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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Butterfly Rites of Spring III: Flower Munchers

March 2021

By Steve Cary

Announcements First:

1. Please welcome Common Mellana (Quasimellana eulogius) to the New Mexico butterfly fauna! I’ve uploaded a brief account to Butterflies of New Mexico so you can check it out. We don’t get new state records very often! Now we need photos: male, female, dorsal, ventral. Have any to share?

2. Species accounts for Carus Skipper and Tropical Least Skipper have been spruced up considerably thanks to the addition of fabulous photos by Jim VonLoh, who we add to our phalanx of photographers.

3. Recent conversations with Paul Opler and Andy Warren eliminated any doubts I had about the identity of the spring-flying dotted blue from near Aztec in San Juan County. Until someone dissects them and proves otherwise, I’m calling it Stanfords’ Blue (Euphilotes stanfordorum). Even better, excellent images of this species from Colorado were provided by Ralph Moore. See the updated species account in Butterflies of New Mexico.

4. In welcoming Ralph to our gallery of photographers, please also see his newly added images of Minor’s Indra Swallowtail (from Colorado, yet . . . ), which we sorely needed. A Papilio paparazzi?

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Butterfly Rites of Spring II: Desert Hilltoppers

March 2021

By Steve Cary

I can’t dive into today’s topic without some big “Thank Yous” and a heads-up. Thanks to Bill Beck, Jim Brock, Matt Brown, Bill Dempwolf, Rebecca Gracey, Cathryn Hoyt, Ken Kertell, and Joe Schelling for responding to my photo requests so promptly and effectively. Significant holes were filled and Butterflies of New Mexico looks more complete and more beautiful than ever. Thanks, you guys!

Second, Marcy and I recently completed a fun, late February/early March trip to the area covered by this Rites of Spring II post. I will write up that adventure for a future post. Meanwhile, this present effort has been in the queue for several weeks and I want to get it out. In doing so, however, I must note that the spring hilltoppers phenomenon described is expressed to different degrees in different years and at different localities. My very recent scouting of the geographic area involved suggests this will not be a “10” year for our desert’s spring hilltoppers, but more likely a 1 or a 2, due to pervasive, severe drought. If you go, you may very well see some of the players, but in small numbers.

With that caveat, here we go . . .

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Butterfly Rites of Spring I: Adult Hibernators

February 15, 2021

By Steve Cary

But first, a big “THANK YOU” to Bryan Reynolds for his fun and informative mid-winter posts. I’m learning a lot from him and hope to team up with him on some future stories as we go along.

Here in New Mexico’s mid-continent, mid-latitude setting, all resident life forms including butterflies have ways to deal with challenging times. Winter, for example, is cold enough (regular sub-freezing temperatures), long enough (few to several months), and predictable enough (annual) to effectively sort adapted from non-adapted creatures. Can’t get through a long, cold winter? Then you don’t live here on a permanent, resident basis.

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Butterfly Blog: Bryan Reynolds’ April 2017 Butterfly Photography Expedition, Part 2

After posting Part 1 of this two-part tale on January 20, 2021, the finale of Bryan Reynolds’ action-packed, two-part butterfly photography expedition to New Mexico is presented below. His natural history sensibilities, startling closeups and seemingly impossible photo angles are well worth your attention. Who knew how much fun mud could be?

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Butterfly Blog: Bryan Reynolds’ April 2017 Butterfly Photography Expedition, Part 1

Mid-winter seems like a good time of year to invite someone else to tell a story, so . . . In recent months I’ve had the great pleasure of making the acquaintance of noted nature photographer Bryan Reynolds. He has strong New Mexico connections and is very generous with his experience and with his spectacular photos. Enjoy his two-part story, the first of which is below.

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