South Florida Butterflying

Another fun trip looking for butterflies, this time in South Florida from Miami to Key West May 12-20. Organized through Sunstreak Tours, our quite knowledgeable and entertaining guide, Alana Edwards, showed our group of seven butterfliers around a number of good locations just outside of Miami, into the Everglades, and down through the Florida Keys all the way to Key West. The nine-day trip would turn up more than 60 butterfly species, including 21 that were new for me and several that were quite special and not often seen. Our very first stop of the trip gave us excellent close-up views of one of the species I’d hoped to see, the Atala. They are always a highlight of a visit to Albuquerque’s PNM Butterfly Pavilion, but the first naturally wild one for me.

Atala (Eumaeus atala)

Later in the day, a passion vine flower caught my eye and is always good for finding nectaring butterflies.

Passion Vine

It seemed like just about everywhere we went there were huge spider webs, usually with a large Golden Orb-Weaver waiting for prey.

Golden Orb-Weaver

The next day, Sunday, we headed into Everglades National Park where several stops would turn up a good list of species and several new ones for me. On Long Pine Key after a pretty good hike surrounded by an incredible number of mosquitoes, we would finally spot one of our target butterflies, the Florida Leafwing. Oddly enough, I survived that day with basically no bites despite having them all over me and dispatching large numbers of them along the way. Later, we’d invest in and use more bug spray and head nets, but the mosquitoes were never anywhere near as numerous the rest of the trip.

In addition to butterflies, we’d also see some good birds and other critters on these outings, including one of several Osprey that made for good photos.

Osprey

A marvelously diverse meadow turned up some Eastern Pygmy-Blue butterflies, one of those 21 “lifers” I’d add during the trip,

Eastern Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium isophthalma)

and pretty much anywhere we’d see the common, but gorgeous, Gulf Fritillary.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Fun to see toward the end of our day in the Everglades was a manatee, drawn to a leaking freshwater supply that it seemed to enjoy.

Manatee

Monday morning at a spot in Key Largo, we were treated to a rare and endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail that posed nicely for us for more than 40 minutes. An absolutely amazing experience, this species is just not seen very often, and apparently is usually seen flying around without ever landing.

Schaus’ Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus)

Our next stop a short distance away gave us nice looks at another “lifer”, the Florida Purplewing.

Florida Purplewing (Eunica tatila)

At any number of locations we’d notice large colorful snails clinging to the trees; this guy was slowly making its way across an asphalt trail.

Snail

Tuesday morning, we checked out of the Quality Inn in Florida City and headed down the Florida Keys, where we’d spend the next two nights at the Holiday Inn Express on Marathon Key and checking out various locations all along the Keys down to Key West and back during the day. More good butterflies along the way, but also some good birds, such as this White Ibis,

White Ibis

a Reddish Egret,

Reddish Egret

and a Green Heron showing off its wacky hairdo.

Green Heron

At Bahia Honda State Park, we’d get good looks at the Martial Scrub-Hairstreak, one of three scrub-hairstreaks we’d see on the trip.

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis)

That first day also took us to the butterfly gardens of a couple of Alana’s friends, the first having good numbers of Fulvous Hairstreak, new for me and a quite attractive butterfly,

Fulvous Hairstreak (Electrostrymon angelia)

along with several other goodies. There and at several other spots during the trip, we’d see lizards posing in the trees occasionally popping out their colorful dewlaps.

Lizard

Our second stop that afternoon had us scoping out the tree tops for quite some time waiting for sunset and a chance to see the quite rare Amethyst Hairstreak. High fives all around when one was finally spotted high in a pine tree and everybody got good enough looks to identify it, even if it was too small and far away for a decent photo.

On Wednesday, we drove to Key West checking out a few spots for butterflies along the way, and then back to Florida City for the last 3 nights of the trip. At Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park we were greeted by a couple of huge green iguanas, including this one waiting in a tree.

Green Iguana

Thursday had us working Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in the Everglades, where some diligent searching of the grasses finally turned up both the Little Metalmark and Georgia Satyr that we were hoping to see there.

Little Metalmark (Calephelis virginiensis)

Amazing to me, however, were the huge grasshoppers everywhere in the park known as Eastern Lubber grasshoppers.

Eastern Lubber

Along one trail we came across a blooming buttonwood, which attracted several different butterflies. This one of a Three-spotted Skipper on the buttonwood is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Three-spotted Skipper (Cymaenes tripunctus)

On our last full day of butterflying before heading back to the Miami airport on Saturday morning took us to several locations to add a number of butterfly species to the trip list. At the Deering Estate, we’d add species like Statira Sulphur, Dina Yellow, Hammock Skipper, and Mangrove Buckeye.

Mangrove Buckeye (Junonia evarete)

Later in the day, we’d see Pink-spot Sulphur flying in a small park and returned at the end of the day to spot one sitting in a tree long enough to get a good look. On what Alana referred to as our “clean up day”, we made a return visit to Navy Wells Pineland Preserve hoping to see that third species of scrub-hairstreak for the trip, the endangered Bartram’s Scrub-Hairstreak. We’d looked for it unsuccessfully there and at several other locations during the trip, so it was a real highlight to spot several of them on the last day.

Bartram’s Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon acis)

A wonderful trip with a good group of folks, there’s more pictures from the trip on my website.

 

 

 

Posted in Birding, Bugs, Butterfly, Critters, Photographs, Travel | 1 Comment

Moving into May

Other than a quick weekend blast of rain turning to snow, the weather has been fantastic around here recently with plenty of migrating birds starting to arrive. A few more nesting species and young birds are being seen, and all that moisture is bringing out more butterflies attracted to the newly blooming flowers. Only a couple of Great Horned Owl pictures this week, first the one in Taylor Ranch where there are now two little ones to be seen, though the younger one is still pretty small and tends to hide  under the adult,

Great Horned Owl – Taylor Ranch

and my late bloomers at Piedras Marcadas, where the first one finally popped up to look around.

Great Horned Owl – Piedras Marcadas

I haven’t been back to several of the other nests lately, but really need to go check on them since all those little ones are getting quite mature and are about to disappear into the woods. Certainly everybody’s favorite at Albuquerque Academy is about there and I didn’t see anybody on my last visit Thursday, but saw that my friend, Michele, spotted the nearly full-grown owlet in a nearby tree later that day.

In other nesting news, we seem to be having Osprey getting ready to nest at Tramway Wetlands, an exciting development since it will be a first for Bernalillo County. They have nested regularly in Sandoval County to the north, but apparently not this far south before. This picture is from last Friday morning, the start of a cold and rainy weekend.

Osprey

It was exciting to see a Western Grebe there in the water,

Western Grebe

and I’d see another one later in the week on the river near Pueblo Montano. I missed seeing the Eared Grebe and several other good shorebirds being reported at Tramway Wetlands, but hadn’t really spent enough time looking around to spot any of them. By Monday, all that bad weather had passed and a return visit had both of the adult Osprey and maybe another young one flying around gathering additional material to build up that nest.

Osprey

Several times this week had me down at Pueblo Montano Open Space for some great birding. My first trip on Monday followed a report by my friend, Susan, of an amazing variety of shorebirds she’d seen there the day before apparently brought in by all that weather. While most were gone by the time I got there, during the week I’d still see a number of them over several visits. A favorite, of course, were the baby Killdeer who’d recently hatched and were busy running about on the mud banks under the close eye of the adults.

Killdeer

Summer Tanagers were present in large numbers on every visit there. This is the first bird seen on my trip Monday, and the first of quite a few species that day that were new for the season for me.

Summer Tanager

On the most successful Audubon Thursday Birder trip there this week, our large group of 37 people would tally at least 57 species, including Lazuli Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Marsh Wren, and quite a few other new species for the year. Summer Tanagers were just about everywhere that day, too.

Summer Tanager

On my Monday visit, I scared up a Green Heron from one of the flooded areas inside the woods,

Green Heron

who we’d also see headed down the Rio Grande on Thursday. A Spotted Towhee singing loudly from a Russian Olive allowed me to approach quite closely for a photograph on Monday,

Spotted Towhee

and on Thursday, so did a Black-headed Grosbeak.

Black-headed Grosbeak

Along the irrigation ditch, several Black Phoebes were seen on every visit. On Monday, what I assume is a male posed nicely for its portrait;

Black Phoebe

on Thursday, we spotted a nesting female;

Black Phoebe Nest

and on Friday (I’d returned once again unsuccessfully looking for the Great Horned Owl nest I’d heard about the day before), while the female was away, I got a look at the eggs in that nest from above.

Black Phoebe Nest

Don’t ask how I got that picture-it required getting all involved with a Russian olive tree and some rather creative contortions to get everything lined up and in focus.

The visit on Friday also turned up American Avocet, which Susan had seen on Sunday but the group missed on Thursday. New for me was realizing that the white one (3rd from the left) is in the winter plumage; I’d only seen them in their usual summer plumage, which my field guide calls  “cinnamon” (one of a surprising number of variations for the color brown among bird names).

American Avocet

I also managed to get a little closer to a Yellow-breasted Chat, a rather noisy bird that tends to hide in marshy areas.

Yellow-breasted Chat

All the turtles are out sunning themselves again as the weather turns warmer.

Painted Turtle

My other objective this past week has been to get a decent picture of the Scott’s Oriole that was the highlight of the Audubon Thursday Birder trip to Embudito Canyon the week before. The Thursday Birder bunch will usually spot one in that area at this time of year, but usually only after Rebecca recognizes their song and then someone in the group spots one high in a juniper way across the canyon. This bird really doesn’t seem to like anyone getting very close. On my first two visits after the Thursday trip, the birds were hiding and never showed themselves or called out, but they finally appeared for me on a visit last Wednesday. Singing from high in a juniper, I took my time approaching the stand of hackberry trees that provided a bit of cover and got a couple of shots of the male still pretty far away. Noticing some rustling in the hackberry trees themselves turned up the female quite nearby and (bonus!) carrying some nesting material.

Female Scott’s Oriole

The male then played with me for probably half an hour, letting me almost get close enough before flying right by me over to the far side of the canyon. I’d head over there only to have him zoom back across to the hackberry trees, and we’d play this game several more times. This is as close as he would let me get, so after he posed long enough for this shot, he won the game and I headed on out.

Male Scott’s Oriole

There were a good number of butterflies in Embudito this week as well that made for a couple of good photos. One was a very fresh Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

and, a bit worn but colorful, Mylitta Crescent.

Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta)

First of the year for me was a Northern Cloudywing that we might have had in Las Huertas Canyon a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t get a picture.

Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)

A bit surprisingly, no hairstreaks seen there this week, but I did see another Acmon Blue right about where one was seen a few weeks ago.

Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon)

Anywhere I went anytime this week, there were always a few White-lined Sphinx Moths flying about in unusually large numbers. Always fun to photograph and I keep trying different camera settings hoping to freeze those wings with varying degrees of success. This one was fun spotting two of them competing for the thistle that has just started coming into bloom.

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

 

 

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More Sightings of Spring

The past week has turned out to be rather spring-like around here without the winds kicking up nearly as much as forecast and days nice and sunny. Until today, that is, when we woke up to cooler temperatures, cloudy skies all day, and off and on drizzly rain that turned into snow on the mountain. Clouds and rain like that are pretty unusual for us, but that moisture is always desirable and should bring out some more wildflowers and of course be an interesting new phenomenon for all those baby owls out there to experience. Checking in on some of them last week shows a few of them getting quite close to full-grown and about ready to disappear into the woods, while others have quite a ways still to go. At the Albuquerque Academy, the single little one this year has moved off the nest but so far still seems to be moving around in the branches of that tree and not yet able to really fly.

Great Horned Owl – Albuquerque Academy

The two near Tingley Ponds are even more mature, but also seem to be sticking around close to the nest and each other. At both of those nests, the adults are usually in a different tree some distance away probably to encourage the little ones to try out that flying thing.

Great Horned Owl – Tingley

At the nest I’ve been watching on the west side, one little one is growing up but a few weeks behind those at the other nests, and from the other side I got a pretty good idea this week there’s at least one more younger one in there still hiding under Mom.

Great Horned Owl – Westside

There are also two little ones in the nest near the Rio Grande Nature Center that are a little younger than the ones at the Academy or Tingley. Didn’t make it over to Willow Creek Open Space this week, but the three little ones there seem to be pretty well along, too. My oddball owls, the ones at Piedras Marcadas Dam who always get started way later than everyone else, finally may have hatched at least one little one last week from what I can tell from my photos, but it will probably be another week or so before I know for sure.

Last Tuesday, I’d stopped by Alameda Open Space to check on a couple of old hawk nests just to see if anything was happening, but they were still unoccupied. In the parking lot, however, was a Greater Roadrunner showing off its latest prize.

Greater Roadrunner

Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip took the group first to Belen Marsh and then Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, followed by a quick visit to “Owlville” in Los Lunas on the way home. At Belen Marsh, the group got good looks at the expected American Avocet, Killdeer, and Black-necked Stilt,

Black-necked Stilt

but also had Wilson’s Phalarope and a couple of other good shorebirds. Not surprisingly, there were a number of Red-winged Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackles, and Western Meadowlarks around as well.

Western Meadowlark

Whitfield turned up a good variety of birds for the group, including a Swainson’s Hawk and Ring-necked Pheasant, but there were also some good butterflies for those who happened to look down. First one spotted right at the Visitor Center was a Sleepy Orange,

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

and early in the walk a Common Buckeye sat there nectaring on a dandelion long enough for most folks to get a good look.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

On the south side of the property we noticed several Pearl Crescents (Phyciodes tharos) and then toward the north, Painted Crescents (Phyciodes picta).

Painted Crescent (Phyciodes picta)

Although there are eBird reports of as many as 21 Burrowing Owls this month at “Owlville” in Los Lunas, and I’d seen five of them one morning the week before, in the mid-afternoon heat and breezy conditions the Thursday group only managed to spot two individuals.

Burrowing Owl

Any day you see an owl is a good day, though, so I doubt anybody was too disappointed we didn’t see more.

Saturday, Rebecca and I were once again out looking for butterflies, this time in the East Mountains taking a look at the Tijeras Ranger Station, Otero Canyon, Sulphur Canyon, Doc Long, and Ojito de San Antonio. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t quite on our side with cooler than expected temperatures and a few passing clouds. Taking a break to let things warm up a little, it was fun to see a flock of Cedar Waxwings dash in to check out a neighbor’s feeders. Still not a great photo, but I just haven’t been seeing them this year and certainly not at such close distance.

Cedar Waxwing

Of the butterflies we would see that day, this is a male Mylitta Crescent, with its overall orange coloring, black webbing close to the body, and orange antennae clubs.

Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta)

The female of this species I’ve regularly confused with its cousin, the Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella), but that day we definitely had Field Crescents, too.

Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella)

The upper side of the Field Crescent has a lot more black and (zooming in) black antennae clubs. This next picture shows the underside with the very distinctive pale cell bar (that light colored bar in that orange patch on the forewing).

Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella)

It was cool this week also spotting a Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus) that day at Ojito de San Antonio and later that week a Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) at Tingley Ponds. From Facebook it seems just about everybody is seeing Sphinx Moths everywhere this year, and this is the best picture I got of one hitting a crab apple tree in Sulphur Canyon.

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

Several visits to Embudito Canyon this week have been interesting, turning up in nearly the same locations a week later both the Mormon Metalmark

Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo)

and that Yucca Giant-Skipper.

Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae)

On Sunday, I was finally able to catch the Curve-billed Thrasher on her nest in Embudito,

Curve-billed Thrasher

and expect those eggs to hatch just about any day now. I’m also keeping an eye on a Cactus Wren nest there, where on a couple of recent visits the female’s flown out as I happen to pass by.

Cactus Wren

Both nests are very close to the trail but unnoticed by most passersby, and the birds don’t usually react unless a person gets too close or pays too much attention. Makes sense then not to point them out to others or to grab more than a quick photograph while the adults are off on a food run.

 

 

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Some New and Surprising Sightings

An interesting week with a couple of surprises along with some new sightings for the year. While it’s true some of these weren’t exactly total surprises since I’d shown up hoping they might appear, others really were surprising and just happened to catch my attention. Out looking for butterflies on the east side of the Sandias one morning, for example, somehow a Greater Short-horned Lizard (aka “horny toad”) caught my eye, a critter not often seen but surely around during the warmer months of the year.

Greater Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi)

That would also be the morning Rebecca would spot a single Silvery Blue right by the parking lot in Sulphur Canyon, one of the few butterflies we’d see there and one we don’t see all that often.

Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus)

On a whim, we stopped at Ojito de San Antonio Open Space on the drive home, only to spot Gray Hairstreak, our first Juniper Hairstreak,

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

and our first Thicket Hairstreak for the year, all on the same to-be-identified flowering bush.

Thicket Hairstreak (Callophrys spinetorum)

Earlier in the week, I’d made the hike into Cienega Canyon with friend Judy hoping to see the Northern Pygmy-Owl that was reported to be nesting in the same spot as last year. No luck on that Monday, but I got up Saturday morning and decided to give it another look. This time, I ran into two good birder friends who pointed out the male hiding high in a cedar tree. After they headed out, I took another look for what had at first appeared as just a rather unphotographic feather ball high in that tree. Somehow he’d flown off when we weren’t looking, so I tried looking harder to no avail when it called from somewhere behind me. Okay, he’s still around somewhere, just keep looking. After about fifteen minutes of waiting and looking around, dang if he wasn’t just sitting way up high in the aspen where I see him maybe once every year.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Every time, I at first dismiss it as just another House Finch or American Robin, but once he’s in the binoculars there’s no question it’s him!

Still reasonably early in the day, it seemed a good time to check in on a couple of my Great Horned Owl nests to see how things have been progressing. Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip took us to the Tingley Bosque Ponds. Great location and perfect weather naturally brought out a large group of 30 birders for an excellent morning of birding, starting with a Snowy Egret flying about the southern fishing pond as the group got organized,

Snowy Egret

adding the first Summer Tanager for the year, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey, and others for a good total of 39 species (easily exceeding our success criterion of species/birders >1). Then the group followed me over to check out the Great Horned Owl nest nearby with the adult female keeping a close eye on her two nearly fully-grown little ones (that’s both of the little ones on the left facing different directions).

Great Horned Owl – Tingley

So, anyway, that was my first stop after getting to see that Northern Pygmy-Owl. This time, Mom was way off in a different tree with the two little ones still pretty close to the nest.

Great Horned Owl – Tingley

The older one is learning better how to hide in the branches, while the other one (just barely visible close to the trunk) seems a bit more hesitant to acknowledge the presence of visitors. Couldn’t pass up stopping by Albuquerque Academy to see how that one’s doing. A little surprising there was only one owlet there this year, but it seems to be growing up just fine.

Great Horned Owl – AA

This time, Mom was off in a cottonwood away from the nest about as far away as Dad, who was in his usual spot but giving me a little better look at him than in other recent visits.

Great Horned Owl – AA

Easter Sunday turned out to be a most interesting day after deciding to check out a couple of the areas the Audubon Thursday Birders will visit this week on the way to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area. I figured I’d check out “Owlville” near Los Lunas and the Belen Marsh, first to see what we might expect to spot on Thursday but also to have a little more time to try for some pictures. eBird reports something like 21 Burrowing Owls being seen later in the day in Owlville, and I was glad to see five individuals, one sentry at each of what I assume are different nest sites.

Burrowing Owl

Belen Marsh is also going to be good this week, with water levels up and a good variety of species. I didn’t stay long, but saw a couple of American Avocets and the expected Black-necked Stilts, most just poking around for something to eat,

Black-necked Stilt

and one or two taking to the air now and then.

Black-necked Stilt

A surprising treat, but unusual only in that it stayed out in the open for several minutes, was a Sora.

Sora

Not on the itinerary for the Thursday Birders, but certainly worth a visit at this time of year is the rookery on the corner of South Bosque Loop and Camino de Chavez in Bosque Farms. Reportedly not appreciated by some of the neighbors for all the noise and bird poop associated with the event, the owner (and his dogs) seems to enjoy having all these amazing birds choosing his tree-filled lot for some concentrated nesting. There are any number of Cattle Egrets bringing in nesting material

Cattle Egret

and hanging out in the trees,

Cattle Egret

along with Snowy Egrets sporting that amazing breeding plumage,

Snowy Egret

and a number of Black-crowned Night-Herons.

Black-crowned Night-Heron

The next morning seemed a good time to head back over to “my local patch,” Embudito Canyon, to see if any more butterfly species had started flying since my last visit. This year it seems like I’ll spot one or two new species for the year on nearly every visit there. And, once again, in a most serendipitous moment just about the first butterfly I saw in a random spot near that stand of hackberry trees was a Mormon Metalmark, a species I’ll only see once or twice every year.

Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo)

Huge surprise as I was making my way back down the arroyo, was a Yucca Giant-Skipper.

Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae)

Before this year, we’d only seen these in Silver City in 2013 and then again a week later in a meadow in Las Huertas Canyon where we’ve seen at least one every year since, and that one last week in the upper picnic area at Las Huertas. Seeing one in Embudito was quite the surprise, and chalks up #61 for my Embudito List.  To make my day complete, just as I was headed to the car thinking I’ve seen them here before, a blue flash caught my eye that turned out to be the first Acmon Blue for the year.

Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon)

 

 

 

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Business is Picking Up

Lots of things going on out there this past week with a few new birds and butterflies showing up almost every time I look. Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip headed out to Pena Blanca and Cochiti Lake, rated a clear success with the group of 22 birders seeing some 42 species, including the expected Black-billed Magpies, a nice look at a Western Grebe on the lake, and the Ospreys busy doing their thing.

Osprey

Not quite sure what that thing was, but one (presumably the male) simply hopped up on the other (the female?) using her as a launching pad for flying to the nearby telephone pole. Last stop of the day was at the library in the small Cochiti Lake community, where a Two-tailed Swallowtail caught our attention.

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

The day before, I stopped by to check on the Great Horned Owl nest near Tingley Beach where I’d seen the nesting female a week before, but hadn’t spotted the owlets others had been reporting. This time, both of those little ones popped up for me,

Great Horned Owl – Tingley

one of which seemed to take considerable interest in seeing what I was up to.

Great Horned Owl – Tingley

A couple of days after that took me back to Albuquerque Academy to check in on the one owlet there that’s usually been hiding when I visit. This time it sat up and took a long look at me, while the adult female was perched much higher in the same tree and the male was hiding pretty well in a nearby cottonwood.

Great Horned Owl – Albuquerque Academy

On my walk in to check on them, an American Robin posed for me almost too close to focus on,

American Robin

and on the far side of the parking lot, what I think was a young Swainson’s Hawk was busy surveying the neighborhood. It didn’t have the red tail of a Red-tailed Hawk, but did have the start of that dark hooded look. They’re certainly being seen around town of late and have nested in that area in past years.

Swainson’s Hawk

Thanks to friend Kathy, it was easy to locate the Cooper’s Hawk nest at the Rio Grande Nature Center a little later that morning, and fun to spot the male nearby in the same tree.

Cooper’s Hawk – RGNC

Saturday morning had Rebecca and I out looking for butterflies in Las Huertas Canyon near Placitas for the first time this year. We’d see a couple of Dainty Sulphurs, Hoary Commas, a Question Mark, and a surprising number of Red Admirals, a butterfly we’ll see every year but rarely more than one or two.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

We did see a couple of other species, and were a little surprised not to see a couple of others, but finally spotted a couple of our target species for the day, the Yucca Giant-Skipper.

Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae)

Interestingly, while we did finally spot a couple at our usual spot in a big meadow near Sandia Man Cave, the first one that day was just parked on the asphalt at the upper picnic area parking lot.

Sunday had me out checking in on my owls on the west side. The pair at Piedras Marcadas Dam got started late this year, so the female’s still sitting patiently on the nest with the male hiding in the leaves some distance away. A pair of Cooper’s Hawks, who undoubtedly are a bit bothered the Great Horned Owls took over their nest, were busy chasing each other about and calling loudly and occasionally zooming by fairly close to where I was watching – will definitely have to follow up and see where they might end up nesting.

Cooper’s Hawk

It was a treat to find at my other nest on the west side that there’s at least one little one, and I’ll have to return soon to check on that one and to see if there isn’t at least one more hiding in there.

Great Horned Owl

Monday, I met up with friend Judy for the hike into Cienega Canyon hoping to see the Northern Pygmy-Owl which has reportedly begun nesting there again this year. The two of us and two other guys who were already there kept an eye out for more than an hour, but never caught a look at the owl. For awhile we had a couple of Red-tailed Hawks in the area, one that flew between several different perches,

Red-tailed Hawk

and then chased the other one around in the sky, a bit too much commotion that probably kept the owl in hiding.

Red-tailed Hawk

At one point, a Northern Flicker showed up and was busy investigating the nest hole where one of those guys had seen the owl enter earlier that morning, but even that didn’t get the owl to pop up and run off the intruder.

Northern Flicker

Several Red-naped Sapsuckers were back in the area, too, and will probably begin nesting soon.

Red-naped Sapsucker

This morning had me checking in on the nesting owls at Willow Creek Open Space, a nest I hadn’t checked in on since late February. Obviously, things are moving right along there, with two little ones taking a hard look at me while Mom dozes in the background, and Pop still keeping an eye out from his usual spot.

Great Horned Owl – Willow Creek

Nearby, I noticed a pair of American Kestrels perched in a small tree, and wouldn’t be at all surprised if they don’t choose one of the snags in the open field for their nest. One took off as I apparently got a little to close.

American Kestrel

That reaction also woke up a Greater Roadrunner poking around in the field, prompting it to dash away in typical ‘beep-beep’ fashion.

Greater Roadrunner

Wrapping up my visit to Willow Creek, it was a treat to spot the nesting Cooper’s Hawk that I’d heard was in the area.

Cooper’s Hawk – Willow Creek

Later in the morning, it seemed a good time to take a quick look for butterflies in Embudito since I hadn’t been there in a week or so. Still had a couple of Sandia Hairstreaks and Southwestern Orangetips flying there, and spotted a couple of other species including a Two-tailed Swallowtail puddling in a muddy area, but the highlight for me was seeing a Curve-billed Thrasher on her nest right by the trail. When a couple of hikers and their dog unwittingly passed by, she flew off to distract them, and I snuck up for a quick shot of those gorgeous eggs, the first I’ve seen for that species.

Curve-billed Thrasher Nest

 

 

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Spring Yin and Yang

Ah, spring in New Mexico when you just never know what the weather will bring. Warm and sunny most days, sometimes calm but typically winds can crank up pretty high, and interrupted occasionally with a day like today of cold and clouds and even a touch of snow. Not too many pictures this week, and mostly from checking in on some of the nesting Great Horned Owls. It’s always fun at this time of year finding their nests, know that they’ll be there continuously for a couple of months, and getting to watch their little ones appear and grow to maturity until that day when they all disappear into the woods until next year.  I’ve been checking in regularly with the nest at Albuquerque Academy where others keep getting excellent pictures of what seems to be a single new owlet, but who usually still seems to be hiding under Mom’s skirt during my visits.

Great Horned Owl – Albuquerque Academy

She’s sitting up so high surely at least one egg has hatched (and I had seen the little one a week earlier). Waiting around a little bit, finally that little one peeked out for me from what must be the warmest and fluffiest spot around.

Great Horned Owl – Albuquerque Academy

Earlier in the week, a friend had told me about a nest near Tingley Beach that’s been used for the last few years but was new to me, so worth my taking a look one morning. Found the nest easily enough (thanks to excellent directions), but didn’t spot the male or any little ones.

Great Horned Owl – Tingley

I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of a nest in that area that show several little ones that are growing up quickly, so need to get back there and take another look soon. For the first time since mid-February, a week ago Saturday I decided to look in on the nest between Campbell Road and the Rio Grande Nature Center. The female was sitting pretty high up in the nest and has certainly been nesting long enough, but I didn’t spot any little ones on that visit. On the way back to the car, however, it was fun spotting a House Sparrow who seems to have taken up residence in an old cottonwood for the nesting season.

House Sparrow

Another visit to the owls yesterday had the female acting quite alert when I first arrived,

Great Horned Owl – Campbell

and the male was pretty obvious lower down a short distance away.

Male Great Horned Owl – Campbell

But the cool part during my short time there was having the female start moving around a bit, and looking closer, to see her feeding a mouse to a little one that popped into view.

Great Horned Owl – Campbell

Checking in on a couple of other nests, the one at Piedras Marcadas and another one on the west side, showed the females still patiently sitting on those eggs while the males were keeping an eye on things from a nearby roost. At Piedras Marcadas, the male is doing his best to hide in the leaves and I made sure to respect his privacy this time and for once he didn’t fly away upon seeing me.

Male Great Horned Owl – Piedras Marcadas

For the other nest, the male was much closer to the nest and sitting out much more in the open than on earlier visits.

Male Great Horned Owl

This past weekend, Rebecca and I made the long drive down to Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area about 40 miles west of Carlsbad, NM.

Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area

An oasis in the middle of rather dry desert terrain (with nasty thorn bushes), we’d been there two years ago looking for the Henry’s Elfin, a small butterfly usually seen in the eastern U.S. but whose range just barely extends into southern New Mexico. It is never very common here and only flies in early spring, but we’ve been hoping to see it for quite awhile now. The weather was ridiculously cold and cloudy on our earlier visit, and while we managed to see a couple of other good butterflies on that visit, we didn’t spot any of those elfins. Certainly warmer and sunnier last Friday, but there were just crazy high winds blowing all afternoon and it looked like the host plant Mexican Buckeye was a little past its prime. The next morning, after almost deciding to give up and just head for home, we went back out there again to give it one more shot. The winds had died down for the most part, but it had also turned a bit chillier and clouds were building up. Waiting around for it to start warming up, we gave it a good couple of hours of looking and were just about to call it a day when Rebecca spotted a single one just hanging out on a vine tangle that sat there long enough for me to run over to also get a look.  Too cool – lifer #434 for my US list and new for both of us for New Mexico!

Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici)

 

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Moving Into Spring

Spring arrived here Monday after a week of gorgeous weather and warmer temperatures that have gotten all the fruit trees in bloom and even a few wildflowers starting to show up. Following up on last week’s post,  a number of times this week has had me dropping by Albuquerque Academy to check on the Great Horned Owl nest. Since she’s been sitting there since at least February 4, little ones should make their appearance any day, and sure enough, on Sunday folks started posting the first pictures of one. Naturally, I’d last been there the day before with no luck, stopped by a couple of other times this week, and finally got to see one yesterday – am thinking I’m getting a bit obsessed with all this since this was on my third visit that day! Fuzzy tennis ball was just snoozing for me, but seems to have woken up for others that have been by to visit.

Great Horned Owl

Proud papa was also there sitting in his usual spot, but showing off those sharp talons a little more than normal.

Great Horned Owl

On most of my recent visits, I’ve seen and heard Lesser Goldfinches and Say’s Phoebes in the trees, making me thing we might start seeing them nesting soon, too.

Say’s Phoebe

In other good news this week, my owls in Piedras Marcadas finally got organized and on Wednesday last week, the female had assumed the position on that good nest and will no doubt be there for at least a month,

Great Horned Owl

with the male keeping a close eye from nearby, but still letting me get maybe one picture before unusually flying off to another hiding spot.

Great Horned Owl

Friend Kathy, who seems to share this owl obsession, was nice enough to tell me about a Western Screech-Owl that also required several visits from me at different times of the day before finally popping up for a few seconds from what must be a fairly spacious cavity. Almost like Whack-a-Mole, it would rise up, look at me, then drop back down out of sight.

Western Screech-Owl

Other outings this past week have had me out looking for butterflies mostly in Embudito Canyon, but a few other spots as well, and enjoying spotting one or two new species for the year almost every time. Checking on Embudito with Rebecca last Friday, for example, turned up a Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus),

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

the first Mylitta Crescent (Phocides mylitta),

Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta)

and a Rocky Mountain Duskywing (Erynnis telemachus).

Rocky Mountain Duskywing (Erynnis telemachus)

One of those and its cousin, the Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo), would show up a couple of days later. There was even a Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis), which brings my Embudito list to 60 species (Photos were pretty poor, but good enough to identify). Of course, there were still good numbers of Sandia Hairstreaks (this one from later in the week one of my better ones),

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

Southwestern Orangetips, this one my first good shot this year of a female – she’s got that white stripe between the orange patch and the black edge of the wingtip; in the male (posted last week) the orange merges with the black,

Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis sara thoosa)

and a couple of Spring Whites.

Spring White (Pontia sisymbrii)

On Monday, Rebecca and I took a look around Sulphur Canyon and Doc Long on the east side of the Sandias, but were a little surprised not to see all that many butterflies yet. It might just have been a little too early or still a little too cool back there. A few things were flying, however, including a mysterious Blue that flew by without landing to confirm its identity, several Mylitta Crescents, Mourning Cloaks, and my first Hoary Comma for the season.

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

Mourning Cloaks and Hoary Commas are among the few butterfly species that overwinter as adults in the leaf litter, so it’s not a surprise to find them flying once things warm up just enough. Other species that have been showing up in Embudito this week are the Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata), Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole), and an unusually early Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa dorus). The Short-tailed Skipper was one that had me baffled just above the waterfall in Embudito yesterday when I was out with friends Sarah and Christine looking for their first Sandia Hairstreaks.

 

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Making the Rounds

With one week to go before the actual start of Spring, the weather around here of late has been basically wonderful. Generally sunny with temperatures rising into the 70s and only a few windy periods, the fruit trees are blooming all over town, green tips starting to show on other trees, and we’re seeing new butterfly species for the year on almost every trip outside. Almost every year visitors from out-of-state contact me about wanting to see the Sandia Hairstreak, our State butterfly that was first identified in 1958 in the nearby foothills of the Sandia Mountains. Since hearing from a butterfly enthusiast from Tucson last week, I’ve been making regular visits to my “local patch” Embudito hoping to be able to find some on his visit tomorrow. Conditions should be good for them, and there have been quite a few seen lately typically on their host plant, Texas beargrasss (Nolina texana). Surprising to me this year was also seeing them on the budding willows close to the little amount of flowing water in the canyon.

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

The other early Spring butterfly I’ve been seeing regularly is the Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis sara thoosa). These guys generally seem to be on the move somewhere, rarely landing for even a second, and then disappearing into the distance. There was something about that willow, however, that caught their attention, too,

Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis sara thoosa)

and when they open up, you can see where they get their name (and that this one is a male).

Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis sara thoosa)

On my first couple of visits, it was just one or two butterflies that had found the willows, but as usual, large numbers of Litocala moths have now arrived making it difficult to spot a butterfly in their midst. A couple of other new for the season species that have dropped by include a Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

and a Common Checkered-Skipper.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

Since 2011, I’ve seen an amazing (to me) 59 butterfly species in the lower part of Embudito Canyon and will hope to add a few more in the months ahead.

On most other outings in the last week, I’ve been making the rounds of my nesting Great Horned Owls and continuing to look around other areas more may be nesting. In one of the nests on the west side of the river, things seem to be progressing normally with the female perched comfortably on the nest but keeping an eye out for visitors like me,

Great Horned Owl

but it was also cool to finally spot her companion hiding in a nearby tree (thanks to my friend Kelly for telling me).

Great Horned Owl

Never spotted that guy last year at all, but he seems to have taken up this hiding spot I’ve managed to pick him out in on my last couple visits.

My pair of owls in Piedras Marcadas are still acting goofy. Several years ago when I’d first seen them, they nested late in the season and then took months to successfully have little ones. This year, I’ve usually seen one of them and sometimes both of them on most visits, but they haven’t quite gotten around to nesting yet. Last Wednesday at least they seem to have located the tree that’s got the perfect old hawk nest, but were still hiding in the lower branches of that big old cottonwood. Here’s the first one I noticed (who I somehow think is the male that atypically flies away as soon as he thinks I’m not looking),

Great Horned Owl

and here’s the other one that was at about the same height but about 20 feet away.

Great Horned Owl

Interestingly, while I was there neither one moved at all – much more typical of my experience. Hopefully, they’ll get with the program soon since the Cooper’s Hawks are starting to show up again, too, and will re-claim their old nest if the owls haven’t taken them over.

Things are still confusing near Calabacillas Arroyo this year at the spot they’ve used for nesting the last several years. Although they, too, had been seen on February 4 defending their territory against some attacking American Crows, since then it’s been hit or miss seeing the owls and not obvious at all if they are nesting in the same cavity. After a number of unsuccessful visits since then, it was a treat to spot one of them (the male, I think) yesterday still close to the nest location.

Great Horned Owl

That he’s still there gives me hope she’s nesting somewhere nearby, but I’ll just have to keep looking. She might be in the old snag she’s used before, but I’m thinking she might have found someplace a little more discreet somewhere in the immediate area.

At Albuquerque Academy, where I’d first seen them nesting on February 4, things are coming along nicely. Here she is on March 5, sitting up a little higher in the nest than back in early February.

Great Horned Owl

And here she is from last Friday (March 10) sitting almost straight up.

Great Horned Owl

Given the typical incubation period of 30-37 days, no doubt we’re going to spot those fuzzy little tennis balls any day now. A treat that day was spotting the proud papa a bit higher in the same tree; he’d eluded me earlier this year.

Great Horned Owl

All’s good at Willow Creek when I stopped by today, and from eBird reports all seems well for the Campbell Road pair that I haven’t checked in on since mid-February. Just for grins, the other day had me poking around in Route 66 Open Space in the foothills near Tijeras. I haven’t found any active owl nests there in a few years, but usually manage to find an owl hanging out by the water in that rather isolated location. No luck that morning, however, so I’ll be back. Nice fly-by of a Red-tailed Hawk made up for it.

Red-tailed Hawk

Last treat of the week was hearing that the Western Screech-Owl was back at Tingley Ponds in the roost we’d seen one last year. Sure enough, there it was peeking out at me when I dropped by last Wednesday.

Western Screech-Owl

 

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New Visitors

Still a bit chilly and wintry weather around here lately, but looks like a stretch of warm sunny weather is on its way taking us closer toward spring. Large flocks of Sandhill Cranes have been flying over town heading north and they’re not being seen much any more and our Bald Eagles also seem to be heading out, but we’re starting to see a few new guys in town. Biggest surprise Wednesday was to hear of a Mexican Spotted Owl hanging out in one of the two ponderosa pines next to the Visitor Center at Petroglyph National Monument. Most unusual, it’s never been seen in town before, it’s been years since it was seen in the Sandias, and is only rarely reported in the Jemez Mountains about an hour north of here. Reported first on Facebook around noon, I headed over about 2pm hoping it would still be there (I’d missed the most unusual Northern Saw-whet Owl at the Rio Grande Nature Center last month by waiting until the next day.). Not only did I get to see it (at eye-level, no less), but it stayed the night and was there all the next day. It seemed pretty oblivious to visitors on my visit, but by now plenty of people have been by to visit and out of concern for the bird they’re no longer allowing visitors.

Mexican Spotted Owl

Mexican Spotted Owl

Last week’s Thursday Birder outing checked out Willow Creek Open Space in northern Rio Rancho and despite the cold and windy morning chalked up a success of 23 birders spotting 23 species. Fun for me was pointing out their Great Horned Owl nest that I’d located earlier, but she was still tucked in there pretty good so some folks took a look and then kept going without spotting her.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

My friend, Kelly, was first to spot the male sitting in exactly the same spot he’d been in when I’d first found the nest. Not for the first time, it took me a second to pick him out even knowing where to look.

Great Horned owl

Great Horned Owl

It’s interesting to me how they almost always have a leaf or a twig or something between them and you to help their disguise and amazing how they figure that out or teach it to their kids. Just like last time, he waited there patiently (move along, nothing to see here, just another branch you can ignore) while everybody got pictures.

Another highlight of that morning was a nice flock of Mountain Bluebirds. I’d been looking for them for the last few weeks, so it was great that one posed relatively close by.

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

On Tuesday, I checked in on a few other Great Horned Owl nest possibilities on the west side of the Rio Grande. Didn’t see any at several spots in Corrales or around Alameda Open Space, and nobody seemed to be home in Calabacillas Arroyo again. Though I’d seen two adults in Calabacillas a few times earlier in the month where they’ve nested the last couple of years, they seem to have moved on and haven’t been around on my last visits. At Piedras Marcadas Dam, they are still messing with me and I’ll spot at least one adult on every visit but they still don’t seem to have started nesting. On this visit, one of them had at least discovered the tree with that really nice nest the Cooper’s Hawks used last year.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Again this time, however, it hung around just long enough for one picture before flying off when I turned my back. This guy for some reason spooks easier than any of the others I’ve seen so probably best to keep my distance and check in less often. It’s smart that the owls typically claim the old nests before the hawks return; last year I once saw a Cooper’s Hawk there harassing a nesting owl, calling from just feet away and nearly attacking it on a quick fly-by. The Coops are back now, with one flying in to a tall cottonwood

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

and continuously calling out to claim the territory, so the owls better get with the program soon.

My next stop was along an arroyo off of Montano where one nested last year. Nobody home at that spot, but a treat to spot her in a much better nest this year several hundred yards further down the arroyo.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

This week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip took us to the National Hispanic Cultural Center, where we parked to explore the bosque along the east side of the Rio Grande. A nice enough morning at a new location for the group, but pretty quiet bird-wise for most of the morning. Still we ended up with as many species as we had people (if we included two that were heard but not seen) including one spot on the river with a pair of Great Blue Herons and the last of our Sandhill Cranes. A highlight of the morning was spotting a pair of American Kestrels pretty far away checking out several dead snags for their nest-definitely worth a return visit soon to see if they choose one of those spots.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Since it’s certainly time, but still a little chilly, I also took a quick look around for butterflies in Embudito Canyon yesterday, and was thrilled to see the return of our first spring butterflies for the year, a Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis thoosa) and a couple of Sandia Hairstreaks (Callophrys mcfarlandi) -not a great picture, but photographed one of them for the record.

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

Sandia Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)

Weather’s looking pretty good the next couple of days and most of next week, so I’ll definitely be getting out more often to see what else might be flying.

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The Owl Quest Continues

It’s been a pretty good week weather-wise for this year’s search for nesting Great Horned Owls. A number of outings to various places we’ve had them in the past and several others that seem promising haven’t yet turned up too many, but I managed to locate two new ones since last week. It must be the time of year, but there really haven’t been many birds showing themselves to me and certainly very few calling or singing to let me know they’re around. Still surprises me, then, how many species we manage to turn up on our Audubon Thursday Birder trips. This week was no exception, with the large group of 37 birders tallying 46 species on a morning trip to the Rio Grande Nature Center. Sure, we get a few more species from all the ducks and waterfowl on the ponds, but those large numbers must have something to do with having all those eyes looking around and spending as much time as we do. One of my friends that morning had good directions for locating this year’s “Campbell Road” owl, nesting in a different spot than the last several years so after lunch a few of us went looking for it. Exactly matching the location description was an old hawk nest high above the trail that had to be it, but we were lucky to catch just a bit of a look at the female from one particular direction before the female hunkered down even lower in the nest.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Pretty cool, too, was one of my friends spotting the male a short distance away and much closer to the ground.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

This week’s Thursday Birder trip is to Willow Creek Open Space at the far northern end of Rio Rancho. We’ve had owls nesting there the last several years, and after seeing a report on eBird that one had been seen there the day before, I headed there Saturday morning to see if I could find it. After looking pretty hard without success around where it nested last year, it was back to search mode walking all over the area searching the fairly open trees for likely nesting spots or owl-like silhouettes against the background. Although there didn’t seem to be too many birds making their presence known, now and then one would pop up and ask me to take their picture, including this Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

and a Bewick’s Wren sitting at the top of a small tree singing its heart out.

Bewick's Wren

Bewick’s Wren

So, anyway, I kept walking around the loop trail and finally spotted a nice old hawk nest high in a tree right by the trail that I think the owls used a couple of years ago. Despite looking from different directions, I couldn’t see anybody in there. Scanning the nearby trees, however, this rather owl-shaped lump on a branch caught my eye.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Getting a little closer it turns out my hunch was correct. Interestingly, he just sat there with the sun in his eyes and must have been pretending I couldn’t possibly realize he was there since he never once turned to stare right at me like they usually do.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Knowing he was there meant that she was probably in a nest close by, so I took another look at that old hawk nest. Sure enough, she’d moved just enough that I could see a bit of her tail sticking over the edge.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Rumor had it there might be another owl nesting at the southern end of the Corrales bosque, so next I wandered over there to take a look. Although I wasn’t successful in finding it, it was fun seeing two Great Blue Herons high in the cottonwoods. as they usually do, one took off as soon as it detected my presence, but the other one pretended I couldn’t see it and remained sitting there as I went past and was still there on my return. Here’s a shot of it pretending to be just another branch on the tree, but giving me that look that must be the last thing a fish sees before it becomes lunch.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Still reasonably early in the morning, although it was beginning to get cloudy, it had been more than a week since I’d checked in on the owls at Calabacillas Arroyo and Piedras Marcadas. Both places have been interesting since first seeing them again early in February-some days I’ll see them close to where they nested last year and other days they don’t seem to be anywhere around. On that morning, I didn’t see anybody at Calabacillas; either they’ve moved somewhere else or are hiding well. Earlier visits showed they can both hide pretty well and I’d only managed to spot one on my last visit when they made the mistake of calling to each other; she can also get pretty deep in the snag where she’s nested the last two years to avoid detection. At Piedras Marcadas, their old nest has fallen apart and probably can’t be used again. I know of two other old hawk nests in the area, one that seems a little too open and another that looks perfect and was used just last summer by Cooper’s Hawks. The owls don’t seem to be interested in it for some reason as I’ve yet to see them anywhere nearby, and instead have been seeing them near their old nest as if trying to figure out a new plan for this year. On my latest visit, one was hiding out in one of its usual spots,

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

and surprisingly flew off soon after I got that photograph. I’d stumble onto him a little later perched in a very open spot, and again he flew off this time to a little better hiding spot he’d used last year. In my experience, when I do manage to spot an owl in a tree they remain motionless and almost always with a small twig or leaf in front of them to break up their outline and almost invariably are looking right at me; it’s most unusual for them to fly off especially when I’m looking right at them. So I’ll give those guys a break and not visit them very often or move too close once I spot them.

Later in the week had me out looking around a few other promising locations, but so far without success in finding any more nests. Since the trees won’t start leafing out for a few more weeks, there’s time for a few more looks. It’s still February and I’ve already seen five nesting spots and know of at least two others I haven’t gotten around to yet, so it looks like another good year for them. One of those areas was north of the Rio Grande Nature Center where they nested pretty late in the season (May!) last year. Haven’t found them yet this year, but had fun spotting a Cooper’s Hawk hiding in an olive tree right by the Candelaria Ponds viewing blind.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

There are also two big old hawk nests in Bachechi Open Space that caught my eye a couple of months ago that sure look like someday an owl will choose, or maybe the hawks will later in the season. I did get a fun picture of a pair of Mallards there, the male displaying that distinctive tail curl.

Mallard

Mallard

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