Melissa and I went hiking in Hondo Canyon this afternoon just to get out for some exercise and warm weather. The birds were fairly quiet, but we got some good looks at Cassin’s Finches and a whole bunch of Townsend’s Solitaires. A Bushtit and a Bewick’s Wren came to investigate my poor pygmy-owl imitation and the solitaires went nuts over it too. (One of the things I like birding in the west is how easy it is to imitate a pygmy-owl. I can’t make a decent Eastern Screech-Owl call to save my life).
But the treat today was all the butterflies about. Many were attracted to the stream and mud around the travertine waterfall a short distance up the canyon. Almost the first butterfly I saw was a Great Purple Hairstreak, a butterfly I’ve been anxious to see out here. These are large hairstreaks which, when they fly, flash bright purple color on their upper wings. Like all hairstreaks, they rarely open their wings while perched. Melissa and I enjoyed watching this butterfly for several minutes before continuing our hike.
That was the easiest butterfly to identify. Another small drab brown hairstreak was harder to identify. I think it is a Thicket Hairstreak.
Some orange butterflies were feeding in the sun on some yellow flowers (I have a lot to learn about butterflies and plants if I’m really going to get into butterflies). I thought they were a crescent species–related to fritillaries–but when I checked the guide at home, they were more interesting. Especially the strikingly marked one on the right (I have no idea about the one on the left–maybe a small Variegated Fritillary because it doesn’t seem to fit any of the crescent species):
The butterfly on the right is a metalmark species. The one that’s supposed to be in central New Mexico is the Mormon Metalmark but it looks more like a Sonoran Metalmark. The former species is variable, according to my field guide. I’ll need some help with this one!
Small blue butterflies can be very difficult to identify. This photo was overexposed but I think it is one of the species in the Spring Azure complex. The Echo Azure is widespread over the western US.
Here’s the list of what we saw and could identify:
“Sara” Orangetip sp. probably Southwestern Orangetip
Great Purple Hairstreak
“Spring” Azure sp. probably Echo Azure
crescent/checkerspot sp./Variegated Fritillary