Early Fall Sightings

Surprised today to see more than three weeks have passed since my last posting. It is certainly feeling as if we’ve moved from summer to fall, with cooler temperatures, the occasional bit of rain, and of course the changes to the foliage along with new sightings for the season.

Among those new sightings were a couple of my favorites showing clearly that we must live in a desert, a good sized “horny toad” seen along the trail near Mars Court on September 18,

Hernandez’s Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi)

and a male tarantula on its annual migration in search of a female from Three Gun Spring on the 23rd.

Desert Blonde Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes)

The visit to Three Gun Spring turned up a few good butterflies nectaring on the blooming Chamisa (Ericameria nauseosa), including two quite common species I thought made for pretty good photos – a Gray Hairstreak

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

and a Checkered White.

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

Checking the Chamisa in some of the Albuquerque foothills that day also gave a nice look at what is presumedly a young Canyon Towhee.

Canyon Towhee

The next day, we drove down to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area in Belen to find the Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) working well to attract several butterfly species. Among those we’d see were a Queen,

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

West Coast Lady, a similar but not nearly as commonly seen species as the ubiquitous Painted Lady and the somewhat common American Lady,

West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella)

and some Bordered Patch butterflies, known to breed there and quite variable in appearance.

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

Over the next few days, I’d get out to check the Chamisa in the foothill canyons hoping to spot an Apache Skipper, a species we’ve only seen a few times over the years (Stay tuned for more on this species below.). I did come across a few American Snout while doing that,

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

and seemed to have had a few more Arizona Sisters flying past than usual.

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

The next weekend had us off to Bear Mountain Lodge near Silver City on a long anticipated trip to celebrate my recent auspicious birthday. We weren’t really expecting to see many butterflies on the trip so late in the season, but there was a chance we’d spot the Orange Giant-Skipper we’ve been looking for the last couple of years and maybe a Red-bordered Satyr. While that didn’t happen, starting with a quick stop in Kingston followed by stops at Iron Creek Campground and Railroad Canyon on our way to Bear Mountain Lodge, we’d start coming across several good butterflies a few of which we’d rarely if ever seen before in New Mexico. A couple of the sulphurs included Mexican Yellow

Mexican Yellow (Eurema mexicana)

and the sometimes more common and similar-looking Southern Dogface.

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

Several times over the next few days we’d see Monarchs, such as this brilliantly colored male,

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

and starting with Railroad Canyon, my first Red-bordered Satyr for New Mexico.

Red-bordered Satyr (Gyrocheilus patrobas)

Got a good photo of an American Rubyspot while poking around for butterflies, too.

American Rubyspot (Hetaerina americana)

Later that afternoon, we arrived at Bear Mountain Lodge and went to check in, noticing large Chamisa bushes out front that were just buzzing with butterflies. A lot of those butterflies looked like grass skippers, and it was astonishing to realize they were all Apache Skippers, that species mentioned above that we’ve rarely seen even a single individual and had been looking for over the last few weeks!

Apache Skipper (Hesperia woodgatei)

After a couple of fun days around Bear Mountain Lodge, we’d decided to spend an extra day around Las Cruces before heading home, having heard about good butterflying there recently. That worked out pretty well (despite on and off clouds and finding few damp areas) with more of those different sulphurs flying about, including good numbers of Tailed Orange,

Tailed Orange (Pyrisitia proterpia)

a good look at one of several Great Purple Hairstreaks we’d seen on the trip,

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

and both Hackberry Emperor and its cousin, Empress Leilia.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

Heading for home early the next morning, we spent some time at Paseo del Rio Campground just below Elephant Butte Dam. The Desert Broom was working there, too, drawing in quite a few Queen butterflies, a couple Monarchs, our only Viceroy for the trip (and maybe the year), American Snout, another Great Purple Hairstreak, and a few others. A major highlight, though, was spotting what turned out to be a Definite Patch, a butterfly I’d only seen twice before (2015 and 2017) outside Carlsbad, NM.

Definite Patch (Chlosyne definita)

That day also turned up one of the few Flame Skimmers I’ve seen this year, nicely posed and patiently waiting to be photographed.

Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata)

Finally, a couple days after getting home, I spotted a Lupine Blue during a walk at Embudito Canyon, and quite like the photo I got with my newer Sony camera.

Lupine Blue (Plebejus lupini)

About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
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6 Responses to Early Fall Sightings

  1. The horned lizard and the tarantula were making me a little nervous. Glad to see all those beautiful butterflies,too!

    • joeschelling says:

      I was always hesitant around lizards and snakes, too, but once a friend jumped out of the car to pick up a horned lizard on the highway and ever since it seems to me they actually enjoy sitting in a hand to warm up. Still not particularly interested in picking up tarantulas, but they’re supposed to be fine unless you alarm them.

  2. Wonderful collection of butterflies! 🦋😀

  3. Beautiful series of images!

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