Three weeks have passed since my last posting, so it’s time for an update. For various reasons, I haven’t been getting out as much lately and not seeing many birds or butterflies that end up having their photographs taken. This may be a good thing, as recently I realized just how many photographs have ended up stored on the website I started 23 years ago. Seems there are nearly 6000 bird photos and 4000 butterfly photos from New Mexico, more than 3000 photos of neotropical butterflies, and plenty more from a number of trips and of assorted other creatures. I definitely need to wade through all those birds and butterflies and save only the better ones. Anyway, over the last few weeks I seem to have ended up with a few bird and butterfly shots I thought I’d share along with a variety of other critters that caught my eye. Way back on July 27 I checked in on the Burrowing Owls in Owlville and did get a quick look at at three at one of the nesting locations.
From there it was on to The Box Recreation Area to meet up with Rebecca to look for butterflies before heading on to Water Canyon in search of a few more. About the only butterfly we managed to see at The Box was this Orange Skipperling that at first I mistook for a flower or some such until looking closer.
Much quieter on the road into and in Water Canyon than on a visit in mid-June, but we did see a surprisingly large number of Sonoran Metalmarks.
Near the picnic ground in Water Canyon, Rebecca noticed a tarantula wandering around.
The next day, I went to Rinconada Canyon in Petroglyph National Monument. There’d been a picture in the paper recently showing how lush and green it looked these days, so I was hoping a few butterflies might be out. It did indeed look greener than its more typical dry desert scrub, but not nearly as verdant as that picture implied and there were very few butterflies to be seen. What was a big surprise for me, however, was seeing large numbers of millipedes along the trail. I stopped counting at 150, but there were plenty more both on the trail and in the surrounding desert. In the past, I only recall noticing one or two and not that often at all. Recent monsoon rains likely caused them to come out, as there were quite a few lounging around in the few muddy wet patches.
The next day up at Sandia Crest, again very few butterflies and somewhat surprisingly few flowers, but I’d see some of those “aggregations” of ladybugs that several friends have posted about on Facebook recently.
The first of August had Rebecca and I taking another look at the lower part of Capilla Peak Road a month after our previous visit and then on to the Abo Ruins west of Mountainair. Few butterflies at the first stop, but we would see a Mexican Sootywing (a species seen often last year but rarely this year), have several Arizona Sisters visiting a garter snake that had been eviscerated by a passing vehicle (similar to behavior we’ve seen in the neotropics but very rarely in the US), and got our first American Snout for the year.
At Abo Ruins, we saw a few good butterflies at a spot we’d found productive last year including several Monarch butterflies (always a crowd favorite).
As we were about to wrap it up and head for home, one of the Park Rangers came over to tell us about their nesting Barn Owls. Three little ones were hanging out in the shade in one of the ruin alcoves. Tough to photograph since it was so dark in the shade in the middle of a bright sunny day, but I did get a couple of okay shots.
The ranger expected they would likely fledge and disappear soon, so as soon as I got home, I let a few friends know who’d recently been asking about Barn Owls. Most of them wisely returned much earlier in the day and got amazing photos of the little ones in full sun, and several more folks got the word and have been by since. I was a little surprised they hadn’t been posted on eBird much earlier, but figured maybe the park folks might have discouraged it and know that there are others that prefer to keep the location of nesting birds intentionally vague.
No butterflies in Embudito a few days later, but I would get an interesting shot of a Robber Fly with prey,
and managed an okay photo of a young Gambel’s Quail. Usually I’ll get a quick look at a bunch of baby quail running by about once a year but am never quick enough to get a photograph; this time I had a feeling an adult on the other side of the path had warned the little ones to stay hidden until the coast was clear and was ready for them when the adult chirped and maybe five little ones darted across.
Two days later, I’d see another Black Swallowtail at Los Poblanos Fields, but not the caterpillar or chrysalis I’d hoped to spot after seeing a friend’s photo of what I was pretty sure was the caterpillar. I would grab this shot of a New Mexico Whiptail showing off that turquoise tail.
On August 6, Rebecca and I made a quick stop at the Belen Marsh on our way to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area. Quite a few Black-necked Stilts and a good number of sandpipers (others would report large flocks of phalaropes later that day and egrets closer to sunset), but we were thrilled to spot three Virginia Rail popping in and out of the reeds. Difficult to see (let alone photograph) in that light, and it was only Rebecca’s always amazing ability to immediately recognize their call that had us looking for them.
At Whitfield, we’d see a few Monarchs, a couple of other common species, and our target butterfly for the day, Bordered Patch.
Also fun to see was a Verdin in the tree where they’ve nested at least the last couple of years.
This past Monday, we’d arranged to meet with Steve Cary (the NM Butterfly Guy) to look for a couple special butterflies at Wild Rivers Recreation Area, part of the new Río Grande del Norte National Monument, near Questa. We’d asked him probably a year ago where we might try for a Mead’s Wood-Nymph, and not only did he tell us but agreed to help us try to find one. This would be a life butterfly for both of us and the last of the four US species of Wood-Nymph on the list. He also wanted to find Yuma Skipper for us. I’d thought I might have seen one in California years ago, but don’t have it checked on my life list, and their range seems mostly Utah and Nevada, so it would be another lifer both for my US and NM list. Even more special, and I hadn’t realized it until he told us and I read up on it at home, was that Steve had been the first to identify and name the sub-species seen in this area, Ochlodes yuma anasazi (Anasazi Skipper).
The area had been noticeably impacted by the ongoing drought of the last several years, and we were all a little concerned seeing very few butterflies in any of the places we looked. It was therefore quite satisfying to finally spot a total of three of the Anasazi Skipper (one that flew before any of us could photograph it, one that stayed just long enough for me to photograph, and finally one that perched on the ground for all of us to get nice long looks)-here’s that second one.
Steve seemed to expect the Mead’s Wood-Nymph to be a slam dunk and took us to a couple of spots on the way out where the chamisa looked good for seeing one. It took a couple of stops and some pretty intense looking, but Steve was soon successful at spotting the first one and then we’d get to see several more.
One day, two lifers…not bad, and brings my US list to 477.
Time to wrap up this posting…pretty much the only photograph I’ve gotten since Monday was this nicely-posed Arizona Sister from yesterday at Cienega Canyon.