Well into the first week of autumn it seems butterfly activity is winding down for the year and bird migration is just getting started, so things continue to be a little slow in some of my usual haunts lately. Since the summer seems to have slipped by without my having gotten in a visit to the PNM Butterfly Pavilion at the Albuquerque Botanic Gardens, I went there early in the week to see what might still be going on. Although late in the season and with the facility closing soon, there were still quite a few species present that seem a bit less wary than those outside allowing for some good pictures. This is one of the two species of Giant Owl-Butterflies there, which I think has the latin name Caligo idomeneus.
Another one I’ve seen in the wild in South Texas before is the Mexican Bluewing,
and another one I haven’t seen in the wild but also can be seen in South Texas, the Crimson Patch.
They have several more exotic species from the tropics of Southeast Asia and South America as well, including the Golden Birdwing,
and Zebra Heliconian.
Outside the Pavilion there were a few other butterflies about along with some cool garden spiders and other insects and quite a few Wood Ducks, with the males acting rather aggressively toward one another. This one was taking a break from the action.
Also scurrying around the grounds that morning were quite a few small fence lizards, typically darting from one hiding place to another.
Wednesday, my friend Rebecca and I hit the road on a loop tour to look for some butterflies, stopping first at the Tijeras Ranger Station, then heading into the southern Manzanos to Red Canyon and Pine Shadow Spring, before a final stop at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area in Belen. The day started off a little cool and cloudy so we didn’t see much until around noon at Pine Shadow Spring, although we made a note to return to the Red Canyon Campground in the future where there were quite a few wildflowers in bloom. We did see about eight species at Pine Shadow Spring including a Weidemeyer’s Admiral, which was a little surprising to see this late in the year (our most recent one was in mid-July).
More of a surprise was the first critter we saw as we started out at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area – a rather large and apparently well-fed gopher snake. Blocking our path through the barbed wire fence for about 5 minutes, it eventually roused itself and headed away to some nearby shade allowing us to proceed.
With lots of wildflowers in bloom, we were able to see plenty of butterflies of thirteen different species including a number of Common Buckeyes, which I have only occasionally seen in the past.
We again saw a couple of Monarchs which we’ll report to those tracking their migration. This one is obviously struggling to complete the trip and must have had a few traumatic experiences along the way.
Another interesting sighting was this large caterpillar, but despite searching pretty diligently online, I still don’t know what species it might be.
We saw plenty of grasshoppers and dragonflies at Whitfield, including this Variegated Meadowhawk.
Yesterday, the Audubon Thursday Birder group headed out to a new location on the east side of Cochiti Lake at Tetilla Peak Recreation Area. This is a surprisingly scenic location at this time of year with views up the Rio Grande toward Los Alamos and points north.
The view will only get better in the next few weeks as the purple asters start blooming and the cottonwoods finish changing to gold. We spotted nearly 40 bird species that morning, including several grebes (Eared, Pied-billed, and Western), a flyover by a single immature Franklin’s Gull,
and on the way out heading for home an Osprey (I’ve usually only seen in spring) perched in a distant tree.