Railroad Canyon - July 2017

I can make all sorts of excuses but the bottom line is I did not get out much in July.  Family visits took up half the month, but the other half….

That is not to say that I was not busy.  I started, in earnest, to reconstruct my personal website, www.rabarnes.org - modeled after this effort.  The new website references www.bobbarnes.us, using many of the techniques which I am trying out here.

Squirrel, Abert's

I walked in Railroad Canyon on the west side of the range on two occasions during July.  The first with my son to study spring and seep locations and the second as a morning stroll with Rebecca.  

On the second walk we found the Abert’s Squirrel, Sciurus aberti aberti, pictured above about a mile north of NM-152.  The range of this subspecies is limited to the mountains of central Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this sighting was that the squirrels (there were two) seemed completely undisturbed by our presence.  For more information on this species, see this 2 MB .pdf - Abert’s Squirrel.   A complete blog about this species can be found at: Abert’s Squirrel.


On the second walk there were not nearly as many butterflies in the canyon as there had been at the beginning of the month, the number of flowers was diminished significantly.  A Golden-banded Skipper, Autochton cellus, did visit us on a log as we rested, however, photo below.  Speyeria hesperis was also present in good numbers - see Butterfly photo gallery.  I am not sure if the correct spelling of the common name is Golden-banded Skipper or Golden Banded-Skipper.  Reference materials shows it both ways, I follow BugGuide here since it is one of the more definitive references but noted that the term “banded skipper” is found in many species of this genus which would lead me to believe that the more correct term should be “Banded-Skipper”.  A complete blog on this species is found at: Golden-banded Skipper.

Skipper, Golden-banded 2

The butterflies were not the only insects working the flowers.  A Tachinid Fly, Hystricia abrupta, was also busy on Potentilla thurberi (see below).  A post from last year at this time, A Walk Up Railroad Canyon, notes that I found many of the same species at that time.

Hystricia abrupta

The birdlife was typical of the season, the most exciting was the appearance of a fledgling Hermit Thrush.

Thrush, Hermit

On October 13, 2013 I posted about the Globally Imperiled Plant Found in Railroad Canyon, the New Mexico Figwort, Scrophularia macrantha.  On the second July visit to the Canyon this year we found the plant again (see photo below and Flora photo gallery).

Scrophularia macrantha 2

Some of the regular flowers, like the Silene laciniata, Mexican (or Cardinal) Catch-Fly, shown directly below, and the Penstemon barbatus, below that, were in various stages of bloom.  Additional species information can be found at: Cardinal CatchflyCrag Lily, and Scarlet Penstemon.

Silene laciniata

The most prevalent growth, from my perspective, immediately following the Silver Fire was not the grasses that the U. S. Forest Service dispersed throughout the area but rather the new growth of Robinia neomexicana var. rusbyi, the New Mexico (or Rusby’s) Locust - shown below and in the Flora gallery.  This locust was found in significant groves everywhere in the Black Range at mid- to high-elevation that first year and it continues to prosper as this new growth in Railroad Canyon shows.

Robinia neomexicana2

The range of this species, in the United States is limited, as shown in the BONAP map to the right.  In Mexico it is found in Sonora and Chihuahua.  This species is a larval host for the Golden Banded-Skipper.  Although the indigenous peoples ate the pods and seeds of this species it should be remembered that the seeds are very toxic and a single seed can be fatal to humans if eaten.  Toxicity varies with individual plants and their stage of growth.  The effect of the toxicity varies with such things as age, weight, general physical condition, and predisposition towards the toxin.

Robinia neomexicana was first described by Asa Gray.  Later Wooton & Standley described a different subspecies, R. n. rusbyi.  Both are known as New Mexico Locust.  The later is also known as Rusby’s Locust.  The type specimen was collected on “Dry hills on the Mimbres” in May 1851.  Standley noted that “The exact locality is said to have been 8 miles from the copper mines.”

Near the first trail junction we found a specimen group of Oxalis decaphylla, Tenleaf Woodsorrel pictured below. This woodsorrel differs from the more familiar O. violacea in that there are more leaf lobes, they are more narrow, and are obviously cleft.  This species is found at higher elevations in the Black Range.  A complete blog on this species can be found at: Tenleaf Woodsorrel - Oaxlis decaphylla.

Oxalis decaphylla

As for flowers, one of the more intriguing is the Gray’s Limabean (aka Sonoran Bean),
Phaseolus pedicellatus var. grayanus, pictured below.  The flower has the interesting curl in its midst and the ivy-looking leaves just don’t seem to match.  the range of this species, see BONAP map to right, is limited within the United States.  In Mexico it is found as far south as the Federal District (the type specimen was collected east of Monserrat, Mexico).  Phaseolus is a restricted to the Americas, there are about 70 species in the genus.

Phaseolus pedicellatus

© Robert Barnes 2018