This past week has been really good for both butterflies and for some good pictures of amazing hummingbirds. Most places seem to have greened up nicely with the onset of the summer monsoon rains, but the drought seems to have affected butterfly populations a great deal with the number of individuals and variety of species way down from last year. Nonetheless, we’ve been successful at spotting new species, fourteen new ones for New Mexico so far this year (and 4 just this week!), bringing my New Mexico total over the last three years to 138 of the 323 species recorded in the state.
A real highlight of this past week was the annual summer potluck for the Audubon Thursday Birders in the East Mountains at the home of Bonnie Long and her husband, Don, and a visit to the Simms Ranch home of Barbara and Bill Simms. Both of them have hundreds of our four species of hummingbirds actively feeding at all of the feeders they have by their houses. The number of birds they get is simply astonishing and that means a perfect opportunity for photographs.
First up is this pair of Rufous Hummingbirds fighting for dominance; these guys are quite territorial and do their best to run off any other bird that enters their zone of influence.
A little calmer immature one managed to stick a perfect landing on the feeder.
There were a number of Black-chinned Hummingbirds hitting the feeders, but I wasn’t quite able to ever catch one in flight showing off its intensely violet gorget. Calliope Hummingbirds had also been seen, but were quite rare and I can’t say that I ever saw one that day. Probably my favorite of the morning is this shot of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird.
Wednesday, Rebecca and I joined our resident butterfly expert, Steve Cary, on one of his regular butterfly walks at Randall Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe. We managed to see a fair number of species despite the cool, cloudy conditions and drought impacts. We also spotted a new critter for me, an immature Many-lined Skink, the second skink species I’ve seen this year.
After the butterfly walk, we drove up to Santa Fe Ski Basin, which can have different species than we typically see in this area. On the down side, we didn’t see as many wildflowers or butterflies as expected, but on the upside did add two species to my New Mexico list including one I’d never seen before. Instead of the Variegated and Northwestern Fritillaries we regularly see, that day we’d add a Mormon Fritillary to the list,
and totally new for me, a Snow’s Skipper.
Saturday, after looking over our notes from past years, we decided to visit Circle A Ranch near Cuba, New Mexico. With the owner’s permission, we spent most of the day wandering the property in hopes of seeing some good butterflies. Early on, there were only one or two Weidemeyer’s Admirals flying about, and in the shade we surprised several Wood-Nymphs, including the Small Wood-Nymph
and several Common Wood-Nymphs, distinguishable by the pattern of large eyespots on the forewing.
We checked out several meadows we passed, but didn’t see many butterflies other than Clouded Sulphurs, a few others that got away before we could identify them, and in one meadow a battered Melissa Blue (This is a picture of a different one I saw earlier in the week at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area.).
Although at first it was quieter than we’d hoped, the action picked up dramatically when we again located an incredible wildflower meadow we’d had good success at on previous visits.
Thistles, coneflowers, mallow, mustards, and numerous other flowering plants proved quite attractive to several butterfly species. Three of them would turn out to be new for my New Mexico list, including the Sylvan Hairstreak
and Woodland Skipper, both of which we’d seen before only on our trip last month to Wyoming and Montana.
A third species, the Purplish Copper, was a ‘lifer’ for me and one we’d been looking for over the last two years.
Four new butterflies in a week for my New Mexico list and some intense activity at those hummingbird feeders made for quite the interesting and entertaining week.