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Bird or moth?

March is the best time to go to Death Valley. It's not too hot, and the desert flowers are at their peak, nodding clusters of yellow and purple and pink. We drove through the Panamint Mountains on Monday, part of our road trip from the Bay to Las Vegas. As we drove up the slopes above the salt flats the flowers appeared, more and more the higher we climbed above the stifling hot desert floor.

We pulled into a turnoff to photograph the desert primroses, which were catching the light of the setting sun. As we focused in on the flowers we saw a blur of wings.

Was it a hummingbird, come to feast on the spring nectar?

No, it wasn't.

It was the largest and most brightly coloured hummingbird hawk moth I'd ever seen.

It blurred its way from flower to flower its wings in constant motion. As it hovered over a flower I managed to capture its image...

Death Valley Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Panamint Mountains, Death Valley, California
March 2009