Another Nepali Adventure

For years now, I’ve tried to spot the earliest emergence of Sandia Hairstreaks on the Texas Beargrass (Nolina texana) in my ‘local patch’, Embudito Canyon. Once I had one at the end of February, for several years they appeared by March 3, and I’ve long suggested to visiting friends an almost guaranteed sighting by St. Patrick’s Day. This year, our Nepali friends, Sajan and Anisha, came to visit during their Spring Break from ENMU with hopes of seeing one (something they’d been planning since we first met them last August). So that had me out taking a look pretty much every day since late February whenever the weather cooperated (warm enough and sunny enough). Becoming a bit discouraged by the generally uncooperative weather and our friend’s anticipated arrival the next day, it was quite a relief to finally spot one on March 9.

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

Alan, a friend we’d met at the National Butterfly Center in January was also interested in seeing a Sandia Hairstreak. He just happened to be in Las Cruces and had emailed me on March 8 about his chances if he were to visit in the next few days. After telling him it seemed unlikely, I let him know I’d now seen one. While I couldn’t promise one on March 10, he decided to make the 8 hour round-trip drive from Las Cruces anyway. We met at Embudito that morning and easily got him several individuals – yay!

Meanwhile, Sajan & Anisha decided to leave Portales earlier that same day hoping to also see their first Sandia Hairstreak. They’d made it to Rebecca’s house a little later than expected, but then met me at Embudito about 2 pm. They, too, were successful, with Anisha finding the first one and then the rest of us getting good looks at several more. Somehow, Sajan even talked one into climbing onto his finger!

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

Super glad everybody got theirs that day…weather’s been a bit questionable ever since with it even snowing on my ‘guarantee’ St. Patrick’s Day.

With little hope of seeing any other butterfly species around here this early in the season, we’d planned a four-day trip to several other locations further south in New Mexico and southeast Arizona to hopefully find at least a few early season butterflies. The first day it was off to Las Cruces to Fillmore Canyon and Soledad Canyon where we’ve had good butterflies in the past. Not too many butterflies at the first spot under fairly breezy and partly cloudy conditions, but several good sightings including a Desert Marble,

Desert Marble (Echloe lotta)

a most cooperative Desert Orangetip,

Desert Orangetip (Anthocharis cethura)

and a Southwestern Orangetip (which should emerge here any day now).

Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis thoosa)

Our next stop at Soledad Canyon was a bust with overcast skies and quite windy conditions, so we made our way east to Deming for the night. Our original plan was to take a look around Rockhound State Park and/or Spring Canyon early the next morning before driving into Arizona basically to get close to Patagonia where we’d spend the third day of the trip in search of butterflies. Instead, having seen recent reports from the Tucson area, we drove there directly and spent time at one spot in Sabino Canyon, Molino Canyon Vista, and Gordon Hirabayashi Campground. We’d get good looks at a fair number of butterflies that day, missed a few that we’d been hoping to see, but had a fun day in quite different habitats than we have here. One photo from the Sabino spot is this Empress Leilia.

Empress Leilia (Asterocampa leilia)

We started the next morning at Sentinel Peak, where Sajan had heard from a friend about butterflies seen there just the day before including our hoped-for Arizona Powdered-Skipper. Very different habitat from what we’re used to, the hillside was covered with saguaro cactus and lots of wildflowers including large amounts of a mustard, Gordon’s Bladderpod,

Gordon’s Bladderpod

and a delightful wild hyacinth, Blue Dicks.

Blue Dicks – Wild Hyacinth

We’d spot an occasional butterfly, but were not seeing much until later in the morning when things did pick up a little. Although quiet for butterflies, several Verdin were flitting about the area for some good photo opps of a bird that’s usually a little difficult to see near home.


It was fun being the first to spot our Arizona Powdered-Skipper, which we were able to re-find after it flew a short distance away from where it was first seen.

Arizona Powdered-Skipper (Systasea zampa)

The photo above, however, was taken at a spot we stumbled upon later that day. When we decided to leave Sentinel Peak, we were headed for Sonoita AZ, where we had reservations for the night at the excellent Sonoita Inn, before heading home to Albuquerque the next day. For some reason, Google Maps sent us down I-19 instead of the expected I-10, and we realized we could check a few other spots along the way that we had considered earlier. After a quick stop in Madera Canyon, we backtracked a short distance to unpaved Hwy 62 heading for Hwy 83 south to Sonoita. Stopping at a bridge over a stream Rebecca had read about, almost immediately we started seeing a surprising variety of butterflies, including that Arizona Powdered-Skipper, Desert Checkered-Skipper, Fatal Metalmark, Gray Buckeye, and even a Golden-headed Scallopwing.

Golden-headed Scallopwing (Staphylus ceos)

Onward to Sonoita to check in at the Sonoita Inn, and then rather late in the afternoon drove to nearby Patagonia, AZ and on to the ‘Patagonia Picnic Table/Rest Stop’ famous to birders. To our considerable surprise and earlier than expected for Arizona, we would come across two Zela Metalmarks there.

Zela Metalmark (Apodemia zela)

The next day was mostly about the 6.5 hour drive back to Albuquerque, but we decided to break it up about halfway home by taking a look at Rockhound State Park , and the place we’d talked about earlier in the trip. It was fun to see we’d timed the trip to catch good numbers of the blooming Mexican poppies (that had astonished us once before at Spring Canyon in late March 2012).

Poppy at Rockhound State Park

We’d see a few butterflies there, but nothing too exciting. One I thought a little surprising since we usually don’t see them until later in the season at home was a Juniper Hairstreak.

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

Smooth trip home but no chance for any more butterflies around here for the rest of Sajan & Anisha’s visit.


About joeschelling

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

6 Responses to Another Nepali Adventure

  1. Very nice collection. A kind of Orangetip lives in Finland too.

  2. joeschelling says:

    Same thing here…some years they never seem to land or I’ll spot one on the ground just as it takes off, but every now and then one will perch quietly usually on a nectar source.

  3. Cecil Wingfield says:

    Joe, it sounds like everyone had a great time and scored some amazing butterflies! Reading your blog was a lot of fun and made me feel like
    I was right there with you. Take care.

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