Teddy Roosevelt is credited with coming up with the statement “Walk softly but carry a big stick,” which at this time of year might be better stated as “Walk softly but pay careful attention.” Lately, the birds seem to have become much quieter and moving stealthily through the leaves, and even the butterflies seem content to sit quietly on a nectar-filled flower rather than flying about. So it seems one has to look quite carefully and intently in order to be able to spot them. Besides, I’m not sure what use a big stick would be in any event and it’s bound to get pretty heavy walking around with one.
Nonetheless, the Audubon Thursday Birders trip to Valle de Oro NWR last week managed to spot at least as many bird species as we had people on the trip (29), and that’s not counting the Common Yellowthroat and Yellow-breasted Chat calling loudly from their hiding spots in the reeds across the river. First bird of the day was a Cattle Egret, which was soon joined by at least two dozen more on the open fields.
And last bird of the day was Swainson’s Hawk, first an adult calling loudly before flying out from a cottonwood then two more immature ones perched on some white pipes next to the road while one or two other adults were seen nearby keeping an eye on things.
Pretty much everybody that morning got to see a Bordered Patch butterfly that was warming up on a blade of grass in the shade. A good sighting, since typically this species is only seen a little further south, such as at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area in Belen.
Another common butterfly that day, and one that rarely lands long enough for a photograph and so common I seldom think to take a picture of was a Cabbage White.
Sunday morning, I headed out to Las Huertas Canyon in search of a few of those interesting hairstreak butterflies that have been around lately. No luck with the hairstreaks but a successful outing seeing 16 species overall. A few were flying around as usual, but some were just patiently sitting there waiting for me to spot them, this Canyonland Satyr being one of them.
The Marine Blues were also playing that game with me; there were plenty of them around, but it was up to me to notice them sitting there almost motionless.
The Southern Dogface presented the opposite problem – I kept seeing them flying away across the field never quite landing anywhere, but finally I spotted one parked for a moment.
The Weidemeyer’s Admiral, the big black and white one that is seen patrolling back and forth pretty commonly this time of year also stopped long enough for a photo.
Scheduled to lead next week’s Thursday Birder trip to Corrales, on Monday I headed over there to scope out a few places we might visit. Overall very quiet for birds that day, we’ll have to keep our eyes and ears open to have any chance of meeting our criteria of seeing more birds than we have people. There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies about and even a few butterflies, but it was hard work to spot many birds that day.
One bird, however, that made its presence quite obvious, but wouldn’t let me get very close, was a female Belted Kingfisher working her way up and down the irrigation ditch.
The past couple of years we’ve had Mississippi Kites nesting in the area, which has been one of the main targets of the trip. I’ve been to the area several times this past month and seen Kites every time, but they seem to have changed their nesting area this year possibly due to some Cooper’s Hawks that have taken over their nesting site. No luck on finding a nest this week, either, but as I was leaving I heard young ones calling from a tall tree in the area. Jumping out of the car, it was pretty easy to spot two little ones calling to be fed. Moments later, one of the adults (I assume the female) flew in with a snack for the one on the lower branch.
The adult would feed the little one her latest prize and then head off in search of more, returning every few minutes with another little treat (mostly cicadas from what I could tell).
It was fun watching her circling in the distance before disappearing and then reappearing from a different direction a minute or so later with her latest catch. While waiting for her to return, taking a careful look around I did spot the other adult several trees away, and after she’d made about three trips, the two of them headed off together. Does make you wonder how many bugs it takes to feed one of those little guys every day.
On Tuesday morning, I wandered up to Hondo Canyon where a small waterfall drips over a travertine deposit and is usually pretty good for butterflies early in the year. Hadn’t been there in August before, and probably just as well since I only managed to see a grand total of two butterflies. One was pretty cool, though, a fresh Arizona Sister. Apparently, they have two broods every summer since I hadn’t been seeing them since June.
Things were again pretty quiet Wednesday morning at the Rio Grande Nature Center, with almost nothing but turtles sunning in the Candelaria Wetlands Pond, but by scanning carefully it was a treat to spot the Sora people had been reporting being seen there this week. Even better, rather than hiding in the reeds as they usually do when I’ve seen them in the past, it strolled out into the open apparently going for some of the insects flying around.
The other treat that morning was watching as a Greater Roadrunner carefully inspected a tree trunk for several minutes before leaping up to grab a big moth.
Working the leaf litter a few minutes later, it managed to snag a nice little lizard so I’m thinking this guy’s doing all right for getting enough to eat today.
Other than those two and a few hummingbirds buzzing around, I didn’t manage to spot much of anything although it might have been a little late in the morning to expect to see much, but a close look at a flowering Globe Mallow turned up a Gray Hairstreak butterfly and lots of my favorite beetle, a Calligraphy Beetle. The patterns on their wings are just fascinating and they can appear in colors ranging from red to green to gold. A web search finally answered my question of whether the color was due to different sexes, subspecies, stages or what? Turns out it’s related to what generation it is, with each generation showing up with a unique color. There must be more to this story, i.e., diet, weather conditions, or something, but more digging into it will be required.