Recently, I decided to get a new point-and-shoot camera thinking it might be a better idea to travel with a smaller and lighter camera than the DSLR and huge lens I’m usually lugging around. Almost all of my pictures from the past year were taken with a Nikon D7100 and Nikon 80-400mm lens, which weighs a bit more than 5 lbs. and is nearly a foot long; with additional lenses, batteries, chargers, and all it’s a bit much for carry-on luggage. My new toy is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 with its built in 25-400mm lens, which only weighs a little less than 2 lbs. and is about the size of my DSLR body. Of course, the fancy Nikon takes some pretty incredible pictures, but the Lumix should be capable of getting some pretty good ones, too, and I’ve had good luck in the past with earlier Lumix models. All of the butterfly pictures in this post and most of the birds were taken with the Lumix as I come up to speed on using it. A couple of the nice features of the Lumix are that it has a bigger sensor than most in this category, is much easier to use for video, and takes both RAW and jpgs. Capture NX-2, the software I use to process Nikon RAW images, unfortunately doesn’t work on other manufacturer’s files and the Silkypix software that came with the Lumix isn’t that great, so I’ve finally made the leap to Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop which involves another learning curve.
This is one of my first photos with the Lumix, a Spring White on a visit to Embudito on Easter Sunday and a first of the season species.
There has been a few new butterfly species for the year and a couple of regulars seen in the last week or so. The Sandia Hairstreaks are still flying in Embudito, and interesting to see them puddling in the damp sand and on bushes other than their beargrass host plant. One day last week, I met up at Embudito with Bryan Reynolds, an expert butterflier visiting from Oklahoma to track down those hairstreaks and a few others in part for a book he’s planning. Weather wasn’t great for butterflies during his visit, but he got some of what he was hoping for and will be returning in about a month when we’re sure to have better weather and more butterflies taking to the air.
We’ve been regularly seeing large numbers of Mylitta Crescents in Embudito this year as well,
and the Acmon Blues seem a little more numerous this year, too.
One species that only flies in early spring for a few weeks, and is usually difficult to see other than as they fly by on their way out of sight is the Southwestern Orangetip. I’ve been fortunate this week on visits to Las Huertas Canyon to catch both a male and a female perched long enough to photograph. The male, in particular, sat on this juniper for quite a long time and allowed both Rebecca and I to get close enough for some pretty good shots.
This female seemed drawn to this tiny flower, but would only stop for a few seconds before taking off and circling the area before trying to find it again.
The female differs from the male by having that strip of white on the edge of the forewing.
Twice this week, Rebecca and I headed out to Las Huertas Canyon thinking it’s about time the butterfly action started picking up there. A little cool and partly cloudy on Saturday, by Monday things were looking good with sunny skies and temperatures expected to reach the 70s. One of the real treats on both visits, and at least a week earlier than we’ve had them in the past, was seeing the Yucca Giant-Skipper, and on Monday we had three different individuals. These guys just vanish into the background when they’re perched, but have a rather distinctive flight pattern of staying low to the ground, circling around a fairly small area, and flying more like a moth than a butterfly, so once you pick up on that behavior you can follow them to the ground and sneak up to get a photo.
Another new one for the year was a Field Crescent, which will become much more commonly seen in the next few months.
Finally, one of our early spring regulars, the Hoary Comma, who overwinters as an adult in the leaf litter, came out in good numbers in the warm sun to nectar on the fresh new willow buds.
It had been several weeks since I’d dropped in on “Owlville” to check on the return of the Burrowing Owls, so a visit was in order early last week. Sure enough, in addition to the couple of them I’d seen back in mid-February, on this visit several more popped up and even more have been being seen by others recently.
Seeing those guys prompted another tour of the five Great Horned Owl nests back in town that I’ve been watching. First up was the one at Albuquerque Academy, where the male seems to want to make his presence known on most visits and the female’s been sitting higher up in the nest for a couple of weeks now.
I think she’s messing with me – she’s still hiding a couple of little ones from me whenever I visit, but I saw a picture from yesterday of two of them so I know they’re there.
The last nest on my route was the one near the Rio Grande Nature Center, where I did catch a glimpse of a little one on March 13 and was lucky to spot it again this week acting much more inquisitive as it moved around to get a better look at me.
Mama Owl’s messing with me here, too, since on returning home I saw another friend’s picture with two little ones looking out. For the first time in the couple of visits I made to that nest, I finally spotted the male very well-hidden in a nearby tree.
For the other three nests, still no little ones visible but the females in all of them are clearly moving around and sitting up a little higher, which means their little ones will be making an appearance soon. The cavity at Calabacillas seems deeper than last year and she’s been pretty well tucked in on most visits with only a bit of tail feather hanging out until recently when she started sitting up.
The male is usually quite close by and obvious at Piedras Marcadas, maybe because they’ve been harrassed by the former Cooper’s Hawk residents, and the female there is also a bit more alert these days, but still no obvious little ones.
Next to last stop on my route is the one off Montano, which is in a rather exposed location with a lot of nearby road and foot traffic. The tree she’s in is leafing out pretty well now, so maybe she can relax a bit more. I keep looking for the male on this one but have yet to spot him, and suspect he’s having to hide in one of the evergreen trees a bit further away since there aren’t any good hiding spots closer to the nest.
The next few weeks should get quite interesting as more butterflies start appearing and all those baby owls start looking around, and it should be fun to figure out this new camera and work on getting a few good photographs.