Once again, pictures have begun piling up since returning from that great road trip to the Mothapalooza in Ohio. A couple of days later, Rebecca and I headed up to the Sandias to see what new butterflies were flying. Without really expecting to see many, we went a short distance from Balsam Glade on the road through Las Huertas Canyon wanting to check to see if the coneflowers were yet in bloom and maybe even a few patches of James’ buckwheat we’ve seen there. The coneflowers were indeed coming into bloom, but not much on them other than the ubiquitous Painted Ladies and a few Juniper Hairstreaks. But then we spotted a large patch of James’ buckwheat we’d never seen before that was attracting quite a few good butterflies. One we don’t see all that often but uses the buckwheat as its host plant was the Square-dotted Blue.
We would turn up several individuals of that species along with large numbers of Tailed Coppers, a species we’ve recently seen in several locations in the Sandias.
Lower down the mountain in Cienega Canyon, we were surprised by how many Juniper Hairstreaks we’d see on the few blooming coneflowers and especially having several nectaring on the same flower.
Almost a week later, we headed back up to Balsam Glade (once again unsuccessful in our search for the Colorado Hairstreak we’d like to see there) and again down the road to Las Huertas. Pretty good butterflies that day, too, including plenty of those Tailed Coppers, but most surprisingly along the way to the buckwheat patch, I spotted a dark butterfly next to the road and managed to get out of the car quickly enough to get a picture.
I was pretty sure it was a Mexican Sootywing, a species we haven’t seen very often at all and certainly not this late in the season or at such a high elevation. Fortunately, the photo clearly shows the black veining and blue black sheen on the underside of the wings which differentiates it from the more widespread Common Sootywing. Submitted to BAMONA later that day, the identification was soon confirmed. That got us visiting other locations we’ve had them before, finding several individuals at most of those spots.
On both trips, we were sure to take a look at the dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) that was in bloom at the 8000′ sign, and when it’s working attracts all manner of butterflies, including two that we rarely see, Behr’s Hairstreak and Banded Hairstreak.
A couple of other fun pictures from that day include a Northwestern Fritillary,
and a Hoary Comma.
On the paved walk by the meadow in Cienega Canyon, I spotted this snail making its way along.
There have been three Audubon Thursday Birder trips since my last blog update, but I only have one bird photo this time, a Swainson’s Hawk from our most recent trip looking for raptors (and lots of Burrowing Owls) in Torrance County.
The week after returning from our Ohio road trip I led our annual trip to Corrales for the nesting Mississippi Kites. Although they’d nested at our meeting place every year since 2012, this year they weren’t nesting there and hadn’t even been seen recently, so it had me a bit worried. Fortunately, and indeed surprisingly, the group would get good looks at a couple of them that day although none on a nest. The next week was our visit to the Simms Ranch and summer potluck hosted by Bonnie Long. Both have ridiculously large numbers of hummingbirds zooming around the many feeders they keep filled with sugar water. Also present at the Simms was this cool Great Plains Skink.
Having heard about it from a friend, the next day Rebecca and I drove down to White Sands NM for their Mothapalooza event scheduled for that evening with a moth expert we’d met at the Ohio Mothapalooza in 2017. A good number of people showed up out in the sand dunes where the park folks set up lots of folding chairs and had generators for powering a couple of presentations before using them to power UV lights on two mothing sheets. We’d see some interesting moths arrive as the evening progressed, some familiar from other places but others unique to this unusual habitat. We had one big one show up, a Western Poplar Sphinx Moth
and at one point a White-lined Sphinx Moth that for once was sitting quietly and not flitting about.
Lately, there have been lots of this species busy nectaring on flowers all over town and I’m still trying to get a good photo of one flying…I kind of like the way this one came out the other day.
It had probably been five years since we last did any butterflying around there, so we spent some time in nearby Cloudcroft before and after the Mothapalooza. Several Gray Hairstreaks flying around there, including this one that posed nicely for its portrait.
And it was nice to again see the Four-spotted Skipperling
and Tawny-edged Skipper, both species we haven’t seen in a few years.
We were also thrilled to see several Pine White butterflies at close range, a species we’d been looking for at home for awhile and that’s usually spotted flying high around ponderosa pines.
The Painted Lady butterfly is just being seen everywhere this year and Cloudcroft was no exception. We’d see several of them on single flowers,
and they would often photo-bomb my pictures of other species, such as this Black Swallowtail
or this one of a Variegated Fritillary.
We’d been hoping to see the very localized Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot (Ephydryas anicia cloudcrofti), but couldn’t quite find the spot we’d had them a few years ago and didn’t see one anywhere else this trip. We did see a couple of individuals of another specialty of the area, the Capitan Mountains Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis capitanensis) a subspecies of the Northwestern Fritillary we see in the Sandias. This one was also photo-bombed by a Sleepy Orange this time.
Later, I’d get a nice shot of the Sleepy Orange on another thistle by itself (of course, photo-bombed by some kind of bee this time).
On the way home, we stopped for lunch at Valley of Fires Recreation Area outside of Carrizozo, where an approaching raincloud kept the butterflies under cover, but did turn up an interesting beetle
and I happened to notice a small patch of lichen with an unusual shape.
About a week later, I’d spot another interesting beetle we’ve seen a few times before, a Harlequin Bug.
A trip last weekend to Quarai as part of our ongoing quest to find more of those Mexican Sootywings (yes!) also turned up several Fulvia Checkerspots, a species we’ve seen there before but not very often.
That area also had a few Common Buckeyes, this rather fresh one posed nicely for me.
The next day in Ojito de San Antonio Open Space the weather was keeping the butterflies hidden for the most part but we did get a good look at a Common Wood-Nymph, the first I’ve seen around here this year.