Off to Massachusetts

Goodness, it’s been almost a month since my last blog update, with only about a third of that time off to Massachusetts looking for butterflies. That’ll be the main focus of this update, but wanted to share a few other pictures from local outings both before and after that trip. Shortly after my last update I got in a trip to Capulin Spring Picnic Area a few days after the Forest Service opened it after being closed since last October (and likely to be closed again soon because of hazardous fire conditions). A hollowed-out log captures a bit of water from the spring and draws in all sorts of birds for a drink or a quick splash. Some of the birds there that morning included a Western Tanager,

Western Tanager

Hermit Thrush,

Hermit Thrush

Yellow-rumped Warbler,

Yellow-rumped Warbler

and a Plumbeous Vireo.

Plumbeous Vireo

Dropping in on some of my other usual spots along the Rio Grande turned up a Bewick’s Wren, which I rarely get close enough to and have it stick around long enough for a picture.

Bewick’s Wren

All the Great Horned Owls have now grown up and disappeared, but I did stop by the nest at Piedras Marcadas Dam before we headed off for Massachusetts and saw that the owlets had left the nest and one was glaring at me from a nearby branch.

Great Horned Owl – Piedras Marcadas

Also dropped in on “Owlville” just before and after Massachusetts and saw several active Burrowing Owl nests. Interestingly, the owls were often hidden in their burrow on my first pass through the area and would then appear for a little while when I returned but in general did seem to hide when people showed up. I’ve only seen young ones at two of the nesting spots. One seemed to only have two young ones, but the other has at least four and maybe as many as six young ones.

Burrowing Owl

On my most recent trip there, I drove a little further south to Belen Marsh. With more water there than on earlier trips this year and a flooded field just across the road from the marsh, there were a large number of Black-necked Stilts and a few American Avocets and Killdeer around. Some were obviously young and I assume all had nested there this year. Fun for me was getting good pictures of a couple of them in flight. Usually they seem to take off and fly further away when a human appears, but this time and probably because they had those young ones around, they’d make repeated passes buzzing right over my head trying to scare me off I’m guessing. So I grabbed a couple of quick shots and then left them in peace.  Here’s the best one of the Black-necked Stilt,

Black-necked Stilt

and here’s the American Avocet.

American Avocet

Rebecca and I got out looking for butterflies on the east side of the Sandias after doing our part for Audubon’s Climate Watch bluebird survey on May 19. While we didn’t see too many butterflies that day, there were some good ones, including an Anise Swallowtail, Bronze Roadside-Skipper, and new for the season the big flashy Arizona Sister and Weidemeyer’s Admiral.

Weidermeyer’s Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyerii)

About a day before we left for Massachusetts, right at the end of the successful Audubon Thursday Birder trip to Otero Canyon we spotted one of the few butterflies we’d see that day, a Python Skipper, on the only blooming thistle in the area.

Python Skipper (Atrytonopsis python)

So Rebecca and I were off on May 26 for a ten day visit to Massachusetts. Our friend and local butterfly expert, Steve Moore, had planned and scouted good spots for finding some of the special butterflies we were hoping for at many different locations all over the state, from Plymouth in the east to Mt. Greylock in the west. Our Houston friends (and butterfliers), Steve & Lucinda, and most days Steve Moore’s wife, Barbara, would join us on these day trips. At several spots we’d run into other local butterfliers and during a day at Mt. Greylock went on a Massachusetts Butterfly Club walk led by another local friend, Tom Gagnon.  All that preparation by Steve Moore and willingness to spend all week leading us to all these spots and knowing what to look for was just incredible and helped us add almost a dozen species to our life lists, including several we had targeted as really hoping to see. High on our list was Bog Elfin and Frosted Elfin, both of which we got to see although they were near the end of their short flight season and looking a bit tattered.

Frosted Elfin (Callophrys irus)

When we finally spotted the Bog Elfin we were surprised to also see what turned out to be a White-M Hairstreak, a rather unexpected lifer sighting!

White-M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album)

Fun seeing a few good birds on the trip, too, including Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, a close view of a Prairie Warbler on the first day,

Prairie Warbler

and a nesting Blue-headed Vireo on our Mt. Greylock walk.

Blue-headed Vireo

We also enjoyed seeing some amazing flowers that I’ve only seen before back east, including Pink Lady’s Slipper

Pink Lady’s Slipper

and Jack-in-the-Pulpit.


Target butterfly for our group walk at Mt. Greylock was the Early Hairstreak, which eluded us on the long walk in, but we’d see several individuals on the return. Tough one to see since they are quite small and blend right into the gray gravel on the trail, but once spotted seem to stick around long enough to photograph.

Early Hairstreak (Erora laeta)

We’d see American Copper butterflies just about everywhere we went, a gorgeous butterfly even if it wasn’t new for us.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

Four of those lifers were members of the skipper family, including Dusted Skipper,

Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna)

but we’d also see one we rarely see around here, the Tawny-edged Skipper.

Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles)

On our last day, we’d finally get a good look at plenty of Little Wood-Satyrs that somehow we’d missed all along,

Little Wood-Satyr (Megisto cymela)

and got pretty good looks at a few Silver-bordered Fritillaries;

Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)

both I’d seen once before on trips to Illinois and Wyoming, but always cool to see. A good trip and fun seeing old friends again and lots of new butterflies. And we certainly appreciate Steve’s willingness to help find those butterflies for us; we’d never have seen most of those butterflies on our own or even have a clue of where to look.


About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
This entry was posted in Birding, Butterfly, Flowers, Photographs, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Off to Massachusetts

  1. Rebecca Gracey says:

    Joe, your bird pictures are outstanding, especially the black-necked stilt and the American avocet. Those need to be framed or at least put on a card. The Yellow-rumped Warbler was especially nice too.

    • joeschelling says:

      Thanks. Stilt and Avocet surprised me, too, how well they turned out but had the advantage of the sun in the right place and birds repeating their patterns for buzzing me 🙂

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