old stuff from Belen and Otero canyon

[I just saw this in my drafts folder…guess I forgot to publish it!]

During my sucessful Thursday birder trip to the Belen marsh (and less successful at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area), Rebecca, Joe, and I were thinking of heading back mainly to look for butterflies. Whitfield was so hot and had few birds last week that, had I not been the trip leader, I would have switched to looking for butterflies. The fields there are full of white and yellow blooms and will probably be good for some late summer butterflies.

Yesterday, Joe wanted to get some better shots of Burrowing Owls in the early morning light though it was hard to get close before they ducked into their burrow. (Photo at Joe’s blog.) Since we were near the Belen marsh, we checked for shorebirds. Many of last week’s waders had moved on. The water level in both ponds was still high. Many loud Black-necked Stilts still remained. A pair of Baird’s Sandpipers flew off soon after we got there and only lonely phalarope spun in circles. We spent some time on the phalarope; it had some markings of a Red-necked Phalarope which isn’t as common a migrant as Wilson’s and usually doesn’t pass through in numbers until September. After the trip, I settled on Wilson’s. Neither Joe nor I were able to get even decent photos, but after looking at the ones we did get, the color, pattern, and shape look more like Red-necked. It’s unfortunate that the light is directly behind the birds in the morning at the marsh. Any thoughts on Joe’s photo?

The morning was getting hot so we headed over to Whitfield. On the way, I spotted a raptor that wasn’t flapping quite like a Cooper’s Hawk and didn’t look quite right. Turned out to be a juvenile Mississippi Kite. Again, Joe’s photo. Nice!

Western pygmy-blues weakly flitted around almost every saltbush. Many Monarachs and a few Queens and Viceroys flew over the yellow and white flowers. I saw a new species of butterfly, the Ceraunus Blue (Joe’s photo), which conveniently perched near the similar Reakirt’s blue so we could compare the two. While scanning the flowers where the Monarchs and Queens fed, I spotted a Common buckeye; this species should get more abundant as the summer wanes and individuals emigrate north.

Orange sulphur:


Bordered patch:


Melissa blue:

On Saturday, Melissa and I hiked Otero canyon south of Tijeras in the Manzanito mountains. A quick restroom stop at the ranger station allowed us to witness some bizzare behavior from some large hawkmoths (likely Pink-spotted hawkmoths). Dozens of the hairy things were scattered around on the ground and the sides of the building.

Some ant colony will be eating well for a while.

When touched, they curled up into this pose:

We even found some eggs on the sidewalk next to one of the moths.

Our hike in Otero canyon was pleasant. The nature trail eventually leads to an area of the canyon where the stream bed flows over a series of limestone ledges.

Much water remained in the stream, though it may not be permanent because the area has gotten a lot of thunderstorms lately, even more than the city itself. Water beetles, water striders, and dragonfly larvae abounded. Next year, when I get into odonates (dragonflies and damselfies) this will surely be a great place to check.

We found a pack rat midden (by smell initially) beneath a ledge where many blocks of limestone had fallen into a pile.

Scat on the underside of one of the blocks made us think the rockfall was recent, but it could have been re-wetted during one of the many storms.

The whole canyon was flanked by limestone cliffs and we found many fossils in a few areas on some limestone boulders. Crinoids were very common, as were brachiopods. A few clams and snails were also present and one on rock we found two large coral colonies. Next time we will have to find the actual fossil bed in place.

I guess we were pretty lucky to have such a nice hike! (Really, there were about a dozen four-leafed clovers in this one patch.)

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3 Responses to old stuff from Belen and Otero canyon

  1. Matt, just read this. You asked a question about Joe’s phalarope photo. Definitely a RNPH. I recently was in the Monterey Bay area of CA and there were hundreds of them.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Judy. I’m not sure why I have trouble id’ing Red-neckeds in the fall. It was a bit early for that species and I wasn’t comfortable making the call. Your trip sounded great–I was hoping you’d have seen a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper or two!

      • I also was hoping for a Sharp-tail, but they weren’t around while I was there. I missed them along the WA coast at the end of Aug. also. There are two things to remember about the ‘red’ phalaropes. The Red Phalarope is rarely seen inland, since it stays off the coast during migration and winter. The Red-necked has a black patch behind the eye. We have seen them at Belen Marsh in past years – always alone (as opposed to the hundreds I saw together in the sloughs near Monterey Bay) and usually towards the end of Sept. Judy

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