September Surprises

Just wrapped up the month of September with delightful weather, lots of late summer wildflowers in bloom, and the chamisa, cottonwoods and aspen all changing to their bright golden foliage. It’s been a interesting couple of weeks, too, photographing a few of the birds that I rarely see, getting nice photos of a couple that are more common, and of a few butterflies and other insects.

The Audubon Thursday Birder trip on September 20 to Ojito de San Antonio Open Space almost didn’t happen. From our meeting place in town, the mountains were completely covered in low clouds, fog, and it looked like a good chance of rain that morning. But our small group of intrepid birders voted to head on out and give it a shot. And while the weather never quite cleared up, the group had a pleasant enough walk and a good mix of species. Bird of the day was a Lewis’s Woodpecker that our leaders had seen a few days earlier and a species that is quite uncommon to see in the area these days, and I’ve only ever seen in northern New Mexico. Returning a couple of days later, it was a treat not only to see it was still there but that while I was taking its picture on one of the wooden power poles (where it had been at first), it flew much closer and busied itself working to get one of those seeds.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Two days after that on a scouting trip for this week’s outing to Randall Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe, one of the first birds we’d see was Clark’s Nutcracker, another bird that was seen more regularly in the past in the Sandias but I’ve only seen further north in recent years.

Clark’s Nutcracker

Interesting fact that these two birds are indeed named after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark of the 1804-1806 Corps of Discovery Expedition.

While poking around Randall Davey, we managed to spot a couple of butterflies that we just haven’t seen nearly as often this year as in past years. A Painted Lady was busy nectaring on the fragrant chamisa – one of only two we’ve had for our checklists this year, this species was seen in very large numbers all over town last year.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

We also had a Hoary Comma in the chamisa, a species we’ve seen a little more regularly but still smaller numbers than in recent years.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

On the day I got that nice look at the Lewis’s Woodpecker, I later headed up the mountain stopping at a few other favorite spots to see what might be around and got a fun picture of a Spotted Towhee at Capulin Springs.

Spotted Towhee

For a month now, Wilson’s Warblers seem to be flying pretty much everywhere and much more commonly seen than in the past (at least by me), and just the last week or so Ruby-crowned Kinglets have shown up about every place I visit along with the usual Lesser Goldfinches busy working on the sunflower seedheads. Several other warbler species are being seen as their migration gets underway, and it was quite unusual for me to see a Macgillivray’s out in the open at very close range and not flitting around as they usually do.

Macgillivray’s Warbler

The Audubon Thursday Birders went to Cochiti Lake and Pena Blanca last week on a day that was a little slow for birds at first but picked up nicely as the morning went on. We’d get most of our target species, including the Sage Thrasher, Black-billed Magpie, and Red-naped Sapsucker,

Red-naped Sapsucker

and a few other surprises of a couple of warbler species and a female Mountain Bluebird.

Mountain Bluebird

We usually get a few interesting shorebirds by scanning the lake and lakeshore, but unfortunately didn’t see any that morning, so might have to make another visit someday soon.

A visit to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area last Saturday turned up some good butterflies, including huge numbers of Clouded Sulphurs and Western Pygmy-Blues

Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile)

another one of those Painted Lady butterflies that were so numerous last year, but rarely seen this year, several Common Buckeye,

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

and a Common Checkered-Skipper (quite common, but this one posed nicely).

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

Rebecca in particular and I are paying much more attention to moths and caterpillars this year, and she’s getting pretty good at not only spotting them in the first place but in figuring out the identity of most of them. One caterpillar that we saw that day, however, has so far eluded our figuring out its identity despite its being pretty rather uniquely marked.

Unknown Caterpillar

Will wrap this one up with this shot of one of my Great Horned Owls spotted at Piedras Marcadas Dam on the last day of the month. Almost always the owls I see during their nesting season disappear after their little ones mature and aren’t seen again until the next year. But I’d spotted what could well be the same individual on the same branch back in mid-August, so I’m thinking this might be its regular roost. This time, I’d only thought to check after waking up (at 4:12 am!) to one calling in my backyard on September 25 – one of the few times I’ve heard one vocalize and the first time I’ve ever had one in my yard.

Great Horned Owl



About joeschelling

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

3 Responses to September Surprises

  1. paula graham says:

    Wonderful birds , butterflies and to top it all: the owl, oh what excitement that must cause.

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