Desert Rain

I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time since we got back from Panama early this month going through all the pictures that made it home with me and doing my best to identify the butterflies by species. We ended up with about 220 species from that ten day trip and some of the pictures (and more bugs, critters and stuff) are now on my Panama2013 web pages. While all that fooling around was going on, I wasn’t getting out as much as usual, but that was just as well because we were getting lots and lots of much needed rain. It’s just extraordinary how the desert comes back to life from a long drought with just a little bit of rain, and to get as much as has been falling around here for the last week or so, the changes have been phenomenal. Dry canyons are now carpeted in green, creeks have begun flowing again, flowers blooming, and more birds and butterflies are being seen again.

The Audubon Thursday Birder trip to the Feltz cabin in the Jemez Mountains got caught in a bit of that rain, but still gave everybody good sightings of Pygmy Nuthatch and a few other good birds found in that habitat.  The following week, the group headed off to the Belen Marsh and Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area. A highlight of the morning, in addition to spotting several Burrowing Owls near the Taco Bell, was a Virginia Rail, a new one for me. This is the best picture I got of it under challenging lighting conditions.

Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail

Good birds at WWCA, too, including several Wilson’s Warblers, an air battle between a Swainson’s Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk, and others.  Always good for butterflies, we saw about 15 species there that morning, including a large number of Monarchs, lots of Clouded and Orange Sulphurs,

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

and plenty of Common Buckeyes.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

In my August 24 post, there’s a picture of one of the multitude of White-lined Sphinx moth caterpillars seen in the High Desert neighborhood in Albuquerque. At WWCA this week, the adult moths were busy nectaring on the desert willow.

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

A couple of visits to my local patch, Embudito Canyon, this week showed how dramatic the changes have been with all that rain.  The canyon bottom has been completely reworked with the rushing water, and the whole place has greened up and kicked off various blooming flowers, which are again attracting birds, butterflies and other critters.

Sacred Datura

Sacred Datura

On Saturday during a visit to Embudito I spotted this immature Western Scrub-Jay bathing in the newly revived spring.

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

and yesterday for the first time in several years saw a couple of Mule Deer browsing in the canyon.

Mule Deer

Mule Deer

Over the weekend, Rebecca and I did the loop through Las Huertas Canyon over the Sandias and back down the east side hoping to see some of the butterflies that we might have missed while off in Panama. The weather wasn’t quite suitable for butterflies that day, but we did get a few good ones and are hoping for more in the next few weeks.  Clearly the drought has impacted numbers this year over last year, but they do seem to still be around.  We have been seeing more Arizona Sisters this year for some reason,

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

and the wildflower meadow in Cienega Canyon is drawing in a good number of both Painted Lady

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

and American Lady butterflies.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

What I had never noticed about the American Lady is that tiny white spot in that orange cell in the middle of the forewing – specific to that species and should make it easier in the future for me to tell them apart from the similar Painted and West Coast Lady butterflies we see around here.

At one of our usually more productive spots, Bill Spring, cloudy weather and few flowers limited the number of butterflies that day, but I did get a nice look at a Townsend’s Solitaire perched quite close by,

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire

and was excited to see a Short-horned Lizard basking in the sun that was reasonably patient with me and let me take its portrait.

Short-horned Lizard

Short-horned Lizard

With the arrival of Fall this past Sunday begins the best time of year around here. From now through October, the weather is usually perfect, the asters and aspen will begin their annual show, and there should be some good pictures to be taken out there.

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About joeschelling

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

3 Responses to Desert Rain

  1. Mike Powell says:

    Beautiful shots, Joe. You always feature some birds and butterflies that I have never seen, but it’s nice to see shots of a few that I recognize, like the Common Buckeye and the Painted Lady. I remember Mule deer from when I was stationed in southern Arizona when I was in the military, but haven’t seen one in almost thirty years.

  2. Rebecca Gracey says:

    You captured the Sphinx Moth in motion. That must have been difficult. You had a nice variety of animals in this week’s blog, and the butterflies were beautiful.

  3. Joe, Great photos! I like the scrub jay bathing in the spring. The Sacred Datura is gorgeous. But, that short-horned lizard looks SPOOKY to me… Keep those photos coming!

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