By the Numbers

Today’s date, 12/12/12, seems rather auspicious and prompted me to review some of the numbers for the past year.  Oddly, I just haven’t gotten out much lately to take pictures and find myself still hard at work identifying all those butterflies from the Ecuador trip in early November.  So far, that list is up to 237 species with a few more likely to be added as that task gets wrapped up.  For somebody who paid little attention to butterflies at all before 2011, it’s amazing to note my New Mexico list jumped from 84 species in 2011 to 122 for 2012.  That’s still just under 40% of the 321 species for the state, so there’s more work to be done next year.  Just for fun, in looking at the list for one of my local patches that turned up several new species this year, Embudito Canyon, I’ve photographed 46 species there with several more almost surely to be found.  To me, that seems a surprising diversity, considering that the British folks on our Ecuador trip tell me there are on the order of only 60 species in all of the United Kingdom.  With several butterfly focused tours to Arizona and California this year, my US count grew from 149 last year to 230 species this year.  Of course, the greatest diversity is in the neotropics, and on a 10 day trip to Panama in July we saw at least 121 species in addition to the several hundred from November’s two-week trip to Ecuador.  And, really, I’m not at all a serious  ‘lister’ who runs after every possible species that gets reported.

When it comes to birds, my other big interest, it looks like I’ve seen 254 species in New Mexico so far, just under half of the 538 on the official list.  My world list, based on trip lists from a number of trips to Central and South America and Asia since 1994 comes to just over 2000 species.

True, the past few weeks have found me slaving over the computer trying to finish up the job of working on my Ecuador pictures and getting them ready to post online, but I have managed to get outside a couple of days.  Shortly after returning from Ecuador on November 15, I looked around Embudito again but it seems while we were gone, as expected the butterfly season has pretty much run out for the year.  There were a couple of Canyon Towhees there to welcome me back, however.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Rebecca and I took a short trip down to Percha Dam State Park, Elephant Butte Lake, and the Bosque del Apache.  The weather was just about perfect and the cottonwoods still glowing with their autumn gold and we had a great time seeing some good birds, such as a Pyrrhuloxia, Phainopepla, a few high-flying American White Pelicans, and a couple of Belted Kingfishers.  We also got to see an interesting display of a mating pair of Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies skipping over the surface of a pond and likely depositing eggs on each skip, a behavior I’ve never seen before.

Variegated Meadowhawk

Variegated Meadowhawk

It would also turn out to present us with what appear to be our last butterflies for the year, a pair of mating Checkered Whites.

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

The Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

and Snow Geese

Snow Geese - Bosque del Apache

Snow Geese – Bosque del Apache

were arriving in large numbers and provided opportunity for some pretty good photographs.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

On November 29, the Audubon Thursday Birder trip headed down to Bernardo WMA where one of the highlights of the day was getting great views of the rather uncommon Rough-legged Hawk.

Rough-legged Hawk - Bernardo WMA

Rough-legged Hawk – Bernardo WMA

Just after lunch, we were also treated to a close fly-by of a Golden Eagle being harrassed for about ten minutes by a Common Raven.

Common Raven and Golden Eagle - Bernardo WMA

Common Raven and Golden Eagle – Bernardo WMA

This past week, it was my job to lead the group on a walk at Copper Open Space.  We ended up having a pretty good day seeing plenty of the Cactus Wrens that had eluded me on my earlier scouting trip and was a lifer for one of the participants, and seeing a reasonable variety of most of the other birds we’d expect to see there at this time of year.  Missing that day, however, was a very cooperative Red-tailed Hawk that I’d seen the day before waiting patiently on a power pole right next to the parking lot.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

I’m closing in on wrapping up those Ecuador pictures, and having seen my first Bald Eagle of the season last Saturday and several Christmas Bird Counts planned for the coming days expect to get back to my usual routine shortly and get out there and enjoy all those wonderful natural moments.


About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
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