Quick Update

Once again it’s been a few weeks without much worth posting due to being busy with a few other projects around here, but the weather’s been pretty good and I’ve gotten out a few times so thought I’d share a couple photos from the last couple of weeks. Managed to get out awhile ago to scout out our planned route for the Sandia Mountain Christmas Bird Count that the Audubon Thursday Birders will participate in on December 26. Didn’t spot too many birds on only my second trip there, but did have a distant Cooper’s Hawk hiding in the burned over area and got another (one of way too many) picture of a Curve-billed Thrasher.

Curve-billed Thrasher

A few days later, a visit to the Rio Grande Nature Center did not turn up the Hooded Mergansers that everybody’s been talking about, but things were looking better at Tingley Ponds where I had this Northern Pintail,

Northern Pintail

a female Bufflehead,

Bufflehead (female)

and the (apparently) resident Belted Kingfisher.

Belted Kingfisher

Two days later, good friend Leah led our Audubon Thursday Birders on a good trip at Rio Grande Nature Center (perfect weather and a surprising 37 species!), where I did finally get a quick look at those Hooded Mergansers.

Hooded Merganser

(that’s an out of focus female behind the three males and maybe a Lesser Scaup even further away?)

Definite on the Lesser Scaup motoring by while we did the checklist in the Visitor Center,

Lesser Scaup

but not sure if I ever got a good look at the much more uncommon Greater Scaup that people were seeing.

Quick trip to Bosque del Apache NWR a couple of days later and a little surprised at not seeing all that many birds, although the Snow Geese were in full form in the ponds just after you enter the refuge and Sandhill Cranes were showing up in good numbers all over.

Sandhill Crane

Most interesting as we were headed out of the refuge, was spotting this odd-looking hawk that we went back and forth trying to figure out. Looking at the pictures others had been posting on eBird recently, pretty sure we were looking at the rather rare for this area juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. Okay photo even if you can’t quite make out the rather distinctive banded tail that others made the call on.

Red-shouldered Hawk (juvenile)

Stay tuned. My next post in a few weeks should be interesting.



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Targets of Opportunity

Once again, a few weeks have flown by and we’ve now had our first taste of colder weather. The chamisa is in full bloom and the cottonwoods taking on their brilliant fall colors. Sandhill cranes, eagles, ducks, and other migrating birds have all started returning, while the butterflies have pretty much tailed off for the year. Busy around here lately with some major home improvements and getting caught by Apple’s latest IOS update, which is incompatible with much of the software I’ve been using for years. Pretty much over all that now, but realized I just haven’t been getting out all that often lately and haven’t taken many photographs while out and about. But there’s been a few I thought I’d share here, since most were rather unusual sightings and somewhat surprisingly showing up during a few trips targeting that particular species.

Chronologically, this first one wasn’t all that unusual to see, but the only picture I kept from Rebecca’s successful Audubon Thursday Birder trip to Bosque del Apache, a female Gambel’s Quail.

Gambel’s Quail

We’d seen some great birds on our scouting trip a week earlier (a couple of the photos in my previous blog posting), and were glad the group got to see the pair of Peregrine Falcons we’d seen then, along with a nice variety of other birds.

A week later on the Thursday Birder trip to the Corrales bosque, we’d also be successful in seeing plenty of good birds, including my first sighting of the season of Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

While scanning the trees lining the irrigation ditch, I’d noticed several kinglets making their way along the ditch, each stopping for a quick bath at the runoff from a beaver dam. Making my way down closer, I waited for a bit to try and catch one doing just that, but was only able to photograph one or two as they passed by in the trees close to the water. Later in the morning, we’d get a good look at a late season dragonfly, the fabulous Flame Skimmer.

Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata)

About a week earlier, Rebecca and I were out checking out a potential location for a new Thursday Birder trip, the Mars Court Trailhead. We’d heard folks had been reporting Acorn Woodpecker around there recently and kept an eye out for it during that first visit. Rebecca met a couple of other friends there a few days later and they were got to see three of them on their walk. So, of course, Rebecca took me back to try to find them again a few days later. We got to the area where they’d seen them, but weren’t having any luck despite looking around patiently for some time. Crossed my mind to play their call on my iBird Plus phone app when I realized I had no idea what they might sound like, and playing it once was all it took to have first one and then another come zooming by to land on nearby snags. They’d sit there for a minute and then fly off to a more distant spot and eventually out of sight. Waiting around some more eventually we’d spot one or more flying off in the distance and then a single one that landed reasonably close. Don’t know for sure if this was a third one in addition to the pair we’d seen flying around, but it did seem to use different trees and we never saw a second one with it.

Acorn Woodpecker

Also cool to see that day were several Pygmy Nuthatches. I would never have thought to look except for Rebecca’s recognizing their call, and one let me get the best photograph I’ve ever gotten of one.

Pygmy Nuthatch

A few days later, I’d been out wandering all around Pueblo Montano Open Space without seeing many birds at all, although we’d done pretty well early in the month during the Thursday Birder trip. Heading back to my car without having taken any photos that day, I just happened to notice a Wilson’s Snipe sitting out in the open along the ditch behind the recently-installed steel fence. These guys are rarely so out in the open or let you get anywhere close before disappearing, but this one sat there patiently the entire time I stayed to watch.

Wilson’s Snipe

A target trip to Bosque del Apache NWR yesterday was also successful. We’d been down there a couple of times this month already but must have been too early for a cool-looking moth, the Nevada Buckmoth, we’d first seen there last year on October 20. On this latest trip, they were flying around everywhere we’d look but just like last year it took some effort to find one stationary…here’s the one we did manage to find sitting on the tall grass.

Nevada Buckmoth (Hemileuca nevadensis)

And being there just two weeks after our last visit, the ponds are starting to fill for the upcoming Festival of the Cranes, bringing in a good number of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese along with some of the other waterfowl, and we’d get good looks at a Golden Eagle flying over, and enjoyed watching several Northern Harriers cruising around including this one that was doing an excellent job of hovering in place close to the ground for awhile before dropping down quickly after spotting a potential snack, and then repeating the behavior.

Northern Harrier

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First Taste of Fall

Over the last few weeks, it’s become more clear every day that we’re well into my favorite season of the year. Autumn in New Mexico begins with new flashes of color starting with the golden chamisa and lavender asters, and then the trees start changing with first the aspen in the mountains and next the cottonwoods along the river. Migrating birds start appearing (while others start disappearing). The weather, of course, turns just about perfect typically sunny and clear with warm days and cooler nights.

Greater Roadrunner

Shortly after my last post, Rebecca and I made a return weekend trip to the area around Flagstaff and Sedona AZ, with hopes of finding a couple of late season butterflies. We had three species of Giant-Skipper in particular that we had targeted and spent a good amount of time looking around several spots we’d suspected they might be found. No luck at all on two of those butterflies, but we were thrilled and a bit surprised to get good looks at one, the Bauer’s Giant-Skipper, which we found in a travertine hollow at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

Bauer’s Giant-Skipper (Agathymus baueri)

Lifer for both of us (#472 for my US list), that alone made the trip a success! I’d also get my first photograph of a Tropical Least Skipper that Rebecca identified, and which I’d only see once before in 2012.

Tropical Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha arene)

Rebecca also realized that the Viceroy butterflies we were seeing in Cottonwood AZ were the southwestern version with quite a few more white spots than the one we normally see around town.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

While we really weren’t seeing many butterflies anywhere on that trip, we would stumble across some other interesting creatures, such as this male tarantula off on its annual migration,


the large caterpillar of a Carolina Sphinx Moth,

Carolina Sphinx Moth (Manduca sexta)

and up in the mountains above Jerome, this rather calm (and rather large) Black-tailed Rattlesnake.

Black-tailed Rattlesnake

Interesting sightings of several different odonates (dragonflies and damselflies), included a Serpent Ringtail,

Serpent Ringtail (Erpetogomphus lampropeltis natrix)

good numbers of American Rubyspot,

American Rubyspot (Hetaerina americana)

mating Familiar Bluets,

Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile)

and one that we regularly see at home in late summer to fall, Variegated Meadowhawk.

Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum)

Not too many pictures since returning from Arizona, partly due to my not getting out very often the last couple of weeks but also not seeing many birds or butterflies when I do and those I have seen usually haven’t presented good photo opportunities. That all changed last Friday when Rebecca and I drove down to Bosque del Apache NWR on a scouting trip for her Audubon Thursday Birder trip later this week where we got nice looks at some good birds, some of which we don’t see all that often and some that are passing through on migration. Fairly late in the year to be seeing them, we were able to drive up close to a Western Kingbird,

Western Kingbird

and later to a young Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawk

A real surprise on the highway close to the refuge was seeing two Peregrine Falcons on the same power pole; it’s rather unusual to see one anywhere, let alone two. This is my best shot of one of them; photos of the pair didn’t turn out all that well.

Peregrine Falcon

Just past the entrance to the refuge, a Loggerhead Shrike posed for me,

Loggerhead Shrike

and later at the Boardwalk Pond, where we had a large flock of American White Pelicans, a Great Blue Heron was poking around the reeds.

Great Blue Heron

The next day, after helping with the Belen Marsh cleanup we stopped in at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area finding several large moths hanging out on the wall of the Visitor Center,

Rustic Sphinx Moth (Manduca rustica)

seeing a good number of buckeye butterflies working the flowers in the fields,

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

and getting to see a Verdin near its winter roosting nest after a friend of ours pointed it out to us.


A couple of days later visiting Bear Canyon for a possible future Thursday Birder trip, we got nice looks at a Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

and a fun Ruby-crowned Kinglet working a bush for insects and paying little attention to us or others going by.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet


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Time Flies

Surprising to realize it’s been three weeks since my last posting, so I wanted to get some of the few photos up there that I’ve taken during that time. No particular reason, I just haven’t gotten out there as often and haven’t gotten all that many pictures when I do get out there. Our Audubon Thursday Birder trip to Las Huertas Canyon at the end of August turned up a couple of good butterflies including views of both sides of an Arizona Sister, first the dorsal view

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

and then the ventral.

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

I’d also get what is probably my best shot ever of a Canyonland Satyr that hung around long enough for most of the group to see.

Canyonland Satyr (Cyllopsis pertepida)

The next day, Rebecca and I made the fairly long drive up to Springer and then down to Mills Canyon wanting to check on some butterfly spots that had been quite good a couple months ago. Unfortunately, those spots hadn’t gotten much summer rain and there weren’t many nectar sources available so the butterflies weren’t around. Before heading home, we took a look around Las Vegas NWR and had fun seeing a few good birds including what I think we decided was a young Swainson’s Hawk.

Swainson’s Hawk

A few weeks later, we’d get good looks at several adult Swainson’s Hawks on our latest Audubon Thursday Birders trip last week to Valle de Oro NWR,

Swainson’s Hawk

and plenty of Say’s Phoebes and American Kestrels perched in different spots.

American Kestrel

Just a couple of days after our Springer trip, we were at Valle de Oro NWR to do a little scouting for last week’s trip and just happened to notice a few interesting flowers blooming in the weeds. Got home later to identify it as Hibiscus trionum.

Hibiscus trionum

Interesting to note one of its common names is Flower-of-an-Hour (some other common names include bladder weed, modesty, shoofly). It’s called that because “each flower blooms during a single day that is sunny, and remains open for only a few hours.” Who knew?

We’d also see a few young Snowy Egrets by an irrigation ditch where they’d still be more than a week later (Huge numbers of Cattle Egrets would also be seen off in the NW corner of the refuge.)

Snowy Egret

The next day on a walk at Pueblo Montano Open Space one of the few birds I’d see was a female Wood Duck parked right next to an American Bullfrog. Just the day before a friend had posted a similar picture from a different location, and both of us had wondered how common that is since we’d certainly never noticed it before.

Wood Duck

Last Saturday, we decided to check out the new butterfly exhibit and Bugarium at the Biopark. In a good way, the new exhibit only has native butterfly species rather than some of the fancier neotropic ones kept in the original butterfly pavilion. These included a number that we’ve only seen in in the wild in South Texas and Florida, such as the White Peacock,

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)


Julia (Dryas iulia)

and Atala Hairstreak.

Atala Hairstreak (Eumaeus atala)

Bugarium was pretty cool, too, with lots of unusual stick insects, some leafcutter ants, scorpions, beetles, and others.

Later that evening, we headed down to Sevilleta NWR for their Moth Night that included a twilight stroll around the Visitor Center for some good bugs. Just like last year’s event, we’d see quite a few walking stick insects in the Broom Dalea and on the stucco walls, and this year found several different spiders, many of which were Black Widows.

Black Widow Spider

For the moth part, John Wilson had his blacklight set up when we arrived and Rebecca brought hers along to add to the fun. We’d see a good number of moths, mostly small ones and several that we’d never seen before. My pictures weren’t that great, though, so none of them are included here (If anybody’s interested, they’re posted on my New Mexico Moth page at http://www.sandianet.com/moths/index.htm.). As usual, other insects attracted to the light would show up while we were looking at the moths, including a couple of katydids, grasshoppers, and antlions.


Months ago, I’d picked up a UV LED flashlight that I’d heard were good for spotting caterpillars and spiders that fluoresce under the UV blacklight. So far, it hasn’t seem to work to well for that purpose and I’ve only noticed a few small spiders that seemed to give off any light. But when I thought to point it at a stucco wall near where we’d been seeing moths, this scorpion just totally lit up from probably ten feet away.


That’s more like it! Guess I’ll bring that little flashlight along on future night explorations.


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Not Just Birds and Butterflies

A nice variety of new and interesting creatures since my last posting along with a few old favorites. In addition to the birds and butterflies I post regularly, this time there’s a few moths, spiders, a new for me lizard, a mammal I haven’t figured out yet, and a few other interesting insects.

On most of my recent trips looking for butterflies in the Sandias, the tachinid flies have been present in large numbers and are rather interesting if viewed closely.

Tachinid Fly

One of those trips to Cedro Canyon turned up a Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar; I’d thought only Monarch butterfly (and its cousins, the Queen and Soldier) caterpillars ate milkweed because it contains toxins disliked by predators.

Milkweed Tussock Moth (Euchaetes egle)

On Saturday, August 17, Rebecca and I drove down to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area to look for butterflies and to check the visitor center walls for any moths that had been attracted by their lights the previous night. A little surprising to me was how many different moth species we noticed, most of which Rebecca was able to readily identify (I’m still too new at this moth thing to easily identify any of them.). Among them was the Salicet Sphinx Moth,

Salicet Sphinx Moth (Smerinthus saliceti)

the Five-spotted Hawk Moth,

Five-spotted Hawkmoth (Manduca quinquemaculata)

and this small, but very cool looking Purslane Moth, one of which we’d seen during the White Sands Mothapalooza at the beginning of August.

Purslane Moth (Euscirrhopterus gloveri)

Target butterfly of the day, of which we’d see a good number and typically only see at Whitfield, was the Bordered Patch.

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

Another day, I made a visit to Owlville to see how things were going and assumed there would still be a good number of young Burrowing Owls about since we’d seen quite a few in Torrance County recently. Either it was the wrong time of day or more likely too late in the season, but I’d only manage to spot a total of two of them hiding under bushes. There were some guys out there busy drilling a well or some such that day that may also have sent the birds into hiding.

Burrowing Owl

Just a couple of days later, after hearing about it from a friend, it was off to an arroyo at the north end of Rio Rancho for a Barn Owl. I’d long suspected that area might be used by owls or other raptors in addition to all the Bank Swallows that nest there. I’d  heard about this Barn Owl a few years ago but had yet to see it. This time was lucky as there it was peeking out of a large cavity I noticed from still a good distance away.

Barn Owl

It had been watching me the whole time, however, and decided to fly off to better hide in a nearby big cottonwood tree.

Having been successful at seeing two owl species in recent days, I also stopped in on a Western Screech-Owl to see if it was around (nope). A nearby tree had a critter sleeping away the afternoon. I’d expected it would be a porcupine from its size and behavior, but it’s clearly not one of those. Too big for a squirrel, not the right color for a skunk or weasel; maybe a raccoon?

Mystery Critter

Rather slow day for butterflies in the Sandias last Friday, but we did get a good look at a Common Wood-Nymph in Ojito de San Antonio Open Space,

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

and a good picture showing all the colors of the top of an Arizona Sister in Sulphur Canyon.

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

The day before had been a good Audubon Thursday Birder visit to Alameda Open Space, but my favorite sighting and photo from that day is of a White-belted Ringtail dragonfly, a new species for me and one that sat there patiently for quite a long time for all to see.

White-belted Ringtail (Erpetogomphus compositus)

It was also a treat a few days later to spot a similar-looking Brimstone Clubtail on a walk in Corrales, this one munching on a damselfly.

Brimstone Clubtail (Stylurus intricatus)

That same day, I stopped to check in on the Osprey that had nested at the North Diversion Channel Outfall since about late May. I’d known they’d successfully raised three young ones this year, but assumed they had probably moved on by now. It was entertaining to see one of the adults perched on top of the power pole leisurely digesting what looks like a large piece of salmon while below a nearly mature young one perched on the nest calling incessantly to be fed.


Last Saturday, Rebecca and I joined in on the annual butterfly count at Sevilleta NWR and had a fun day seeing a few species we don’t often see along with a nice variety of other interesting creatures. About the first thing we’d spot that morning was a new for us moth, the Clio Tiger Moth.

Clio Tiger Moth (Ectypia clio)

Shortly after getting a few pictures of it, Rebecca brought the count leader over to show it to him, arriving just in time to watch a lizard crawl down the stucco and snatch it for a snack. We’d see several species of lizard that day, some of which were new for me including what I’m thinking is a Long-nosed Leopard Lizard.

Long-nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia wislizenii)

Later in the day, a Reginia Primrose Moth was spotted hiding in a bush, a species Rebecca had only recently seen coming to her UV light late at night.

Reginia Primrose Moth (Schinia reginia)

For butterflies, we’d see a few of our usual Reakirt’s Blue,

Reakirt’s Blue (Echinargus isola)

but also see several Rita Blue, a species we’ve only seen there and at Cerrillos Hills State Park.

Rita Blue (Euphilotes rita)

Another good butterfly to see was one we don’t see very often at all but had been hoping for since we’d had it on the Sevilleta count last year, the Palmer’s Metalmark.

Palmer’s Metalmark (Apodemia palmeri)

While busy looking hard for butterflies to add to our count list, we saw several other cool critters, such as this Jumping Spider eyeing me warily,

Jumping Spider

and this tiny Crab Spider, who’d managed to snag a bee.

Crab Spider

Always a highlight for me on visits to Sevilleta is spotting all the Walking Stick insects hiding in the Broom Dalea – it may take looking carefully a few times before spotting one as they’re quite good at camouflage, but once you spot one you’ll soon notice several others usually in the same bush.

Walking Stick

Other people may be able to see Praying Mantis insects here in town, but Sevilleta is about the only place in the state that I’ve ever seen one (and usually quite a few when I do). These guys tend to hang out in the Broom Dalea or clinging to stucco walls.

Praying Mantis



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Midsummer Sights

Once again, pictures have begun piling up since returning from that great road trip to the Mothapalooza in Ohio. A couple of days later, Rebecca and I headed up to the Sandias to see what new butterflies were flying. Without really expecting to see many, we went a short distance from Balsam Glade on the road through Las Huertas Canyon wanting to check to see if the coneflowers were yet in bloom and maybe even a few patches of James’ buckwheat we’ve seen there. The coneflowers were indeed coming into bloom, but not much on them other than the ubiquitous Painted Ladies and a few Juniper Hairstreaks. But then we spotted a large patch of James’ buckwheat we’d never seen before that was attracting quite a few good butterflies. One we don’t see all that often but uses the buckwheat as its host plant was the Square-dotted Blue.

Square-spotted Blue (Euphilotes battoides)

We would turn up several individuals of that species along with large numbers of Tailed Coppers, a species we’ve recently seen in several locations in the Sandias.

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)

Lower down the mountain in Cienega Canyon, we were surprised by how many Juniper Hairstreaks we’d see on the few blooming coneflowers and especially having several nectaring on the same flower.

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

Almost a week later, we headed back up to Balsam Glade (once again unsuccessful in our search for the Colorado Hairstreak we’d like to see there) and again down the road to Las Huertas. Pretty good butterflies that day, too, including plenty of those Tailed Coppers, but most surprisingly along the way to the buckwheat patch, I spotted a dark butterfly next to the road and managed to get out of the car quickly enough to get a picture.

Mexican Sootywing (Pholisora mejicanus)

I was pretty sure it was a Mexican Sootywing, a species we haven’t seen very often at all and certainly not this late in the season or at such a high elevation. Fortunately, the photo clearly shows the black veining and blue black sheen on the underside of the wings which differentiates it from the more widespread Common Sootywing. Submitted to BAMONA later that day, the identification was soon confirmed. That got us visiting other locations we’ve had them before, finding several individuals at most of those spots.

On both trips, we were sure to take a look at the dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) that was in bloom at the 8000′ sign, and when it’s working attracts all manner of butterflies, including two that we rarely see, Behr’s Hairstreak and Banded Hairstreak.

Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)

A couple of other fun pictures from that day include a Northwestern Fritillary,

Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis)

Two-tailed Swallowtail,

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

and a Hoary Comma.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

On the paved walk by the meadow in Cienega Canyon, I spotted this snail making its way along.


There have been three Audubon Thursday Birder trips since my last blog update, but I only have one bird photo this time, a Swainson’s Hawk from our most recent trip looking for raptors (and lots of Burrowing Owls) in Torrance County.

Swainson’s Hawk

The week after returning from our Ohio road trip I led our annual trip to Corrales for the nesting Mississippi Kites. Although they’d nested at our meeting place every year since 2012, this year they weren’t nesting there and hadn’t even been seen recently, so it had me a bit worried. Fortunately, and indeed surprisingly, the group would get good looks at a couple of them that day although none on a nest. The next week was our visit to the Simms Ranch and summer potluck hosted by Bonnie Long. Both have ridiculously large numbers of hummingbirds zooming around the many feeders they keep filled with sugar water. Also present at the Simms was this cool Great Plains Skink.

Great Plains Skink

Having heard about it from a friend, the next day Rebecca and I drove down to White Sands NM for their Mothapalooza event scheduled for that evening with a moth expert we’d met at the Ohio Mothapalooza in 2017. A good number of people showed up out in the sand dunes where the park folks set up lots of folding chairs and had generators for powering a couple of presentations before using them to power UV lights on two mothing sheets. We’d see some interesting moths arrive as the evening progressed, some familiar from other places but others unique to this unusual habitat. We had one big one show up, a Western Poplar Sphinx Moth

Western Poplar Sphinx Moth (Pachysphinx occidentalis)

and at one point a White-lined Sphinx Moth that for once was sitting quietly and not flitting about.

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

Lately, there have been lots of this species busy nectaring on flowers all over town and I’m still trying to get a good photo of one flying…I kind of like the way this one came out the other day.

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

It had probably been five years since we last did any butterflying around there, so we spent some time in nearby Cloudcroft before and after the Mothapalooza. Several Gray Hairstreaks flying around there, including this one that posed nicely for its portrait.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

And it was nice to again see the Four-spotted Skipperling

Four-spotted Skipperling (Piruna polingii)

and Tawny-edged Skipper, both species we haven’t seen in a few years.

Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles)

We were also thrilled to see several Pine White butterflies at close range, a species we’d been looking for at home for awhile and that’s usually spotted flying high around ponderosa pines.

Pine White (Neophasia menapia

The Painted Lady butterfly is just being seen everywhere this year and Cloudcroft was no exception. We’d see several of them on single flowers,

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

and they would often photo-bomb my pictures of other species, such as this Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) & Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

or this one of a Variegated Fritillary.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) & Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

We’d been hoping to see the very localized Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot (Ephydryas anicia cloudcrofti), but couldn’t quite find the spot we’d had them a few years ago and didn’t see one anywhere else this trip. We did see a couple of individuals of another specialty of the area, the Capitan Mountains Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis capitanensis) a subspecies of the Northwestern Fritillary we see in the Sandias. This one was also photo-bombed by a Sleepy Orange this time.

Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis capitanensis) & Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

Later, I’d get a nice shot of the Sleepy Orange on another thistle by itself (of course, photo-bombed by some kind of bee this time).

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

On the way home, we stopped for lunch at Valley of Fires Recreation Area outside of Carrizozo, where an approaching raincloud kept the butterflies under cover, but did turn up an interesting beetle

Spotted Tylosis Longhorn Beetle (Tylosis maculatus)

and I happened to notice a small patch of lichen with an unusual shape.


About a week later, I’d spot another interesting beetle we’ve seen a few times before, a Harlequin Bug.

Harlequin Bug (Murgantia histrionica)

A trip last weekend to Quarai as part of our ongoing quest to find more of those Mexican Sootywings (yes!) also turned up several Fulvia Checkerspots, a species we’ve seen there before but not very often.

Fulvia Checkerspot (Chlosyne fulvia)

That area also had a few Common Buckeyes, this rather fresh one posed nicely for me.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The next day in Ojito de San Antonio Open Space the weather was keeping the butterflies hidden for the most part but we did get a good look at a Common Wood-Nymph, the first I’ve seen around here this year.

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)








Posted in Birding, Bugs, Butterfly, Critters, Photographs | 5 Comments

Midwestern Moths and More

Just back from a long road trip to Ohio to attend this year’s Mothapalooza, a most interesting and fun event held every two years with moth aficionados from all over the country, and wanted to share some of the story and photos with this latest blog posting. Rebecca and I had a wonderful time at the 2017 Mothapalooza and were quick to sign up for the 2019 event, this time reserving a cabin at the Shawnee Lodge & Conference Center near Portsmouth OH and deciding months ago to drive rather than fly from Albuquerque. We’d take 4 1/2 days driving through Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky on our way there, and then 2 1/2 days driving home a somewhat different route through Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Along the way, we’d stop to look for butterflies at a number of promising spots. Our route also took us through Carbondale, IL, where I’d gone to college nearly 50 years ago but hadn’t been back since, and we had an unexpectedly entertaining evening the night we stayed in Frankfort, KY.

Our main butterfly target was the Regal Fritillary that is only found in a few remaining patches of tallgrass prairie in the midwest, has pretty much disappeared from the eastern US, and is currently under review for threatened or endangered status. After spending our first night in Tulsa OK, we spent most of the next day exploring several protected areas of tallgrass prairie in southwest Missouri. Finally, just after we pulled into the fourth location toward the end of the day we got a look at a single individual nectaring on an aging bergamot flower. I only had time to get a single photo and for Rebecca to run over to get a quick look before it flew off and disappeared.

Regal Fritillary [Speyeria idalia]

We poked around for probably another hour hoping to get a better look or maybe to find another one, and might have had one do a quick fly-by, but that was going to be it for this trip. Cool, nonetheless, #471 on my US Butterfly LIfelist!

That day and on several others we’d get good looks at the more common (across the northern US) Great Spangled Fritillary.

Great Spangled Fritillary [Speyeria cybele]

The trip was pretty good, too, for seeing a number of swallowtail species that we rarely or never see at home including Eastern Tiger Swallowtail,

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail [Papilio glaucus]

Pipevine Swallowtail,

Pipevine Swallowtail [Battus philenor]

and Spicebush Swallowtail.

Spicebush Swallowtail [Papilio troilus]

Similar in appearance on the underside, but a brushfoot rather than a swallowtail, were a number of sightings of Red-spotted Purple.

Red-spotted Purple [Limenitis arthemis]

Several places had good numbers of Question Mark and Eastern Comma butterflies…we sometimes see Question Mark and a few other comma butterflies at home, but never Eastern Comma whose range doesn’t come this far west.

Eastern Comma [Polygonia comma]

One of the more wooded, shady areas we visited in Missouri early in the trip had lots of both of those species along with quite a few Tawny Emperor and Hackberry Emperor. We’ll occasionally see Hackberry Emperor, but rarely in such good condition as this one from that day.

Hackberry Emperor [Asterocampa celtis]

Too common here and a little discouraging to see at a rest stop in Kentucky (we’d hoped to see a few more unusual species of small gold skippers), but still posing for a nice photo was a Fiery Skipper.

Fiery Skipper [Hylephila phyleus]

During our day outings in Ohio and then in Kansas on the way home (where we’d take another shot at that Regal Fritillary at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve), we’d see good numbers of Common Wood-Nymph, a species that is not quite as colorful in New Mexico and we hadn’t seen yet this year.

Common Wood-Nymph [Cercyonis pegala]

Highlight of that stop in Kansas, however, was this Eastern Collared Lizard, posing on a rock wall.

Eastern Collared Lizard

Lots of good damselflies, dragonflies, and other insects on the trip, too. (If you’re wondering, I’m getting to those moths…keep reading), including the Ebony Jewelwing,

Ebony Jewelwing [Calopteryx maculata]

a Halloween Pennant,

Halloween Pennant [Celithemis eponina]

and this wacky-looking critter, the first I’ve ever seen, an Owlfly.


The Mothapalooza kicked off on Friday night with registration, a number of presentations, and other activities basically keeping everybody busy until 10:00 pm, when it’s finally dark enough for the moths to start showing up at all the spots folks have set up their UV lamps (often bright mercury vapor lamps) and white sheets.  There were maybe 8 such set-ups among the 25 cabins where we were staying and a few more in various habitats around the state park that one could visit by driving or taking shuttle vans. This goes on all night or at least until about 2:00 or 3:00 am. Somehow, especially wandering around in the dark between light displays reminds one of trick-or-treating on Halloween or sometimes of zombies from “Night of the Living Dead”. The next day, most folks catch up on their sleep, head off on a field trip looking for birds, butterflies, flowers, and various other critters before a conference dinner, more presentations, and basically killing time again before looking at moths from 10:00 pm until early the next morning. Always a tradeoff for me in trying to stay awake vs staying up longer, and of course, the moths just get better as the night goes by. On top of all these cool moths, plenty of other insects (such as that owlfly above) are attracted by the lights, and at one of the spots the people pointed out some cicadas on the side of a tree that were molting, a multi-hour process of leaving their nymph shell behind as they emerge as flying adults – fascinating to watch and something I’d never seen before.


So, what kinds of moths did we see those two nights? Well, there were some that looked a bit strange such as the “cigar butt” or Yellow-necked Caterpillar Moth,

Yellow-necked Caterpillar Moth [Datana ministra]

and some that closely resemble bird droppings. There are actually a few species whose common names are “Bird-Dropping Moth”; this isn’t one but seems to be shooting for the same idea, the delightfully-named Beautiful Wood-Nymph.

Beautiful Wood-Nymph [Eudryas grata]

This one seemed quite unusual, but turned out to be a Lesser Grapevine Looper, common over much the eastern US.

Lesser Grapevine Looper [Eulithis diversilineata]

Others looked much more like what I’ve always though of as moths, but quite interesting to see all the details under those bright lights and up close, including the Lesser Maple Spanworm,

Lesser Maple Spanworm [Macaria pusularia]

Banded Tussock Moth,

Banded Tussock Moth [Halysidota tessellaris]

Basswood Leafroller,

Basswood Leafroller [Pantographa limata]

Tulip-tree Beauty,

Tulip-tree Beauty [Epimecis hortaria]

and what I think is a Lunate Zale.

Lunate Zale [Zale lunata]

And there was this one, the Glorious Habrosyne, with incredibly detailed markings.

Glorious Habrosyne [Habrosyne gloriosa]

By the way, I need to acknowledge Rebecca’s amazing help in identifying most of these moths and the input of the local experts that pointed some of them out to us or told us what they were.

We’d also see some of those big, colorful, and iconic species, such as the Luna Moth,

Luna Moth [Actias luna]

Polyphemus Moth,

Polyphemus Moth [Antheraea polyphemus]

and Tulip-tree Silkmoth.

Tulip-tree Silkmoth [Callosamia anguilifera]

Other incredibly cool big ones included the Imperial Moth,

Imperial Moth [Eacles imperialis]

Regal Moth,

Regal Moth [Citheronia regalis]

and one we’ve seen in New Mexico, the Io Moth.

Io Moth [Automeris io]

The Io Moth is hiding some serious eyespots it sometimes lets you see when it opens those wings a bit.

Io Moth [Automeris io]

We had several different species of Sphinx Moth appear during those night visits, including the truly striking Pandorus Sphinx,

Pandorus Sphinx [Eumorpha pandorus]

the Blinded Sphinx,

Blinded Sphinx [Paonias excaecata]

and the Walnut Sphinx.

Walnut Sphinx Moth [Amorpha juglandis]

Several Virginia Creeper Sphinx and an Azalea Sphinx also showed up, but you get the idea. (Other pictures from the trip are on my webpage at http://sandianet.com/midwest/index.htm .)

A few more fun ones…the Rosy Maple, one I’d hoped to see at the 2017 event, turned out to be rather common then and at this year’s event.

Rosy Maple Moth [Dryocampa rubicunda]

The Giant Leopard Moth, quite classy-looking, and usually with its wings closed. This one was flopping around in the light and most surprisingly, this shot froze that action and got a look at what’s under those wings.

Giant Leopard Moth [Ecpantheria scribonia]

Surprisingly, since it seemed the default flash settings on my camera easily froze the action in several of my moth photos, while I’ve rarely been able to do that with birds, butterflies, or moths during the daytime despite working the camera settings to that end….hmmm, maybe I should try the flash during the day?

Almost as if it was pre-planned (and maybe it was?), on the way out of the Lodge after the closeout presentation on Sunday morning there on the wall was a Black Witch everybody had to stop and photograph.

Black Witch [Ascalapha odorata]

Fun roadtrip for sure, but time to get back out there to see what’s been showing up around here the last few weeks.


Posted in Birding, Bugs, Butterfly, Critters, Dragonflies, Photographs, Travel | 9 Comments

Something a Little Different

While this update has some of the better pictures I’ve gotten recently of my usual birds and butterflies, there are also a few of a bit more unusual subjects and behaviors. Back around the middle of June (6/17), I headed down to the North Diversion Channel on hearing that the Mississippi Kites had returned and would see at least five of them flying around east of the channel where they’d first shown up last year. That prompted me to check in on Sandia View Academy where they’ve nested since at least 2012 (and I’m usually asked to lead the Audubon Thursday Birder trip to see them). None were around that day or on a couple of other visits, so it was interesting to note that by July 3 they were absent from the North Diversion Channel but at least three were now hanging out at Sandia View Academy.

Mississippi Kite

(It was only after getting home and looking closer at the picture I’d notice the lizard snack in its claw.)

It was also interesting to see that the Osprey nest at the North Diversion Channel also was still occupied as of July 3 and I got a better look at the female and two young ones that have been there for several months now.


Again on June 17, since I’d seen a Burrowing Owl in nearby Rio Rancho back in mid-March, it seemed a good idea to see it they’d successfully nested there. Only saw one in the cavity I’d seen that earlier one and at first didn’t realized it was a young one, but then noticed a little further down the wash another cavity where the entire family was hanging out – that’s Mom on the right with her four young offspring.

Burrowing Owl

One of those four little ones was quite active and had really gotten into the flying thing, flying between the two cavities and then zooming off up the hill for awhile before showing up again. At one point, it got a little upset with me and parked it right in the middle of the arroyo below me, squawking and kicking sand at me!

Burrowing Owl

I took the hint and headed back to my car, thinking I’d next check in on the Great Horned Owl nest on a cliff in Petroglyph NM. I’d first seen two little ones there on June 2, much later than all the other nests I’d been watching but that got off to a late start after their first nest disappeared one day only to be replaced by an even better nest in the same spot a week later (most odd, since Great Horned Owls don’t build nests themselves). Expecting those little ones to be significantly more mature and maybe even moving around on the nesting ledge, it came as quite a surprise that the owls and the nest itself had again totally disappeared. I’d had a suspicion that ravens had been responsible last time and maybe they had succeeded again at running the owls off? Rather unusual, but that kind of thing seems to happen every year to at least one of maybe a dozen nests I’ll be watching. Also surprising that day was to see that one of the adults was still there, likely the male, standing in the hiding spot we’d seen him before despite the disappearance of everybody else.

Great Horned Owl

On Wednesday that week I spent a little time looking for butterflies at Ojito de San Antonio, Cienega Canyon, and Doc Long. Good to see the dogbane, a favorite nectar source for most butterflies, in bloom at Ojito but few butterflies other than a Black Swallowtail that posed nicely for me.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Doc Long and the trail to Bill Spring turned up a nice Weidemeyer’s Admiral

Weidemeyer’s Admiral (Limenitis weidermeyerii)

and a gorgeous Hoary Comma, a species that’s seemed a little scarce this year.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

The next day the Audubon Thursday Birders headed out to Villanueva State Park for a successful outing under perfect weather conditions. We’d started out at Clines Corner, meeting several folks that joined the group there to take a quick but unsuccessful look for Mountain Plover where we’d seen them in the past; we would get good looks at Cassin’s Sparrow, a species I’ve only rarely seen,

Cassin’s Sparrow

and right at Clines Corner a couple of Burrowing Owls I heard about later that day so we took a look on the way back home. A bit far away behind a fence on a rather windy afternoon, it got me thinking to look in on the owls in Owlville on Sunday (nearly two weeks after my last visit) and look for the young Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet I’d heard were being seen at Belen Marsh. Owlville was still in fine shape and I managed to spot two more nests…seven altogether this year.

Burrowing Owl

I might have been a week late hoping for the babies at Belen Marsh, only spotting a single young Black-necked Stilt that was too far away for a good picture. I did get a pretty good photo of one of the adults, tho.

Black-necked Stilt

The Friday after the Villanueva trip, Rebecca and I took a look for butterflies in Embudo Canyon almost a month after our last visit with our visiting friends, and were surprised to see quite a few Sandia Hairstreaks still flying, including 3 individuals on a single plant-we’ve never seen them before so late in June. And the next day, we drove to Placitas and then took the rough road up Las Huertas Canyon and over the top checking on the state of some of our better butterflying spots in the Sandias. A few good butterflies in Las Huertas, although it does seem the season has gotten off to a late start everywhere this year, and a couple of good photo ops, including good looks at the underside of a Weidemeyer’s Admiral

Weidemeyer’s Admiral (Limenitis weidermeyerii)

and a really fresh Variegated Fritillary.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

A week later, we had a great day of butterflying stopping first at Sevilleta NWR, then an unplanned visit to the Abo mission ruins, and a drive into Red Canyon and back home through the East Mountains. Very few butterflies to be seen at Sevilleta, but it was fun to see the walking stick insects had returned and we even found a mating pair well-camouflaged in a bush.

Mating Walking Sticks

Heading off to Abo next, we were a little disappointed in not seeing many butterflies near the visitor center but as we were leaving noticed a large area of white clover and fresh thistle blooms on the side of the road. Pulling over to take a closer look we’d see an amazing number and variety of butterflies nectaring away. In addition to one or two Black Swallowtails patrolling back and forth were some of the Southern Dogface we’d seen at a distance earlier,

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

a large number of Gray Hairstreaks,

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

a couple of Juniper Hairstreaks,

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

and this sighting of a mating pair, most unusual since they are two different species, an Acmon Blue and a Marine Blue.

Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon) and Marine Blue (Leptotes marina)

We’d also see a Bronze Roadside-Skipper there, a butterfly I’ve been expecting for several weeks now, but that we’d also find at a couple of spots along the road to Red Canyon. One in particular was a bit differently marked than the ones we’re used to but photographed well on a thistle.

Bronze Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes aenus)

At Pine Shadow and another nearby creek along the way we’d see a few butterflies, including a dang Sandia Hairstreak (June 29!), Canyonland Satyr, and Taxiles Skipper, but clouds were building up forcing any others into hiding. Up at the Red Canyon campground, the clouds parted enough to give us good looks at several Hoary Comma.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

On the first of July, Rebecca and I met up with our friend, Tim, to look around Embudito Canyon, and while we would see a Hackberry Emperor (a species I usually see maybe once a year in that location), there wasn’t much nectar around and things are starting to dry up so the butterflies won’t be too numerous until our monsoon rains kick in later this month. Deciding on the spur of the moment to make a run to the Sandias, Rebecca and I looked at a few spots along the way to Capulin Spring. Seems we were just a little early for the sumac to bloom at Cienega Spring or the dogbane at 8000′, and a little late for a large patch of wild iris near Tree Spring, and while the large field of penstemon was in full bloom at Capulin we wouldn’t see too many butterflies anywhere. It was fun to see that the Western Tiger Swallowtail is again flying and landing long enough to photograph.

Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)

At one spot between Sulphur Canyon and Doc Long (where I’ve seen ridiculous numbers of swallowtails in the past), we had a small group of both Western Tiger Swallowtail along with some of the quite similar Two-tailed Swallowtail. In town, the big yellow swallowtail is usually a Two-tailed while the Western Tiger is more plentiful in higher and wetter habitats. At that same spot, we saw this display of two mating pair of damselflies. From reading up on their behavior later, it seems the bright blue male first grabs the more cryptic female by the neck with his “claspers” and eventually she’ll lift her tail up to connect to his abdomen in a heart-shaped formation.


Another run up to the Sandias this morning showed the sumac and dogbane have come into bloom and are attracting butterflies. We didn’t manage to see a couple of our target species, but I did get a nice shot of the tiny Russet Skipperling

Russet Skipperling (Piruna pirus)

and of an American Lady, similar to its cousin the Painted Lady that has just appeared in huge numbers this year, but easy to identify by the two large eyespots on the American Lady vs four on the Painted Lady and that little white dot in that large pink area.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)




Posted in Birding, Bugs, Butterfly, Dragonflies, Photographs | 12 Comments

Late Spring Update

It hit me as interesting to realize how I put together blog updates for several different reasons, regularly changing the primary focus of a post. Often it’s a lot like a personal journal documenting what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks, sometimes more of a trip report on jaunts around the state or international vacations or even just summarizing one or two recent Audubon Thursday Birder trips, and occasionally focused on a single subject or aiming to highlight a favorite moment or recent photograph. Then there’s a few (like this one) where with no real point other than wanting to archive a few of the better photographs that have been building up since the last update. Hopefully, those of you taking the time to take a look will still find it interesting.

First up are the baby Burrowing Owls. I’d dropped by Owlville on May 31 for the first time since April 7 to see the first little ones out and about.

Burrowing Owl

Returning about two weeks later, I’d notice two more nests (of a total of five I’d see) and lots more young ones goofing around outside the burrow…some with just one or two visible,

Burrowing Owl

but most with a whole group of them watching what I was up to and moving around to get a better look, such as this bunch

Burrowing Owl

or these guys.

Burrowing Owl

One of the adults was usually rather obvious and keeping an eye out from a short distance away.

Burrowing Owl

Another bird I checked in on was the Western Screech-Owl in Columbus Park who I hadn’t seen on several visits since last November, who is indeed back in town, but apparently having a bit of a bad hair day.

Western Screech-Owl

After doing our bluebird survey for the Audubon Climate Watch program on June 3, Rebecca and I took a quick look at some of our butterfly spots in the Sandias and Capulin Spring, which had only recently reopened after its closure all winter. Enjoying the birds stopping in at the log for a splash or a drink, at one point two male Western Tanagers showed up and got into a little tussle with the dominant one shooing the other away.

Western Tanager

We’d return on June 8 for the annual CNMAS membership meeting at Doc Long for a delightful morning that included more butterflies and a few good birds, including this Grace’s Warbler – a bird I don’t often see especially out in the open like this one.

Grace’s Warbler

Wildflowers are having a great spring with fields of cholla all lit up with their bright magenta blooms.


Among the butterflies we’d see over the last two weeks were an Arctic Blue, one I’d been a little surprised when we found a few in Cienega Canyon with our recent visitors,

Arctic Blue (Plebejus glandon)

Silver-spotted Skipper, first for the year, in several locations,

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

and the return of the Arizona Sister both in the Sandias and in foothill locations such as Embudito Canyon. These are pretty dramatic looking butterflies from both the top

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

as well as underneath.

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

We don’t usually see Sandia Hairstreaks into June, but this year the butterfly season seems a little delayed so I was surprised to see at least 7 individuals on June 9 in Embudito

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

and even a couple on June 12 this year.

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

On the way back from a June 6 Thursday Birder trip to the Jemez Mountains, a quick stop at the road to Ojito Wilderness near San Ysidro turned up a couple of Saltbush Sootywing (a spot we’d unexpectedly found them in five years ago with a visiting friend)-no great pictures this time, but good to know it’s a dependable location. The next day, I was taking a break to pamper a cold while Rebecca headed out on a search for the Dotted Checkerspot by making the long drive up to Springer NM and back through Tucumcari NM. This is a species we’d hoped to find for our recent visitors, but one that hasn’t had any recent sightings on BAMONA and all she had to go on were a few ideas from our State ‘butterfly guy’, Steve Cary, of where he’d seen them years ago. It was quite exciting later that day to hear of her success at spotting a couple of them, and wonderful that she was up for a return trip the next week so that I could add them to my lifelist.

Along the way, we’d come across quite a few pronghorn including a few that had a few very young ones. Those pictures didn’t turn out so well, but I did keep one of this group of male pronghorn.


Still thinking there’d likely be might improbable that we’d successfully find the butterfly, it was rather amazing that it was the first butterfly we’d see there and that we’d end up seeing a large number of them with very little effort.

Dotted Checkerspot (Poladryas minuta)

We will certainly have to return next season for better photos (I still need a good ventral shot) and to show any of our friends that still need it.

Looking around a couple of other spots along Mills Canyon Road we didn’t see any more checkerspots that day, but found some very promising habitat for that and several other species of interest, one of which was a Giant-Skipper we’re hoping will turn out to be Strecker’s Giant-Skipper (Steve Cary might be able to make the call for us on BAMONA) along with a good number of Uncas Skipper (leading us to think it should also be good for our nemesis butterfly, the Rhesus Skipper).

Uncas Skipper (Hesperia uncas)





Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Photographs | 10 Comments

Full On Spring

Spring has come on strong here the last few weeks with many species of birds arriving and beginning to nest, new species of butterflies appearing every day, and plenty of greenery and wildflowers following good winter precipitation. All that water is raising water levels on the lakes and rivers, and all of the mountain springs and creeks are flowing better than they have in years. Being spring in New Mexico also means plenty of wind, but this year the winds seem much stronger than normal and lasted considerably longer than is typical. For most of the time since my last posting, Rebecca and I have been out checking on many of the butterfly spots we’ve visited in the past and several new ones in anticipation of a visit all last week from butterfly friends of ours from Massachusetts, Texas, and Florida. They had several species they were hoping to add to their life lists, including a few that we haven’t managed to spot yet. No new ones for us during their visit, but we were fortunate in getting good looks at several special ones for most of the group. Most of this post therefore has some of my better butterfly pictures from those outings, along with a few birds and other critters seen along the way.

We were able to join the excellent Audubon Thursday Birder trip on May 16 to Pueblo Montano Open Space, where among others we got several good looks at the normally secretive Yellow-breasted Chat.

Yellow-breasted Chat

A few days before that walk, I’d been there to check on the nesting Great Horned Owls there, but they must’ve fully fledged their young and the nest and all the owls had already disappeared. Almost a week earlier, I had checked in on the nest in Corrales to find those little ones nearly fully grown, but know of at least one nest in town that the adult must still be sitting on eggs.

Great Horned Owl – Corrales

I did get nice looks at a few other species that we would see on the Thursday Birder trip, including a Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

Summer Tanager,

Summer Tanager

and Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret

The group also spotted a porcupine not so high up a cottonwood. That was a bit unusual for me, since I usually only see porcupines in leafless trees in fall and winter.


One of the butterflies we’d see out scouting is one that we usually see plenty of but which would elude our visitors and is still the only one I’ve seen so far this year, the Hoary Comma.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

And one fine day in Embudito Canyon checking the Texas beargrass for Sandia Hairstreak (one of the target butterflies for our visitors), I had this guy complain loudly that I’d disturbed his nap by almost stepping on him.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Dumb of me to not look where I was stepping, but then again I’ve only heard one rattle once in probably twenty years of stomping around there. On my next visit a few days later, I’d get a nice shot of an Acmon Blue on the Apache Plume,

Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon)

and the next day of a mated pair of Melissa Blue while checking out a new location in the Manzanos.

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa)

On the weekend, we took a longer ride out to Bear Trap Campground west of Socorro to look for a couple of those target butterflies our friends were hoping to see and also spent some time at Box Canyon Recreation Area near Socorro thinking it might be a good spot to break up the drive and to see if any butterflies were showing up there. We also made a short stop at Sevilleta NWR along the way, but didn’t see much in the way of butterflies. Several lizards were dashing around there, including this short-horned lizard.

Short-horned Lizard

Bear Trap is a pleasant small USFS campground, but accessible only by a long drive on a rough dirt road. We were fortunate in that it was a bit sheltered from the continuous winds and in finding several of one of our target species, the Mountain Checkered-Skipper,

Mountain Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus xanthus)

and surprised to see Yucca Giant-Skipper there as well.

Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae)

The Yucca Giant-Skipper was our first for the year after having missed them at places close to home where we’ve had them in the past. We’d hoped they’d turn out to be Strecker’s Giant-Skipper, which was a target for all our visitors but still haven’t seen that species this year. Stopping at Box Canyon on the return trip, we were pleased to see several species that we rarely see in New Mexico including the Common Streaky-Skipper

Common Streaky-Skipper (Celotes nessus)

and a Hackberry Emperor.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

For all of the last several weeks, there has been a huge number of Painted Lady butterflies migrating through the state making it a little difficult to notice any other butterflies. One that I photographed shows well the brilliant colors and markings on the underside.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

After all of our visiting friends arrived, we headed out to look for that Strecker’s Giant-Skipper on some private land east of the Manzano Mountains with permission to a spot we’d seen them in late May two years ago. No luck seeing that species unfortunately, but it was fun to find a mating pair of Fulvia Checkerspot.

Fulvia Checkerspot (Chlosyne fulvia)

Continuing on to a couple of other spots in the Manzanos, in search of Mexican Sootywing and a few other species, I’d get a nice photo of one of several Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

and we’d get good looks at a species that’s rather uncommon for us to see, Oslar’s Roadside-Skipper.

Oslar’s Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes oslari)

After checking those locations, we headed to Quarai for lunch and to look for a few butterflies. That was a bit difficult in the wind, but it was fun to see the two little Great Horned Owls back in their niche on this visit (you might want to click on the picture to zoom in to see them).

Great Horned Owl – Quarai

Still windy the next day, after checking on a couple of spots in town four of the group headed out to Bear Trap Campground to get that Mountain Checkered-Skipper, while the rest of us took a look in Cienega Canyon, where the lupines had come into bloom and we were fairly well sheltered from all that wind. A few butterfly species about, including a nice Juniper Hairstreak,

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

but then with a few clouds rolling in, we continued on to Sandia Crest House for the view of town from 10,678 feet. I looked in on a couple of butterfly spots along the way, but saw it’s too early in the season for any nectar plants to be blooming at the higher elevations.

Friday morning, we rolled out to Eagar, AZ and nearby Greens Peak Road where my nemesis butterfly, the Rhesus Skipper, is sometimes seen on the wild iris and volcanic patches around this time of year. We’ve tried for it here before as well as a few other places, and it would’ve been a lifer for everybody, but as usual after looking hard for two days it would once again elude us. We did get good looks at a few good butterflies there, two of which I thought I’d show here, the Morrison’s Skipper (also seen at Bear Trap Campground)

Morrison’s Skipper (Stinga morrisoni)

and butterfly of the trip for me at least, a Western Pine Elfin up close.

Western Pine Elfin (Callophrys eryphon)

Back home on Sunday, we spent the next day on another visit to Embudito Canyon and then Embudo Canyon, with the wind finally cutting us a little break. At the Embudito parking lot, a Greater Roadrunner was cooing for a date from up on someone’s chimney

Greater Roadrunner

and later in the morning we’d see a Scaled Quail calling loudly out to the neighborhood.

Scaled Quail

Butterflies were pretty good that morning in Embudito, with everybody getting good looks at several individual Sandia Hairstreak butterflies (lifer for some of the group),

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

and more of another target for the trip that we’d see in several locations, Mexican Sootywing.

Mexican Sootywing (Pholisora mejicanus)

I’d always assumed I was seeing the Common Sootywing (Pholisora catullus), but we had good looks at the definitive underside of these to decide they were Mexican. A couple of us went a little higher in the canyon and managed to see the first Canyonland Satyr for the year.

Canyonland Satyr (Cyllopsis pertepida)

Coming back down the trail a couple of folks waited to point out a mating pair of Green Skipper, definitively matching the description in our guide books with those two overlapping white spots and slight arc to that line of three white spots.

Green Skipper (Hesperia viridis)

I’ve always had trouble making the distinction between Green Skipper and the very similar Pahaska Skipper, but we’d also see a number of the latter also clearly showing the differences between the species.

Pahaska Skipper (Hesperia pahaska)

For the Pahaska Skipper, those two white spots are a little offset from each other and the line of three white spots are more in a straight line.

In the afternoon, we went to Embudo Canyon a mile or so south of Embudito to make the fairly long steep walk up to a small spring. My first Arizona Sister of the year was flying there

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

and wandering around the area I just happened to stumble across a small gray skipper that had me calling everybody over thinking it might be one several of the group really wanted on this trip. It turned out indeed to be a Viereck’s Skipper, and there were actually several of them guarding their territories where they’d fly off only to return a short while later.

Viereck’s Skipper (Atrytonopsis vierecki)

On the last day of the trip, we returned to several of our local spots and added a visit to Hondo Canyon, seeing a few new species for the week but none that resulted in good photos for me. All in all, despite the almost continuous wind and missing out on a couple of the species we were really hoping to see, I certainly had a good time and am pretty sure everybody else enjoyed it too.



Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Critters, Photographs | 8 Comments