More Bears Than Butterflies

In almost 30 years in Albuquerque, I’d never seen one of our resident black bears until July 2 when we startled one near Doc Long Picnic Area while out looking for butterflies.  That time, we both moved away from each other before getting any chance to take a picture.  This past week, Rebecca, Matt, and I went back to our little buckwheat patch near the 8000′ marker again in search of those Spalding’s Blue caterpillars (last week’s pictures did indeed turn out to be geometrid moths after all, not our butterfly).  Just as we got out of the car, another bear across the road took off down the hill, so we proceeded up the hill to the buckwheat and looked unsuccessfully for the caterpillars.  On our way back to the car, however, a substantial ‘WOOF!’ got our attention and turned out to be a black bear and cub browsing acorns pretty dang close to the trail.  Here’s the picture of the mama bear before once again we made ourselves look big, made a lot of noise, and headed with due haste back to the car.

Black Bear

Not too many butterflies about this week anywhere we went, although we did see a couple of Arizona Sisters, a Gray Hairstreak, and a few Field Crescents and West Coast Ladies.  Since the butterflies weren’t flying, we spent some time at Capulin Spring, where a spring trickles into a hollowed-out log and draws in an amazing variety of birds.  In each of the several visits we’ve made recently, there has been at least one new species and great looks at a number of birds that aren’t usually seen at such close range.  One day it was a Townsend’s Warbler, Band-tailed Pigeon, and an Evening Grosbeak.

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak

A couple days later, Wilson’s and Virginia’s Warblers, and a Cordilleran Flycatcher.

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Today, the Band-tailed Pigeons were about again, a Northern Flicker stopped by, as did an immature Steller’s Jay

Steller's Jay

Steller’s Jay

and always there have been a few Red-breasted Nuthatches bopping around.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Last Thursday, the Audubon Thursday Birder group spent a pleasant morning at Tingley Ponds.  A little quiet for birding, but I did get a pretty nice picture of a Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

A number of dragonflies were also hanging out by the ponds that morning including this female Black Saddlebags.

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)

Hiding in a rather short olive tree by the bank was this cool squirrel, probably wondering how he got himself in this circumstance surrounded by about 30 birders peering in to see what he was doing in there.



Later in the week, I made a couple of visits to Rio Grande Nature Center to see what might be going on there since I hadn’t been in awhile.  On one visit, I met a woman and her nephew visiting from out of state to do some birding and told them about a few places that had been pretty good lately.  They actually called later that morning asking for better directions to the Mississippi Kite nest, but I haven’t heard if they had any luck finding the birds that day.  Pretty quiet at the Nature Center, too, but a couple of birds were around that posed nicely for their pictures, including a MacGillivray’s Warbler (the first I’ve gotten of this guy)


MacGillivray’s Warbler

a Blue Grosbeak,

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

and a Greater Roadrunner that made me chase it around a little bit before it found a place from where it agreed to have its picture taken.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

On most of those visits to Capulin Spring including one today, there have been several Red Crossbills dropping in for a quick bath and a drink. I’d wondered if all of them had bills that crossed in the same direction or not, but quickly put that question to rest with pictures of both lefties and righties.

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

Is this something genetic or something that just happens as the immature beak develops?  Are there any statistics on left/right percentages among these birds? Got me wondering how some of us turn out to be left-handed while the majority seems to favor being right-handed.  Do kids naturally develop a preference and how strong are the social mores that drive that choice?  I know it continues to surprise me on trips to Asia that I seem to be the only one in the room that uses chopsticks with my left hand (and am absolutely hopeless attempting to use them with my right hand). Could be interesting to dig into this some more.

Anyway, today’s trip had a couple of interesting surprises.  First was seeing a small flock of wild turkeys running around near the turnoff to Sulphur Canyon, a species I’ve seen regularly at Bosque del Apache but only once before last year in the Sandias.  The other was this guy –

Another Black Bear

Another Black Bear

who I first saw munching on some bush when I was heading up to Capulin Spring, and then again on the way back when he was standing in the road apparently checking for traffic .  So, four bears so far this summer and none in the previous nearly 30 years – it can’t be the bears, so it must be me finally getting a chance to get out there when there’s not so many people about – one more perk to this retirement gig!


About joeschelling

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

3 Responses to More Bears Than Butterflies

  1. Richard Knottenbelt says:

    Stunning! Thank you!

  2. Rebecca Gracey says:

    Those are great bear pictures, and your pictures of the left and right-crossing crossbills made a nice comparison.

  3. ttreacy says:

    Great story–great pics–thanks for sharing!

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