Two for One

My blog updates typically cover either various things I’ve seen out there since the last update or focus on a single event usually as a trip report. This one’s a little different and more of a ‘twofer’, mostly about two different events over the last two weekends. There’s been quite a lot of cloudy skies and a few good rains since my last update, one of which gave me a great look at a double rainbow in the backyard close to sunset one evening.

Double Rainbow

We got outa town soon after, heading to Bear Mountain Lodge outside Silver City NM for a couple days and hoping for some late season butterflies. A delightful place to stay, we’d have remarkably good butterflies right on the lodge grounds and really wouldn’t spend much time at a few other locations in the area. One of those, Railroad Canyon, has always been good for butterflies but we were a little put off by how (surprisingly) full the creek was and only spent a little time working the area close to the highway. It would again turn up Red-bordered Satyr, which we’d seen in the area last year,

Red-bordered Satyr (Gyrocheilus patrobas)

and the first of two mantis insects, one spring green and this one in gray.

Mantis (Stagmomantis limbata)

Then it was on to Bear Mountain Lodge. Just like last year, several large yellow bushes next to the lodge had attracted large numbers of a variety of butterflies and moths. This year, we realized the bushes weren’t Chamisa (Ericameria nauseosa) like we commonly see around Albuquerque in the Fall, but its cousin, Turpentine Bush (Ericameria laricifolia) supposedly found only in extreme southwest New Mexico. We’d end up with 29 species of butterflies at the lodge, mostly on the Turpentine Bush, and in many cases quite a few individuals of a species. Our checklist for one day shows, for example, 25 Variegated Fritillary,

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

10 Apache Skipper (a species that eluded us last year until stumbling across them on arrival at Bear Mountain Lodge last year),

Apache Skipper (Hesperia woodgatei)

15 Clouded Sulphur, 20 Echo Azure, and 12 Common Checkered-Skipper, along with smaller numbers of other species.

Some of the other species included Bordered Patch,

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

Southern Dogface,

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

and on one of the other flowering bushes, a Great Purple Hairstreak.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

The most interesting find would turn out to be an Anicia Checkerspot that only showed up for a few minutes.

Anicia Checkerspot (Euphydryas anicia)

Obviously a checkerspot, we’d decided it was likely an Anicia Checkerspot but wanted to submit it to BAMONA for verification by our State expert, Steve Cary. He found our sighting quite interesting, thinking this species only flies in spring with no reports after May 10. Running it by some of his colleagues, he learned that fall sightings occasionally occur in Gila County AZ (maybe 100 miles to the west).

There were a surprisingly large number of moths visiting the turpentine bush, too, most of which we were able to identify. Two of them that let me get decent photos include the Hypocala Moth,

Hypocala Moth (Hypocala andremona)

and the Indomitable Melipotis.

Indomitable Melipotis (Melipotis indomita)

Two other fun pictures from the trip, a single water lily on the pond by our room,

Water Lily

and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird perched quietly at a very close distance.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

That trip is the first part of this ‘twofer’ post. On our Bear Mountain Lodge trip last year, we met two new friends from Arizona, Mark and Laura Mandel, and would connect with them later that year at Casa de San Pedro. Last June, they’d mentioned wanting to visit Albuquerque for this year’s 50th Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, something that’s been on their ‘bucket list’ for some time. As locals, it had been years since either of us had ever gotten up way before dawn to be on the field for a Mass Ascension, content to watch the sky fill with balloons from home during Fiesta Week. But this sounded like fun, and Rebecca graciously offered to have them stay with her during their visit for the last two days of the Fiesta.

Weather was quite problematic this year a good part of the time, with rain and clouds causing delays and cancellations of a number of events. But we decided to take a chance on the Saturday Mass Ascension, up at 4 am and down to the field in time for the (very cool) Aerial Drone Show at 5:45. Things weren’t looking too promising after that, with the Dawn Patrol grounded and none of the pilots preparing their balloons for flight, and by 7:30 the day’s events were cancelled. There were a few balloons that were inflated for a static display, which Mark and Laura seemed to enjoy experiencing. Laura was busy taking plenty of pictures and has quite a good eye for photo subjects (unlike my mostly closeups of birds, butterflies, and such). Here are a couple of her photos I liked from that day, first a selfie of Laura, me and Rebecca,

Laura, Joe, and Rebecca

and one of us with Mark.

Mark, Joe, and Rebecca

Things weren’t forecast to be much better the next (and final) day, but hey, this was a bucket list item for them and our tickets were good for it, so it was up again at 4 am Sunday for a second chance.

Sunday morning had us a little worried, seeming a little cooler and breezy under fairly cloudy conditions. Pilots seemed pretty confident, however, and started getting organized in case conditions improved. And, indeed, the weather would continually get better and the breeze died down just enough that the Mass Ascension got underway only a few minutes behind schedule. Here’s one of my photos somewhat early on (with Airabelle and Smokey Bear) showing part of the rather large crowd (first big post-Covid event for most of us).

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Crowd (w/ Airabelle and Smokey)

Back in the day, of course, everyone would take tons of photos (for all you who got started in the age of digital photography, it used to cost $0.50 every time you pressed the shutter of a film camera). I took plenty of digital shots, but will only show a few more here. First, here’s one taking off while more get ready.


Once things get underway, this day was certainly ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Balloons’.

Mass Ascension

Two favorites, that really show off their colors when seen in full sun, first a classic design,

Colorful Balloon

and one I’d first assumed was some sort of South Asian, maybe Buddhist, design, but is actually a fractal design from the Fractal Foundation.

Fractal Balloon

Of course, now that Balloon Fiesta’s over, the weather has been absolutely delightful the last couple of days; and the aspen are putting on their Fall show up in the mountains while the cottonwoods down by the river are just starting to turn golden.


About joeschelling

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

4 Responses to Two for One

  1. C.C. says:

    Thank you for a jam-packed post, Joe.
    That fractal balloon eluded me this year- so I’m glad you shared. Jonathan Ferguson I believe is the naMe of the Abq native who creates and sews these numerous fractal balloons- also the person who runs the Fractal Foundation and used to put on monthly shows at NMMNHS planetarium. They’re my favorites.
    And also wanted to say that NMMNHS (Natural History Museum) has a number of Turpentine bushes planted all around their outdoor buildings, though I haven’t been by to check in a couple of years. I used to be Garden Programs educator there, where this time of year the blue dwarf butterflies are constantly sucking nectar from the maturing, low-lying volunteers-the edible purslanes.

    • joeschelling says:

      Thanks for all that info. I’d googled to find the Fractal Foundation…super idea! And most interesting about the turpentine bush…we’d suspected there might be some in Albuquerque, and I’ll be checking the museum since it was so popular with butterflies in Silver City.

  2. The balloons are stunning but I like the butterflies you posted very much. 🦋

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