With just one day before the start of summer, a quick trip to Tingley Ponds found that plenty of dragonflies have returned for the season. While I’d expect several more species to join the party soon, only a few Flame Skimmers and a large number of Widow Skimmers were cruising about that day.
The next morning, Rebecca and I drove up to Las Vegas, NM to meet our friend, Kelly, for the butterfly count sponsored by the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance. Before the clouds rolled in that afternoon, we recorded more than 150 individual butterflies of almost 30 species in our assigned areas of the EV Long Campground and Johnson Mesa. At the first location Kelly surprised a large puddle party of Two-tailed and Western Tiger Swallowtails resting on the asphalt, and when I looked up at her shout saw her surrounded by the more than twenty butterflies that swirled around her before again settling back down.
At Johnson Mesa, despite the building clouds, dropping temperatures and rumbling thunder, we’d find in the grasses both of our targets for that location, the Common Alpine and Common Ringlet, butterflies we only see in summer at higher elevations.
Heading back to town we came across a flock of Evening Grosbeaks intent on foraging around one specific patch of pavement, presumably where some seed had fallen. Other times I’ve seen this bird, it’s usually been just one or two typically hidden high in a pine tree.
During a visit a few days later to the Albuquerque Botanic Garden with Rebecca and her visiting relatives, we checked out the PNM Butterfly Pavilion, where it is always fun to see a wide variety of tropical and domestic butterflies at close range. The rest of the grounds aren’t usually very good for butterflies because of all the non-native vegetation, but I did manage to spot a single Taxiles Skipper.
This week, the Audubon Thursday Birder trip stopped at several locations along Hyde Park Road to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. The day resulted in several interesting sightings, including a Cordilleran Flycatcher on her nest and getting to watch as a pair of Brown Creepers built their nest under a bit of peeling aspen bark. My best bird picture of the day was of another Cordilleran Flycatcher perched close to its nest.
Being nesting season, the birds in general tended to stay quiet and hidden, but there were always butterflies around to be seen, including this Variegated Fritillary on the blue flax,
a Painted Lady on red clover,
and an Acmon Blue on a bright daisy.
As the group headed back home to Albuquerque, Rebecca and I stayed to look around for a few more butterflies and were rewarded with several good ones, including a Draco Skipper,
Common Alpine up at the ski area,
and a Black Swallowtail at the Aspen Overlook picnic area.
Over the weekend, Rebecca and I drove down to the Chiricahua Mountains of southeast Arizona on a butterfly trip targeting a species found only in that area and that I’d been hoping to see for the last several years, the Arizona Pine Satyr. Acting on a tip from friend and butterfly expert Jim Brock, who’d seen one there the previous week, we drove straight to the location in Rustler Park and after a bit of searching through the large meadow and surrounding pines finally spotted one briefly in the pines and then a second most cooperative individual perched among the sedges growing in the meadow.
Another butterfly Jim mentioned in the area, the Orange-edged Roadside-Skipper, was present in considerable numbers and in much better condition than the single one we’d seen on a trip with him last summer.
With our target mission accomplished, anything else we’d see during our two days there was just gravy, and we’d have a number of good sightings. Not only would we come across a crazy number of individuals of another satyr species, the Red Satyr, on the short walk to Vista Point,
but we’d end up seeing five different species of Roadside Skippers, including that Orange-edged Roadside Skipper, the Dotted Roadside-Skipper,
a Cassus Roadside-Skipper, and a Bronze Roadside-Skipper. Another one we’d see in a couple of locations on both days turned out to be a lifer butterfly for both of us, the Deva Skipper.
The Chiricahuas are well-known as a top US birding destination, and we’d enjoy spotting a few good birds, although we didn’t try for the Elegant Trogon, everybody’s favorite and one I’d seen on previous visits. We had a number of Acorn Woodpeckers goofing around near Portal Peak Lodge where we were staying,
and I got a decent picture of a House Wren in Rustler Park.
Along the road to Rustler Park where a creek crosses the road we found that Cassus Roadside-Skipper. Few other butterflies were there, but several dragonflies were busy patrolling, including a Red Rock Skimmer.
There also were quite a few lizards creeping around or basking in the sun at that location. This one I think is Clark’s Spiny Lizard.
Heading for home on Sunday, we made a final stop at Rockhound State Park outside Deming NM for a few more butterflies. Oddly, of all the blooming mesquite in the area, something about a single bush attracted a large number of bees and a ridiculous number and variety of butterflies, including Leda Ministreak, Marine Blue, Reakirt’s Blue, Thicket Hairstreak, and Gray Hairstreak. Nearby, the one that got our attention, however, was an Empress Leilia, the first I’ve seen in New Mexico.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to this park without running across some kind of cool-looking lizard. This time was no exception, as we would spot a large Texas Horned Lizard making its way toward an ant nest lunch.
All in all, a pretty good way to start the summer.