A Few Recent Photos

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,

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

a close look at an Orange Sulphur,

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

and a mating pair of Reakirt’s Blue.

Reakirt’s Blue (Echinargus isola)

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)

Greater Roadrunner

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.

Ring-necked Pheasant

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.

Golden Eagle

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.

Osprey (w/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.

Javelina

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.

White-faced Ibis

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.

Wilson’s Snipe

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,

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

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.

Sagebrush Sparrow
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October Wrapup

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.

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,

Cottonwoods and Sandias

and another from Willow Creek Open Space.

Willow Creek Cottonwoods

A morning walk along the Corrales Drain turned up a number of grasshoppers in the grasses,

Differential Grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis)

and a Black-capped Chickadee munching on sunflower seeds.

Black-capped Chickadee

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,

Greater Roadrunner

Lesser Goldfinch going for those sunflower seeds,

Lesser Goldfinch

and several of the newly-arrived Sandhill Cranes.

Sandhill Crane

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),

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

and likely my last hummingbird photo for the year.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

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,

Black Phoebe

and then this morning, a Great Blue Heron high in a cottonwood.

Great Blue Heron

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.

Mule Deer

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Two for One

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.

Double Rainbow

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,

Red-bordered Satyr (Gyrocheilus patrobas)

and the first of two mantis insects, one spring green and this one in gray.

Mantis (Stagmomantis limbata)

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,

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

10 Apache Skipper (a species that eluded us last year until stumbling across them on arrival at Bear Mountain Lodge last year),

Apache Skipper (Hesperia woodgatei)

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,

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

Southern Dogface,

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

and on one of the other flowering bushes, a Great Purple Hairstreak.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

The most interesting find would turn out to be an Anicia Checkerspot that only showed up for a few minutes.

Anicia Checkerspot (Euphydryas anicia)

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,

Hypocala Moth (Hypocala andremona)

and the Indomitable Melipotis.

Indomitable Melipotis (Melipotis indomita)

Two other fun pictures from the trip, a single water lily on the pond by our room,

Water Lily

and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird perched quietly at a very close distance.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

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,

Laura, Joe, and Rebecca

and one of us with Mark.

Mark, Joe, and Rebecca

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).

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Crowd (w/ Airabelle and Smokey)

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.

Liftoff

Once things get underway, this day was certainly ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Balloons’.

Mass Ascension

Two favorites, that really show off their colors when seen in full sun, first a classic design,

Colorful Balloon

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.

Fractal Balloon

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.

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Summer to Fall

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.

Prairie Rattlesnake

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.

Cooper’s Hawk

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.

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.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Very few butterflies around the next day at Embudito, but I had fun with a female Ladder-backed Woodpecker working the cholla for insects.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

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.

Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile)

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,

White-belted Ringtail (Erpetogomphus compositus)

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.

Coyote

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.

Petroglyphs – Piedras Marcadas

Another trip to Embudito a few days later turned up my first Rock Wren for the year.

Rock Wren

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.

Canyonland Satyr (Cyllopsis pertepida)

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

Lewis’s Woodpecker

and of one perched on its usual power pole.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

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,

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

and a Queen at Balsam Glade, a little unusual to see that high in elevation.

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

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.

Summer Tanager

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.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

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.

Western Screech-Owl

Finally, from today at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, a Monarch

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

and a Gray Buckeye.

Gray Buckeye (Junonia grisea)
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Out and About August

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.

Palmer’s Metalmark (Apodemia palmeri)

While looking for those butterflies, we’d notice a few other critters about including several good-sized millipedes,

Desert Millipede

and a different-looking robber fly than usual, which I suspect is Saropogon hypomelas.

Robber Fly (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,

Canyonland Satyr (Cyllopsis pertepida)

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.

Dotted Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes eos)

A week later, I’d see most of the same butterflies including a Mexican Sootywing, which I’ve been seeing there since early July.

Mexican Sootywing (Pholisora mejicanus)

Keeping watch there in Embudito was a young Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawk (immature)

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.

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

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,

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa)

and Arizona Sister.

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

While all that was going on, we also came across a small family group of Mule Deer, which included a rather inquisitive fawn,

Fawn

and later a rather large gopher snake.

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)

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

and large numbers of Bordered Patch (Water Canyon).

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

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.

Greater Earless Lizard

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,

Walking Stick

and of a Tarantula Hawk.

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.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

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.)

Golden-headed Scallopwing (Staphylus ceos)

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,

Nokomis Fritillary (Argynnis nokomis) – Male

and this is one of the better photos I managed of a female.

Nokomis Fritillary (Argynnis nokomis) – 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.

Red-bordered Satyr (Gyrocheilus patrobas)

Another excellent sighting was of a Northern White-Skipper.

Northern White-Skipper (Heliopetes ericetorum)

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!

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A Trip with New Nepali Friends

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),

Southwestern Fritillary (Argynnis nausicaa)

and an occasional Great Spangled Fritillary.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Argynnis cybele)

A number of Silvery Checkerspot butterflies were also seen that day.

Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)

We would see a few Pine White butterflies, of which we’ve only seen the male this year,

Pine White (Neophasia menapia)

and enjoyed seeing a Green Comma, brightly colored in this dorsal view,

Green Comma (Polygonia faunus)

and from the ventral view with its distinctive green submarginal spots on the hindwing.

Green Comma (Polygonia faunus)

A Silver-spotted Skipper, a species I usually see on bare ground, was resting on the yellow coneflower.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

This next image is of a female Taxiles Skipper included for comparison with a male shown way at the end of this post.

Female Taxiles Skipper (Poanes taxiles)

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.

Pacific Spiketail (Cordulegaster dorsalis)

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,

Square-spotted Blue (Euphilotes battoides)

a gorgeous Tailed Copper,

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)

and first of the season Green Skipper.

Green Skipper (Hesperia viridis)

Almost a week later, also at Embudito and first of the season, would be the quite similar Pahaska Skipper.

Pahaska Skipper (Hesperia pahaska)

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,

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

both Edwards’s Skipperling

Edwards’s Skipperling (Oarisma edwardsii)

and Garita Skipperling,

Garita Skipperling (Oarisma garita)

a Tawny-edged Skipper (shown here along with an out of focus Garita Skipperling),

Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles)[L] & Garita Skipperling (Oarisma garita) [R]

and one of the many Field Crescents we’d see on the trip.

Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella)

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.

Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus)

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.

House Wren (Juvenile)

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

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

and the best dorsal view I’ve ever gotten of one.

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

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.

Sajan & Anisha

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.

Red Satyr (Megisto rubricata) ┬ęSajan K.C.

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

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

and expected Hackberry Emperor (but not the Empress Leilia we’d hoped for).

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

More exciting was coming across both Red-spotted Purple (a species I’ve rarely seen)

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

and Western Giant Swallowtail (lifer!)

Western Giant Swallowtail (Heraclides rumiko)

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

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

and dorsal sides of a most cooperative individual.

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

My last photo at that location was of a male Taxiles Skipper (remember the female way back at the start of this post?).

Male Taxiles Skipper (Poanes taxiles)

And, one more bird photo, this one a female Rufous Hummingbird nectaring on the purple thistle.

Female Rufous Hummingbird

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.

Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Dragonflies, Flowers, Photographs, Travel | 10 Comments

June to July Butterflies

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.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Then there’s this one first noticed on July 4, which hopefully will do well too.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

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).

Cooper’s Hawk (immature)

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,

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

and then one of the cacti from my yard that flowers for a day once or twice every year.

Pincushion Cactus (Escobaria vivipara)

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.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

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,

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

Lupine Blue,

Lupine Blue (Plebejus lupini)

and a few of the larger ones, like Weidemeyer’s Admiral,

Weidemeyer’s Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyerii)

an American Lady (easily distinguished from the other ladies by the two large eyespots on the underside),

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

and the first Southwestern Fritillary of the year nectaring on the Bee Balm.

Southwestern Fritillary (Argynnis nausicaa)

Also interested in the Bee Balm was a moth, the Rocky Mountain Clearwing.

Rocky Mountain Clearwing (Hemaris thetis)

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,

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

as well as a Ceraunus Blue, a species I just don’t see all that often.

Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus)

Most interesting, however, was seeing several Mexican Sootywings there for the first time in quite awhile.

Mexican Sootywing (Pholisora mejicanus)

Here is another photo of one next to a Russet Skipperling, a surprise to me realizing just how small the Mexican Sootywing actually is.

Mexican Sootywing & Russet Skipperling

Doing our survey for the New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network from Capulin Spring to Balsam Glade later in the week led to a few good photo ops, including both the male

Male Taxiles Skipper (Poanes taxiles)

and female Taxiles Skipper,

Female Taxiles Skipper (Poanes taxiles)

and a nicely-posed Hoary Comma.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

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

Sylvan Hairstreak (Satyrium silvinus)

and Pine White.

Pine White (Neophasia menapia)

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.

Garita Skipperling (Oarisma garita)

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.

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)

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,

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

but as I watched it for a short while, it started to open up,

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

and eventually gave me a good look as it opened almost completely.

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

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,

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell,

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti)

and a California Tortoiseshell.

California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)

There were also quite good numbers of Purplish Copper flying around.

Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides)

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

Arctic Fritillary (Boloria chariclea)

and one on the Arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis).

Arctic Fritillary (Boloria chariclea)
Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Dragonflies, Flowers, Photographs | 13 Comments

Midwest Butterfly Trip

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.

Gorgone Checkerspot (Chlosyne gorgone)

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.

Byssus Skipper & Tawny-edged Skipper

For example, we’d see a good dozen Banded Hairstreaks, each warming up on a leaf in the early morning sun,

Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)

had a Red-spotted Purple right at the entrance sign,

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

and two Northern Pearly-eyes right on the road.

Northern Pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon)

It was also a treat seeing a Diana Fritillary (a species we’d only seen before in Tennessee during the 2014 NABA meeting),

Diana Fritillary (Speyeria diana)

and the first of what would become several Zebra Swallowtails during the course of the trip.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Another swallowtail seen regularly during the trip was the Spicebush Swallowtail, this one busy collecting pollen from an orange day lily.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

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!

Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton)

Not only that, but earlier that morning Eastern Comma made an appearance,

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

as did one of the many Question Mark butterflies we’d see at most locations.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

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.

Gray Comma (Polygonia progne)

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!

Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis mutica)

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.

Little Yellow (Eurema lisa)

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.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

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.

Gray Copper (Lycaena dione)

There’d also be a number of Delaware Skippers on the milkweed, another species we’d see in various locations on the trip.

Delaware Skipper (Anatrytone logan)

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.

Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia)

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,

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)

several different dragonflies including Widow Skimmer,

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Spangled Skimmer,

Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea)

and an Eastern Ringtail.

Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus]

Snowberry Clearwing Moths were seen in quite a few places, too.

Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis)

The only lizard I photographed was a Six-lined Racerunner, first I’d ever seen and quite colorful with its bright green skin.

Six-lined Racerunner

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,

Dickcissel

Indigo Bunting,

Indigo Bunting

and Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal
Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Critters, Dragonflies, Flowers, Photographs, Travel | 6 Comments

Waiting for Rain

It’s been way too long that we’ve been waiting for any rain around here, even with the clouds teasing us the last few afternoons. Some areas in the state have finally gotten a little, but most of us are still waiting for the start of our usual monsoon season to lower the risk of fire and bring back the wildflowers and butterflies. With most of my regular mountain locations totally closed due to fire restrictions, it’s not easy coming up with ideas of where to go lately. The cottonwood bosque along the Rio Grande is still open, as are the lower foothills to the east of Albuquerque, and these areas have led to some fun sightings although they also need a good rain or two. And we’ve found a couple of open areas near Socorro that (at the moment) aren’t completely closed to the public.

This post has some of my photos from the last few weeks from those spots I can still access. Toward the end of May was a trip down to the Belen Marsh after seeing a report of a good variety of shorebirds being seen there. Not much luck for me on an early morning visit, and a little depressing how little water was present, but I did spot a couple of American Avocet on the far side,

American Avocet

and had fun watching Black-necked Stilts (and their chicks) running around and showing off.

Black-necked Stilt

On my return drive, I thought to check out the Crick Avenue Greenbelt, a birding area new to me but almost a migrant trap with a large area of very well-watered grass and trees at the top of a very dry mesa environment. Definitely worth a repeat visit after seeing a Lark Sparrow,

Lark Sparrow

being teased by a Bullock’s Oriole,

Bullock’s Oriole

and getting a close-up portrait of one of the many Western Kingbirds in the area.

Western Kingbird

A few days later saw me doing the loop at Los Poblanos OS. A few birds were about but not many photo ops. It seemed a little unusual to spot a Cattle Egret perched way high in a cottonwood rather than working the fields as others were. That’s my guy at the top of the tall trunk on the left.

Cottonwood w/Cattle Egret

Zooming all the way in gave me the following look at him.

Cattle Egret

Off to The Box and then Water Canyon near Socorro two days later, and again at the end of the week. The Box was okay for a couple of butterflies, including a Hackberry Emperor,

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

but it was Water Canyon that turned out quite good for butterflies and even a few birds. Re the birds, there were a few Acorn Woodpeckers around that I didn’t get good photos of but also a Plumbeous Vireo dashing back and forth to its nest,

Plumbeous Vireo

and my best look at a male Western Tanager so far this year.

Western Tanager

The butterflies were drawn in large numbers to the blooming butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a bright orange milkweed, and (new to us) False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa). Unusual to see clouds of butterflies around here like that, so it was fun seeing all that going on, i.e.,

Puddle Party (Marine Blues, Reakirt’s Blue, Juniper Hairstreak)

Others on these flowers included Leda Ministreak

Leda Ministreak (Ministrymon leda)

an uncommonly seen (at least by me) Ceraunus Blue,

Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus)

and even a Viereck’s Skipper (this one shown on a different nectar source).

Viereck’s Skipper (Atrytonopsis vierecki)

There were even a few Canyonland Satyrs flying around the area,

Canyonland Satyr (Cyllopsis pertepida)

and now and then a dragonfly such as this Flame Skimmer.

Flame Skimmer

Other days recently had me down at Pueblo Montano Open Space and along the irrigation ditches in Corrales, the former turning up a nice Blue Grosbeak,

Blue Grosbeak

and the latter bringing to my attention a Black-crowned Night-Heron that flew up as four young coyotes were bashing along back and forth across the ditch and raising hell from all the birds in the area.

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Definitely a treat to spot a Great Purple Hairstreak on the newly-blooming nectar source.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

Yesterday was a visit to the Botanic Garden to check on the Black-chinned Hummingbird nest mentioned in my last post and to visit the Butterfly Pavilion which is now open. We’d have the female hummingbird sit on the nest just as before, but then fly off in search of some bugs. I’d gotten a look inside the nest while she was gone and think it shows hatched little ones, but am somewhat concerned that they weren’t sitting up begging for food whenever the female returned.

Black-chinned Hummingbird Nest

The Butterfly Pavilion was fun as usual, but I only ended up with a few photos this time, including this fresh White Peacock

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) – Butterfly Pavilion

and a sunning Giant Swallowtail.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) – Butterfly Pavilion

Noticed a Garden Snail in the greenery down below the walkway that led to a nice photo,

Garden Snail

and always have a hard time walking by water lilies without snapping a picture.

Water Lily
Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Critters, Dragonflies, Flowers, Photographs | 6 Comments

All But Butterflies

Too many pictures to share so there won’t be any butterflies this time. We’ve seen a few around, particularly with the return of the Sandia Hairstreaks in Embudito on May 17, but the high fire danger has now closed off the national forests at least until mid-July and preventing access to most of our usual butterflying spots. Lots of bird migration going on, though, and I’ve gotten some fun photos of a number of birds along with a few other goodies.

One of these was of a Red-naped Sapsucker at Cienega Canyon (a couple weeks before the fire closures).

Red-naped Sapsucker

Two days later, four of us were off to Truth or Consequences on our 24-hour Birdathon for the Central New Mexico Audubon Society. Despite the warm and windy conditions, we’d end up with a respectable 77 species from six nearby locations (Las Animas Creek, Percha Dam SP, Caballo Lake SP Riverside Recreation Area, Mims Lake, Ralph Edwards Park, and Paseo del Rio). Photography was tricky under those weather conditions, but here are seven of the birds we saw:

Western Tanager
Vermilion Flycatcher
Bullock’s Oriole
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Phainopepla (f)
Bronzed Cowbird
Curve-billed Thrasher

Western Tanager, Vermilion Flycatcher, and Bullock’s Orioles are some of my all-time favorites. That Northern Rough-winged Swallow is the first I’d ever seen perched and not whizzing by. Don’t often see female Phainopepla especially close enough for a decent photo. Best photo I’ve ever gotten of a Bronzed Cowbird, and I don’t recall ever seeing a Curve-billed Thrasher (or any bird) carrying that long of a stick.

Our BOB (Bird of the Birdathon) took a bit of work. Stopping to look at the cliffs above the river at Caballo’s Riverside Recreation Area, one of us was convinced we were seeing an owl deep in a large cavity that others (me) had dismissed as surely a large rock or stick. Breaking out the spotting scope, Rebecca got on it soon enough, pointing out “that stick’s got legs,” and was indeed a Barn Owl. While we watched, it lifted one leg a couple of times and stretched out a wing making it a little easier to recognize.

Barn Owl

A few days later saw me out looking for birds at Pueblo Montano. I’d notice several flycatchers around, including the usual Black Phoebe and Ash-throated Flycatcher along with some of those pesky other ones I have trouble identifying. Merlin tells me this one is a Hammond’s Flycatcher so I’m going with that.

Hammond’s Flycatcher

And once again, I got a nice look at the normally loud, but well-hidden, Yellow-breasted Chat.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Working in my yard the next morning (bagging up tumbleweed, again!) I noticed a cholla had popped into bloom.

Cholla

Later on a walk at Ellena Gallegos OS, I’d get pretty good looks at a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers chasing each other around.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

On Monday, I headed to Corrales mostly hoping to spot a few migrant birds and maybe a hummingbird nest, but knowing I’d likely check in on the owls that have been unusually popular with folks this year. On the way, I’d first note that the Osprey had completed their new nest right next to the one they’d used the last few years, and have taken up residence.

Osprey

Not too many birds about along the Corrales ditch, but I would get a nice pose from a Western Bluebird on the New Mexico Olive.

Western Bluebird

As I was closing in on the owls, another photographer pointed out an adult and one of the little ones high in a cottonwood a fair distance from the nesting cavity that held most folks’ attention. She explained that just a few minutes earlier, she’d seen the adult grab a duckling from the ditch and carry it up to feed the little one. (She later posted photos to the Critters of New Mexico Facebook Group.) While trying to get a good angle on them, the adult started calling (rather unusual during the day) and might actually have been yelling at me even though I was quite a distance away. Got my shot and wandered off.

Great Horned Owl – Corrales

Doing our survey for the New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network at Embudito the next day, we’d only see 6 species but lots (14) of Sandia Hairstreaks, a species that has been hard to find since early April. Instead of butterflies, however, we would find a nesting Curve-billed Thrasher and also a Cactus Wren,

Cactus Wren

and see a Gopher Snake crossing the trail.

Gopher Snake

With the mountains closed down starting Thursday morning, a trip to the Biopark seemed a good idea since I hadn’t been in quite some time. One of the highlights for me was seeing my first hummingbird nest for the year.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

It was also cool to come across a Wood Duck family in the Japanese Garden.

Wood Duck

Some of the flowers were over the top, as well, including this Purple Rockrose

Purple Rockrose

and some large peonies.

Peony

Friday morning, I’d thought to go look for birds at Calabacillas Arroyo, knowing that the Audubon Thursday Birders had just gone the day before and thinking it might also be good for a few of those spring migrants. Just happened to look at eBird before leaving for an idea of what’s being seen and was surprised to see a friend had recently reported nesting Great Horned Owls there. You might remember several of us had seen adult owls around since February, but were unable to locate a nest after seeing they weren’t using older nesting spots. I’d given up on them and hadn’t been back since early April. Friday’s visit easily turned up an adult and one of the young ones, but I still had no idea of where the nest had been.

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

Emailed my eBird friend about it, and passed the word on to a few others. And then this morning, they texted me exactly where the nest was and that they’d also seen two owlets. With their input, it was easy to find the nest cavity (only once before have I noticed whitewash on the ground implying an owl’s likely right above you), and I’d see one of the adults and young ones off aways to the east (about where they’d been the day before).

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas
Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

This seems to be the other adult high in a tree north of the nest cavity.

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

Kept looking around the area for a second owlet without having any luck and had almost given up when I decided to look a little closer around the cavity tree. Hehe…

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas
Posted in Birding, Critters, Flowers, Photographs | 6 Comments