Last Sunday I met up with my butterfly friends to attend the only annual butterfly count held in New Mexico. The weather has been extremely hot in Albuquerque so I was looking forward to heading north to more normal June temperatures.
The drive there takes about 2 hours and it goes right past one of my favorite birding spots…Valley Irrigation Road in Moriarty. So I left a little early so I could drive down this road.
I hadn’t been down that road for a few weeks. I was surprised to see the Otto Pond migrant trap had tripled in size. I could hear several variety of shore birds but couldn’t see them. But a Great Blue Heron was very close by and lots of doves.
Since not much else was out I hit the road. Taking Highway 41 is always a pretty drive. Saw a beautiful prong horn antelope and wide open scenery.
We were to meet at a location north of Las Vegas called Montezuma. I’d never been there before. It was a beautiful place with lots of water and lush vegetation.
After everyone met up we were divided up to cover more ground. My group opted for the higher elevations. First we stopped at a campground that is closed for repairs…which was great because we were the only people that were there. We got quite a variety and number of butterflies there. We started out walking together but soon spread out.
I was ahead of Joe and Rebecca by a ways and was searching the stream and grasses on my right not paying attention to my left. All of a sudden I caught my breath because I had just disturbed about 20 swallowtail butterflies and they all flew up around me. I quickly called out “Joe!” He came running up just in time to see them land back on the road. It was so beautiful that he ran back and got Rebecca.
Further up the road we saw many more variety of butterflies.
When we were heading back to the car I heard all this noise in the brush and could see the bushes swaying like something huge was headed my way. I immediately thought “bear!” and my adrenalin kicked in…but then I saw the culprit. Thank God it was a horse!
Next we headed up to Johnson Mesa which is at an altitude of 9,467 feet above sea level. It was a gorgeous location. Thunderstorms were close by but fortunately never came over us.
But because there were more clouds and cooler temperatures there were a lot fewer butterflies flying. We combed the mesa looking for butterflies in the grasses and were rewarded with a few.
Throughout the day I looked for birds but they were scarce. But on the way down from Johnson Mesa we saw about six male Evening Grosbeak feeding on the side of the road. Gorgeous birds!
At this point I left Joe and Rebecca and headed to Sapello to see a client for a signature. Since Sapello was still considered in the radius of our day I took some time to search for butterflies there. On the way to Sapello I did get a pretty good pic of a magpie. They had been eluding me all day. And I saw a Yellow-Breasted Chat land not 5 feet from me…but no chance to get a pic…..dang it!
By the time I made it to Sapello it was late afternoon. I couldn’t stay long but I still found a few butterflies to add to the count as well as a few fun photos.
Overall a very long day by the time I drove two hours back home. But I had a wonderful time and definitely added quite a few new species to my butterfly list!