I usually manage to get a blog update out about once a week, but sometimes things get in the way and I just don’t get to it. With my last update, I focused on that fun trip to South Florida and all the butterflies and other critters seen down there. Meanwhile, pictures have been starting to pile up around here, and it seemed a good idea to get caught up by posting some of the better and more interesting ones I’ve gotten since early May. On Memorial Day, it was fun to head down reasonably early in the morning to check on some of the nesting Burrowing Owls down in “Owlville” in Los Lunas. It had been awhile and since my last visit all the new little ones have hatched and are out looking around.
I’d see at least thirteen owls there that morning, of which 4-5 were adults and the rest immatures. The one shown above was just a hoot (pun intended). It started off squawking loudly at one of the adults, who appears to be bowing in this next picture, but was really probably just trying to get it to be quiet.
It was then that it noticed me sitting there in my car and it turned to first stare at me head on and then slowly twist its head sideways until its head almost popped off.
At one of the other burrows, the owls were a bit more reticent to interact with humans ; whenever I’d slowly drive by, this one would drop into the burrow and pretend I couldn’t see it.
I wonder if maybe there are little ones in there, too, that are still a little too small to be seen in public.
In other owl news, back on May 23 a visit to the Great Horned Owl nest at Piedras Marcadas showed the two little ones doing good with the older one already out of the nest and flapping around, while the younger one was still lounging around – interestingly I didn’t spot either adult anywhere around during that visit.
Sadly, the winds that took down the osprey nest around that time also wiped out the nest in Taylor Ranch, as I discovered on a visit that same day. I’d been following that nest since the end of February, and am pretty sure the two little ones weren’t quite old enough to be on their own. No telling what may have happened to them.
In better news, my friend Linda told me about some young ones I hadn’t known about right in the middle of town and a block from a large shopping center. The lighting was terrible, but it was easy to spot one adult and these two nearly full-grown owlets. Not sure where the nest was, but someone who stopped by while I was there told me they’d nested in one of the trees a bit further away.
Way back in early May, a quick trip to Bear Canyon in the High Desert community turned up a Spotted Sandpiper in the small pond there and a bunch of juvenile Curve-billed Thrashers goofing around on a cholla.
Later that week on a bit of a windy day, the Audubon Thursday Birders headed out to Manzano Pond and Quarai National Monument. Water level in the pond was quite high, so there weren’t any of the usual shorebirds about and the wind kept the number of other sightings down, but we still had a good day. Highlight for me at the pond was a pair of mating Northern Flickers.
At Quarai, we were treated to our first Fulvia Checkerspot for the year, a pretty butterfly most of the folks on the trip got good looks at.
Another nice butterfly there was a Green Skipper nectaring on the thistle.
This year has seen an incredible number of Painted Lady butterflies just about everywhere. Interestingly, we’ve noticed they can vary in size quite a bit and some (the freshest ones, I assume) are quite vividly colored.
We see two other species, the American Lady (V. virginiensis) and West Coast Lady (V. annabella), but it’s only the Painted Lady that we’ve seen so far this year in such large numbers.
The pictures above of the Painted Lady are from a nice field full of wild iris across the road from Tree Spring trailhead that Rebecca and I checked out this past weekend. In addition to all the Painted Ladies, there were several other butterflies, including Silvery Blue, Dreamy Duskywing, Northern Cloudywing, Silver-spotted Skipper, and this female Taxiles Skipper.
Also cool to see was a pretty good number of Snowberry Clearwings working their way through all the iris.
On May 25, a few days after returning from our Florida trip, the Audubon Thursday Birders visited Carlito Springs Open Space. A little quiet for birds that day maybe because it was a bit breezy, but we would see a nice variety of butterflies – lots of Painted Ladies, of course, but also a fresh Thicket Hairstreak
and our first Weidemeyer’s Admiral for the season.
The next day had me checking out the butterflies in my local patch of Embudito Canyon, where the number and variety was rather amazing. At least 50 of those Painted Ladies and fourteen other species in the short distance from the parking area to the bit of water. After not having seen them in awhile, there were three Sandia Hairstreaks, a new for the season Canyonland Satyr,
and also new for the season, Viereck’s Skipper.
For some reason this year, I’ve been lucky to see a Mormon Metalmark on most visits and usually just long enough for one or two pictures before it flies off; this time it was perched on the feathery Apache Plume.
Acting on a tip from our friend and butterfly expert, Jim Brock, that weekend Rebecca and I drove out to the Manzanos to look for Strecker’s Giant-Skipper, a butterfly we’d been on the lookout for over the last few years and had only seen once before up near the Colorado border. Reaching the location Jim had told us about, it was clear we were in the right habitat of blooming yucca, and after a short search managed to spot several individuals.
A successful day right from the start, we’d visit several other spots during the day and end up seeing a good number of species, such as this Juniper Hairstreak
and a rather territorial Silver-spotted Skipper.
Two more butterflies from this past week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip to Doc Long Picnic Area and the Bill Spring Trail, a Field Crescent nectaring on a sunny dandelion,
and a close-up of an Arizona Sister apparently warming up on the trail.
So now that I’m caught up a little, I’m looking forward to getting back on track visiting all my regular spots and maybe a few new ones to see what there is to see.