With the official start of spring arriving last Wednesday, it was a treat that day to find my fourth Great Horned Owl nest of the year, the first this year that I hadn’t heard about from other friends. Even better, I had tracked down my third nest last Saturday after some of us had been wondering why they seemed to be absent entirely in February and getting started a bit later than usual. Here’s a Google Earth image where I’ve highlighted roughly the location of each of the nests in the order I’ve seen them. So far, they have all been along about 10 miles of the Rio Grande between Tingley Ponds and Alameda Boulevard, two on the east side and two on the west.
I can’t be more specific about where they actually are to limit disturbing the nesting birds. Assuming we’ve been spotting the nests when nesting first began, the eggs should hatch in a little more than a month and the little ones seen hanging out for another month or so. Here’s a picture of #3, nesting in Rio Grande Valley State Park right in the heart of downtown.
Just like the first two I’d found over the last several weeks, the directions were a little confusing and I found myself wandering all over the area looking for the nest. After spotting 4 porcupines and as many unoccupied old hawk nests, just as I was about to give up on the search and turned around for one last look back, there it was.
While I was searching for that nest, the most unusual commotion broke out between two male Western Bluebirds fighting over a female. The female stood patiently by while the two males were just beating each other up, flying up to a tree and then back to the ground where it looked like a death match was in progress.
They kept at it so long, there was even time to take a short 10-second video of the action that I posted on YouTube. Eventually the two of them broke it off and the whole bunch flew off.
A few days later, the Audubon Thursday Birders were off to the Durand Open Space in the South Valley for a few good birds before the winds started picking up. Only picture I got that day was this nicely posed Eastern Bluebird.
Although you wouldn’t know it was Spring by the weather here on Wednesday, I decided to wander down to the Alameda Open Space and see what birds might be about and after looking at that map of owl nests, wondered if maybe there’d be another nest somewhere in the area. Pretty quiet for birds that morning, especially north of the Alameda Bridge, but I did spot a Franklin’s Gull showing its rosy plumage. An unusual sighting around here, there was a single individual in a rather large flock of the more common Ring-billed Gull. Too far away for a good picture, I did get a couple that at least document the sighting. There was also a female Wood Duck spotted up in a cottonwood tree.
Having seen so few birds north of the bridge, I headed south and first spotted a Bewick’s Wren sitting on the fence at the entrance and several times a Belted Kingfisher that seemed to be patrolling the ditch.
Walking down the trail in the woods, a loud raucous calling of some bird I didn’t recognize got my attention. Following the sound, it seems several domestic guineafowl were engaged in some kind of altercation in a yard across the way.
Heading further south, and once again having about given up on ever finding a nesting Great Horned Owl, sure enough, just as I turned around to head back to the car, there one was way up in a leafy cottonwood!
Most satisfying to finally find one on my own and good to see the number of nesting pairs is about what we’ve seen in previous years. On my way back to the car, it was fun running into a small busload of students from the Bosque School who were out checking on their environmental research project, and whose teacher seemed thrilled to hear about the nest.
Not a real good week for butterflies with the temperatures a little too cold and the winds picking up (ahh, Spring in New Mexico), but a quick trip to Embudito yesterday resulted in seeing at least six Sandia Hairstreaks (Callophrys mcfarlandi), the NM State butterfly that I’d seen for the first time this year a little more than a week ago. Can’t wait for the temperatures to warm up, the winds to die down, the butterflies to start flying in earnest, and those owls to hatch.