It’s been a couple of weeks now since that excellent trip to Panama and time to check in on late summer developments around here since I was gone. Way back on August 2, the Audubon Thursday Birder group headed up to Sandia Crest where we got to see an unusual White-winged Crossbill that had been reported in with a large flock of Red Crossbills. The guys behind the barbed wire fence surrounding the communications towers must have wondered what our rather large group was doing pressed up against the fence with their binoculars, cameras and spotting scopes, but that’s where the bird chose to hang out. No good pictures, unfortunately, but later that morning I did get one of this immature Kinglet.
I’m guessing it’s a Golden-crowned Kinglet, since we’d seen adults in the area on a recent visit and it lacked the eye-ring of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet we usually see at lower elevations.
Last summer, down at the 8000′ level I got a picture of a butterfly called a Spalding’s Blue that turned out to be a new record for Bernalillo County, and we’d spent quite a bit of time searching the area since for its host plant, red-root buckwheat. My friend Matt eventually spotted some this spring in an old roadbed above the meadow where we’d originally seen the butterfly. Since then, we’ve been regularly stopping by in the hopes of confirming that sighting and that day lucked out seeing several individuals including this one nectaring on that buckwheat.
Luck was with us that day as we haven’t seen it again on a couple of subsequent visits. Also hanging out there at 8000′ that day was a Hoary Comma attempting to blend in with the scenery.
Bright orange and black when they open their wings, the underside is quite cryptic and they are named for that small white ‘comma’ on the hindwing. Although they are quite good at blending into the background, it’s hard to beat the underwing moth (we’d see a few days later) at being the camouflage expert.
Yep, that’s it there just right of center, and these guys too flash a brillant red when in flight but just disappear when they park it on a tree.
With butterflies surprisingly hidden that day, Rebecca and I spent some time at ‘The Log’ at Capulin Spring seeing what birds were around. That spot is pretty well-known among birders here as an amazingly attractive spot for birds of all kinds to stop by for a quick drink or a bath in the shallow water in a hollowed out log. Among the birds that stopped by while we were there was this Red Crossbill
and a Green-tailed Towhee.
We also had a Pine Siskin, Mountain Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and even a Band-tailed Pigeon stop by. Checking in to see what all the excitement was about was this chipmunk, probably a Least Chipmunk, although the Colorado Chipmunk is also seen here.
This past weekend it was off to Silver City for a visit with our butterflying friend Elaine Halbedel, who once again took Rebecca and I out to some of her favorite spots and helped us locate several new ‘lifers’ (in particular, the Red-spotted Purple) and a couple of firsts for the year. The Golden-headed Scallopwing was a nice find that I’d only seen once before last summer in this same general area.
And although we’ve seen quite a few this year, you can’t see enough of the colorful Arizona Sisters. Had to rush this picture a little as I was flat on the ground in the middle of the road with a big pickup headed my way.
Watching us sleepily from a nearby perch as we headed up the creek at Railroad Canyon was this Rufous Hummingbird,
who just about dozed off sitting there, but eventually roused itself and flew off.
Elaine was the first to spot this interesting damselfly at Mangas Springs.
Most of our damselflies are bright blue, so it’s pretty unusual to see one this color, and I think it might be an immature female Painted Damsel. Another interesting sight that weekend was when Rebecca spotted what appeared to be an unusually large Orange Sulphur butterfly flying around, which would turn out to be a mating pair.
How they manage to mate and fly simultaneously is beyond me, but we’d see a similar pair of flying Monarchs later in the trip.
After two excellent days in the Silver City area with Elaine, we headed for home, stopping first at Paseo del Rio Campground in Truth or Consequences and then Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area in Belen. Whitfield was great for Bordered Patch and several Monarchs, but we hit the jackpot at Paseo. Large stands of poison milkweed at Paseo del Rio attracted all kinds of butterflies and other insects, including a large number of the rather large tarantula hawk wasps.
You can get a sense of how big these guys are by looking at the next couple of butterfly pictures on the same flowers.
A Google search tells me the Western Pygmy-Blue is the smallest butterfly in the world, but Wikipedia backs off that claim a little to say it’s one of the smallest in the world, but certainly the smallest in North America. These guys really are tiny but have some extraordinary markings, and there were plenty of them checking out the milkweed.
Others joining in the feast included the Orange Skipperling
and lots of Variegated Fritillaries, Queens, and several other Blues. Rebecca would also spot a couple of Hackberry Emperors in the nearby trees, the first of this species I’ve seen in New Mexico.
A couple of other cool critters were also about including this tiny lizard with a bright black and white striped tail
and a colorful dragonfly preening from its favorite perch.
Although I continue to be amazed by the astonishing variety and diversity of living things in the Neotropics on those rare occasions when I get to visit, there is certainly no shortage of fascinating life right here at home.