This week produced some really good birds and butterflies on visits to some favorite local spots; a longer range trip with the Thursday Birders to Manzano Pond, Quarai National Monument, and a follow-up return visit to Priest Canyon in the southern Manzanos; and an all-day trip to Water Canyon and the Box near Socorro as part of a bird count for the International Migratory Bird Day.
Early in the week, Embudito Canyon turned up a couple of birds that have shown up recently, including a Rufous-crowned Sparrow
and the often heard but rarely seen Black-chinned Sparrow.
Butterflies were in short supply that day, but did turn up a Viereck’s Skipper for the first time this year.
On Thursday, a rather large group of birders formed a caravan and headed out first to Manzano Pond, which has in the past been good for migrating birds about this time of year. Although migration seems to be a little slow this year, we would see some pretty good birds there that morning . One of the first we’d spot were several Red-naped Sapsuckers, one of which was nesting in a tree cavity on the far side of the pond and a couple of others playing hide-and-seek in a dense tree. Eventually, however, they would pop out in the open long enough to be photographed.
Another interesting sighting that morning was a small flock of Spotted Sandpipers that would take to the air every now and then to fly across the pond.
After spending an hour or so slowly circling the pond and tallying a few more species, the group headed off to Quarai, another good spot this time of year.
Didn’t manage to see the Rose-breasted Grosbeak that some in the group got, but did enjoy a moment with ‘Blinky’, the lost little Great Horned Owl that fell out of its nest in the ruins recently.
Apparently, there’s no way to get it back in the nest but the parents are still keeping an eye on it and feeding it. Although it does get up and move around some, the rangers have placed some of those fluorescent orange traffic cones around it to keep visitors from approaching too closely.
Although the point of our trip that day was birding, I got rather distracted by the butterflies that were present in the area. New for the season were the Fulvia Checkerspot that Rebecca was the first to spot,
and the Field Crescent, shown here sharing a chokecherry feast with a Variegated Fritillary.
Rarely have I seen more than a single butterfly on the same flower, but this week it would happen a number of times. At Quarai, for example, there also would be a Fulvia Checkerspot sharing Perky Sue flowers with a Juniper Hairstreak.
At the end of the morning, most of the group headed for home, while Rebecca and I made our way to Priest Canyon for some more butterflies. Sure enough, we’d soon see a pair of Field Crescents working on the same type of wildflower.
Why they are significantly different in size is unclear, but they are known to vary in size and markings. We’d also see a Northern Cloudywing for the first time this year and what we’re hoping will be verified as a Bronze Roadside-Skipper, which would be a new butterfly for both of us. A bit of a surprise was running into a large gopher snake on the side of the road, patiently waiting for a snack to pass by.
(If you zoom in on the picture, you’ll see it flicking its tongue as it scans for food.)
Friday, we’d take a quick trip to Hondo Canyon in the Sandias to see if any new butterflies had appeared there now that the chokecherry was in bloom. On the drive up and then hike in, we’d spot an unusual number of Painted Lady butterflies that must’ve recently begun flying.
We’ve been seeing them since mid-March, but after a few weeks when they seemed a little scarce, it was surprising to see such large numbers of them.
The morning would also produce our first Silver-spotted Skipper, Western Tailed-Blue, and Python Skipper for the year. As we were heading back to the car, it struck me as odd that we hadn’t seen any hairstreaks (yet) that morning. So, of course, not two minutes later, we’d spot several Juniper Hairstreaks including this group of three working the same wildflower.
It has been interesting to note the different plants that attract butterflies as the season progresses. Early on, the Texas beargrass was the place to see Sandia Hairstreaks, followed by the Trumpet Gooseberry, dandelions, desert primrose, verbena, and various willows for other butterflies. As those began to fade, the Fendlerbush and chokecherry would start to bloom, and now these Perky Sues, daisies, and thistle seem to be attracting butterflies, with milkweed just starting up.
Meeting up just before sunrise on Saturday, Rebecca, Cheryl, and I would spend the day participating in the Socorro County Bird Count for International Migratory Bird Day. Our assignment for the day was the Socorro Box, Water Canyon, and the North Fork Canyon, and would yield 48 species and 204 individual birds by the end of the day. At the Socorro Box, we’d get nice looks at a Canyon Wren, White-throated Swifts, Violet-Green Swallows, and this Bullock’s Oriole, a bird I’d seen several times in the last week or so but never close enough for a picture.
Driving on to Water Canyon, we were a little surprised not to see any of the hawks or meadowlarks that we’d seen there just a few weeks earlier, but did definitively identify a couple of Chihuahuan Ravens, seeing for the first time their usually hidden white throat patch. I do regret not getting that picture or one of the amazing sight of a small herd of pronghorn chasing a coyote, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
Unlike a lot of birds that flit around and get your attention, vireos tend to sit motionless high up in trees calling loudly but frustratingly difficult to spot. We were pretty lucky then getting such good looks first at a Plumbeous Vireo,
and minutes later, a Warbling Vireo.
While we kept an ear out all day for the Red-eyed Vireo that was being seen there recently, we were unsuccessful in finding it. Bird of the day for all of us, however, was having a Red-faced Warbler serenading us as we ate lunch under the ponderosas near the Culvert 21 marker.
A fabulously colorful bird, I’d only seen it years ago in the Silver City area but not this far north despite hearing it on my last several visits to Water Canyon.
After almost 8 hours of counting birds in our assigned area, we wrapped it up and headed back to Albuquerque. On the way home, we made a stop at the Belen Marsh, which was quite lively with such birds as the resident Burrowing Owl, spinning Wilson’s Phalaropes, Cinnamon Teal and Ruddy Ducks, and quite a few White-faced Ibis, American Avocets,
and Black-necked Stilts.
Oddly, each time I post an update to this blog, it’s like starting over and I wonder if I’ll ever get any more good pictures to use for the next update. But so far that has not turned out to be a problem at all and I just can’t wait to see what the coming week will bring.