboard boxes, etc.   We found unused trash bags on the ground.  We saw many trash bags filled with their belongings being packed into their cars.  We’re still running into trash here and there.  They also deliberately broke large branches off two trees along the river. 

Bill talked to the officers of each of the 4 chapters (San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Phoenix AZ) Saturday morning telling them that in the future they need to call him well in advance to make arrangements for coming here, always the weekend before Easter.  He will set some ground rules and they are expected to see they are obeyed.  Because it is usually only them in here at that time, we give them some leeway, such as quiet down a little at 10 p.m., more at midnight and no noise after 2 a.m.

Saturday when Bill left he told us to go into our house, shut the door and do not interact with the group at all.  We were off duty unless there is an emergency.  Our Law Enforcement Officer also stopped by and told us to lock ourselves in, there were some “thugs” out there and we were to stay away at night.  Wow!

There were some really nice people in the group and they were fun to talk to and help out. 

A couple of pics of the weekend “party”.

Parking lot side of campground. Nice Harleys.

River side of campground.

Launching their jet-skis.

The water level of the river is still quite high, but they are slowing down the heavy release from Parker Dam.  It will be interesting to see if we have sandbars when we have low water.

Our temps have gotten warmer than I expected for April but for the most part it’s still only in the 90’s and relatively comfortable.  It could be a long, hot summer.  We did pretty good at Senator’s Wash and should do just fine here.  In the meantime, it’s spring and the mesquite trees are covered with blossoms and I even have a flower on one of the Desert Lilies in the campground.
Desert Willow

Honey Mesquite Flowers

Spring also brings the Warblers back.  Here is a Wilson’s Warbler taking a shower/bath in our sprinkler.

I have a potato salad to throw together and a beaded Anna’s Hummingbird to finish.  I better hop to it!

Ya’ll stay healthy ‘n happy!


And it Begins…

April 11th, 2014

This post may take me all weekend to get written, but I need to get it started NOW so I can share “stuff”.

Those live Bluegill paid off for our Flathead Catfishermen.  The first night they kept two 15 lb. fish and 1 17 lb.

The 2nd night they caught this one….. 57 lbs.!

They said they got a years worth of catfish eatin’ with this fishing trip and they would definitely be back.  I’d settle for one of those 15 pounders!

Looks like the busy season has started and will just continue to get busier as days get warmer. The day our mancationers left we had some college students come in for Spring Break.  One of them had his parents motorhome and boat with a couple of friends in tents and another guy & gal with their own small toy hauler.  I have to say I was very impressed by these young people.  They were very respectful with Thom and I and very respectful of the campground and rules.  They were there for a good time, but, to be honest, they were quieter than our mancationers, and neater than them. 

We had a few days with nearly no campers and it was really quite nice.  There was a table over in the area by the lake that was falling apart and needed repairs.  The BLM bought the lumber and hardware we needed and Thom totally rebuilt that table.  Keep in mind that the table was anchored to the ground with cement and rebar.  Thom had to crawl under the table to pull bolts and remove the rotten wood, then again crawl under to attach the planks he cut to rebuild the table.  It only took him 3 days to tear apart, rebuild, and caulk and paint the new table.  Believe me, I’m impressed.  These 3 days were 100+° and the table was in full sun.  He had to do it in the cooler morning hours.  He was in a hurry to get it done because we had a couple come in who are with the Motorcycle Club who come in here every year and they said the group would be here this weekend and they always stay in that area by the lake.  He got it done in time, the group is here and still trickling in,but they have chosen to stay right up here in our main campground are.  Linda, you know what table I’m talking about… here’s a pic of the rebuild.

  For those of you who follow this blog and have been to our campground…. these guys in the motorcycle group have totally filled up the area on the west side of the boat ramp as well as all of the point except for Linda and Al’s spot and they continue to trickle in. 

I’m sure I’ll be posting more about this group as the weekend goes by.  We haven’t collected any money yet for camping fees because it’s complicated, but hopefully that will happen before bedtime tonight.

My first impression of this group is they are kind of rough… bad language, easily angered, etc.… but they love and enjoy each other. They respect the campground and it’s rules.  We expect them to push the limits, but also believe they will be reasonable if spoken to.

We’ve handed out big black garbage bags to them so they have lots of space for garbage other than the ground. 

Like I said, I’m sure I’ll be posting more about the group called “The Chosen Few”.  We have 3 chapters of the Chosen Few in here, the hosting chapter from Los Angeles, quite a few people from the Riverside Chapter and just a few from the San Bernardino chapter.  Here’s a shot of a couple of their motorcycles.

Yesterday I planted some Jicama seed and a different brand of Armenian Cucumbers in starter pots.  I’m hoping our garden will be far enough along when these starts are ready for transplanting.  I’m anxious to see how the Jicama goes.  It’s supposed to be perfect for growing in the desert as long as it gets water.  It tolerates heat, and is bug resistant. 

I was able to add a new bird to my life list.  Today we had an Inca Dove in the yard.

I’m sorry, but my mind is totally filled with thoughts of the group camping/partying in here.  It finally got cool enough to turn off the a/c and open windows so the air is filled with the noise of their music (heavy bass booms), motorcycles movin’ about and children yelling and screaming and teasing.

I’ve lots of thoughts I’m trying to put together, but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow when it quieter.  My mind doesn’t function well with so many distractions.

Ya’ll stay healthy ‘n happy!