April Butterfly Bonanza

This post, my first of the month, is going to focus entirely on some of the amazing butterflies we’ve been seeing around here lately. Some are from my Oso Spring survey route in Embudito for the New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network, and others from an early season visit to Capilla Peak Road near Manzano NM, a few sites in the east side of the Sandias (Ojito de San Antonio Open Space, Sulphur Canyon, Doc Long), and only my second visit ever to Canon Monte Largo near Belen NM.

Starting off with two visits to Embudito in early April were a few of our usual early season regulars, including the overwintering Hoary Comma, first a dorsal view,

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

and then a ventral view.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

We’d also see good numbers of Southwestern Orangetip, which some years seem to fly by without ever landing, but this year giving good opportunities for photographs of them nectaring on various plants.

Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis thoosa)

Occasionally, a Spring White shows up and it’s helpful for identification to get both the dorsal

Spring White (Pontia sisymbrii)

and ventral views.

Spring White (Pontia sisymbrii)

Starting to see a few duskywings again, too, some of which can be a little tricky to identify. This one is most likely a Dreamy Duskywing.

Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus)

On April 8, we thought to take a look at Ojito de San Antonio Open Space, where old apple and pear trees might be coming into bloom as well as a few other nectar sources, and later stopping at Sulphur Canyon and Doc Long to see if anything was flying this early.

Not too many butterflies (or flowering trees) at Ojito, but those that did appear were pretty special. There were a couple of Red Admirals around, a species not too commonly seen here,

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

and, surprisingly, in addition to a couple of the more commonly seen Hoary Comma was a California Tortoiseshell.

California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)

Moving on to Sulphur Canyon, the willows were working to draw good numbers of Mourning Cloak and Hoary Comma, but quite a surprise to spot even before we’d parked was a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell.

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti)

On the trail to Bill Spring close to Doc Long Picnic Area, another surprise and first for the year, a Thicket Hairstreak.

Thicket Hairstreak (Callophrys spinetorum)

Two days later, it was off to Capilla Peak Road, an area that’s turned up some good butterflies in recent years, but that we’d never been to quite this early in the year. It would also turn up a California Tortoiseshell, more Southwestern Orangetips,

Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis thoosa)

and Mylitta Crescent (seen earlier in Embudito, but not as good a photo op).

Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta)

The next NMBMN survey at Embudito picked up most of the usual suspects for this time of year, including this nicely-posed Mourning Cloak,

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

but also our first Sonoran Metalmark for the year.

Sonoran Metalmark (Apodemia mejicanus)

Last Friday, it was off to Canon Monte Largo, located at the base of the Manzano Mountains east of Belen. It’s a bit of a rocky road getting there especially the last mile or so. From the trailhead, a decent trail heads about 1-1/2 mile into the canyon to a small spring and what I assume is an old mining operation. Anywhere along the trail, and especially near the spring, can turn up good butterflies.

One of our first sightings there was a mating pair of Rocky Mountain Duskywing.

Rocky Mountain Duskywing (Erynnis telemachus)

We’d also see several Sandia Hairstreaks and a first of the year Juniper Hairstreak.

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

Prize for the day, however, was getting to see Arizona Hairstreak, and we’d see a total of seven individuals!

Arizona Hairstreak (Erora quaderena)

We’d known this species was a possibility here, but had only seen them a very few times before in Arizona and southwest New Mexico.

The spring at the far end of the trail had large numbers of duskywings, a few other species seen earlier that day, and good numbers of Short-tailed Skipper, a species we’d been expecting in Embudito for a few weeks now.

Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa dorus)

A final treat for the day was coming across the only blooming thistle anywhere along the walk (or that I’ve seen yet this year). When I first came up to it, there were two Sleepy Orange butterflies busy getting nectar. (For those who may be interested, one was already in summer form while the other still in the winter form.) This image is of the one still in the drab winter form.

Sleepy Orange (Abeis nicippe)

As the Sleepy Orange was about to leave, another yellow butterfly arrived that we weren’t sure of, but eventually correctly identified as a female Southern Dogface (a species I usually see later in the season and maybe the first female I’ve ever noticed).

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

On the way back from the spring, the Southern Dogface was still there, but now there was also a Two-tailed Swallowtail (which isn’t often seen early in the season except flying by).

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) & Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

It’s been a real treat seeing all these special butterflies in both my usual places as well as a few that don’t get nearly enough attention especially early in the season. Stay tuned as the plan for the next few weeks is checking in on a few more local spots that have been productive in the past.

About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
This entry was posted in Butterfly, Photographs. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to April Butterfly Bonanza

  1. Rebecca Gracey says:

    Those are beautiful pictures, Joe. I especially loved the Juniper Hairstreak photo. I’d forgotten how beautiful they are.

  2. pcallen says:

    Nice catching those green metalic sweat bees in there with the Southern Dogface! Those thistles are something else, quite the insect magnets!

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