My last post highlighted the two Great Horned Owl nests reported recently that are currently occupied down by the Rio Grande. Two days later on one of my infrequent visits to the Willow Creek Open Space at the northern end of Rio Rancho, I was thrilled to see a pair of Great Horned Owls roosting quite close to the ground in a cottonwood.
Here’s a closeup view of the one higher up, which I’m guessing is a male because it looks a little smaller and lighter in color than the females usually seen on nests.
Here’s a closeup of the other one (lower part of the group picture), giving me that annoyed glare that’s becoming rather familiar.
I left them alone after taking a few pictures, hoping they’d settle into an abandoned hawk nest in the area soon. On a visit yesterday, however, despite searching a fairly wide area, none of the old hawk nests in the immediate vicinity were occupied and I didn’t see the owls anywhere. Of course, they were hiding pretty good on my first visit, so maybe they just got better at that trick.
Sunday, Rebecca informed me she’d spotted another Western Screech-Owl, this time at the Rio Grande Nature Center where they’ve nested in the past, and joined me there Monday to point it out. For about five minutes, we got a really good look at it before it disappeared out of sight back into its cavity.
Seems I’ve been pretty lucky spotting those Great Horned Owls, but need to rely on Rebecca for seeing these little guys. The one in Corrales she found a few months ago was a lifer for me, so to get another one is pretty special.
Rounding out this week in owls, I returned to the Rt.66 Open Space yesterday. Last year, there were fledglings in a nest there in mid-June, which was unusually late in the season, and I’d spotted an adult on February 10 this year roosting nearby . It was surprising to see the same adult in the exact same tree during yesterday’s visit.
Maybe if he/she sits there long enough, a mate will appear and they’ll do that late nesting thing again.
While on the hunt for owls this past week, a few other photographic opportunities presented themselves. At the Rio Grande Nature Center, this Western Bluebird posed nicely in the sun.
A Spotted Towhee also was there and patiently waited for its picture to be taken.
And while poking around the Alameda Bridge trying to get closer to the Black-crowned Night Heron roost earlier in the week I managed to get a picture of this immature as it flew off.
Saturday, Rebecca and I headed out in search of butterflies despite it being a little early in the season here. Already this year, we’ve seen several Mourning Cloaks, one Clouded Sulphur, and on this trip got to see two West Coast Lady butterflies at Pine Shadow Spring near Priest Canyon. We started out at Bernardo WMA for a few birds and saw some surprisingly good birds, 22 species in about an hour including male and female Northern Harriers, at least five Bald Eagles, several different hawks, and a large flock of Gambel’s Quail.
Then it was off down Highway 60 toward Mountainair, after a detour into the southern Manzanos for butterflies in Priest Canyon, and looped back home after looking for owls at Abo and Quarai National Monuments.
Yesterday afternoon at Embudito while poking around the Texas beargrass looking for the Sandia Hairstreaks that should be emerging any day, I saw a Sage Sparrow – rather unusual for the foothills and got a nice picture of a Say’s Phoebe.
Quite a few people turned out for this week’s Thursday Birder trip to the Copper Open Space, and although a little quiet for birds probably because of the winds beginning to pick up, tallied a good number of species for the day including this Dark-eyed Junco.
Definitely have had enough winter for this year and can’t wait for birds passing through on spring migration and butterflies to start flying.