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Thursday, May 11, 2017

My lucky day!

Once again, third time is the charm. Today I went to the summit of my mountain for the third time seeking Ursine Giant-Skippers and Sandia Hairstreaks.  My sister went with me and we got an early start. Since she'd never been to the summit it was fun for her to discover it. She fell in love with it just like I had. I told her about oaks and paintbrush so, since it was early and nothing was flying, we decided to hike the summit ridge to the area where that stuff was. Just as we were about to the oaks, I saw a big skipper land and turn its back toward the sun. I knew what it had to be. It was still chilly (57° when we had left our homes) and the skipper was obviously trying to warm up. I snapped a few shots, then when I tried to get closer, it disappeared. Kicking myself for not circling around it at a distance so I could have the sun to my back and on its back. Oh well, a lifer. The previous trip I was quite sure I'd seen one, but didn't want to count it without photo proof.

Returning back along the ridge, I brushed my walking stick against all the Beargrass (nolina microcarpa) I could see, hoping to flush a Sandia. Then I saw a Giant-Skipper flying around. Fortunately, I was able to follow it with my eyes until it landed. Finally, got my shot. Not a shot with fully spread wings like the first one would have been, but I was satisfied.

By then we were ready to head back. We had come up my trail and left a vehicle at both trails so we would have the flexibility to go down either way we chose. We decided to go down her trail, which meant descending the ridge and going down the pouroff. 

Ann taking a photo from the summit
A short while after we started making our way down the ridge, I quit brushing the nolina for Sandias. I figured we were getting down too low for them. I did scan them just in case as I passed by. Could not believe my eyes when I actually spotted a Sandia perched inside one. What luck! It looked very intensely orange and green, more so than this photo shows. But I'm not able to haul the Canon so I don't complain how the shots turn out. I had hoped for one lifer and now had two. Made the horrible terrain more bearable, for sure. 

We finally got to the pouroff and started down the trail on that side of the mountain. Exhausted and comparing aches and pains, we had been gone nearly 5 hours. About a third of the way down we came upon a big herd of Aoudad. They spooked and shot toward the higher terrain. As they did so, they dislodged a boulder of about 3 feet in diameter. It came crashing past us across the trail. I was so wishing I had turned my camera to video mode and captured the action. Didn't think fast enough. And it was all over in a few seconds. By the time I shot this photo the herd was so strung out I couldn't get them all in the frame. I'd estimate around 30 individuals though.

As if that wasn't enough fun for one day, on the way to Alpine I stopped by the Burrowing Owl burrow, as I have been doing every trip ever since Michael Gray discovered them there. And finally I got one by the burrow and it didn't flush. I stayed on the highway, and shot through the fence, but still. It's the best shot I have of one by its burrow so far. Still a work in progress.

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