A Few New Visitors

I was fortunate to get out several times this week to a number of my favorite spots and got to see and photograph a nice mix of several new butterflies for the season, a few young birds and a couple of regulars. Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birders dropped in on Ojito de San Antonio Open Space and got nice looks at a good variety of birds, more than I would have expected for that area at this time of year. One of my favorites that we saw quite a few of is the Western Tanager.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

I also got a good look at an immature American Robin with its speckled chest that will turn into the adult’s solid brick red as it matures.

American Robin (immature)

American Robin (immature)

Other recent visits to this area have turned up some good butterflies worth looking at in addition to all the birds. A winner for Rebecca and I was a sootywing she spotted that we’ve decided is the Mexican Sootywing, more unusual to see around here than the Common Sootywing. Almost identical, the Mexican species is distinguished from the Common by the black veins on the underside of the wings.

Mexican Sootywing (Pholisora mejicanus)

Mexican Sootywing (Pholisora mejicanus)

Following a group lunch at the Lazy Lizard in Cedar Crest, Rebecca and I headed back into the mountains in search of a few more butterflies. At one of our favorite spots, the 8000′ marker, the dogbane is still blooming but not attracting as many butterflies as we’ve seen in the past. Two weeks ago, we got one of our rarer hairstreaks, the Behr’s Hairstreak (Satyrium behrii), and on this latest visit got another we’d been hoping to see, the Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus).

Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)

Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)

A visit to Bill Spring later that afternoon turned up several Taxiles Skippers and Russet Skipperling along with a couple of Margined Whites, which have been flying since mid-April.

Margined White (Pieris marginalis)

Margined White (Pieris marginalis)

Still eluding us so far this year is the Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus), which we’re still looking for. Over the weekend, we headed down to Belen Marsh and Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, which in the past has turned up a few butterfly species we don’t see very often if at all in town. At the marsh, we missed seeing the Burrowing Owls that day (although a later stop at “Owlville” in Los Lunas would turn up a couple), and there were quite a few Black-necked Stilts in the water along with their new offspring. A couple of White-faced Ibis were also hanging out in the area.

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis

Getting back to butterflies, at Whitfield we were glad to see one or two Monarchs flying around as well as a couple of Queens (this one taken a few days later at Ojito de San Antonio OS)

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

but also spotted a couple of those we typically only see in that location, including the Bordered Patch

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

and some Painted Crescents.

Painted Crescent (Phyciodes picta)

Painted Crescent (Phyciodes picta)

The latter are pretty easily identified by the view underneath (if you can catch them like that) and differ considerably from the more common Field Crescent, such as this one seen in the Sandias a few days earlier.

Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella)

Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella)

Although the Common Buckeye is indeed usually pretty common at Whitfield, it is not that often that I get a good view of their underside since they usually land with their wings open.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Another nice find that day was a Melissa Blue, which we’ll see around town usually but hadn’t spotted yet this year. Pretty similar to the Acmon Blues that I’ve posted pictures of lately, the Melissa Blue has that orange coloring on both wings unlike the Acmon which only has it on the hindwing.

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa)

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa)

Other outings this week have taken me to places like Carlito Springs OS, Embudito Canyon, Corrales, back to Ojito de San Antonio OS, Tramway Wetlands, and the Rio Grande Nature Center. It was pretty quiet overall at the Nature Center, but I got a couple of good pictures, first of an Eastern Bluebird (complete with its aluminum band likely provided by the rather active bird banding activity there)

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

and of a Blue Grosbeak.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

A return visit to Ojito de San Antonio OS didn’t turn up near as many birds as on the previous Thursday, but did have some pretty good butterflies. One I’d been trying to get now for a few weeks was a Southern Dogface, which we’ve been seeing but always in flight before. When it lands, you’re able to see that “dogface” in the forewing and even more distinctly if you can catch it with the sun behind it.

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

In about a month, I’m scheduled to lead the Thursday Birders on the hunt for nesting Mississippi Kites in Corrales, so I’ve been out a couple of times now hoping to find one. For the last several years, they’ve nested on the grounds of Sandia View Academy and I’ve looked pretty carefully for them this week. On both visits, I’ve seen the bird but have yet to spot a nest. Here’s the one I saw today.

Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite

I spoke with a couple of people there, including a neighbor who was thrilled to see their nest last year, and the groundskeeper who’s told me about nests he’s been aware of there for the last two years. This year, he pointed out a nest that turned out to be that of a Cooper’s Hawk, which he says have been rather aggressively defending their territory. I’m wondering if maybe that’s dissuaded the kites from nesting there, and may have to look around to see if they’ve moved to another location, say maybe that big grove of cottonwoods near Tramway Wetlands where there have been multiple recent reports of kite sightings?

At least two immature Cooper’s Hawks, however, were hanging around the Academy that gave me some good photo opportunities. Here is one of the little ones posing nicely in the sunlight.

Cooper's Hawk (immature)

Cooper’s Hawk (immature)

In getting a couple of close-ups of this guy, in this shot if you zoom in by clicking on the picture you can see what wikipedia tells me is the nictating membrane that acts like a windshield wiper over their eyes and is used instead of blinking – cool!

Cooper's Hawk (immature)

Cooper’s Hawk (immature)

Here’s another picture of the same guy waiting patiently in the shadows – most impressive talons in my opinion.

Cooper's Hawk (immature)

Cooper’s Hawk (immature)

It never ceases to amaze me the fascinating things you can see if you can just get out there and look around.

 

 

 

 

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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, Photographs. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A Few New Visitors

  1. It is so nice to see butterflies that I probably would never see here in southern Illinois.

    • joeschelling says:

      Same here. Although I went to college at SIU-C, it wasn’t until my visit to War Bluff Sanctuary in 2011 that I realized you’ve got some, too, that we never see here.

      • I live in Harrisburg. I don’t go around butterflying like I used too. When my youngest was down in grade school, I started a butterfly count with the North American Butterfly Association south of us. I don’t know if you know about them. The count was similar to Christmas bird counts. I got the information from them, set up the count circle and we had great times and had good butterfly years and ones with low numbers.

  2. joeschelling says:

    Cool. Yep, NABA’s a great organization for introducing people to the amazing world of butterflies, and I’ve been a member ever since I heard of them. Their National Butterfly Center in Mission TX is a must visit if you’ve never been.

  3. Mike Powell says:

    Wonderful shots of the butterflies and birds, Joe. I was especially taken by your shots of the Cooper’s Hawk. I know we have them, but have not seen one yet. Thanks for alerting us to the shot that shows the nictating membrane. It’s amazing that you were able to capture that detail.

    • joeschelling says:

      Thanks, Mike. eBird shows they’re being seen in Huntley Meadows, but must be much less common than here. They also don’t usually let you get too close, but this young one apparently hadn’t learned that yet and let me take lots of shots from about as close as I could get with my new 400mm lens.

  4. Wonderful collection of birds – lucky you! I hope to see a Blue Grosbeak someday, alas!

  5. 1nmbirder says:

    Great post as usual! I’ve been missing the Thursday birding outings. Love the hawk photos.

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