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,
and a male tarantula on its annual migration in search of a female from Three Gun Spring on the 23rd.
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
and a Checkered White.
Checking the Chamisa in some of the Albuquerque foothills that day also gave a nice look at what is presumedly a young 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,
West Coast Lady, a similar but not nearly as commonly seen species as the ubiquitous Painted Lady and the somewhat common American Lady,
and some Bordered Patch butterflies, known to breed there and quite variable in appearance.
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,
and seemed to have had a few more Arizona Sisters flying past than usual.
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
and the sometimes more common and similar-looking Southern Dogface.
Several times over the next few days we’d see Monarchs, such as this brilliantly colored male,
and starting with Railroad Canyon, my first Red-bordered Satyr for New Mexico.
Got a good photo of an American Rubyspot while poking around for butterflies, too.
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!
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,
a good look at one of several Great Purple Hairstreaks we’d seen on the trip,
and both Hackberry Emperor and its cousin, Empress Leilia.
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.
That day also turned up one of the few Flame Skimmers I’ve seen this year, nicely posed and patiently waiting to be photographed.
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.