More July Butterflies

Since my last posting, our summer monsoon has been quite good and led to several excellent butterfly outings. We’ve started to see some species that have eluded us in recent years along with some of our usual suspects that have been scarce this year. In addition to the butterflies, there’s also been some fun photos of a few birds and plants during some of those outings.

A first trip took us to Capilla Peak Road where we’d had excellent butterflies a month earlier. Much of the vegetation had changed over that time and we turned up fewer butterflies but some of different species. It was fun getting a decent photo of a Western Tailed-Blue,

Western Tailed-Blue (Comynta amyntula)

seeing a few of the Southwestern Fritillary, whose numbers have been low this year,

Southwestern Fritillary (Argynnis nausicaa)

and Rebecca finally got a good look at a California Tortoiseshell.

California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)

A few days later, we made a long day trip to Tres Piedras and then taking US 64 west, stopping at Hopewell Lake and a few promising wildflowers spots along the way to Tierra Amarilla looking for butterflies. While we wouldn’t see too many species at Hopewell Lake, we were surprised seeing so many Wood-Nymphs, species I rarely see more than one or two on any local outing. Most were Small Wood-Nymph,

Small Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis oetus)

I think, but there seemed to be a few Common Wood-Nymph around, too.

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

Several times we’d spot a small butterfly that we decided was Garita Skipperling.

Garita Skipperling (Oarisma garita)

Most exciting for me at Hopewell Lake was seeing the Anicia Checkerspot, a species I’ve very rarely seen anywhere, that Rebecca had spotted.

Anicia Checkerspot (Euphydryas anicia)

Several fabulous flowers were in bloom around the lake, including Orange Skyflower

Orange Skyflower

and Gunnison’s Mariposa Lily.

Gunnison’s Mariposa Lily

And of course, plenty of dragonflies and damselflies out and about including this mating pair.

Mating Damselflies

Following a picnic lunch, we headed on down US 64 stopping and looking around for butterflies at spots that looked good for and would turn out to be rather special. A large field of wildflowers that had quite a few Ruddy Copper (a species we’d first seen near Eagle Nest last year and then again in June of this year).

Ruddy Copper (Lycaena rubidus)

Even more exciting was seeing fritillaries going to the cutleaf coneflower and purple aster. One of these turned out to be an Aphrodite Fritillary

Aphrodite Fritillary (Argynnis aphrodite)

and another a Mormon Fritillary. Both of these were new for me in New Mexico.

Mormon Fritillary (Speyeria mormonia)

Back in town a couple days later had me taking a look at Embudito to see if the monsoon rain had done its thing on the spring, the vegetation, and hopefully a few more butterflies. Water appearing again in the recently-dry spring and a larger number of nectar plants in a wider variety of species raise hope for a butterfly comeback for the rest of the season. One I’d get a photo of was a Two-tailed Swallowtail nectaring on the clammyweed.

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

The morning was made even more interesting by seeing a rather large rattlesnake slip away into the underbrush, only getting a last second shot of the tail,


and managing to get a photo of a Gambel’s Quail with a few of her little ones.

Gambel’s Quail

A few days later, I’d spot a male calling from the top of a bush, once catching a quick glimpse of a couple of those little ones hiding at the base of the bush.

Gambel’s Quail

A couple of other birds that posed nicely there for me were a Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

and a Cactus Wren.

Cactus Wren

On July 23, Rebecca and I went to the Sandias for our butterfly survey of the route between Capulin Spring and Balsam Glade. Absolutely major highlights for the survey that day was seeing two Colorado Hairstreaks, a butterfly we haven’t seen in several years and was one of the reasons for choosing the route,

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)

and also seeing a Pine White, another species we haven’t seen in the Sandias for awhile now (but had a couple in the Jemez Mtns two weeks ago).

Pine White (Neophasia menapia) – male

After finishing the survey, we decided to drive a little ways down NM-165 to check on an outcrop of James’ Buckwheat where we first saw Square-spotted Blue years ago along with several other butterflies. The buckwheat was fully in bloom and had some of those butterflies working it, including this mating pair.

Square-spotted Blue (Euphilotes battoides)

Three days later, we were back in Embudito doing our survey for that route. The weather wasn’t great, but we did end up seeing a few butterflies. One in particular caught my eye near the big elm just before the spring. Getting a closer look at it, I worked hard to get a decent photo as it would turn out to be the same species we’d seen high in the Sandias on that James’ Buckwheat, a Square-spotted Blue.

Square-spotted Blue (Euphilotes battoides)

That is the first one of that species I’ve ever seen in Embudito, where I’ve now listed 67 species over the past decade. This would lead one to expect that the James’ Buckwheat would be somewhere in the area, but I don’t recall ever seeing it. Going to be looking soon to see if it can be tracked down there. We did happen to notice for the first time that there is a species of buckwheat just coming into bloom in the wash, which we are thinking is Sorrel Buckwheat (Eriogonum polycladon).

Sorrel Buckwheat (Eriogonum polycladon)

Another flower coming into bloom recently is one I’ve always known as Sacred Datura, but was surprised to find is also known as Jimsonweed.

Jimsonweed (aka Sacred Datura)

I’d hoped to get this blog update done by last Thursday, with so many pictures and interesting trips to cover. Please bear with me…only 6 more pictures from the last two fascinating days.

Friday was another trip to the Sandias for the Capulin/Balsam Glade butterfly survey. Not so many butterflies that day, but lots of fungi popping out including this rather photogenic variety.


After the survey, we checked out Cienega Canyon where the cutleaf coneflower is starting to take over the meadow and turned up a nice male Great Purple Hairstreak.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

On the drive out, an unusual-looking large black/blue butterfly nectaring around a large patch of verbena caught my eye. Hopping out of the car gave me a chance for some good photos of what was a Pipevine Swallowtail, rather uncommon around here and the first I’ve only seen before close to the Mexican border with New Mexico.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

Saturday was a trip up to E.V. Long Picnic Area and Johnson Mesa in Gallinas Canyon west of Las Vegas NM. It too would turn up some goodies, including good numbers of both male and female Pine Whites (see the male above),

Pine White (Neophasia menapia) – female

more of those Gunnison’s Mariposa Lilies,

Gunnison’s Mariposa Lily

and even the quite tiny, Western Pygmy-Blue, not all that uncommon but my first for the season.

Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile)

About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
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8 Responses to More July Butterflies

  1. Nancy says:

    Were the Pine Whites at EV Long Picnic Area or at Johnson Mesa in Gallinas Canyon?

  2. M.J. Zimmerman says:

    Such beautiful photos. I thought I saw a Colorado Hairstreak at Cienega a couple weeks ago and your photo helps me realize that I did ID it correctly. Just FYI, there are banks of wildflowers up on Ellis trail, lots of yellow sulphurs and fritillaries (I couldn’t tell which kinds) and Admirals, but I also got a good look at a Milbert’s tortoiseshell. And in June I saw a small black and white striped butterfly with a red head that I cannot identify. Is there a way to send you photos? Also I just want to say a big thanks for getting me interested in identifying butterflies. We have such a richness of them here in NM that I hadn’t been aware of!

    • joeschelling says:

      Thanks. Great you had a Colorado Hairstreak at Cienega; I haven’t seen one there, but wouldn’t be surprised especially if on an oak. I have been to Ellis a few times and seen Red Admiral, Weidemeyer’s Admiral, a California Tortoiseshell, and (what is now called) Southwestern Fritillary recently, but should make another visit soon.

  3. pcallen says:

    Love those w. pygmy blues! I can’t tell if that is an Eriogonum spp. there, but it doesn’t look like one to me. Yes, the Jimsonweed/Datura confusion continues! Those common names are used interchangably between two species of Datura we have here, the most “common” one being Datura wrightii, with the velvety smooth, heart shaped leaves. I think this is the one in your photo. I know Jimsonweed as a rougher, spikier plant, with spiny leaves, narrow flowers and big spikes on the seed pods = Datura stramonium.
    They both make more of an appearance after the monsoonal flooding we’re starting to get now, along with the Devil’s Claw = Proboscidea sp. in the Martynia family.

    • joeschelling says:

      Thanks, Peter. I agree with your call on the Datura wrightii, and a bit of Googling introduced me to the common name confusion, which also comes up regularly with butterflies. Best to go with the Latin names, though that seems to change over time, too. We’re now thinking our buckwheat is Sorrel Buckwheat (E. polycladon), and other images of the entire plant look more identifiable as an Eriogonum.

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