Haven’t had the opportunity for many photos since my last post (until last Sunday…will save those for my next post). But wanted to share a few of those from a quick trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) in Texas early this month. A few months ago, realizing our Nepali friends wouldn’t be seeing any butterflies for awhile in Portales NM and that ENMU (where they’re in grad school) would be on winter break, we’d suggested taking them to the LRGV for a few days in early January where they’d definitely get to see a few new butterflies. They’d picked up on our idea and decided to vacate their apartment, fly to McAllen TX, find an affordable AirBnB, and spend the entire month of December mostly at the National Butterfly Center. We’d then meet them on January 6 for a few more days before giving them a ride back to Portales and a new apartment in time for the next semester.
Their trip worked out incredibly well for them, getting to be quite popular with everyone at the National Butterfly Center, making connections with many other butterfliers, some of whom would take them to some of the other butterfly sites in the area, and having great fun looking for butterflies. While there, they’d see (and photograph) an excellent number of butterfly species, including 84 ‘lifers’, and getting the first record of a live Mexican M hairstreak seen in the U.S.
After we caught up with them at the National Butterfly Center, we spent the rest of the afternoon there seeing a few butterflies for ourselves, before heading over to the Alamo Inn B&B where we’ve stayed on all of our previous LRGV trips, and spend the next four days checking out a few other spots in the area. Those included Santa Ana NWR, Hidalgo Pumphouse, Oleander Acres RV Park, Frontera Audubon, Estero Llano Grande State Park, Resaca de la Palma State Park, Loma Alta, Boca Chica, and South Padre Island, along with several more visits to the National Butterfly Center. We’d get to see two of our own lifers on the trip, the Blue-eyed Sailor that Rebecca spotted at Santa Ana NWR,
and the Mexican Silverspot. Anisha & Sajan had seen it earlier, and my first one was at Oleander Acres that Rebecca also saw. We’d all later see it at the National Butterfly Center.
A couple of the other butterflies we’d see were large numbers of the Queen butterfly, including this mating pair,
and a Great Purple Hairstreak (the butterfly that got me hooked when Rebecca pointed one out to me in Hondo Canyon in 2011).
We occasionally see the next few butterflies in New Mexico, but they’re always fun to photograph, including the Gulf Fritillary,
and Vesta Crescent.
Some other good ones we see in the LRGV, but not in New Mexico include the Brown Longtail,
Mexican Bluewing (several were seen but I wasn’t able to get a great photo),
Curve-winged Metalmark (one of three metalmark species we’d see that week),
and Dusky-blue Groundstreak.
In addition to the butterflies we were always looking for, were some pretty good birds that we rarely (or never) see at home. At the Alamo Inn B&B, we’d have some very cooperative Inca Doves (a species we have seen in New Mexico).
Some others, all of which we saw at the National Butterfly Center, include the Chachalaca,
and Great Kiskadee.
We’d also get nice looks at two different Eastern Screech-owls, one in a nest box and the other in a tree cavity.
(After looking at the latest New Mexico Bird Checklist issued by the New Mexico Ornithological Society, all of the birds above other than the Chachalaca have been recorded in New Mexico at least once, but can’t say as I’ve ever seen any of them in New Mexico.)
Long drive home, broken up by a delightful overnight stay with Rebecca’s niece and brother-in-law, dropping off Sajan and Anisha at their new apartment in Portales the next day, and back to Albuquerque by late afternoon. Definitely a fun trip for us and I think a wonderful experience for our friends.
Less than a week to go to 2023, and things are looking good for the new year. To wrap up 2022, here are some of my photos taken since about Thanksgiving, and while it’s possible I might get a few more before 2023 arrives it seems like a good time for a new posting.
The day before Thanksgiving, I finally got a couple photos of the American Bittern that was seem at Rio Grande Nature Center from 11/19 to 11/26. Unfortunately, due to the lighting and such the photos aren’t that great although it was fun to see it. Also on the pond that morning were some baby Canada Geese getting their first experience walking on the ice; seemed most unusual to have little ones so late in the year.
Not many birds seen on my next few outings, but one that made a regular appearance was the Great Blue Heron including this one from the boat ramp at the Alameda Bridge,
and another one high in a cottonwood a few days later in the Tingley bosque.
The ponds in the Tingley bosque also turned up my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet for the season,
and gave me a nice look at a female Hooded Merganser.
While scouting the Piedras Marcadas unit of the Petroglyph National Monument, part of our route for the upcoming Albuquerque Christmas Bird Count, a coyote was keeping a close eye on our activity.
I’ve made several trips to Alameda Open Space this month after hearing of a variety of interesting bird sightings there recently. Totally missed out on the Northern Parula and Magnolia Warbler, but did get a look at the Rusty Blackbird and on one occasion saw a Wilson’s Snipe out in the open but pretending to be invisible by tucking that long bill away.
Got a nice shot that same morning of a nearby Eastern Bluebird.
Rather chilly out on our first Christmas Bird Count this year for the Bosque del Apache NWR on December 17, but we’d end up with a decent list despite having to deal with tire pressure issues all day (fortunately we’d make it back to Albuquerque okay before needing to have the tire replaced a few days later).
A few of the goodies we’d see were a Phainopepla,
a Red-naped Sapsucker we’d originally decided was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, [NOTE: Since the original posting, it has now been determined that this was indeed a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and the caption updated.]
several Ladder-backed Woodpeckers,
and Mountain Bluebird, some of which were kiting (hovering in place) over a field.
The next day was the Albuquerque CBC, where we explore a number of locations on the West Mesa. Chilly again and mostly cloudy that day, so we wouldn’t see too many birds, but were happy to get a Rock Wren, Crissal Thrasher, and a couple of Sagebrush Sparrows for our list.
Almost a week later on Christmas Eve morning, we decided to try for the American Dipper that had been seen on the east side of the Rio Grande just south of Montano. I’d tried earlier in the week without success but figured it was worth a shot. After almost giving up for the second time, there it was hiding behind a Russian olive tree along the ditch.
We’d see it for a short time before it would disappear behind the branches only to reappear nearby after a minute or so. Not nearly as good a photo as other folks have been getting, but it made my day. We then thought we’d hit the Nature Center again, where I’d seen the Tundra Swan earlier that week (parked on the ice and tucked into a ball – not the best pose for a photo), and wondering if we’d see the unusual White-throated Sparrow or the Brown Thrasher others had been reporting. White-throated Sparrow was too easy, regularly popping in and out to hit the feeder.
No Tundra Swan that day, but while we were looking around for other birds our friend, Lefty, called that they were seeing the Brown Thrasher from the observation room inside the Nature Center. We joined the crowd there but only got the most fleeting views of the thrasher every now and then. Finally managed to get a shot of it although it’s still pretty well hidden.
Our final CBC for the year was yesterday’s Sandia Mountains CBC, where this year we were assigned Embudito Canyon. Despite spending quite a bit of time on the count and good weather conditions after a chilly start, there were a few expected species that we wouldn’t see such as Cactus Wren or Rock Wren. But it was a treat to see and photograph a single Rufous-crowned Sparrow (my only photo that day).
Can’t wait to see what 2023 will bring. Happy New Year, y’all!
Not too much to talk about in this post, but wanted to get some of my latest photos out there taken since early November. It’s been pretty chilly around here lately, and while I have been getting out fairly regularly there haven’t been all that many worthwhile photo opportunities. So here goes with what I’ve come up with over the last few weeks.
After mentioning in my last post we seemed about done with butterflies for the year, I had a surprising number of species on a warmer day in Embudito on November 6. Some of the chamisa had come into bloom a bit late and attracted considerably more butterflies than expected, including a Checkered White,
a close look at an Orange Sulphur,
and a mating pair of Reakirt’s Blue.
My most exciting find of the month came the next day at Los Poblanos Open Space. After about a dozen attempts, once again I came to visit in search of the elusive Ring-necked Pheasants that had been reported on eBird since mid-September. As usual, I looked carefully around the community garden area before walking a bigger loop around the open fields without having any luck seeing the bird. On the way toward my car, I decided just for the heck of it to take another look around the garden. In the trees quite close to the tool shed, I’d almost dismissed a bird seen in the shadows as one of the Greater Roadrunners (here’s one all fluffed up in the cold from two days ago)
that are always hanging out around there. But the color of this bird, while about the same size as a roadrunner, was oddly more brown….indeed, a female Ring-necked Pheasant and only a few feet away. Hidden too well in the brush, there was no way to get a photo and just as I thought to move along, even closer was the male looking right at me.
How I hadn’t noticed him at all earlier was incredible, almost as much as their not instantly flying off and disappearing. We stayed that way for maybe two minutes with my moving slowly to get a little better view and a few photos before backing away to let them get back to their business.
A little over a week ago, Rebecca and I were down at Bosque del Apache NWR to see some of the new arrivals. Still zooming down I-25 almost to the refuge, Rebecca hit the brakes, pulled off the highway, and backed up to get a better look at a bird that caught her attention by the side of the road. Turned out to be a Golden Eagle, not often seen let alone on the ground, with two more circling around above it.
We’d see a nice variety of birds that day, although often at quite a distance and perhaps fewer than I’d hoped for. It was a treat while eating lunch on the Eagle Scout Deck to have an Osprey on a nearby snag, occasionally visited by a Black Phoebe.
At several locations, families of Javelina were seen including this little one following its mother across the road right in front of us.
Close to the Flight Deck toward the end of our tour we came across several White-faced Ibis, at much closer range than I’d ever seen them before.
A final surprise just a few minutes later was Rebecca spotting a Wilson’s Snipe right by the side of the road. We’d been looking for them that day after reading reports of recent sightings, but still amazing she was able to pick it out in the dried grass. Took me forever to spot it and every time I’d look away, I’d have to search again even though it was only a few feet away and hadn’t moved a bit.
Since that productive trip, I’ve had very few bird sightings and even fewer chances for photographs. They’re surely out there, but maybe they’re tucked away somewhere out of the unusually cold days of the past week. On Wednesday, I did get a reasonably close look at a Ladder-backed Woodpecker in Embudito,
and it was a treat yesterday to finally see Sagebrush Sparrow after a group of six of us had worked two locations (one just east of the Northern Geologic Window and one just west) pretty diligently over most of the morning.
Since my last posting just after the Balloon Fiesta, things have been a little slow around here photo-wise. Butterflies have definitely been few and far between lately as the season winds down and the weather has cooled off. That’s had me looking around more for birds and realizing again how different that is from looking down and around for those much smaller butterflies. Apparently, it will take a bit more practice since lately I haven’t had much luck seeing many birds anywhere and not many decent photo opportunities. I managed to get a look at the American Bittern seen recently at the Rio Grande Nature Center, but haven’t seen it again after multiple visits. Quite a few visits to Los Poblanos Open Space looking for the Ring-necked Pheasant pair that everyone else has been seeing, and not too surprised on missing the Osprey, Bald Eagle (!), and Belted Kingfisher others had at Tingley. So there’s not too many photos this time, but here’s a few I thought might be interesting.
Made it up to the Sandias one day to catch a little of the aspens turning, but nothing like I’ve seen from Santa Fe from October for what must have been an excellent showing. Best I got is a closeup of some aspen leaves.
Closing in on the end of October, the cottonwoods along the Rio Grande have been going off showing some good Fall color. Here’s one from the North Diversion Channel looking toward the Sandias,
and another from Willow Creek Open Space.
A morning walk along the Corrales Drain turned up a number of grasshoppers in the grasses,
and a Black-capped Chickadee munching on sunflower seeds.
On some of those visits to Los Poblanos in search of the elusive pheasants, I would manage to see a few other birds including quite a few Greater Roadrunner,
Lesser Goldfinch going for those sunflower seeds,
and several of the newly-arrived Sandhill Cranes.
A morning at Embudito Canyon on October 21 yielded the one butterfly photo for October (although I have seen very small numbers of a few species occasionally since),
and likely my last hummingbird photo for the year.
The last few days I’ve managed to get at least one good photo on a generally daily outing somewhere, although there have also been more than a few days recently when nothing catches my eye worth photographing. Examples include this Black Phoebe from last Friday,
and then this morning, a Great Blue Heron high in a cottonwood.
Not the greatest photo, but several times in the last week it’s been fun to see a group of Mule Deer stopping by the yard to snack on the New Mexico Privet just outside my front door…here’s a picture of a few of them from my ‘office’ window.
My blog updates typically cover either various things I’ve seen out there since the last update or focus on a single event usually as a trip report. This one’s a little different and more of a ‘twofer’, mostly about two different events over the last two weekends. There’s been quite a lot of cloudy skies and a few good rains since my last update, one of which gave me a great look at a double rainbow in the backyard close to sunset one evening.
We got outa town soon after, heading to Bear Mountain Lodge outside Silver City NM for a couple days and hoping for some late season butterflies. A delightful place to stay, we’d have remarkably good butterflies right on the lodge grounds and really wouldn’t spend much time at a few other locations in the area. One of those, Railroad Canyon, has always been good for butterflies but we were a little put off by how (surprisingly) full the creek was and only spent a little time working the area close to the highway. It would again turn up Red-bordered Satyr, which we’d seen in the area last year,
and the first of two mantis insects, one spring green and this one in gray.
Then it was on to Bear Mountain Lodge. Just like last year, several large yellow bushes next to the lodge had attracted large numbers of a variety of butterflies and moths. This year, we realized the bushes weren’t Chamisa (Ericameria nauseosa) like we commonly see around Albuquerque in the Fall, but its cousin, Turpentine Bush (Ericameria laricifolia) supposedly found only in extreme southwest New Mexico. We’d end up with 29 species of butterflies at the lodge, mostly on the Turpentine Bush, and in many cases quite a few individuals of a species. Our checklist for one day shows, for example, 25 Variegated Fritillary,
10 Apache Skipper (a species that eluded us last year until stumbling across them on arrival at Bear Mountain Lodge last year),
15 Clouded Sulphur, 20 Echo Azure, and 12 Common Checkered-Skipper, along with smaller numbers of other species.
Some of the other species included Bordered Patch,
and on one of the other flowering bushes, a Great Purple Hairstreak.
The most interesting find would turn out to be an Anicia Checkerspot that only showed up for a few minutes.
Obviously a checkerspot, we’d decided it was likely an Anicia Checkerspot but wanted to submit it to BAMONA for verification by our State expert, Steve Cary. He found our sighting quite interesting, thinking this species only flies in spring with no reports after May 10. Running it by some of his colleagues, he learned that fall sightings occasionally occur in Gila County AZ (maybe 100 miles to the west).
There were a surprisingly large number of moths visiting the turpentine bush, too, most of which we were able to identify. Two of them that let me get decent photos include the Hypocala Moth,
and the Indomitable Melipotis.
Two other fun pictures from the trip, a single water lily on the pond by our room,
and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird perched quietly at a very close distance.
That trip is the first part of this ‘twofer’ post. On our Bear Mountain Lodge trip last year, we met two new friends from Arizona, Mark and Laura Mandel, and would connect with them later that year at Casa de San Pedro. Last June, they’d mentioned wanting to visit Albuquerque for this year’s 50th Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, something that’s been on their ‘bucket list’ for some time. As locals, it had been years since either of us had ever gotten up way before dawn to be on the field for a Mass Ascension, content to watch the sky fill with balloons from home during Fiesta Week. But this sounded like fun, and Rebecca graciously offered to have them stay with her during their visit for the last two days of the Fiesta.
Weather was quite problematic this year a good part of the time, with rain and clouds causing delays and cancellations of a number of events. But we decided to take a chance on the Saturday Mass Ascension, up at 4 am and down to the field in time for the (very cool) Aerial Drone Show at 5:45. Things weren’t looking too promising after that, with the Dawn Patrol grounded and none of the pilots preparing their balloons for flight, and by 7:30 the day’s events were cancelled. There were a few balloons that were inflated for a static display, which Mark and Laura seemed to enjoy experiencing. Laura was busy taking plenty of pictures and has quite a good eye for photo subjects (unlike my mostly closeups of birds, butterflies, and such). Here are a couple of her photos I liked from that day, first a selfie of Laura, me and Rebecca,
and one of us with Mark.
Things weren’t forecast to be much better the next (and final) day, but hey, this was a bucket list item for them and our tickets were good for it, so it was up again at 4 am Sunday for a second chance.
Sunday morning had us a little worried, seeming a little cooler and breezy under fairly cloudy conditions. Pilots seemed pretty confident, however, and started getting organized in case conditions improved. And, indeed, the weather would continually get better and the breeze died down just enough that the Mass Ascension got underway only a few minutes behind schedule. Here’s one of my photos somewhat early on (with Airabelle and Smokey Bear) showing part of the rather large crowd (first big post-Covid event for most of us).
Back in the day, of course, everyone would take tons of photos (for all you who got started in the age of digital photography, it used to cost $0.50 every time you pressed the shutter of a film camera). I took plenty of digital shots, but will only show a few more here. First, here’s one taking off while more get ready.
Once things get underway, this day was certainly ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Balloons’.
Two favorites, that really show off their colors when seen in full sun, first a classic design,
and one I’d first assumed was some sort of South Asian, maybe Buddhist, design, but is actually a fractal design from the Fractal Foundation.
Of course, now that Balloon Fiesta’s over, the weather has been absolutely delightful the last couple of days; and the aspen are putting on their Fall show up in the mountains while the cottonwoods down by the river are just starting to turn golden.
With the arrival of the Autumn Equinox two days ago, we’re seeing summer give way to fall and that’s reflected in changes seen out in the natural world. Butterflies are winding down for the year and I’m starting to take more note of the birds arriving on their migratory journey. Not seeing too many of either lately, so this post has a few photos of other sightings over the last couple of weeks.
First up is a Prairie Rattlesnake seen relaxing by a small water pool at Sevilleta NWR during their annual Insect/Moth Night. Everybody got a nice look as the leader talked about it while it remained motionless and didn’t react at all to our presence. The snake did wander off somewhere and wasn’t seen there later.
A couple days later wandering around Pueblo Montano I’d spot a young Cooper’s Hawk along the ditch acting a little strange, but likely calling its parents for a snack.
Pushing the end of summer, the yellow sunflowers and purple asters are showing up and the chamisa is starting to come into bloom in some areas, but still a few more weeks before the aspen and cottonwood trees take on their autumn colors. Another flower seen this time of year is the Morning Glory.
The next day while walking near Calabacillas Arroyo, I got this photo of an Olive-sided Flycatcher (I’m assuming from the ‘vest’) that surprised me how well it came out from quite a distance away way at the top of a tall cottonwood.
Very few butterflies around the next day at Embudito, but I had fun with a female Ladder-backed Woodpecker working the cholla for insects.
One morning at Piedras Marcadas, I walked a bit further than I ever had there (~2.5 miles), taking it quite slowly while keeping an eye out for butterflies, other small insects, and anything else that showed up on a very quiet morning. Butterfly-wise, I would see a Queen, a few Reakirt’s Blues, and had a quick fly-by of what might have been a Black Swallowtail or possibly even a Red-spotted Purple. There were also a few Western Pygmy-Blues, our smallest butterfly and one I’d been trying for a decent ventral view for some time now. Here’s the best I got that morning.
That was one of the few butterfly images I’ve ever posted to Facebook, which surprised me getting 28 likes and 8 comments.
While working to get a photo of one of the few dragonflies flying about,
a few folks off in the distance were excited about something they were seeing; when I turned that way I saw this healthy specimen making its way through the petroglyphs.
Along the way, I came across a set of petroglyphs that years ago struck me as the most impressive and mystical of the whole place. (My friend, Terri, might remember me trying to track it down on her last visit here.) All these handprints (some with six fingers) in a small protected area along with a few other symbols seems to signify some particular significance to this site.
Another trip to Embudito a few days later turned up my first Rock Wren for the year.
Butterfly numbers have been really low lately, but I’d still see one or two Canyonland Satyrs, getting perhaps my best photo of one this year as well.
A few times this past week have seen me out in the East Mountains taking a look around Ojito de San Antonio and then higher in the mountains at Capulin Spring and Balsam Glade. I’d been seeing reports of Lewis’s and Acorn Woodpecker at Ojito recently; I’d only seen Lewis’s there once in 2018 and never Acorn (although lately they’re being seen more regularly in Mars Court). Luck was with me that day, at least for Lewis’s, and I got a few decent photos, including this one flying over
and of one perched on its usual power pole.
Capulin Spring wasn’t quite as active for me on my visit (probably due to unexpected clouds), so I missed out on the big flock of Evening Grosbeak (40+) and other goodies folks have been reporting. In the area, though, I would get nice shots of a couple of butterflies, including this Hoary Comma perched on one of the many purple asters that have popped up recently,
and a Queen at Balsam Glade, a little unusual to see that high in elevation.
Not expecting much, but thinking it worth a visit since it has been awhile next had me looking around the Rio Grande Nature Center. Way high in a cottonwood was a Summer Tanager calling regularly, and again resulting in a better photo than I expected.
Only a very few butterflies (as usual) seemed to be flying around the garden areas, but one of them posed for probably my best shot ever of an Orange Sulphur.
Stopping at Columbus Park on the way home confirmed a tip I’d received about the Western Screech-Owl having returned to its usual cavity.
Finally, from today at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, a Monarch
Here’s some of my better sightings through the end of August and into September, mostly butterflies (of course) but a few other things seen along the way.
On August 13, we went to Sevilleta NWR to participate in their annual NABA Butterfly Count. Our small group worked the area around the Visitor Center while another checked the area near the Rio Grande. Not as many butterflies as we’d seen on past counts there, but it was a treat to spot a Palmer’s Metalmark quite close to the Visitor Center that both groups got to see.
While looking for those butterflies, we’d notice a few other critters about including several good-sized millipedes,
and a different-looking robber fly than usual, which I suspect is Saropogon hypomelas.
Apparently, there are something like 207 species of robber flies in New Mexico, as I found on the excellent Robber Flies of New Mexico website and used to identify this one.
A couple of days later on a visit to Embudito Canyon, I’d see the first of the Canyonland Satyrs that would show up in good numbers in a variety of locations over the next several weeks,
and also spot my first Dotted Roadside-Skipper for the year, which I got to follow most of the way back down the wash as is flew ahead a short distance before letting me catch up.
A week later, I’d see most of the same butterflies including a Mexican Sootywing, which I’ve been seeing there since early July.
Keeping watch there in Embudito was a young Cooper’s Hawk.
Late in August, our new Nepali friends told us they had arranged a ride from Portales for their long Labor Day weekend in the hope of seeing some new ‘lifer’ butterflies. They quickly agreed to Rebecca’s inviting them to stay with her during their visit where we’d spend a couple days looking for those butterflies. Because the butterfly season is winding down for this year, that got us out checking a number of locations we might try during their visit.
One of those was Capilla Peak Road, a location usually good for butterflies but that we’d never been as late as August. We did see a nice mix of butterflies there on August 26 and thought it could work during Sajan and Anisha’s visit. Quite a surprise there was one of the first butterflies we’d see, a Colorado Hairstreak.
Typically, we’d see that species only in a few specific locations and some years not see any at all, but this year they’ve popped up regularly.
Two other butterflies from that day included Melissa Blue,
and Arizona Sister.
While all that was going on, we also came across a small family group of Mule Deer, which included a rather inquisitive fawn,
and later a rather large gopher snake.
A few days later, I took a look at a few butterflying spots near Socorro (Sevilleta, The Box, Water Canyon) as possibilities for the Labor Day weekend. That would end up being a backup plan; although a few butterflies were about it didn’t seem likely to turn up any of those lifer species. Among the butterflies seen were one or two Hackberry Emperors (The Box)
and large numbers of Bordered Patch (Water Canyon).
The Box also turned up a very small lizard, I suspect is a quite young Greater Earless Lizard, the adults of which are incredibly colorful in breeding season.
I’d hoped to find the Palmer’s Metalmark again at Sevilleta, but wasn’t successful. It was fun, tho, getting decent photos of one of the Walking Stick insects,
and of a Tarantula Hawk.
At the entrance to Water Canyon, I’d see a couple of Monarch butterflies (but not the major party we’d had there in 2021), and would see more at Piedras Marcadas Dam the next day. Fun to see, but not relevant to the upcoming lifer hunt.
We’d hoped Sajan and Anisha would arrive early enough on Friday for a quick trip to Embudito for a couple of good butterflies, but turns out they’d left around noon and got to Santa Fe later that afternoon. Rebecca picked them up there and instead they’d come to my house Saturday morning. We figured we’d do Embudito first, and maybe later try for Capilla Peak Road. I’d hoped to at least find Canyonland Satyr and Mexican Sootywing, which I could almost guarantee finding and would be lifers for them. And, indeed, we’d get those and several other lifer species spending quite a bit more time and exploring more of the area than I’d been expecting. One of those lifer species spotted by Sajan was a new one for my Embudito list and almost a record for Bernalillo County, the Golden-headed Scallopwing. (Other than a legacy record, one had been reported on BAMONA April 30, 2022.)
Deciding that was enough butterflying for Saturday, we considered our options for Sunday, which would be our last chance for a full-day outing to find some more lifers. Although it meant a long (405 mile) drive, Toriette Lakes could almost guarantee Nokomis Fritillary, an uncommon species found in very few locations. We’d seen this species there last year on September 7 and knew it would make a good addition to our friend’s list.
Last year, we’d seen few species other than the Nokomis and while we’d seen a number of males flying around we’d only see a very few females. Not much flying when we first arrived on Sunday, but eventually we’d see several males and (surprisingly) more females. This is a photo of the only male I found perched on a thistle,
and this is one of the better photos I managed of a female.
Mission accomplished! But we weren’t through that day as we’d spot several other species including a few more lifers for our friends and several new for us at that location. One of my favorites, which we’d seen before near Silver City (~100 miles south) is the Red-bordered Satyr.
Another excellent sighting was of a Northern White-Skipper.
This species, which we’d only seen once before (on a 2012 trip to the Sierra Nevada in California), is not only new for my New Mexico list but has only two non-legacy records on BAMONA, one of which is from Catron County on August 9, 2022. Once again, Sajan came through with his incredible skill at finding and recognizing one of our most unexpected species!
Starting out this post with a few photos from late July, mostly from a repeat visit to Seven Springs Fish Hatchery two weeks after our earlier visit. After that, I’ll talk about our two new friends from Nepal, Sajan and Anisha, and our four-day trip together to some butterfly spots around Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, and the Organ Mountains.
A visit to Seven Springs Fish Hatchery and nearby Calaveras Canyon in the Jemez Mountains on July 22 turned up some nice looks at both a mating pair of Southwestern Fritillary (the fritillary species commonly seen in the Sandias),
and an occasional Great Spangled Fritillary.
A number of Silvery Checkerspot butterflies were also seen that day.
We would see a few Pine White butterflies, of which we’ve only seen the male this year,
and enjoyed seeing a Green Comma, brightly colored in this dorsal view,
and from the ventral view with its distinctive green submarginal spots on the hindwing.
A Silver-spotted Skipper, a species I usually see on bare ground, was resting on the yellow coneflower.
This next image is of a female Taxiles Skipper included for comparison with a male shown way at the end of this post.
Dragonflies and damselflies were fairly common in the marshy habitat, and this is one that: 1) posed nicely, 2) I was able to identify, and 3) was the first of this species I’ve seen.
Over the next week there were a few other good butterflies in Embudito Canyon and other locations in the Sandias. These included a first of the season (and first for the location) Square-spotted Blue,
a gorgeous Tailed Copper,
and first of the season Green Skipper.
Almost a week later, also at Embudito and first of the season, would be the quite similar Pahaska Skipper.
That brings me to our butterflying trip with our new friends from Nepal and some photos from the trip. I’d first gotten several texts from Sajan K.C. last May after he’d found my blog and website. In those early texts, he’d mentioned he and his wife, Anisha Sapkota, were also crazy about butterflies and had a blog (https://butterflyworldnepal.blogspot.com/p/dual-checklist.html) about the nearly 700 species of butterflies in Nepal of which they are making good progress seeing, and adding nearly 20 new species to the list for Nepal. Soon after, he told me how he and Anisha recently moved to Portales, NM to obtain advanced degrees at ENMU in order to better pursue their butterfly passion. Unfortunately, without a vehicle they have been quite limited in being able to look for butterflies anywhere outside their immediate area. While trying to think of some way to help them out, Rebecca came up with the great idea of our picking them up in Portales to take a few days to look for butterflies in the mountains some three hours to the west. Sanjay and Anisha immediately agreed it was an excellent idea and it would turn out to be a quite fun adventure.
We left Albuquerque early Thursday morning arriving in Portales around 11 am, and soon headed out for Ruidoso where we’d spend a few hours at Cedar Creek Recreation Area. Some of the butterflies we’d see there included the Monarch,
both Edwards’s Skipperling
and Garita Skipperling,
a Tawny-edged Skipper (shown here along with an out of focus Garita Skipperling),
and one of the many Field Crescents we’d see on the trip.
Then it was on to Alamogordo, where we’d spend the next three nights after spending the day butterflying various locations in the area.
Friday morning we drove the short (20 miles) distance to Cloudcroft first stopping at Bailey Canyon. Although the butterflying was a little slow that morning due to some patchy clouds, we would see a few good species and planned to return the next day for another look. We then looked around a few other spots along NM 244, but weren’t having much luck even with some large meadows of purple thistle and yellow coneflower as the clouds continued to build. At one of our last stops, I did get a photo of a Satyr Comma, a species I don’t often see.
At the same spot a mother House Wren and her fledglings were busy fussing at us and I got a few nice photos of one of the little ones.
Deciding to try for another spot that would likely have sunny skies that afternoon, we then headed back to Alamogordo and nearby Oliver Lee State Park. Sunny, yes, but way hot and breezy with very few butterflies out and about.
Saturday morning we first returned to Bailey Canyon hoping for better conditions and a few more butterflies. We would see some of the same species again, but with the clouds again piling up decided to try for a sunnier spot. One of my favorites seen on both days was a Colorado Hairstreak, perched right out in the open on a big flat leaf. We’d all get good photos of both the ventral view
and the best dorsal view I’ve ever gotten of one.
Our plan was to return to Alamogordo and make the relatively easy 70 mile drive to Soledad Canyon near Las Cruces, where we’d had good butterflies on past visits. With our driver (me) not paying any attention, however, we ended up on a more roundabout (120) mile route on US 54 instead of US 70 and were about to cross into Texas just north of El Paso before realizing our mistake. Nonetheless, we eventually reached our destination and after a bit of a slow start soon started seeing a few good butterflies. Whenever Sajan or Anisha would spot a butterfly, they would immediately take off after it, running up hills or crashing through the brush hoping to get a better look, a technique that regularly proved rewarding. Here’s the one photo I got of them high up a steep hill where they’d found a rather special butterfly.
That butterfly was a Red Satyr, which I had first spotted lower down and assumed from its behavior was probably a Canyonland Satyr, a species commonly seen in the Albuquerque foothills but that I’d only seen once before in Arizona. Sajan and Anisha would track down quite a few of them and get great photos. I’d finally get a good look at least of the top of one, but no photo, so here’s one Sajan sent.
Next we decided to drive the short distance to Dripping Springs Natural Area, another good area on past trips, and where we’d walk the Arroyo Trail. That turned out to be a pretty good idea, turning up the usual American Snout
and expected Hackberry Emperor (but not the Empress Leilia we’d hoped for).
More exciting was coming across both Red-spotted Purple (a species I’ve rarely seen)
and Western Giant Swallowtail (lifer!)
The next morning it was time to head for home, returning through Ruidoso to Capitan and then Roswell and back to Portales. Once in Ruidoso, we decided to try for butterflies at Ski Apache but instead turned onto FR 117 to see what might appear. About 1.5 miles in, with Little Creek along the west side of the road, we’d spend a couple hours getting several new species for the trip and finally good photos of Arizona Sister. Here are the ones I ended up with of both the ventral
and dorsal sides of a most cooperative individual.
My last photo at that location was of a male Taxiles Skipper (remember the female way back at the start of this post?).
And, one more bird photo, this one a female Rufous Hummingbird nectaring on the purple thistle.
It was great fun getting to meet and spend time with Sajan and Anisha, and a real treat to have such a good (and productive) trip with them. Hopefully, there will be opportunities in the future for more butterflying adventures with these new friends.
Some good butterflies to share this time from the end of June through mid-July, and hopefully some more goodies to come over the next few weeks. Thought I’d start this time with a couple of this year’s hummingbird nests. First is this one from the Biopark we’d first spotted May 19 and had wondered if all was well June 9; all seems to be moving along just fine as of June 26.
Then there’s this one first noticed on July 4, which hopefully will do well too.
That same day I’d seen the young Cooper’s Hawk nesting at the Rio Grande Nature Center (in a roped off area near the parking lot).
Two more fun pictures before moving on to those butterflies (and a couple moths), first a female Widow Skimmer from a walk along the Corrales ditch,
and then one of the cacti from my yard that flowers for a day once or twice every year.
During one of my regular visits to Embudito Canyon in late June, it was fun to get my first look this year at a Hackberry Emperor in one of its usual spots.
The next weekend had us taking a look along Capilla Peak Road for the first time since the fire restrictions were lifted, and it turned up a number of sightings, including a Gray Hairstreak,
and a few of the larger ones, like Weidemeyer’s Admiral,
an American Lady (easily distinguished from the other ladies by the two large eyespots on the underside),
and the first Southwestern Fritillary of the year nectaring on the Bee Balm.
Also interested in the Bee Balm was a moth, the Rocky Mountain Clearwing.
A couple of visits to Embudito Canyon the next week gave me a nice look at one of the Two-tailed Swallowtails regularly seen there,
as well as a Ceraunus Blue, a species I just don’t see all that often.
Most interesting, however, was seeing several Mexican Sootywings there for the first time in quite awhile.
Here is another photo of one next to a Russet Skipperling, a surprise to me realizing just how small the Mexican Sootywing actually is.
It was off to the Jemez Mountains the next day, which had also recently opened after the fire restrictions. Several good butterflies along the road toward our target, the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery, included Sylvan Hairstreak
and Pine White.
Unfortunately, the clouds started rolling in as we approached the fish hatchery, so we wouldn’t see much there. It was cool spotting a tiny Garita Skipperling perched on a blade of grass.
Early the next week, I made another visit to Balsam Glade hoping to spot a couple of butterflies we knew were there but I had yet to see this year. The first butterfly I’d see was a Tailed Copper, usually fairly common in the Sandias this time of year, but my first for the year.
The other butterfly I’d see, and really the whole point of my visit that day, was the Colorado Hairstreak. Not only would I track one down after working the area pretty hard (for about 45 minutes), but after first spotting it close to the ground next to the trail as I was headed back to the car, it would put on quite the show for me. Here’s the more typical view of one,
but as I watched it for a short while, it started to open up,
and eventually gave me a good look as it opened almost completely.
Definitely made my day as it’s a species not seen all that often and most unusual to get a good look at the top of any hairstreak.
This past weekend, we traveled up to Taos Ski Valley after seeing recent reports of Arctic Fritillary. We’d of course see a few other butterflies, but the Arctic was our target as possibly new for our life list and definitely new for our New Mexico lists. As usual, we’d see quite a few White-lined Sphinx Moths which are always fun to photograph,
and a California Tortoiseshell.
There were also quite good numbers of Purplish Copper flying around.
The highlight of the trip, however, was seeing several of the Arctic Fritillary very occasionally stopping to nectar on the wildflowers. Here are two of my better photos, one on a Shasta Daisy
and one on the Arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis).
Recently returned from an excellent 9-day, 3000 mile road trip in search of butterflies in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. Planned for more than a year, we had a number of locations and several target butterflies in mind and would explore a few other locations in the course of seeing nearly 70 butterfly species (8 lifers for me!). The weather was hot and humid with ticks and chiggers about, but always sunny and good for butterflies. And it was absolutely great to return home just as our summer monsoon season had begun and finally getting some rain, puffy clouds, and delightful temperatures. Of the 655 photos that came home with me, I ended up keeping 159, and thought I’d share a few of them in this post.
One of the (lifer) butterflies I’d hoped we might find, the Gorgone Checkerspot, surprisingly turned up at our very first stop and then showed up just about everywhere else.
An early morning stop at the J. T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve in Oklahoma was quite productive, giving us our first look at (lifer) Byssus Skipper and plenty of other butterflies.
For example, we’d see a good dozen Banded Hairstreaks, each warming up on a leaf in the early morning sun,
had a Red-spotted Purple right at the entrance sign,
and two Northern Pearly-eyes right on the road.
It was also a treat seeing a Diana Fritillary (a species we’d only seen before in Tennessee during the 2014 NABA meeting),
and the first of what would become several Zebra Swallowtails during the course of the trip.
Another swallowtail seen regularly during the trip was the Spicebush Swallowtail, this one busy collecting pollen from an orange day lily.
On the fourth day of the trip, we headed for Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Missouri in search of a major target species, the Baltimore Checkerspot. We’d seen several reports of them at the park including one just the previous week somewhere along the 6.5 mile Turkey Pen Hollow Trail. We easily found the trail and saw a few butterflies early on, but soon turned around when the habitat changed to dark forest with few nectar sources and without having seen the host plants. Not quite ready to give up, after a short break we started up the trail again to give it one more shot and hadn’t gotten very far at all when something caught my eye some distance off the trail – yep, (lifer) Baltimore Checkerspot!
Not only that, but earlier that morning Eastern Comma made an appearance,
as did one of the many Question Mark butterflies we’d see at most locations.
The next day, it was off to Runge Conservation Nature Center near Jefferson City, Missouri in search of another of our primary target species, the Swamp Metalmark. (We’d looked unsuccessfully for this locally rare species on a field trip in Alabama also during the 2014 NABA meeting.) One of the friendly greeters in the Visitor Center pointed us to a couple of spots on the trails that might be good for butterflies and we slowly made our way over most of the 2.4 miles of trails, seeing some good butterflies but having no luck spotting the metalmark or even its host plant, swamp thistle. Another lifer appeared during our morning walk, Gray Comma.
After a nice picnic lunch, we returned to the Visitor Center (air-conditioned, don’t you know). When Rebecca mentioned the metalmark to the guy behind the desk, he instantly told us to hang on while he ran back to find Austin Lambert, one of their resident naturalists. Austin and his co-worker, Sara Easton, dropped everything to take us out to find one. They seem to have an active butterfly group conducting weekly surveys of the Nature Center and are constantly monitoring their Swamp Metalmark population. Once again, we found ourselves off trail and stumbling through the underbrush collecting ticks and chiggers when finally Sara called us all over to one she’d found –> ta-da, lifer Swamp Metalmark!
The next day had us checking out a few locations around Columbia, Missouri, including Overton Bottoms in Big Muddy NFWR someone we ran into mentioned as the best spot in the area for butterflies. We didn’t have much luck that day, but it was fun seeing a couple of Little Yellow butterflies.
Next, it was on to Konza Prairie Biological Station near Manhattan, Kansas, where we’d hoped to find Regal Fritillary after seeing reports of it at this time of year for the last five years. Got there a little late in the afternoon and it was just too hot and humid to walk very far in the open sun. We would see a few butterflies, but nothing very special in the limited time we spent there. A Great Spangled Fritillary, a species we’d see in many locations, posed nicely on a purple coneflower.
The day before we’d head for home, we made a visit to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. In July 2019, we’d stopped here on our way back from Mothapalooza in Ohio where a friend had mentioned seeing Regal Fritillary and Arogos Skipper a few weeks earlier. We were unsuccessful in seeing them there that time (although we had gotten a single Regal Fritillary at a site in Missouri), but held out hope for success this time. Starting in a good-sized milkweed patch close to the parking lot, we’d see two more lifers, one a single Arogos Skipper, and a few of the Gray Copper.
There’d also be a number of Delaware Skippers on the milkweed, another species we’d see in various locations on the trip.
Checking in with the park rangers about where to see butterflies, they directed us a short distance up the road to the old Fox Creek School. After looking around a bit without seeing much nectar or many butterflies, we decided to cross a fence and start off on a trail heading deep into the large tallgrass prairie. Almost immediately, we’d see a couple Monarchs flying around and thought to head over to a patch of purple coneflower a short distance away. Right about then, Rebecca spotted a couple of butterflies out in the field she’d realized were almost certainly Regal Fritillaries.
We’d spend most of the next half hour watching up to eight individuals zipping around the meadow and doing our best to try to photograph them. Quite the highlight experience of the whole trip!
For the last night of our trip, we stayed in Oklahoma City for an early morning visit to Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge where we’d add our final lifer for the trip, Bell’s Roadside-Skipper. And then off on the 8-hour drive through Oklahoma and Texas home to Albuquerque.
In addition to all the butterflies that were the focus of the trip, it was always fun seeing and photographing other creatures a few of which I thought I’d share for the rest of this post. Among the odonates, we’d come across lots of Ebony Jewelwings,
several different dragonflies including Widow Skimmer,
and an Eastern Ringtail.
Snowberry Clearwing Moths were seen in quite a few places, too.
The only lizard I photographed was a Six-lined Racerunner, first I’d ever seen and quite colorful with its bright green skin.
And of course, there were a few birds around not seen all that often (if at all) around here. Multiple sightings of Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Tufted Titmouse, but no decent photos. Commonly seen (and occasionally photographed) were Dickcissel,