Autumn, always my favorite season in New Mexico, is now close to reaching its peak, as the cottonwoods, aspen, and chamisa take on their golden glow accented by purple asters everywhere. The butterflies have started disappearing and the birds going through their seasonal change with the arrival of white-crowned sparrows and the sandhill cranes far overhead migrating south for the winter. This week’s Thursday Birder trip to the Alameda Open Space proved a delightful fall day, with the Rio Grande reflecting the changing colors.
A highlight of the morning was spotting a large flock of at least 50 American White Pelicans flying north and disappearing behind the trees before I could grab a picture. On the wall of the water treatment plant by the river perched a katydid, which was pretty unusual to see.
The day before, I’d gone to Los Poblanos Open Space, which has changed considerably in appearance over the last few weeks as summer has passed into Fall. The large numbers of sulphur butterflies had all but vanished and the hummingbirds (still present in the foothills) had moved on, but I did spot a tiny Western Pygmy-Blue butterfly that was just lit up by the sun displaying its jewel-like markings.
A walk in the nearby Montano Open Space turned up a porcupine snoozing in a cottonwood tree, unusual for me since I’ve only been able to spot them before in late winter after the leaves have fallen.
On Friday, Rebecca and I returned to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area in search of a few butterflies, and surprisingly found nearly ten species still out and about, including a Monarch, faded Melissa Blue, a Common Buckeye, Pearl Crescent, Western Pygmy-Blue, and a number of Clouded Sulphurs and Orange Sulphurs.
That trip also led to spotting several other interesting insects, including a male Striped Meadowhawk,
which we’d also seen the previous week at Randall Davey Nature Center. Another interesting bug was this cool looking Red-banded Blister Beetle,
which it turned out later we’d seen before on our visit back in August, and several types of grasshopper, including these large green ones.
This is probably a Green Bird Grasshopper (Schistocerca shoshone). Another good grasshopper we’ve been seeing lately is the Red-winged Grasshopper (Arphia pseudonietana), a dark brown sturdy-looking grasshopper that shows a bright red flash as it flies.
Over the weekend, I stopped by Embudito Canyon several times, in part hoping for some better pictures of the Ruby-crowned Kinglets I’d seen there last week. They were still there (and being harassed by a couple of rufous hummingbirds), but not much luck getting their picture; however, a Curve-billed Thrasher posed in the sun for me.
Another treat in Embudito was to see that the Cactus Wrens have definitely taken up residence in the canyon. I got several pictures of this one bringing nesting materials to the nest and then peeking out from inside.