My last post had a few pictures of the first of the butterflies of the season. Well, this week things really got going in the butterfly world, with perfect weather and almost a dozen species seen, including two that were new for me. On Monday, Rebecca and I headed out to Domingo Baca and then to Embudito Canyon in the hunt for the New Mexico State Butterfly, the Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi) that I’d seen briefly the week before. Although still not common that day, we did see one or two in both places.
As the week progressed, their numbers would grow and we’d start seeing more than one on a single host plant (Texas beargrass), and as far south along the foothills as the Copper Open Space. Earlier, they’d fly off at the least disturbance, but by the end of the week calmed down so much that I got this picture of one sunning itself on my friend Matt’s finger.
On Monday, we were also surprised to see an Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon) this early in the year, but few butterflies escape Rebecca’s sharp eyes.
Tuesday, I checked out a few different spots to see if it seemed it would be worth our while later in the week to search a little harder. The Copper Open Space was busy with Sandia Hairstreaks and a couple of other species; Hondo Canyon was still in the clutches of winter, but surprised me with a Hoary Comma along with the more expected Mourning Cloaks; and Tijeras Ranger Station was a little breezy but turned up a single Painted Lady. Since we hadn’t gone far up the canyon at Embudito the day before, I decided to go back and see if anything was happening at the head of the canyon where a small stream appears for a short distance. That turned out to be a good idea, as the water had gotten the attention of a Hoary Comma, Common Checkered-Skipper, Painted Lady, Mourning Cloaks, and a tattered Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata), few of which were expected this early in the year.
Rebecca and I headed out the next day on the first of three days of serious butterfly hunting. Kicked it off with a visit to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area in Belen, which was quite productive last summer, but still a little too early for this year. We did get some really nice views, however, of a female Northern Harrier cruising the fields.
And for those keeping score on my owl quest, we got another one, the first Burrowing Owl for the year, in its usual spot across from the Belen Marsh, which also treated us to a pair of Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a very vocal Marsh Wren.
Not a great picture, but this guy spooked pretty easily. Judy Liddell tells me she got a pair at Sandia Casino this week and thinks we know where the Great Horned Owl is nesting at Albuquerque Academy. Unfortunately, the fabulous weather we had all last week has changed to blustery wind with rumors of a winter storm coming, but as soon as things get back to normal, I’ll be heading out to get pictures of them. Leaving Whitfield, we headed to the Green House Bistro in Los Lunas for lunch, recalling the grounds there were pretty good for butterflies last summer, too. Pretty quiet there at the start, too, with one or two Clouded Sulphurs and Painted Ladies flying around, but soon we noticed that a Globe Willow was greening up and proved quite attractive to the latter. This is a picture of a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), one of maybe five in the tree at the same time.
The next day, Thursday, we started at Copper Open Space where I’d seen quite a few Sandia Hairstreaks two days earlier and where Rebecca’d seen them last year. We did get a couple, but it was otherwise pretty quiet butterfly-wise. It was a treat, however, to see a pair of Cactus Wrens busy refurbishing a nest with nesting material they’d bring back from wherever they could find some.
(If you click on the picture to zoom in, you’ll see them trading some of the material before one of the pair would head into the nest.)
I’d had such good butterflies at the water source in Embudito earlier in the week, we headed back there, and were to find some good butterflies, including those two ‘lifers’ for me and one for Rebecca. The one that turned out to be new for both of us was a Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis Brizo) that sat quite patiently for its portrait.
We’d also see the Checkered-Skipper again, and another Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis).
There were an incredible number of those Litocala moths (Litocala sexsignata) in the canyon, apparently attracted to the Blue Willows that were budding out, and we’d see plenty of them over the next few days.
About halfway up the cliff, a Trumpet Gooseberry had already started to bloom, and we’d see my second new species of the day, a Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis thoosa), feeding on it for at least twenty minutes. I’d missed them last year, but really wanted to see it after seeing pictures of it in the book. We’d be back again the next day hoping to get a better picture.
On Friday, we started out in the East Mountains, checking out Otero Canyon, San Antonito Open Space, and Doc Long. The east side of the Sandias is a bit cooler and wetter than the west side, so it was just a bit early for butterflies, but we did get treated to some close views of Red Crossbills, which are usually only seen way up at the top of tall ponderosa pine trees.
Then it was back to Embudito for another attempt at a good picture of those Orangetips. Sure enough, it came back to the gooseberry, so I climbed up the cliff for a better picture, but on that day, it would only stop briefly before disappearing in the distance. After sitting up there for at least a half hour, I did finally get a little better picture, but still wasn’t very satisfied.
Saturday, Matt and I went back there since he hadn’t seen the Sandia Hairstreak yet this year, and did indeed spot a few more than we had earlier in the week, but the real treat was catching the female Orangetip snoozing on the ground, and finally getting a decent picture of it.
Not quite in focus, this is the same individual showing the view from the top.
For comparison, here’s a picture of the male taken the day before. The key difference is the forewing of the male has a black edge with the red-orange patch, while the female has that lighter band between the black edge and orange patch.
A quite successful week; now if this wind and rain/snow would just get it over with, I can get back out there and see what else might be going on.