With the passage of the autumnal equinox a week ago Tuesday, Fall is definitely in the air around here with the first rather cool mornings in awhile and just in time for the start of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, our biggest annual event held every year since 1972. The golden chamisa and lavender asters are in nearly full bloom, the aspens up in the Sandias are putting on their fall show, and the cotttonwoods down by the river are just beginning to change. With my friend Norma still in town for a couple days after her weekend conference, we spent the time before autumn formally started first looking for birds around Corrales, and the next day almost a mile higher at 10,600+ feet walking through the clouds up at the Sandia Crest. Not nearly as birdy either place as our earlier visit to Capulin Springs last week, but a few other things, including several damselflies and dragonflies caught our attention in Corrales. A couple that I’ve see a few times before are the American Rubyspot
and Great Spreadwing.
New for me was the colorful and aptly named Painted Damsel,
which must have been at the peak of their season as we saw several of them, including this mating pair.
There were a few of the more common butterflies out that morning as well, including the tiny Dainty Sulphur
and the even tinier (North America’s smallest butterfly), Western Pygmy-Blue.
The next day up at Sandia Crest was interesting. Although it looked pretty clear from town that morning, by the time we got there patchy clouds filled the sky and enveloped us as we took the Crest Spur Trail from the Crest House to the Sandia Tram terminal and back on a 3-mile loop. A good hike with a geologist as it follows the Great Unconformity where the more recent limestone layer meets the ancient granite. A few good birds and nice walking through the changing aspens, but all the fog and clouds didn’t really lend itself to photos.
Two days later, the Audubon Thursday Birders headed up to the Randall Davey Audubon Center near Santa Fe for a good morning of birding and several species we don’t usually see here in Albuquerque. Somehow, I didn’t manage to get any decent pictures of any of the birds, but did get one of another new dragonfly,and America’s most popular butterfly, the Monarch, which we only occasionally see passing through during their spring and fall migration.
Everyone in the group got to see a pair of Hoary Commas sitting in perfect light during the walk. Noticing them first by that spectacular orange coloration on top,
the butterflies cooperated nicely by closing up to show the cryptic underside with that trademark white ‘comma’ on the hindwing.
Stopping by the Michael Emery Trailhead in the community of High Desert on Sunday unsuccessfully looking for the Cactus Wrens I’m told are in the area and for the White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillars that were just everywhere up there about this time last year, a couple of cars had stopped right in the middle of the street with the people inside getting out to look at something before driving away. I headed over to see just what was up and got a good look at this guy making its way on its annual migration. Every now and then, you’ll come across large numbers of male tarantulas crossing the road in nearly single file on a similar pilgrimage, but this guy seemed to be on his own.
Another good Audubon Thursday Birder outing this week at Cochiti Lake, about halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. While we’d pick up 40+ species during the day, about the only picture I got that was kind of fun was right after lunch when an Osprey appeared overhead before dropping down to grab its lunch and flying away with a good-sized fish.
Busy week around here taking care of a few things that have needed doing for some time and just haven’t gotten out as much as usual, and when I have managed to get out there haven’t been too many photo opportunities. Surely next week will provide some amazing sights – this is my favorite time of year around here!