Now and then, I’ll print a few of my better pictures on small greeting cards with the caption “The more you look, the more you’ll see.” That sort of developed from the corollary of “if you don’t look, you won’t see,” a phrase I found myself using when I first got into looking for butterflies. Often, an otherwise apparently good habitat can appear to be empty until you get out and start looking a little closer. And the longer and closer you looked, the more amazing the variety of things you’d see.
Recently, however, it seems I’ve fallen victim to falsely assuming that the weather isn’t quite right or it must be too late in the day, and somehow find myself fooling with the computer or futzing around the house and just haven’t gotten out there to see what there is to see. While that assumption does on occasion turn out to be true, almost always something unexpected catches my eye even if it’s not what I thought I’d be looking for. For example, a week ago Thursday, Rebecca and I headed off to the Gilman Tunnels in the Jemez Mountains in hopes of seeing the Apache Skipper (Hesperia woodgatei), a butterfly we’d first seen there about this time last year. Although few butterflies were flying that day and we didn’t see the one we came to look for, we had great fun watching the antics of a pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers busy searching a stand of trees for food. The female patiently went about her business for the most part,
but was regularly harrassed by a male who seemed to think he owned those trees and kept returning (after shooing her off) to the same branch.
We probably watched these two go at it for about a half an hour before he finally took off to find bugs somewhere else.
A week ago Sunday was a marvelous Fall day and we spent a good afternoon at El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, a living history museum near Santa Fe holding their annual Harvest Festival that day. Reflecting the period in the early 1700’s when it was a farming village and waypoint on the Camino Real, it was interesting to see the various crafts on display, working grain mills, and fun to watch the kids running around exploring it all.
Twice this past week we headed up to Randall Davey Audubon Center just outside of Santa Fe, first with the Audubon Thursday Birders and then again to meet up with a birding friend I hadn’t seen in awhile. A bit cool, windy, and even cloudy on Thursday, we did get to see some good birds, including Evening Grosbeaks, Black-billed Magpies, lots of Clark’s Nutcrackers, and some of the Dark-eyed Juncos that have returned along with the White-crowned Sparrows for the winter.
I was hoping to get a better picture of one of those Clark’s Nutcrackers when we returned on Saturday, but they weren’t being very cooperative. A male Red-naped Sapsucker, however, was around and agreed to pose for this picture.
Several birds also allowed a close approach while they were checking out the bird feeders, including this Spotted Towhee,
and one of the many Townsend’s Solitaires that day perched nearby in a tree for several minutes so that it could be photographed.
I do keep dropping by Embudito Canyon, my “local patch,” to see if the American Snout butterflies have yet started flying. So far, no luck on that score but I expect to see them any day since we first started seeing them last year on this date. On several recent visits, there just haven’t been many butterflies out, but yesterday it seems the chamisa (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) has come fully into bloom and the butterflies were back in business – in an hour-long walk along the bottom of the canyon, I saw about 56 individual butterflies of 13 different species. I continue to be amazed by the variety of species in that canyon, and have put together a list of the 50 Embudito Butterflies I’ve photographed there over the last three seasons I plan to post somewhere near the trailhead to let others know how special a place it is. Fifty species is a rather impressive list – a British expert tells me in the UK one is lucky to see that many species in a year. It’s also fun to point them out to others I meet in the canyon, such as the New Mexico State butterfly, the Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi), we see on the beargrass in the spring, and the Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile), the smallest butterfly in North America that is flying now. Two of the butterflies I saw on this most recent visit include the Common Checkered-Skipper
and the Arizona Sister.
Time to quit fooling with the computer and futzing around the house and get out there!