Butterflies in Hondo Canyon

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.

I’m not sure what species of comma this is.

We saw several white butterflies during our hike. I thought they were Pine Whites, but they don’t fly until later in the year. The ones we saw were Margined Whites and Spring White, in this picture.

Skippers are hard to identify, and I am stumped on this one, unless it is actually a moth. [Thanks to Rebecca, my butterflying friend–she said this was likely a Short-tailed Skipper.]

These moths fooled me in the field and I only realized it when I got home and looked closer at the pictures. I need to be more observant in the field!

[Also from Rebecca, the second moth above goes by the name Litocala sexsignata]

Here’s the list of what we saw and could identify:

duskywing sp.
skipper sp.
Margined White
Spring White
“Sara” Orangetip sp. probably Southwestern Orangetip
sulphur sp.
Great Purple Hairstreak
Thicket Hairstreak
“Spring” Azure sp. probably Echo Azure
blue sp.
Mormon? Metalmark
crescent/checkerspot sp./Variegated Fritillary
comma sp.
Mourning Cloak

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3 Responses to Butterflies in Hondo Canyon

  1. Rebecca Gracey says:

    Matt, You saw some great butterflies. The Spring White would be a lifer for me so I’m headed to Hondo Canyon. The last three are moths. There is no knob on the end of the antenna. I know the Latin name of the third one pictured: Litocala Sexignata.

  2. Rebecca Gracey says:

    Matt, I went to Hondo Canyon after reading your report and saw many of the skippers in the first of the last three photographs that I said were moths because I didn’t see a club on the end of the antenna. Now that I’ve been there and seen the antannae and saw that it was a butterfly, I think it is a Short-tailed Skipper. It’s a spring butterfly of oak woodlands.

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