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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Knife Edge Trail

Knife Edge Trail is an easy, scenic hike maintained by the Department of Energy.
Trail Name: Knife Edge Trail
Length: 2.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 150 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Suitable For: Hiking only, good for families with children under supervision.
Knife Edge Trail map.

By Craig Martin

The Knife Edge is a narrow ridge of rock separating two branches of the Ancho Canyon drainage. The ridge narrows to become only a few yards wide, offering nice views in both directions. The trip is an easy walk on an old dirt road through piñon and juniper woodlands, and in spring you can find some early wildflowers growing along the way. It is a nice outing for families and a great early-season trip for anyone.

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On Coyote Encounters

A coyote passing through your property or along a trail is generally harmless, but if they begin to linger around your home or stand their ground, you can employ methods detailed in this blog post to haze them and communicate that they should avoid humans. (Photo by Craig Martin)

By Mariana Rivera Freeman, Field Science Specialist

In PEEC’s last blog post on coyotes, I discussed the ways we’re inadvertently attracting these opportunistic omnivores through supplemental feeding. In addition to eliminating calorie sources around your home, the best way to keep coyotes off your property is surely to build a fence. We don’t all have the means to afford new property fencing, however; in which case, more accessible exclusion methods can include erecting garden fencing to keep out rabbits (a common prey), replacing exotic tree and shrub species that attract deer (who leave their scent behind), plugging all secret holes and entries into your house to exclude mice and other small mammals, and installing motion-capture lights to startle nighttime visitors.

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Deer Trap Mesa Trail

Deer Trap Mesa Trail offers a fun hike and scenic views of the Pajarito Plateau.
Trail Name: Deer Trap Mesa Trail
Length: 3.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Difficulty: Easy, with one tricky section
Suitable For: Hiking only, good for families with children under supervision.

By Craig Martin

Map of Deer Trap Mesa Trail.

One of the finger mesas extending east from the Pajarito Plateau, Deer Trap Mesa offers the most consistently scenic hikes on the plateau. In addition, the terrain is rather flat, with a couple of exceptions. The main trail passes by the game pit for which the mesa was named, then follows a well-worn path across a narrow section of mesa with views on both sides. A loop trail, located on Los Alamos County Open Space, leads to several overlooks of the Pajarito Plateau and Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east. The view is constantly changing, and immensely enthralling. The most challenging section of trail is in the first 100 yards, a short, narrow, steep descent on an Ancestral Pueblo stairway that seems tricky but is rather easy and not dangerous if carefully navigated. Almost the entire canyon edge trek follows segments of three-finger mesas and is just over 3 miles long. Some sections are muddy after rains, but because of a general lack of shade, the trail dries out quickly. This is an ideal spring, fall, or winter hike, but it does get quite warm at mid-day in summer.

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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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