Butterflies in the Jemez–5/13/11

Rebecca, Joe and I took a butterflying trip up to the Jemez Mountains in mid May to look for some local spring season specialties. Both bird and butterfly diversity were low, though we found a few goodies. Evening Grosbeaks were vocal along the road through Jemez Springs. A large mixed flock of finches at Bandelier National Monument contained dozens of Pine Siskins and a smattering of Red Crossbills, House Finches, and Cassin’s Finches. Calling Hepatic Tanagers at both the monument and at Burnt Mesa above the canyon were a nice surprise.

Fenton Lake State Park, below the lake

Our main goal was to find Hoary Elfins near Fenton Lake State Park west of the Jemez caldera. Steve Carey’s New Mexico butterfly book suggests looking near the park around patches of bearberry, a dark green dwarf shrub. We didn’t find any of the plant near the park, but I noticed some dark green plants close to the ground near the crest of the road to the park. We were only out of the car less than a minute when we spotted some tiny brown butterflies darting about. We were in luck!

These were tough butterflies to get photos of, but we enjoyed following them around for about half an hour. Joe found a duskywing–which we’d later think was a Dreamy Duskywing–but no other butterflies were around.

As we drove towards Bandelier, we stopped for a brief lunch at Las Conchas trailhead along a bright gurgling stream. Here we found a Red Admiral, a Hoary Comma, and a few large blue butterflies that were probably Spring Azures.

Red Admiral

Hoary Comma

Spring Azure

The Jemez caldera, a relatively young volcano

Burnt Mesa in the national monument is supposed to be a great spot for butterflies, again according to Steve Carey’s book. Maybe after it rains when flowers bloom and grasses sprout. The whole area was very dry and butterflies were hard to come by.

Eventually, I found a small green hairstreak on a bush: Western Green Hairstreak, the other butterfly goal of the day.

Western Green Hairstreak

A very confusing duskywing was also present on a stunted Gambel’s Oak. We thought it might be a Horace’s Duskywing, but who knows?

Joe also wrote about the trip on his blog.

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