Still adjusting to the change in seasons around here, it’s been a little difficult lately finding much to photograph. But just when you’re about ready to give it up, new things start appearing that you just don’t see every day and some that you’ve never seen before. And this was one of those weeks where that happened to me several times.
Things were very quiet in Embudito Canyon last Sunday, with very few birds, bugs, lizards, or anything else moving about, and our usual Fall display of purple asters and golden chamisa not yet kicked in. But just as I was heading back to the car, I happened to look up and see this large and growing formation of Turkey Vultures coming together before their migration gets underway.
Usually, one sees at most ten or fifteen of these guys catching the thermals together, but if you zoom in on this picture, you’ll see there are at least 70 in this crowd. It started with fifteen or so and then all the others started showing up with the show lasting maybe five minutes before they all started drifting apart and away.
Having heard about an area called Bluewater Gorge that has been good for birds and butterflies recently, on Monday we decided to check it out. Certainly worth a return visit in the future, this area is the outflow of a creek starting at Bluewater Lake that winds through a narrow canyon for several miles. Rather isolated, the end of the canyon has several beaver ponds and great variety of different plants. Given the habitat, it wasn’t too surprising to see a number of dragonflies and damselflies cruising around, but it was a treat to realize some of the damselflies were spreadwings, of which I’d never seen any before. Even better, was to catch a pair of them mating.
Later, we went on to Bluewater Lake itself and spotted this pair of robber flies also engaged in such behavior.
Once again a surprise, since it’s not that often we see these huge flies around here, let alone mated together.
Fall is clearly getting underway this week with those asters and chamisa going off and the aspens and cottonwoods taking on their autumn color. On several outings this week, I’ve noticed the White-crowned Sparrows and Western Bluebirds have now returned and sightings of Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, and Greater Roadrunners are picking up. Here’s a picture of one of those roadrunners attempting to hide in a tree at Los Poblanos Open Space.
Thursday, the Audubon Thursday Birder group made its annual outing to Fourth of July Campground in the Manzanos near Tajique. While we didn’t expect there would be many birds around, it’s one of the few places in the region where maple trees grow and put on an autumn show. One of the birds we saw that morning was the usually secretive Hermit Thrush backlit by some of those red maple leaves.
In the category of things you just don’t see every day was this Greater Short-horned Lizard, a small little guy that blended in almost perfectly with the background.
On the drive back out from the campground, we also were surprised to find a good variety of butterflies for this late in the season including this Mylitta Crescent, all having a great time in a damp muddy area by the side of the road.
Yesterday, without very high expectations of seeing many butterflies or birds because of a cold front that blew in the night before, Rebecca and I poked around the Alameda Open Space and Romero Road in Corrales. A most unusual sighting along the Alameda Drain was this cool caterpillar munching away on an aster.
We had high hopes it might be that of some kind of interesting butterfly, but after searching the internet decided it’s probably just another moth. We also saw a surprising number of butterfly species in Corrales later that morning, most nectaring on some kind of small white daisy, including a Melissa Blue, which usually perches with its wings closed, but every now and then you get a look at the colorful top.
Now, even though I’d just seen my very first spreadwing damselfly earlier in the week at Bluewater Gorge, sure enough there were a few flying around that morning in Corrales. I don’t know if it’s just a little different habitat than where I’ve usually been looking or that I haven’t been paying enough attention since it seems they do fly most of the year, but I’ll certainly be watching out for them in the future.
Not only that, but finally in the category of something you don’t see every day were several Rubyspot Damselflies.
Although I’ve seen a few in the past in places like Big Bend NP and Clovis, NM, this was a first for me around town and a highlight of the past week. Of the three species we get in New Mexico, most likely this guy is either an American (H. americanus) or Canyon (H. vulnerata) Rubyspot, but they’re too similar for me to decide for sure.