The title of this post (often the hardest part of a blog post for me to come up with) is based on the casual reference among butterfliers to butterflies as “bugs”, and the fact that over the course of this first week in June all manner of butterflies have taken to the air around here. Of the six high-level families of butterflies, several species of all but the Riodinidae (Metalmarks) were seen and photographed (and I had two of those, the Mormon Metalmark and Palmer’s Metalmark, the week before).
From the Papilionidae family (Parnassians and Swallowtails), this week turned up a Black Swallowtail in Cienega Canyon, a butterfly that we only rarely see around here.
The foothills, forested east mountains, and especially Las Huertas Canyon had both of the large yellow swallowtails we see frequently here, the Western Tiger Swallowtail,
which from the side looks like this,
and the Two-tailed Swallowtail.
A little difficult to tell apart, but compared to the Western Tiger Swallowtail, the Two-tailed Swallowtail is a little larger, has thinner black banding, and of course that pair of two long tails.
The next major family is the Pieridae (Whites and Sulphurs). Most of these are fairly small and are the common yellow and white ones we see flying around. While we also noted Checkered White, Clouded Sulphur, Orange Sulphur, Southern Dogface flying this week, the only picture of one I have is a Margined White taken at Bill Spring during one of several visits this week.
The third major family is Lycaedinae (Gossamerwings), typically tiny but having spectacular colors and patterns. Our State Butterfly, the Sandia Hairstreak, has been seen since March 11 and was still flying early this week in Embudito Canyon.
The similar-looking Juniper Hairstreak popped up this week at Bill Spring and in both Hondo and Embudito Canyons.
Also seen in Hondo Canyon was one of the few Thicket Hairstreaks I’ve seen this year,
and the only Western Tailed-Blue.
Several other species in this family also were seen this week, including the Marine Blue and Acmon Blue.
Skipping the Riodinidae family (Metalmarks), which are not seen very often in this area, the next family is the Nymphalidae (Brushfoots). Two of them we’re starting to see regularly now are fairly large and mostly black and white. The one that looks mostly black on top with a strong white band is the Weidemeyer’s Admiral.
Underneath it is quite spectacular.
The other similar one, the Arizona Sister, also is mostly black with a broad white band but has a big orange patch on the tip of the forewing,
and underneath is even more stunning.
There are four species in the genus Vanessa, three of which were seen and photographed this week. Oddly, the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) was not seen although it is usually the one most often seen in this area. The West Coast Lady (V. annabella), identified by the white pattern at the tip of the forewing and those small blue eyespots on the top of the hindwing, was pretty much the only butterfly I saw on a quick visit to the Open Space Visitor Center early in the week.
During a mid-week visit to Bill Spring with my friend, Kelly, we first saw the American Lady (V. virginiensis),
quite similar to the West Coast but with a distinctive tiny white spot in the big orange patch of the forewing and the broken black on the inner part of the forewing. (The underside of all of these species are quite different and make identification easier).
Shortly after seeing that one, we had the fourth species, the Red Admiral (V. atalanta), one that I have only seen maybe once or twice a year and always a treat when I do.
A visit on Saturday to Las Huertas with Rebecca turned up large numbers of those puddling swallowtails, lots of Weidemeyer’s Admirals, surprisingly only a single Arizona Sister, and a Canyonland Satyr among others. I’ve gotten several good pictures of the latter in other locations recently, but this one may be the best so far.
The largest family in the butterfly tree is the Hesperiidae (Skippers) and there were quite a few of them around this week including several new for the season. A very distinctive one and quite common lately anywhere around water is the Silver-spotted Skipper.
Mixed in with all the Rocky Mountain Duskywings that are also quite common around water was this Dreamy Duskywing seen in Hondo Canyon this week.
One that I’ve only seen a couple of times this year is the Bronze Roadside-Skipper, which Rebecca spotted near all those swallowtails in Las Huertas Canyon.
She also picked up on the slightly different markings of a Mexican Cloudywing in among several of the more usual Northern Cloudywings that day.
Of course, it wasn’t all about butterflies this week. Rebecca and I timed our visit to a large patch of wild iris just about perfectly on Thursday, spotting a large number of Silver-spotted Skippers, Northern Cloudywings, and a few others nectaring on the flowers, but were surprised to see a large number of Snowberry Clearwings doing that as well.
In addition to that West Coast Lady I saw earlier in the week at the Open Space Visitor Center pond, one of the first dragonflies of the season posed nicely for me, the Twelve-spotted Skimmer that rarely takes a break from its constant patrolling back and forth.
I’d met my friend Kelly in Cienega Canyon on Wednesday in hopes of showing her the Northern Pygmy-Owl I’d finally seen there two weeks earlier. No luck on the owl that day, but we did get nice views of the Red-naped Sapsuckers that have been busy there pretty much every time I’ve visited this year.
Speaking of owls, on Tuesday I made what was probably my last visit to check on the nest in Piedras Marcadas, where the Great Horned Owls had finally had their young after a long-delayed period. The show is clearly just about over for this year, with one of the adults perched with one of the nearly fully-grown little ones quite a ways from the nest.
The other adult was either in that tree or one very close by, flying off in a major display to distract me as I approached. No telling where the second young one may have been, but I hope had fledged and was off somewhere else or had learned well how to hide.
Only one picture from this week’s Audubon Thursday Birder visit to the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center. A little quiet for birding that morning, but we ended the morning with a good list of species, including a Black-throated Gray Warbler and a nesting Plumbeous Vireo. Right in the parking lot before we started, a regal Red-tailed Hawk was keeping an eye on the neighborhood.
Looks like our monsoon season might be getting off to a little earlier start this year, which can only gets those wildflowers going and more butterflies flying.