A week ago Thursday, the Audubon Thursday Birder group had a great day down at Bosque del Apache NWR. Not good for many pictures since it was unusually rather overcast most of the day, we did get spot more than 70 species, a nice total for this time of year. And some of them were pretty nice surprises, starting with my first bird of the day, a roosting Barn Owl that allowed me to get its picture before flying off at all the commotion our group of almost 30 people must have created.
Along the way, we’d see a variety of raptors including a distant Rough-legged Hawk, an immature Bald Eagle perched in a tree, and several Red-tailed Hawks, including this guy.
On the refuge, a pair of mature Bald Eagles were posted in their usual spot the entire day.
Late in the afternoon, a huge flock of snow geese flew in and settled on this pond probably for the night, but all it took was for one of the eagles to take off to check out the geese for all of them to take to the air at once in a dramatic display. Two other pictures from calmer moments during the day include this pair of Northern Pintail,
and one of the few Buffleheads that were present that day.
The real treat of the day, however, was when somebody spotted a roosting Western Screech-Owl right by the side of the road.
It did a great job of pretending to be invisible as our long line of cars pulled over to see and everybody got out to take pictures. I’m sure we all got pretty much identical shots without disturbing it by keeping the noise level down and nobody getting too close. A great sighting for everybody and pretty remarkable to see two different owl species on the same day.
Sunday, Rebecca and I prowled around unsuccessfully in search of the Red-breasted Merganser that had been reported at the Nature Center, several uncommon sparrows at Tramway Wetlands, and looked for the gulls at Alameda Open Space. No luck with the duck or the sparrows. With a welcome rain earlier in the week, the Wetlands (actually mostly a concrete drainage basin) had water in it again after being dry the last several months. Quite a few Sandhill Cranes were wading around until on some unknown signal, most took to the air and headed off to parts unknown.
At Alameda, it seems even the gulls have decided to move on and we only saw a few of them. We were lucky, however, to have a pair of mature Bald Eagles circling the parking lot and cruising up and down the river there, and at the Nature Center had a very close fly-by of a Red-tailed Hawk.
One (well, actually two if you look closely) more duck at the Nature Center that day, a Green-winged Teal showing the normally hidden green in the wing.
Busy with other things (well, actually it was pretty dang cold and windy), I didn’t get out again until this week’s Thursday Birder trip. Originally planned for my ‘local patch’, Embudito Canyon, some kind of TV film crew had the parking lot blocked off so we went south to Embudo Canyon. Pretty quiet bird-wise on that breezy morning, which is not unusual for this time of year, but we did manage to see a nice selection of the usual suspects for the area.
Since we’d already seen two owl species this week, once again I was out several times to a number of locations hoping to add a Great Horned Owl to the list. They are starting to be seen around town and should be about ready to start nesting, but so far those lumps in the trees have all turned out to be either a few new abandoned hawk nests (potential nesting sites for the owls) or sleeping porcupines. Today’s exploration around the Nature Center and across the river at Pueblo Montano wasn’t any more successful for owls, but it was a treat to first see a nearly mature Bald Eagle fly over,
to flush another mature one from the trees on the east side of the river, and to spot a pair of mature ones across the river on what was a favorite perch last year.
Even with the cold, wind, even a bit of rain and hail, it’s been a productive week for some cool owls, eagles, and other good birds, but I hope Punxsutawney Phil is correct and spring will be here soon.