After spending the early part of July on that fabulous butterfly trip to the Swiss Alps, the rest of the month seems to have flown by for me. These last couple of weeks have brought us a few good rains of our summer monsoon season, and the mountains are open again with the somewhat lower fire risk. Birds and butterflies have been a little slow this year so far, probably due to such a drought, but hopefully activity will pick up again soon. The last couple of weeks have been good for seeing a number of bird youngsters and a few new for the season butterflies and other insects. Among the baby birds was this Cooper’s Hawk sharing a branch with its sibling and calling vigorously hoping the folks will bring something to eat soon.
A bit more relaxed was this little Black-headed Grosbeak the Audubon Thursday Birders got to see on their trip to Hyde Park in Santa Fe.
Several of their weekly trips had to be re-scheduled this summer due to some mountain areas being closed due to fire danger. Hyde Park was our choice when Valles Caldera was closed on July 12, and another one originally planned for the Sandias on June 28 was changed to Tingley Ponds. Most recently, another trip to the Sandias was changed to Shady Lakes the day before the Sandias were surprisingly reopened. Always an interesting and different habitat to visit, Shady Lakes closed in late 2016 and is still on the market, so I was a bit surprised to find it is indeed still open and welcoming to visiting birders. Fun to see there was both an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron
along with its new little one off the nest on a nearby branch.
Shady Lakes has fishing ponds filled with waterlilies, attracting all kinds of damselflies and dragonflies as well as some birds.
Far off on one of the ponds was a Green Heron perched on a dead branch above a pair of Wood Ducks.
My annual trip taking the group to see Mississippi Kites was this past week, and (for the seventh year in a row) once again we found a nest this time with one little one still there, another young one out in the open calling for food that an adult would swoop in and feed from wherever they go to find it, and another adult watching over things from high in a tree. Here’s one of the almost grown-up young ones (told by that banded tail that disappears in the adult) from a couple of weeks earlier.
This year the Mississippi Kites seem to have been around and in better numbers than in recent years. I first saw a pair of them this year on June 18 near Tramway Wetlands (aka North Diversion Channel), and have since seen them regularly at several other locations in Corrales and heard they’re even being seen at the Rio Grande Nature Center. Cooper’s Hawks had apparently nested this year close to where the Kites have nested for years, prompting the Kites to be more assertive in protecting their nest by dive-bombing visitors. In the past, the adults would swoop by but considerably higher and not obviously targeting civilians. The day I took the above picture, one of the young Cooper’s Hawks was still in the area perched low in a tree and unconcerned by my presence.
Also of note this year is it seems the Osprey finally are succeeding in raising three little ones at Tramway Wetlands after a disaster last year and a failed nest earlier this year that blew down in a spring wind. Seems the first time they’ve been known to successfully nest in Bernalillo County, kind of a big deal, eh?
In other insect news, very commonly seen in the mountains this time of year are the Repetitive Tachinid Flies.
Quite a few other cool insects, such as Tarantula Hawk, Figeater Beetle, Thread-waisted Wasp, Giant Ichneumon Wasp, and several bee species have been showing up lately, but a couple of my favorites are the White-lined Sphinx Moth (being seen in ridiculous numbers this year),
and the Snowberry Clearwing.
There have been some pretty good butterflies flying around lately, too, although numbers seem low, there don’t seem to be quite as many species being seen this season so far, and nectar plants and mudbanks have been impacted by the long drought. On that July 12 trip to Hyde Park, at the Santa Fe Ski Basin the weather was somewhat wet and cloudy and several of our usual spots had few wildflowers and few butterflies about. But we still picked up a few good ones that we don’t usually see here in town, including a Green Comma,
and a Purplish Copper.
A few days later on a trip to several of our regular spots in the Sandias, Rebecca and I saw the tiny Western Tailed-Blue,
quite a few Russet Skipperling,
and both Common Wood-Nymph and Small Wood-Nymph; the latter is what I think is in this next picture.
That weekend, Rebecca’s nephew and his family were in town for a visit and I joined them for a walk to the Kiwanis Cabin at the Sandia Crest where we were surprised to see a Black Swallowtail, a species we don’t see very often at all. (It was almost as unusual a sighting as the bear we spotted crossing the road just as we were leaving Cienega Canyon!)
We were back looking around the Sandias about a week later to see our first Tailed Copper of the season,
a single Northwestern Fritillary (surprising as in the past we’d see dozens of them anywhere the coneflower was in bloom),
and a nicely posed Juniper Hairstreak.