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,
as is the last from Pine Flat on September 14.
That morning at Whitfield turned up a couple of other good butterflies, including a Dotted Roadside-Skipper (a species we’d seen there before),
and a Question Mark, the first I’d seen anywhere this year and the first we’ve ever seen at Whitfield.
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.
The male is the orange guy on top, and here’s a photo of the female hiding out in the marshy grass.
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.
Another great find that morning, also spotted by Rebecca, was an Arachne Checkerspot, another first for my New Mexico list.
While in Reserve, we’d see and hear several Acorn Woodpeckers in the neighborhood; here’s a photo of one of them.
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,
and a grasshopper.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One last fun sighting on the road that day was this Short-horned Lizard, probably the first I’ve seen this year.