Summer’s End

Less than a week until the Fall Equinox, we are starting to see signs that summer is coming to an end as we kick off autumn. It’s still been hot and sunny most days, but the foliage is changing, tree leaves are thinking of it, bird migration is getting started, and late season butterflies are being seen.

My first photo for this post is of a Monarch from Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area on September 3,

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

as is the last from Pine Flat on September 14.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

That morning at Whitfield turned up a couple of other good butterflies, including a Dotted Roadside-Skipper (a species we’d seen there before),

Dotted Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes eos)

and a Question Mark, the first I’d seen anywhere this year and the first we’ve ever seen at Whitfield.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Early the next week, Rebecca and I were off in search of the Nokomis Fritillary, first just across the Arizona border to Luna Lake where we’d seen them in 2012 and after a night in Reserve NM taking a look at nearby Toriette Lake where they’d been reported in the past.

We’d easily see a good number of males flying around soon after we got to Luna Lake, but had to work to catch one resting. We’d almost given up on seeing any females, when Rebecca spotted the first one hiding in the grass, and spotted a couple of others nearby. Not the greatest focus, but this photo from Luna Lake highlights the striking differences between the appearance of the male and female.

Nokomis Fritillary (Speyeria nokomis)

The male is the orange guy on top, and here’s a photo of the female hiding out in the marshy grass.

Nokomis Fritillary (Speyeria nokomis)

The next morning we drove to Toriette Lake, and in a very similar habitat again had several males patrolling the marshy area in search of females, but we would only come across a single female who didn’t stick around long enough for a decent photo, and unlike the previous day flew away and out of sight. Our first sighting of this particular species for New Mexico, though, so the trip counts as a success! Here’s a photo of the underside of the male from that morning.

Nokomis Fritillary (Speyeria nokomis)

Another great find that morning, also spotted by Rebecca, was an Arachne Checkerspot, another first for my New Mexico list.

Arachne Checkerspot (Poladryas arachne)

While in Reserve, we’d see and hear several Acorn Woodpeckers in the neighborhood; here’s a photo of one of them.

Acorn Woodpecker

A couple of days later, I’d taken a look in Corrales along the bosque ditches. Other than lots of damselflies and a few dragonflies, not much else caught my eye other than a few Western Pygmy-Blue butterflies,

Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile)

and a grasshopper.

Green Valley Grasshopper (Schistocerca shoshone)

I have recently been quite impressed by the Seek app from iNaturalist, which easily identified that grasshopper, and has been crazy good at identifying plants, bugs, and other living things – highly recommended.

Another day Rebecca and I rambled up to the top of the Sandias to see if any butterflies might be flying, and while that didn’t happen, we did come across a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers, a species I’d only seen before back in 2011. They were quite patient with us if usually a little obscured and let us take a good number of photographs. Here’s one that shows both the male (top) and female (barely visible at bottom).

American Three-toed Woodpecker

The next day had me out in Embudito, which surprisingly (hot, dry, little nectar) turned up a reasonable mix of butterflies, including this Canyonland Satyr.

Canyonland Satyr (Cyllopsis pertepida)

There were also quite a few White-lined Sphinx Moths flying about. I had my new Sony RX10iv camera that morning, and tried switching it to Shutter mode finding I could crank the shutter speed to a ridiculous 1/10000 sec (or more)…let’s see if that will freeze those moth wings.

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

Two days ago wondering where to try for some butterflies, Rebecca and I checked out the lower parts of the road to Fourth of July Campground and then Capilla Peak Road and later Pine Flat. Not much flying on the first part of the trip until we stopped at a couple of muddy spots along the road. At each of them, we’d see puddle parties of different species, such as Common Checkered-Skippers, Cloudy and Dainty Sulphurs, and a number of blues. In addition, now and then another individual would stop by, such as a Variegated Fritillary, a few Crescents, and even an American Snout.

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

My favorite photo of the day is this one of mostly Melissa Blue, but might also have a Lupine/Acmon Blue there on the left.

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa) [far left: Lupine Blue (P. lupine)]

At another stop along Capilla Peak Road, we’d first see a Question Mark and soon after started seeing American Lady, Painted Lady, and one or two Hoary Commas. Took a second, but we realized all of these were quite interested in the leftovers of a deer that had apparently been harvested during the current bow hunting season. News to me that hunters just take the bits they want and leave the rest there in the woods, but that’s what the Forest Service guys told us.

Front to Back: American Lady, two Painted Lady, Hoary Comma

One last fun sighting on the road that day was this Short-horned Lizard, probably the first I’ve seen this year.

Short-horned Lizard
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Past August

So here we are in September already with August in the rear-view mirror and autumn almost upon us. Not too many pictures this time, but on what started out as an unusually cloudy day (due to the remnants of a Pacific hurricane passing through), it seemed a good time for a blog update. On several days in a row following my August 14 posting, I’d gone to Embudito Canyon in search of the Mead’s Wood-Nymph reported a few days earlier. This was a most unusual event, only the second time one had ever been reported in Bernalillo County. On my first try, hiking further up Embudito Canyon than I’d gone in years and just as I was about to turn around, I totally lucked into seeing it and getting enough of a photograph to allow it to be identified by our regional expert at Butterflies and Moths of North America (Nowhere near as good as other folks’ photos so won’t show it here). Three other attempts to find it that week were unsuccessful, although there would be a large number of Common Wood-Nymph.

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

This year was the first time I’ve seen Common Wood-Nymph in lower Embudito Canyon, but there have been quite a few seen this year ever since. Also numerous this year has been Canyonland Satyr.

Canyonland Satyr (Cyllopsis pertepida)

It seems a little late this year, but the Fiery Skippers are also showing up again.

Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)

Other photos from those trips to Embudito included this hummingbird (a friendly individual who let me get rather close, but I can only identify as a female or immature, but probably a Black-chinned Hummingbird)

Hummingbird (female or immature)

and a couple of mule deer browsing the hillside.

Mule Deer

On that first hike higher up Embudito, another large rock formation caught my eye. Is it just me or is this some ancient warrior staring into the distance?

Rock Formation – Embudito Canyon

That weekend, Rebecca and I driving around some of the back roads on the east side of the mountains outside Las Vegas NM. Some good photos from that day were those of several pronghorn, both individuals and family groups standing close to NM 120 on our way back to Wagon Mound; my favorite is this mother with one of her little ones.

Pronghorn

The next Monday, we met at Piedras Marcadas Dam to look for Monarchs (and hopefully their eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises) in the large field of Horsetail Milkweed at the base of the dam. We would indeed see quite a few adult Monarchs, but none of those other stages.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

It was depressing to see that AMAFCA (Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority) had started mowing the entire field that day, and had completed the job by our visit a week later. They probably need to do that now and then to allow the dam to function properly, but you’d think they could wait until after butterfly breeding was complete.

At least in the area they hadn’t yet gotten to, we saw several other butterfly species working the milkweed, including a Queen,

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

a Black Swallowtail,

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

and even a Great Purple Hairstreak.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

The following day, we made another trip up north on the west side of the mountains south of Taos NM, and eventually wandering back toward Santa Fe on the southern section of the ‘High Road to Taos’. During the day we’d see quite a few Black-billed Magpies in open valleys, and tried to get good photos of them. Not quite in focus, but still kind of fun was this one as the bird flew right past me.

Black-billed Magpie

At our lunch stop at a campground in the mountains, we had fun seeing large numbers of fritillaries, which included both the Southwestern Fritillary and Great Spangled Fritillary. At several places, we’d see both species sharing the same cutleaf coneflower.

Southwestern (top L) and Great Spangled (top R and bottom) Fritillaries

Following are photos of an individual of each species, which I find easiest to identify by the ventral view. First, the Southwestern

Southwestern Fritillary (Argynnis nausicaa)

and next the Great Spangled.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Argynnis cybele)

Last Saturday had us returning to Seven Springs Fish Hatchery, near Fenton Lake in the Jemez Mountains, and later to the Gilman Tunnels on the hunt for more butterflies. Seven Springs was good for the Southwestern and Great Spangled Fritillary, but also had large numbers of Green Comma, a species we haven’t seen very often.

Green Comma (Polygonia faunus)

We’d also see several American Snouts and a Bordered Patch, both species that are being seen everywhere this summer. In the past, we’d only see them in a few locations if at all.

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

Seven Springs turned up a female Purplish Copper

Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides)

and a Variegated Fritillary, whose unusually dark coloring had us confused for awhile.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

A highlight for me was seeing several Sachem on the chamisa near Gilman Tunnels. The Sachem is common and widespread across the southern U.S., but this is the first I’ve seen in New Mexico.

Sachem (Atalopedes campestris)
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Something Amazing Every Day

It’s now been two weeks since my last update, and still surprising to me seeing something something new or different nearly every day often managing to get home with decent photos. This posting shows some of those photos from recent outings, mostly butterflies but with a few other creatures that caught my attention out there. On a successful visit to Oak Flat in search of a Spalding’s Blue prompted by our observation of their host plant, Redroot Buckwheat, a fresh Thicket Hairstreak also was nectaring on the buckwheat.

Thicket Hairstreak (Callophrys spinetorum)

The next day a walk in Embudito turned up a Common Checkered-Skipper, not at all unusual to see but nicely posed.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

Also seen hiding out in the hackberry trees was a Hackberry Emperor, a species I’ve been seeing there regularly this summer.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

A few days later, another one would pose for me in The Box Recreation Area near Socorro, showing the ventral view.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

On August 5, Rebecca and I did our butterfly survey again from Capulin to Balsam Glade, where it was a thrill to see our Colorado Hairstreak in the same location we’d seen it two weeks earlier.

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

We’d also see plenty of Tailed Copper butterflies there and on other outings. This one is a male from that day,

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota) – male

and this is a female from the next day on a trip to a new location, Lobo Canyon Road to San Mateo Spring near Grants, NM.

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota) – female

I had no idea of what might be found in that area or what condition that road might be in, but thought it might be worth checking after seeing some recent sightings from there on BAMONA (https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/). All turned out well, however, easily finding the road, which was in good condition, and good directions to the well-marked spring. And it turned up some delightful butterflies along the way. We stopped first at a spot where we noticed some James’ Buckwheat (host plant for the Square-spotted Blue mentioned in my last post) along a roadcut. While we didn’t see that butterfly (I’d mistaken a Lupine Blue there for a Square-spotted Blue), we did find a good amount of Redroot Buckwheat on top and would see several of the Spalding’s Blue nectaring on it.

Spalding’s Blue (Euphilotes spaldingi)

Another butterfly we’d see there turned out to be an Uncas Skipper.

Uncas Skipper (Hesperia uncas)

And then it was on to San Mateo Spring and a nearby meadow filled with purple aster. There were quite a few of those Tailed Copper butterflies floating about as well as good numbers of Pine White (a butterfly we’ve been seeing plenty of this year, but most years rather hard to find). I think I got some pretty good, close photos of them – this one a female

Pine White (Neophasia menapia) – female

and this one a male.

Pine White (Neophasia menapia) – male

While working the meadow, we did get a quick look at a fritillary flying by, a type of butterfly some years quite common but less so in recent years. Continuing the short distance on to San Mateo Spring, we were immediately rewarded with large numbers of fritillaries working the dandelions and providing good photo opportunities (along with even more Pine Whites and a few other species). These would turn out to be our Southwestern Fritillary (Note: there seems to be considerable differences of opinion in the taxonomy of this species.)

Southwestern Fritillary (Argynnis nausicaa)

The next day took us on a tour to Sevilleta NWR, The Box Recreation Area, and Water Canyon. Sevilleta put on quite the wildflower display, but wasn’t very productive for butterflies. It was fun spotting some of the Walking Sticks camouflaged in the Broom Dalea – it wasn’t until I got home I noticed a second one in the background of this photo.

Walking Stick

The Box Recreation Area was much better than on a hot, dry day in June when I’d stopped to scout it, and maybe even better than our previous visit in April. The first butterfly Rebecca spotted as we left the parking lot turned out to be a Ceraunus Blue, a species we rarely find.

Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus)

We’d then find several of the Hackberry Emperor (ventral photo above), Common Sootywing, a Common Streaky-Skipper, and our first American Snout for the year.

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

In early July, after seeing several posts to the ‘Critters of New Mexico’ Facebook group of some of our incredible lizards, I posted a photo I’d taken some time ago (6/15/20) of a Greater Earless Lizard from The Box. Something I rarely do and have no idea how many ‘likes’ such posts usually get, it was quite a surprise watching the ‘likes’ adding up to an eventual total of 355. Hoping to see one again, that was an underlying objective of my visit in June this year. No luck then, but this day (8/7/21) I’d get a good look at one just as we were heading back to the car.

Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texanus)

On our last visit in April, we were stunned to see a large number of Sonoran Metalmarks at Water Canyon, and it was a little surprising on this visit to see a few still around.

Sonoran Metalmark (Apodemia mejicanus)

What made our day, however, was when we started seeing one or two Monarch butterflies checking out the immense amount of horsetail milkweed that lined the entrance road to Water Canyon. And then we started spotting Monarch caterpillars hiding in the milkweed, a total of 21 of them by the end of the day.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) Caterpillar

Even more of a thrill was spotting a couple of mating pairs of the 13 adults we’d see. Here are photos of two of those mating pairs, the first tucked high in a juniper,

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

and another close to the ground on a dead weed.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

A couple of visits this past week to my ‘local patch’, Embudito, turned up some more interesting sightings. First was this rather scary-looking Giant Ichneumon Wasp.

Giant Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus)

Not to worry, tho, that long ‘stinger’ is actually the female’s ovipositor and not at all dangerous to humans.

Showing a friend around Embudito a couple of days later would turn up several Common Wood-Nymphs (one of three species added to my Butterflies of Embudito Canyon list this year),

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

and the first Arizona Sister seen since June.

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

Last Thursday, I went to Cienega Canyon to look for butterflies and was a little surprised not to see many around. Checking the small stream near the picnic tables at the upper parking lot, still no butterflies but I was treated to a female or immature Broad-tailed Hummingbird hovering above the water and then dropping down for a splash or a drink. It didn’t seem to notice me at all and kept doing that for a minute or two, so I tried a couple of photos (having brought my new Sony RX10iv camera along instead of the Nikon I usually bring for butterflies)…here’s one of the better ones.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Similar to my Facebook experience about the lizard above, I thought to submit it to the ‘Birding New Mexico’ Facebook group. Folks must’ve liked that one, too, so far it’s gotten 433 likes!

Had that camera again yesterday when I checked out the Albuquerque Open Space Visitor Center. Not too busy with butterflies there, either, but the small pond has some water in it again and I got this shot of a Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret

Just another day and just another amazing sighting.

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More July Butterflies

Since my last posting, our summer monsoon has been quite good and led to several excellent butterfly outings. We’ve started to see some species that have eluded us in recent years along with some of our usual suspects that have been scarce this year. In addition to the butterflies, there’s also been some fun photos of a few birds and plants during some of those outings.

A first trip took us to Capilla Peak Road where we’d had excellent butterflies a month earlier. Much of the vegetation had changed over that time and we turned up fewer butterflies but some of different species. It was fun getting a decent photo of a Western Tailed-Blue,

Western Tailed-Blue (Comynta amyntula)

seeing a few of the Southwestern Fritillary, whose numbers have been low this year,

Southwestern Fritillary (Argynnis nausicaa)

and Rebecca finally got a good look at a California Tortoiseshell.

California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)

A few days later, we made a long day trip to Tres Piedras and then taking US 64 west, stopping at Hopewell Lake and a few promising wildflowers spots along the way to Tierra Amarilla looking for butterflies. While we wouldn’t see too many species at Hopewell Lake, we were surprised seeing so many Wood-Nymphs, species I rarely see more than one or two on any local outing. Most were Small Wood-Nymph,

Small Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis oetus)

I think, but there seemed to be a few Common Wood-Nymph around, too.

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

Several times we’d spot a small butterfly that we decided was Garita Skipperling.

Garita Skipperling (Oarisma garita)

Most exciting for me at Hopewell Lake was seeing the Anicia Checkerspot, a species I’ve very rarely seen anywhere, that Rebecca had spotted.

Anicia Checkerspot (Euphydryas anicia)

Several fabulous flowers were in bloom around the lake, including Orange Skyflower

Orange Skyflower

and Gunnison’s Mariposa Lily.

Gunnison’s Mariposa Lily

And of course, plenty of dragonflies and damselflies out and about including this mating pair.

Mating Damselflies

Following a picnic lunch, we headed on down US 64 stopping and looking around for butterflies at spots that looked good for and would turn out to be rather special. A large field of wildflowers that had quite a few Ruddy Copper (a species we’d first seen near Eagle Nest last year and then again in June of this year).

Ruddy Copper (Lycaena rubidus)

Even more exciting was seeing fritillaries going to the cutleaf coneflower and purple aster. One of these turned out to be an Aphrodite Fritillary

Aphrodite Fritillary (Argynnis aphrodite)

and another a Mormon Fritillary. Both of these were new for me in New Mexico.

Mormon Fritillary (Speyeria mormonia)

Back in town a couple days later had me taking a look at Embudito to see if the monsoon rain had done its thing on the spring, the vegetation, and hopefully a few more butterflies. Water appearing again in the recently-dry spring and a larger number of nectar plants in a wider variety of species raise hope for a butterfly comeback for the rest of the season. One I’d get a photo of was a Two-tailed Swallowtail nectaring on the clammyweed.

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

The morning was made even more interesting by seeing a rather large rattlesnake slip away into the underbrush, only getting a last second shot of the tail,

Rattlesnake

and managing to get a photo of a Gambel’s Quail with a few of her little ones.

Gambel’s Quail

A few days later, I’d spot a male calling from the top of a bush, once catching a quick glimpse of a couple of those little ones hiding at the base of the bush.

Gambel’s Quail

A couple of other birds that posed nicely there for me were a Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

and a Cactus Wren.

Cactus Wren

On July 23, Rebecca and I went to the Sandias for our butterfly survey of the route between Capulin Spring and Balsam Glade. Absolutely major highlights for the survey that day was seeing two Colorado Hairstreaks, a butterfly we haven’t seen in several years and was one of the reasons for choosing the route,

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

and also seeing a Pine White, another species we haven’t seen in the Sandias for awhile now (but had a couple in the Jemez Mtns two weeks ago).

Pine White (Neophasia menapia) – male

After finishing the survey, we decided to drive a little ways down NM-165 to check on an outcrop of James’ Buckwheat where we first saw Square-spotted Blue years ago along with several other butterflies. The buckwheat was fully in bloom and had some of those butterflies working it, including this mating pair.

Square-spotted Blue (Euphilotes battoides)

Three days later, we were back in Embudito doing our survey for that route. The weather wasn’t great, but we did end up seeing a few butterflies. One in particular caught my eye near the big elm just before the spring. Getting a closer look at it, I worked hard to get a decent photo as it would turn out to be the same species we’d seen high in the Sandias on that James’ Buckwheat, a Square-spotted Blue.

Square-spotted Blue (Euphilotes battoides)

That is the first one of that species I’ve ever seen in Embudito, where I’ve now listed 67 species over the past decade. This would lead one to expect that the James’ Buckwheat would be somewhere in the area, but I don’t recall ever seeing it. Going to be looking soon to see if it can be tracked down there. We did happen to notice for the first time that there is a species of buckwheat just coming into bloom in the wash, which we are thinking is Sorrel Buckwheat (Eriogonum polycladon).

Sorrel Buckwheat (Eriogonum polycladon)

Another flower coming into bloom recently is one I’ve always known as Sacred Datura, but was surprised to find is also known as Jimsonweed.


Jimsonweed (aka Sacred Datura)

I’d hoped to get this blog update done by last Thursday, with so many pictures and interesting trips to cover. Please bear with me…only 6 more pictures from the last two fascinating days.

Friday was another trip to the Sandias for the Capulin/Balsam Glade butterfly survey. Not so many butterflies that day, but lots of fungi popping out including this rather photogenic variety.

Toadstool

After the survey, we checked out Cienega Canyon where the cutleaf coneflower is starting to take over the meadow and turned up a nice male Great Purple Hairstreak.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

On the drive out, an unusual-looking large black/blue butterfly nectaring around a large patch of verbena caught my eye. Hopping out of the car gave me a chance for some good photos of what was a Pipevine Swallowtail, rather uncommon around here and the first I’ve only seen before close to the Mexican border with New Mexico.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

Saturday was a trip up to E.V. Long Picnic Area and Johnson Mesa in Gallinas Canyon west of Las Vegas NM. It too would turn up some goodies, including good numbers of both male and female Pine Whites (see the male above),

Pine White (Neophasia menapia) – female

more of those Gunnison’s Mariposa Lilies,

Gunnison’s Mariposa Lily

and even the quite tiny, Western Pygmy-Blue, not all that uncommon but my first for the season.

Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile)
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Early July Birds and Butterflies

This post has mostly photos of butterflies from the past two weeks, but also a few other moths, birds, and even flowers. Weather-wise, things have been pretty good with the summer monsoon kicking in regularly and temperatures not too extreme (unlike some other parts of the country). Still not much going on with butterflies in the foothills or down by the Rio Grande, but much better up in the mountains.

On the first of July, Rebecca and I took a look at Ojito de San Antonio for some butterflies. Mostly quiet while we were there, but we did turn up a Common Wood-Nymph (first of the year for us after looking for them the last few weeks),

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

and a fresh Sleepy Orange.

Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe)

Later that day, I checked Embudito where we’ve been putting off our regular butterfly survey until conditions improve. Unfortunately, it’s still awfully dry there and not much was flying. Seeing a Weidemeyer’s Admiral resting on an elm tree near the spring got me taking a closer look, which turned up first an underwing moth and, as I looked closer, a Hackberry Emperor (seen most years, but typically only once or twice) that opened its wings for me.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis) and Underwing Moth

On my way to Embudito, I remembered to stop to look in on the Cooper’s Hawk nest I’d first noticed in mid-June. I managed to get a couple of shots of three little ones, but kept getting dive-bombed by the mom so didn’t hang around long. This is one of the better shots of two of those little ones.

Cooper’s Hawk

Two days later, we did do our butterfly survey from Capulin Spring to Balsam Glade and picked up a few butterflies, but were expecting more that were probably hiding as clouds came and went. Two of those we did see were Russet Skipperling

Russet Skipperling (Piruna pirus)

and several Taxiles Skipper; this male on the purple penstemon that covered a meadow.

Taxiles Skipper (Poanes taxiles)

I returned earlier the next day to look again around most of the survey route, and then to visit the Ellis Trail for the first time this year, and later to look around part of the Cienega Spring survey route our friends have been seeing good butterflies recently. Good idea – that worked out way better than I expected.

Right around the spot we cross NM 165 coming from Capulin Spring to Balsam Glade were several fun sightings; the usual Dun Skipper,

Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris)

but also the first Small Wood-Nymph for the year,

Small Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis oetus)

a very fresh Hoary Comma,

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

and even a Rocky Mountain Clearwing moth.

Rocky Mountain Clearwing (Hemaris thetis)

Walking part of the way down the gravel road from the Ellis Trail parking lot produced a few butterflies drawn to different nectar flowers than I see lower on the mountain. One of my favorites has always been the Red Columbine, which was bloooming rather profusely that day.

Red Columbine

Of the butterflies I’d photograph there was the Red Admiral (much more common everywhere this year than in the past),

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

and Mourning Cloak (common, but not usually quite as fresh).

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

Wrapping up my morning in Cienega, I’d luck into seeing a number of good butterflies, the highlight of which was California Tortoiseshell (our surveying friends had seen 3 of them there a few days earlier!).

California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)

Looking closer at my pictures at home later turned up another one from the Ellis Trail. I’d also see a couple of Tailed Copper (new for the year) and got a nice photo of a (ridiculously common this year) Marine Blue, which was fresh enough to show off that ‘bling.’

Marine Blue (Leptotes marina)

Over the next few days, I’d gone to look for birds first at Pueblo Montano Open Space and then Willow Creek Open Space. Not too many birds seen at either spot, but it was a bit of a surprise seeing a single Cedar Waxwing close to the river at Pueblo Montano,

Cedar Waxwing

and then several Mississippi Kites at Willow Creek. The Kites hadn’t nested in their usual spot for several years now after construction had removed most of the trees they’d used before, but they had been seen at Willow Creek on July 1 by the newly restarted Audubon Thursday Birders.

Mississippi Kite

Those days also included another run by Ellis Trail and Cienega Spring for a better photo of that Tailed Copper,

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)

and of a Southwestern Fritillary, which I’d only seen briefly flying away on an earlier visit.

Southwestern Fritillary (Argynnis nausicaa)

On Monday of this week, Rebecca and I drove into the Jemez Mtns. to look for butterflies in a new location for us, the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery near Fenton Lake. We’d also stop by the side of the highway at a few places that had large patches of promising nectar sources. At one of those places, I’d first see a White-lined Sphinx Moth a common daytime species around here, but always tricky trying to photograph.

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

Moments later, Rebecca spotted a first-of-the-year Pine White. Usually seen flying high around Ponderosa Pines, this one had flown down close to the ground to nectar and even ended up settling on Rebecca’s shirt for several minutes even as she continued to chase after another Pine White.

Pine White (Neophasia menapia)

On a return visit to these spots after our time at Seven Springs, we’d add (for the first time in New Mexico) a Sylvan Hairstreak nectaring on the just-bloomed horsetail milkweed,

Sylvan Hairstreak (Satyrium sylvinus)

and (first of the year) Banded Hairstreak on indian hemp.

Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)

Our main location for the day, Seven Springs Fish Hatchery, turned out to be pretty good for butterflies with large marshy areas and a good variety of nectar sources. While (not too surprisingly) we wouldn’t see our target Silver-bordered Fritillary, there would be a couple of Silvery Checkerspots,

Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)

several Southwestern Fritillaries, and one that was later identified as a Great Spangled Fritillary (my first for New Mexico),

Great Spangled Fritillary (Argynnis cybele)

a fabulous Milbert’s Tortoiseshell,

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti)

and another Taxiles Skipper that posed for a pretty good photograph.

Taxiles Skipper (Poanes taxiles)

Finally, here’s a shot of a baby Black-chinned Hummingbird sitting in its nest on July 14. Rebecca had first told me about the nest at the end of June, and I’d been by a few times, first seeing the mother sitting on her egg(s), then watching her feed the young one whose bill would peek out of the nest while she was off gathering food, and now the little one sitting on the nest just as the mother had done just a few weeks earlier. It wasn’t until I could look at the picture on my computer that it was clear it was a young one, and Rebecca had told me that the mother did show up to feed it several times later that day. No doubt it will fledge and disappear in the next few days.

Black-chinned Hummingbird
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Better Butterflies

Soon after my last blog post, most days continued hot and dry making it difficult finding many butterflies or birds on my regular outings. The situation improved in a few locations as summer got started, and should only get better now that we’ve started to get some early monsoon season rain.

In Pueblo Montano Open Space, it was surprising (and a little scary) to see the ground covered with fluffy cottonwood seeds, which must surely be a fire hazard during these dry days.

“Cottonwood Snow”

No butterflies that day, but I did get a good look at a Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

and along the irrigation ditch came across a mother Wood Duck with her six little ones.

Wood Duck

The next day in Embudito Canyon, an obviously young Red-tailed Hawk was having a heck of a time trying to balance at the top of a juniper tree; once it got squared away it then flew off up the side of the canyon.

Red-tailed Hawk

About a week later, I’d also see that the Curve-billed Thrasher had returned to its nest in the cholla, which I’d last seen absolutely empty maybe a week earlier.

Curve-billed Thrasher

On June 17, Rebecca and I did our butterfly survey from Capulin Springs to Balsam Glade and were surprised to see 24 species and a total of more than 100 butterflies, way more than on any of our earlier surveys. A few of those included a Northern Cloudywing,

Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)

a Field Crescent (it helps to get the underside of this species to distinguish it from the similar Mylitta Crescent),

Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella)

and (first for the year) a Hoary Comma.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

Story Time – Back in February, Jeff Glassberg emailed me about when and where in New Mexico he might see Mexican Sootywings. Jeff, of course, is the president of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), has written a number of excellent butterfly guidebooks, runs butterfly tours nationally and internationally, and is a recognized expert in the field. By the end of April, he said he was planning to arrive here on June 20 and spend a day or so looking for the Mexican Sootywing before driving north to butterfly around Raton for the rest of the week, and then back to Albuquerque for his last day or so.

That got me checking Embudito regularly for the next several weeks hoping to see one. Back in 2019, we’d regularly found them there and at several other nearby locations. Not so much in 2020, and with it being so dry this year have not been seeing sootywings or a number of other usual species. A week before Jeff’s visit, I spent a day checking all the places we’d seen them in the past around Albuquerque and as far south as the Abo Mission outside of Mountainair. I ended the day with a run to The Box outside of Socorro where we’d seen (most likely Common) Sootywing on April 24. Things were not looking good – way too dry everywhere, very little nectar, almost no butterflies, and zero sootywings. I suggested to Jeff at best he might take a look around Embudito his first day here, but he might just as well head on up to Raton.

The day before Jeff was due to arrive, Rebecca and I decided to give Capilla Peak Road a look since we’d had some good butterflies there about this time a year ago. Spotting some butterflies working a bit of alfalfa right where Capilla Peak Road leaves the main highway by the old church, we stopped to take a look. Seconds later, Rebecca called out that she’d seen a sootywing in the dry grass and I’d see another just moments later. Even better, I was able to get a photograph of the underside showing the diagnostic black veining of a Mexican Sootywing.

Mexican Sootywing (Pholisora mejicana)

Of course, that meant letting Jeff know of a possible change of plans for his visit!

We then continued on up the dirt road and were even more surprised to find crazy numbers of butterflies nectaring at big patches of Bergamot, Spike Verbena, and abundant Orange Milkweed. (We’d also see another sootywing further up the road.) Here’s just one picture to convey what it was like that day, 3 Variegated Fritillary, 15 Marine Blue, 1 Gray Hairstreak, and 1 Orange Sulphur, all on the Orange Milkweed.

Orange Milkweed Party

A few of the other species we’d see along the first five miles of the drive include Juniper Hairstreak,

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

Melissa Blue,

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa)

and Oslar’s Roadside-Skipper.

Oslar’s Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes oslari)

Jeff arrived late the next day and on Monday, June 21 joined us as we made a beeline for that area sure to re-find one of those Mexican Sootywings for him. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t being very cooperative and was much too overcast most of the time, particularly at the first spot close to the church. Deciding to continue on in the off chance the weather would improve, we would get a few sunny moments and again had good numbers of quite a few species, including several rather unusual sightings such as Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

and Texan Crescent.

Texan Crescent (Anthanassa texana)

Some others from that day included Acmon/Lupine Blue,

Acmon/Lupine Blue (Plebejus acmon/lupini)

Canyonland Satyr,

Canyonland Satyr (Cyllopsis pertepida)

and Pahaska Skipper.

Pahaska Skipper (Hesperia pahaska)

Jeff did get a look at a sootywing about 5.1 miles up the road (where we’d seen one on our first visit). Although I’d imagine it was probably a Mexican, we couldn’t get a definitive look/photo of it.

Returning at the start of the next week, we returned to Manzano with Jeff to try again for the Mexican Sootywing, but the weather was even worse with heavy monsoon rainclouds blocking the sun for most of the day. We then tried a couple other past locations, but with no luck on sootywings. It was fun at Quarai to spot their two little Great Horned Owls from the visitor center (the gray spots toward the upper left in the picture below),

Quarai Ruins (w/Great Horned Owls)

and from a bit closer.

Great Horned Owl

After Quarai, we headed to Abo, where we did have a little sun, some blooming thistle and bindweed, and got a few butterflies including a Queen

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

and a Monarch.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Between Jeff’s visits, Rebecca and I took a trip we’d planned months ago to Eagle Nest and Angel Fire hoping to see some of the butterflies we’d seen there in recent years. Turned out to be a pretty successful trip overall, seeing a few unexpected species while missing out on a couple of possibles. We timed the trip well for the Ruddy Copper

Ruddy Copper (Lycaena rubidus)

and the Purplish Copper,

Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides)

but were a little early for the Blue Copper, which we’d seen for the first time last year. We also did quite well seeing plenty of Spalding’s Blue

Spalding’s Blue (Euphilotes spaldingi)

including this pair on the same Redroot Buckwheat (their host plant).

Spalding’s Blue (Euphilotes spaldingi)

Unexpected at least for me was Rebecca’s sighting first of a Riding’s Satyr

Riding’s Satyr (Neominois ridingsii)

and later a Common Ringlet.

Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia)

Another one she’d spot while we were having lunch next to the Cimarron River at the Tolby Day Use Area would turn out to be a Nevada Skipper, a species we don’t often see.

Nevada Skipper (Hesperia nevada)

Other species we’d see and get reasonably good photos of included Square-spotted Blue

Square-spotted Blue (Euphilotes battoides)

and the tiny Western Tailed-Blue.

Western Tailed-Blue (Cupido amyntula)

Around Eagle Nest, we’d regularly spot American White Pelicans flying about,

American White Pelican

but were surprised as we headed for home to see first an adult Bald Eagle followed minutes later by a Golden Eagle on the opposite side of the highway, both posed on telephone poles until I stopped to try to photograph them. Naturally, the both flew off long before I could get my act together.

Can’t wait for the rain to bring out a few more butterflies over the coming weeks and maybe even some birds.

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End of the Tunnel

Just a few of my better photos from the past month this time, taken on various outings. More importantly, with two weeks having passed from my second COVID shot and New Mexico opening up more and more, we seem able to see that light at the end of the tunnel as life gets closer to normal around here.

Most of those outings have been in search of butterflies, often not very successful as the ongoing drought has kept numbers down and some species either not appearing or appearing later in the year. A few times birds have been my focus and sometimes they’ll just pop up while looking for butterflies. Here’s one of a Green-tailed Towhee from an early morning visit to Cienega Spring.

Green-tailed Towhee

About a week after first finding the Great Horned Owl nest at Pueblo Montano Open Space, I returned to see two fairly mature young ones (the one on the left is a bit hidden by the leaves).

Great Horned Owl

Quite a few of my recent outings have taken me to Embudito Canyon, one of the sites we are doing surveys this year for the New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network. A couple of the birds from one visit included this Cactus Wren carrying some nesting material,

Cactus Wren

and one of the Ladder-backed Woodpeckers peering out of the cavity they’ve been seen using for some time now.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Another more recent sighting there is of a Curve-billed Thrasher nesting quite close to the well-trafficked trail.

Curve-billed Thrasher

During one of those butterfly surveys, a rather patient male Black-chinned Hummingbird showed up in just the right light to catch that purple gorget.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

On our other butterfly survey route from Capulin Spring to Balsam Glade, we’ve been seeing Silver-spotted Skippers

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

and Weidemeyer’s Admiral recently.

Weidemeyer’s Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyerii)

Our most recent survey also turned up a number of Arctic Blue butterflies.

Arctic Blue (Agriades glandon)

Surveys and other trips to Embudito have started turning up Viereck’s Skipper,

Viereck’s Skipper (Atrytonopsis vierecki)

and finally (weeks later than last year), a Green Skipper.

Green Skipper (Hesperia viridis)

Somewhat of a surprise after seeing Sandia Hairstreak there from early March through early April, they started showing up again toward the end of May and have been easily seen since. This is a picture of one from June 6.

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

The day before, Rebecca and I headed out in search of a couple of butterflies we’ve been hoping to find for friends from back east, driving north to Las Vegas, NM and then east to Mosquero, north to Mills Canyon and Abbott, and then back to Springer for the drive home. Long day through interesting country, but not turning up many butterflies despite some areas having received enough rain this year to have greened up nicely. It was quite satisfying in one of those spots (Mills Canyon) to find two individuals of our main target species, the Dotted Checkerspot.

Dotted Checkerspot (Poladryas minuta)

Yesterday, I made another scouting trip for one of our Eastern friends searching nearly all of our possible locations for Mexican Sootywing. No luck at any of those spots, but it did seem conditions looked most promising at the Abó Unit of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. No sootywings, but I got reasonable shots of a Checkered White

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

and of a Clouded Sulphur.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)
Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Photographs | 7 Comments

Birdathon Plus

A major highlight of the last couple of weeks for me was the 3-day trip (May 6-8) Rebecca and I took for this year’s Birdathon in Sierra County (Elephant Butte, Truth or Consequences, Animas Creek, Percha, and Caballo) taking a new way home by way of Silver City to look in on a few butterfly spots. Having been vaccinated, for the first time in over a year we felt safe to drive in her car rather than driving separately. More on that below, but first a few pictures from the week before the trip.

One day, a visit to the Belen Marsh showed that there was a bit of water there and that the Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets had returned, but aren’t yet nesting. This is one of the few pictures I kept of an American Avocet.

American Avocet

Over the weekend, we drove through Las Huertas Canyon from Placitas seeing a few butterflies, but nowhere near as many as in past years; probably due to the continuing drought over most of the State. The road is in as bad a shape as ever, but it still passable taking one’s time. Best butterfly of the day was a Yucca Giant-Skipper, seen in our most dependable spot for that species.

Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae)

Various wildflowers have started blooming recently making for some good photo ops. In Embudito the next day, a place I’ve been visiting almost daily hoping to see some first of the season butterfly species, one of the thistles finally opened and is sure to attract some of those butterflies.

Thistle

There also were a few Flanders poppies peeking out in a few spots,

Flanders Poppy

and every now and then a Claret Cup Cactus was showing off.

Claret Cup Cactus

The day before the trip had me out around Corrales checking in on my owl babies. I’ve heard there are 3 little ones in the nest near Dixon Road, but have only seen two of them.

Great Horned Owl (Dixon)

Over near Calabacillas Arroyo, the two little ones are getting older and a bit more adventurous.

Great Horned Owl (Calabacillas)

Early the next morning we took off on our Birdathon, the annual fundraising activity for our local Central New Mexico Audubon Society. Over a period of 24 hours, the idea is to see as many species as possible with folks pledging contributions based on the total and in competition with other teams. Team Verdin (me and Rebecca) started at 8:30 at Animas Creek where we easily got our two target species along with an unexpectedly large number of 31 other species. Those two targets were the Acorn Woodpecker and Bridled Titmouse,

Bridled Titmouse

and one of those others was the Brown-crested Flycatcher which Rebecca was able to identify, but not often seen around here.

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Our next stop was at Percha Dam State Park where we’d add another 25 species to our list before heading on to several locations near the southern end of Caballo Lake and 5 more species. Below the dam at Caballo Lake, we’d hear a frantic Killdeer mom trying to distract us from her new babies that were busy running about; eventually I’d get a picture of Mom with one of the little ones while the others were coming over to join her.

Killdeer

Things were slowing down bird-wise by then so we drove to a couple of spots around Elephant Butte Lake, adding another 3 species. Most surprising was Rebecca’s spotting a shorebird from quite a distance away that was still there when we arrived and would turn out to be the rarely seen Sanderling.

Sanderling

Thinking we were pretty much done for the day, we headed for Truth or Consequences stopping to take a look at Mims Lake. Not expecting to see much there at first, it would turn out to add quite a few species to our list (13), enough that we’d visit again the next morning. Adding a Rock Pigeon spotted in town that afternoon and another 13 species at Paseo del Rio that next morning gave a grand total of 93 species. One of those last species seen was a Black-crowned Night-Heron that first flew low right over us and we’d later spot perching in a tree.

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Having completed our Birdathon, it was off toward Silver City in search of a few butterflies. One of our favorite spots in that area, Railroad Canyon, almost immediately turned up one of our target species, the Sagebrush Checkerspot, of which we’d see at least 18 individuals.

Sagebrush Checkerspot (Chlosyne acastus)

A few other species appeared, but it seemed the drought was likely impacting that area as well. One of the others, fairly common around here but first for the season, was a Mylitta Crescent.

Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta)

We next headed to San Lorenzo, up to Lake Roberts, and back toward Silver City checking promising spots for more butterflies. One of the first was on a thistle just north of San Lorenzo, another first of the season, Viereck’s Skipper.

Viereck’s Skipper (Atrytonopsis vierecki)

We’d end up spending quite a bit of time at McMillan Campground, where we ran into a fellow butterfly enthusiast from Texas, and get to see a few more butterflies, including an Arizona Hairstreak (a bit too worn to include a photo here) and a Clouded Sulphur (quite common here, but first of the season for me and made for a nice photo).

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

After spending the night in Silver City, the next morning we headed for home along a new route along the western border of New Mexico stopping now and then to look around a few areas that might be worth another look soon.

As mentioned above, I’ve been hitting Embudito almost every day recently keeping an eye on the butterfly nectar plants and hoping to spot a few of those butterflies that should make an appearance any day now. I’ve also been trying to get a good shot of the Scott’s Oriole that’s returned and I’ve been hearing and seeing for most of the last week. This is the best I’ve managed so far.

Scott’s Oriole

Another bird that fooled me by twittering away while hiding in a cholla right next to me eventually popped up for his portrait, a Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

On Thursday, our survey between Capulin Spring and Balsam Glade for the New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network turned up several first of the season species and a good number of species and individuals, including Field Crescent

Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella)

and Silvery Blue.

Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus)

A quick trip this morning to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area wasn’t very productive, but did turn up a bird I’ve been trying to get a decent photo of for some time (and served as our Birdathon team name) – a Verdin.

Verdin
Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Flowers, Photographs | 8 Comments

Owl Babies!

Bit of a gray and occasionally wet (always welcome around here!) day today , and seems a good time for another blog update. It’s that time of year again and the baby Great Horned Owls are starting to appear all over town. Things are blooming and greening up everywhere and slowly warming up, bringing out a few new butterflies for the year just about every time I look.

There are at least two owl nests near the river reported on eBird that I haven’t yet found despite looking pretty carefully, and one that I’d been looking for and finally spotted near Bosque School pretty much the same day it appeared on eBird.

Great Horned Owl

While searching the east side of the Rio Grande near Central Avenue for those other two nests, I did get a nice shot of an Eastern Bluebird.

Eastern Bluebird

I’ve yet to see any little ones at the nest near Dixon Road in Corrales, although friends have occasionally seen two peeking out of their cavity and the female seems to have moved to another tree. And I keep expecting to spot little ones near the Rio Grande Nature Center, but have only spotted the female still sitting on that nest. Friends have also seen at least one little one at the Atrisco Bosque nest, but I haven’t been back recently and the nest itself is rather high in a tree.

There was a report of a Great Horned Owl from City Place more than a month ago, where they’ve nested regularly over the last several years, but I hadn’t spotted them during one or two cursory visits. So it was a surprise on April 14 to see a fairly mature little one ogling me next to its mother quite low in an evergreen, with another little one higher up in the tree.

Great Horned Owl

Even more surprising was not seeing any of them in that tree on a return visit four days later. Looking around the neighborhood I spotted a woman pointing her camera up a tree further down the block and figured that’s where the owls must have gone. Indeed, she readily pointed out two of them hanging out together,

Great Horned Owl

and a third little one a little further away in the same tree and the mother a few trees away. The woman had quite a (sad) story to tell as she seems to have been following their progress for quite some time. It seems the female owl lost an eye awhile ago, and just the week before she’d come across the male, lying dead in the grass. The young ones seem to be getting fed okay, however, and should be able to go off on their own soon.

Later that same day, I got a text from friends about a Long-eared Owl apparently spending the afternoon in the Community Garden at Los Poblanos Open Space. That’s a species I’ve never seen in the wild and have been wanting to see for years. Dropped everything and headed right over; sure enough several other birders were there who pointed it out sitting quietly at about eye level.

Long-eared Owl

We kept a good distance away to avoid spooking the bird, and I didn’t stay long since other birders were on their way for a look. At some point, apparently someone decided they just had to get closer causing the bird to fly just a short distance away and a little higher in a tree rather than vanishing into the distance. Those who showed up later in the afternoon were rewarded with excellent photos.

On the way home from that event, I detoured by the nest near Calabacillas Arroyo. I’d suspected on April 10 with Mom sitting high up in the cavity there might be one or more little ones soon. A friend confirmed seeing one there later that evening, but I still hadn’t seen it. Getting there a little later in the day must’ve been the secret, and here’s who I saw that afternoon (4/18).

Great Horned Owl

I didn’t make it back to that nest until yesterday (4/27), and after at first being disappointed at not seeing anyone in the cavity was somewhat surprised to note that one of the little ones had climbed to the top of the snag and, like always, was busy keeping an eye on me.

Great Horned Owl

Even more entertaining was backing up a little and from a different perspective realizing that there were two of those little guys.

Great Horned Owl

So that’s the owl story for this posting. A couple of other birds since my last update include this Black-crowned Night-Heron from the rookery just south of Bridge Blvd near the river,

Black-crowned Night-Heron

and a Snowy Egret fooling around in the Bosque School pond.

Snowy Egret

Last weekend while out looking for butterflies with Rebecca at The Box and Water Canyon a Red-naped Sapsucker showed up at quite close range. (Acorn Woodpeckers were also around, but stayed farther away.)

Red-naped Sapsucker

Fairly common to see by now in Embudito Canyon are two butterflies that we got to add during our surveys for the New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network, the Two-tailed Swallowtail

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

and the Short-tailed Skipper.

Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa dorus)

Our trip to The Box was quite productive in turning up a few Common Sootywings, two Golden-headed Scallopwings (which turned out to be a Socorro County record for Rebecca!), and a Common Streaky-Skipper.

Common Streaky-Skipper (Celotes nessus)

Onward to Water Canyon where we’d see a large number of Sonoran Metalmarks

Sonoran Metalmark (Apodemia mejicanus)

and a single Thicket Hairstreak.

Thicket Hairstreak (Callophrys spinetorum)

We’d add a few more species once we got into the canyon proper, including the first Great Purple Hairstreak for the year, all in all a pretty good butterfly day.

Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Critters, Photographs | 6 Comments

Better and Better

New birds and butterflies for the year on just about every outing recently, weather’s warming up, and things are greening up for Spring. Finally got my first Pfizer shot, too, so this year just gets better and better every day. Note that it seems WordPress has modified their editor which is new to me. Since starting this blog I’ve always used their “Classic” editor and was able to modify the underlying HTML if needed and this post will be my first test of the new editor.

Embudito Canyon is probably my most visited spot since it’s close to home and good for both birds and butterflies. Several rock formations in the canyon regularly catch my eye, but this is the only one I’ve photographed (still practicing with my new Sony RX-10iv camera). It’s rather large, but doubtful it was carved by anything but the forces of Nature.

Embudito Formation

Later that afternoon, an email from a friend described a Western Screech-Owl seen in a cavity in the Corrales bosque. Most unusual was his photo of not one, but two, owls in the same cavity, so I headed down there a short while later to take a look. I soon found the cavity following his excellent directions, but as you’ll note from the following picture such specific directions were quite helpful.

Western Screech-Owl Cavity

Here’s a closer view of the owl.

Western Screech-Owl

The next day, Rebecca and I did the Atrisco Bosque trail to show her the Great Horned Owls I mentioned in my last post and to explore the area a bit more. The female was still in the nest high in the trees, and the male was close to where he was first seen but not as out in the open as the first time.

Great Horned Owl

A couple of days later was my first visit in years on the opposite (east) side of the Rio Grande from the Atrisco Bosque trail. Since my last visit a very nice trail has been constructed along the river that was a delight to walk and I’m sure to return more frequently. Just at the start, a bird was regularly repeating a song that I wasn’t familiar with. Turned out to be a Northern Flicker of all things.

Northern Flicker

Later, I’d see several Snowy Egrets flying together downriver, the first of that species I’d seen this year. And then moments later, I came upon three of them on a small sand bank close to the trail. This photo shows two of them with a female Mallard there on the left.

Snowy Egret

Off to the Tingley bosque ponds next, in an old nest that a few years ago was used by a Great Horned Owl I noticed was again occupied. Given the time of year, I assumed it was most likely an owl again, but the tail (and a nearby male drawing my attention) confirmed it to be a Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawk

A little later high in a cottonwood by the northern pond was this Osprey.

Osprey

Another visit to Embudito the next day gave me a good look at the Ladder-backed Woodpecker seen working on a nest cavity for the last couple of weeks.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

While I watched from a fair distance away, he came out of the hole and worked his way to the top of the (dead) tree to take a look around.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

A few days later, I went back to the Corrales bosque to first find that the Western Screech-Owl was still present, and then to check on the progress of the nesting Great Horned Owl in generally the same area. It had been more than a month since they’d started nesting and I hadn’t been there very often since the female was usually hidden deep in the cavity. This time, however, you could just see the top of her head as she peeked out at me.

Great Horned Owl

The male was also visible, but had moved to a different tree than I’d usually seen him in earlier this year.

Great Horned Owl

Early this week, at Three Gun Spring I met up with some folks from Colorado who’d asked if I’d help them find a Sandia Hairstreak. Never a sure thing, it was a relief to spot one at almost the first Texas Beargrass we found, and then to see at least a dozen more as we made our way up the trail.

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

We’d later see a few Southwestern Orangetips and five Spring Whites, my first of the year for the latter.

Spring White (Pontia sisymbrii)

Another surprise came a few days later, when Rebecca and I were checking out the trail to Bill Spring. This time it was the first Thicket Hairstreak for the year, a species that didn’t seem too common the last several years and one that I’ve been wanting a better photo. Seems pretty early in the year to be seeing one, too, but I was quite satisfied with the photo.

Thicket Hairstreak (Callophrys spinetorum)

We’d also been checking out the area between Balsam Glade and Capulin Springs for butterfly surveys later in the year, when Rebecca spotted a pair of Band-tailed Pigeons pretty far away. A bird that (at least for me) usually flies off the instant it notices people, it was good to get a reasonable look at them.

Band-tailed Pigeon

This morning, a quick stop to check in on the Great Horned Owl nesting near Calabacillas Arroyo for the first time in a month found the female sitting up and more visible than a month ago, a possible sign that her little ones have hatched and are starting to grow.

Great Horned Owl

Then without any real expectations of finding one, I walked around Boca Negra Canyon where owls had nested a couple years ago on a ledge on the basaltic cliffs. Didn’t find any owls, but had fun watching a couple of Greater Roadrunners thinking about starting a family and caught one of them in flight off the top of the cliff with a stick to add to the nest site.

Greater Roadrunner
Posted in Birding, Butterfly, Photographs | 4 Comments