Early Fall Surprises

Last week’s Thursday Birder trip went first to Turtle Bay on the New Mexico Tech campus, where a few of us got a look at a Scarlet Tanager, which is a fairly rare bird for this area.  Afterward, we spent several hours at the Bosque del Apache NWR, which was fairly quiet for birds given the season and drought-related delays in filling the seasonal ponds.  After lunch, despite the few birds we’d seen, we decided to do one more pass on the Marsh Loop and did get some pretty good pictures of several cooperative birds, including this Neotropic Cormorant perched to catch some sun on a snag close to the boardwalk,

Neotropic Cormorant

Neotropic Cormorant

a Great Blue Heron hiding under the boardwalk that took off as we walked up,

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

and a fly-by of a number of White-faced Ibis.

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis

Rumors that the aspen were in full autumn color up around Santa Fe led me to head up to Sandia Crest over the weekend to see if Fall had come to the Sandias, too.  And, indeed, even though there’d been no publicity and it’s hard to tell from the base of the mountain, as you got above about 8500′, the colors were reaching their peak with the aspens glowing gold and asters and other wildflowers carpeting the ground.

Aspen on the Crest Trail

Aspen on the Crest Trail

On the way back down the mountain, I decided to stop by Cienega Canyon to see if there were any butterflies around (and was to repeat that visit several days later).  Surprisingly, the sunflowers that had dominated the meadow several weeks earlier had been replaced by several aster species blanketing the entire meadow.  And, yes, although butterfly sightings had been winding down as Fall approaches, there were several Painted Lady, West Coast Lady, Hoary Comma, and (new for me), an Orange Sulfur, busy taking advantage of the bounty.

Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulfur

With the help of my friends, Matt and Rebecca, I was surprised to realize this week that so far this year, my list of photographed butterflies is up to 82 species in New Mexico, including two county records (a Spalding’s Blue in Bernalillo County on August 19 and a Cloudless Sulphur in Sandoval County on September 1 ).  Pretty amazing to me, considering that before April of this year, any butterfly pictures I’d taken were simply labeled ‘butterfly’ with no idea of what species they might be.

Here’s an interesting picture of one of the Hoary Commas, with a nearby wasp heading right for the camera.

Hoary Comma

Hoary Comma

On Sunday, I wandered back to Embudito Canyon near my house, which has been surprisingly good for both birds and butterflies over the last month or so.  A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker posed for a picture that afternoon.  This guy is usually around near the mouth of the canyon but seems to be the only one there.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

This trip, the butterflies included a Common Checkered-Skipper, Western Pygmy-Blue, some kind of Swallowtail, and a couple of Arizona Sisters.

Arizona Sister

Arizona Sister

Monday, Rebecca and I went back to Cienega Canyon, and while we didn’t see the Hoary Commas again, we did get some good looks at the Lady Butterflies, including the Painted Lady,

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

and the West Coast Lady.

West Coast Lady

West Coast Lady

Autumn is certainly well underway, but there are still plenty of surprises out there for those who take the time to look.

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About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
This entry was posted in Birding, Butterfly, Flowers, Photographs. Bookmark the permalink.

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