The last couple of weeks have been pretty entertaining as more and more butterfly species are flying as we move into summer. Monsoon rains are due any day now that should kick off more wildflowers along with more butterflies. While butterflies seem to be my main focus just now, there’s been fun sightings of a few good birds as well. Right on time, the Rufous Hummingbirds have returned to terrorize all the others in our area, and I hear that folks are starting to see an occasional Calliope Hummingbird along with the usual Black-chinned and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.
Most fun was hearing about a Northern Goshawk nest a friend told me about, and when I went to try to find it ran into another friend that turned around and took me right to it. I’ve only seen a Northern Goshawk once before, so it was a treat to see two young ones about to fledge from a much closer range.
Weather wasn’t great that day, however, and the unusual low clouds made photography challenging. Last Saturday, I woke up to a Facebook post showing a flash photo of 3 Barn Owls perched on a nesting box along with a map showing the location. Headed down there hoping to find one, and knew exactly where to go since that nest box had been used by Barn Owls years ago. Fun getting a picture of the one individual I saw inside the box.
A few friends had asked recently about where to see that species, so I emailed them about it as soon as I got home. That’s the last time I’ve seen one despite checking several other mornings, and friends were also being disappointed at not finding them over the first few days. But Monday, one friend spooked a couple from where they must have a day roost in the cottonwoods. Several friends returned that night and got to see four of them, again having three lined up on top of that nest box.
That’s it for birds this time and now on to those butterflies. Toward the end of a walk in Corrales one morning, a Dotted Roadside-Skipper was hitting the bindweed just as that Orange-headed Roadside-Skipper had on our recent trip to Eagle Nest. A species Rebecca had seen on our drive to Rio Puerco a few days earlier, this one in Corrales was a good find as my first sighting of one for the year.
The next day, Rebecca and I checked out a few of our dependable spots in the lower Sandias. On some white clover, I’d get an okay shot of a Thicket Hairstreak.
We’d see two Pine Whites at Sulfur Canyon that morning, but my photos weren’t great. It was good to see that the patch of dogbane was in full bloom at the 8000′ sign, which attracted some good butterflies, but none of the more unusual ones we’ve sometimes seen there in the past. We would get to see a Northwestern Fritillary, a species that some years are abundant and other years uncommon.
Here’s what they look like from the top from a photo taken a week later in Cienega Canyon.
We’d see plenty of Dun Skippers in different locations, which seems kind of a drab-looking butterfly but was attractive enough in a well-lit close-up.
Starting around the first week of July, the Tailed Copper has been flying and seem unusually abundant this year in the Sandias.
A friend who’d gone to Eagle Nest for some of the butterflies we’d seen there toward the end of June reported seeing a few more goodies and that got us motivated for a return visit on July 11. This time we just went for the day, and while that meant about a 3 hour drive each way it’s a quite scenic and enjoyable journey and left plenty of time to hit some good butterfly spots.
Our first stop was in Angel Fire at a field of several kinds of buckwheat and milkweed that turned up our main target for the trip, the Blue Copper. This was a first for me in New Mexico and had only seen it once before on a trip out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Oddly, we had never noticed the field that was directly across the road from where we’d stopped for lunch (and saw Spalding’s Blue) on the June trip. Heading onward, we’d see the Ruddy Copper again near Eagle Nest Lake,
and Purplish Copper at a different location along the lake.
With the addition of a Tailed Copper seen at Tolby Campground that gave us a total of four species of Copper butterfly in one day.
A few of the other interesting sightings that day include a pair of mating Greenish Blues,
our first West Coast Lady of the year,
and, at the Eagle Nest Lake State Park Visitor Center several of what I now think are Sonoran Metalmarks. I’d long assumed that the metalmarks we usually see around here were Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo), but working on all of my photos of them upon our return was surprised to find that I’ve typically been seeing Sonoran and may have only seen a Mormon once.
A fun picture from the Tolby Campground (Cimarron Canyon State Park) was this one of a Northwestern Fritillary along with a Western Green Hairstreak.
Since that trip, we’ve made a couple of outings to the Sandias, once to several of our usual spots and the next day checking out couple of new spots. The first day led to a decent photo of one of those many Tailed Copper butterflies we’ve been seeing this year showing that bluish sheen when oriented just so to the sun.
A few of the others we’d see that first trip include a Gray Hairstreak in nice lighting,
another Juniper Hairstreak (I’ve posted way too many of them lately, but can’t help but photograph any that catch my eye.),
and some Square-Spotted Blues in patches of James’ Buckwheat we’d first seen them a few years ago.
Poking around in an area we haven’t visited in recent years turned up our first Common Wood-Nymph for the year, a species we’ve been looking for recently.
The next day, we took a look around a few other promising spots in the Sandias that we hadn’t visited before. One of those, the Cienega Canyon Trail, had been suggested in a comment on an earlier post by M.J. Zimmerman. It was a fun surprise running into her and a friend on the trail that morning. We all had our Covid-19 masks on, but M.J. guessed our identities as soon as we mentioned we were there for butterflies.
A very promising location with big stands of coneflower and bee balm with a good stream of water running through it from an upstream spring. We were a little late for the bee balm, but saw several fresh Funereal Duskywings,
a couple of Taxiles Skippers,
and several other species. Definitely a spot deserving of future visits.