Guest Post: New Mexico Butterfly Photography Adventures

May 21, 2021

By Steven J. Cary

This post features another gripping New Mexico butterfly photography adventure courtesy of professional nature photographer Bryan Reynolds! In addition to Bryan’s up-close and personal storytelling, this tale also provides an interesting perspective on the weather — very timely given our ongoing drought. Before we settle down to read Bryan’s lushly illustrated narrative, here are three updates and announcements.

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In Selvi’s Backyard

May 6, 2021

By Steven J. Cary

First, I sincerely tip my hat to all of you who have reached back and told me how much you enjoy reading this blog. My last post was probably a bit of a downer, but your feedback, whether thumbs-up or thumbs-down, delivered via email, PEEC comment, or in person, is a real upper for me. It tells me are you are reading and that makes the whole endeavor worth the effort. Butterflies and butterflyers will experience high times and low times and everything in between. Such is life. Despite dry, cool, windy, dusty conditions, you are still going outside, seeing butterflies and sharing your experiences. The least I can do is write about it; I suppose that is the itch I must scratch.

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Making Sense of Modern Light Bulb Labeling

By Didier Saumon, Jemez Mountains Night Sky Coalition

Buying a light bulb used to be simple. Up until about 15 years ago, nearly all light bulbs on the consumer market were of the incandescent type (with a coiled filament inside), labeled in watts. When we needed a bright light we chose a 100 watt bulb and for applications requiring less light, we chose 40 or 60 watt bulbs.

It’s no longer quite so simple. Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology is rapidly taking over nearly all applications, and there is a much greater variety to choose from. Bulbs and fixtures are now labeled with watts, lumens, and “K,” complemented with terms such as “soft white,” and “daylight.” What does it all mean? This article in our series on light pollution aims to demystify these technical terms to help navigate the purchase of light bulbs and fixtures.

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Falls Trail

Orange cliffs with ponderosa pine trees in the front.
Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument is a scenic hike that ends with a great view of a waterfall.
Trail Name: Falls Trail
Length: 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Suitable For: Hiking and running only

By Craig Martin

Map of Falls Trail.

The Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument makes a delightful, scenic outing for families or any hiker. The trail has sun and shade, running water (most of the time), ferns and wildflowers, and ends with a view of a spectacular waterfall. Much of the trail is shady, covered by ponderosa pines. Before the post-Las Conchas fire floods in 2011, the trail continued beyond Upper Falls to Lower Falls and from there to the Rio Grande. But the floods wiped out the trail and collapsed the surrounding cliffs so that no route through has been re-established. The old trail beyond Upper Falls is closed and hazardous.

The trip is relatively easy but does involve a 300-foot climb back from the falls along gentle grades. Also, much of the trail is on a bench high above the canyon bottom. This is particularly true in the last quarter mile before the falls, where careful supervision of children is highly recommended.

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Light Pollution, the Environment, and Us

Moths flock to man-made light sources, like this outdoor light, instead of orienting to the moon. This is just one example of how artificial light can interrupt the natural behaviors of wildlife. (Photo by Mohibul Hoque)

By Kelli Housley, Valles Caldera National Preserve

With contributions from Monique Schoustra and Starr Woods

Humans and animals have always relied on the stars for seasonal awareness, navigation, and understanding. But increases in artificial lighting and light pollution cost us our connection to the past and produce devastating effects on our own health and our environment.

Animals have evolved to use natural cycles of day and night for migration, mating, pollination, and more. But countless species have been adversely affected because of the increase in lighting and light pollution over the years. Artificial light and skyglow have caused disruptions to many species’ natural cycle of life, contributing to reductions in population and even extinction.

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Spring Butterflies: Last Rite

April 8, 2021

By Steve Cary

Monarch female (Danaus plexippus) south side of Portales, Roosevelt Co., NM; March 15, 2021. (Photo by James Lofton)

Before I exhaust the “Rites of Spring” genre, I want to touch on several things, then be done with it. First, the truly remarkable ‘ritual’ migrations of Monarch and Painted Lady are underway, but conditions are poor and all such migrants are in for a tough trip this spring. North-bound Monarchs are never abundant in New Mexico because we are usually off-axis from the main migration route from Mexico, and from whatever is happening in greater Arizona. In most years only a few are recorded in our state. This year’s first sighting was in Portales! James Lofton shared the included photo, showing one of a few he saw within a few days of each other. Plagued by drought-like the rest of us, with nectar very scarce, James said: “The dandelion crop [is the] savior this spring.” Then Jim VonLoh shared photos of a monarch nectaring at willows along the Rio Grande near Las Cruces on March 26.

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