While it really is snowing in the Midwest this week, spring is breaking out big time around here. And that can only mean it’s time to check up on those Great Horned Owl nests again to see if any owlets have yet appeared. When they do, those little guys start off looking a lot like fuzzy tennis balls or snowballs before quickly growing up to adult size. Making the rounds on both Sunday and again on Wednesday of the three active nests I’ve been watching since early March, at last there’s ‘snowballs’ in all of them!
On the way to the first nest near the Alameda Bridge on Sunday, I was treated to two flyovers by Snowy Egrets, passing by close enough for pretty good photo opportunities.
At the nest, both adults were sitting proudly by and you could just make out two little ones in there way up in the tree.
When I returned a few days later, one of the adults was nowhere to be seen, but two little ones were much more active and easier to spot (and there just might be another one tucked in between them), with the other adult keeping close watch nearby.
Next up was the first nest I’d found near the Montano Bridge, and (yes!) a couple more ‘snowballs’ were present there, too.
On my return visit a couple of days later, one of them was really standing tall and in good light
with an alert adult watching quietly from a nearby tree.
On to Tingley Ponds and the third nest I’ve been keeping an eye on. This nest is very high in a tree and difficult to see, but on Sunday it seemed like there might be a little ‘snowball’ tucked under Mom up there, with Dad (I presume) perched in exactly the same spot I’d seen him a few weeks earlier.
It wasn’t until Wednesday that I was sure there was at least one little one up there when it poked its head up for a second before snuggling back down again. If you zoom in by clicking on this picture, you’ll see it in the lower right corner next to Mom. I’ll have to make a return trip soon when they’ve had a little more time to grow, but I wouldn’t be surprised to also find two owlets in there.
This week was also pretty good for butterflies on a couple of jaunts first to Las Huertas Canyon and another day to Hondo Canyon. A sure sign that spring really is here was that we’d see a good variety of species, including Southwestern Orangetip, Spring Azure, Thicket Hairstreak, Juniper Hairstreak, Great Purple Hairstreak, Painted Lady, Satyr Comma, Hoary Comma, Common Checkered-Skipper, and lots of Duskywings.
Two-tailed Swallowtails are being seen all over town this week, and although they rarely seem to land a couple of them paused long enough to be photographed, including this one in Las Huertas,
and another one that found a favorite spot by the waterfall in Hondo Canyon it would return to a number of times for minutes at a time.
A real highlight of the day in Las Huertas was spotting a Yucca Giant-Skipper, a butterfly we’d been searching the last two years for before finally seeing our first one just the week before near Silver City.
I can only assume they’ve always been there but we must have just passed them off as maybe a moth or other flying insect that didn’t catch our attention before. They do tend to fly by pretty fast and low, almost disappearing into the background when they do land, but once you know what to look for, there they are.
Last Thursday on a cold and cloudy morning, a large group of Audubon Thursday Birders went to Otero Canyon for a great walk led by Ashli and Larry Gorbet who have done a considerable amount of research on nesting birds in the canyon over the last several years. Because of the weather, there really weren’t many birds around, but everyone enjoyed the trip and getting to hear some of the fascinating details of their research.
Perhaps dissuaded by the weather forecast calling for freezing temperatures and high winds, a smaller group showed up this week for the trip to Randall Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe. Fortunately, that forecast wasn’t quite correct and although a little chilly at the start, the sun was shining and the day warmed up nicely with quite a few species seen during the morning walk. Several Black-billed Magpies were flying about, which don’t make it as far south as Albuquerque, and we’d see the last of the Townsend’s Solitaires for the year and the first Western Tanagers and Black-headed Grosbeaks, several warblers, two kinds of hummingbirds, and about twenty other species. A pair of Spotted Towhees were busy in a tree close to the group as we started off, one posing nicely for this picture.
And late in the walk, we got good looks at a Wilson’s Warbler bouncing around in the shrubbery and barely pausing long enough anywhere for a picture.
As I was getting ready to wrap up this posting, a friend of mine told me of yet another Great Horned Owl nesting in a most unusual location north of Corrales. He reported seeing both adults and three ‘snowballs’ hanging out there, so for sure I had to go see. On my way over with time to kill, I stopped by the two spots in that area where I’d seen Burrowing Owls recently just in case they were also raising chicks. I’m wondering, though, if their due dates are a little later in the year and they might be deep in a burrow sitting on a nest, since I didn’t see anybody at the first nest and only this sentinel at the second nest where I’d seen two owls on my last visit.
Missed out on seeing all three little ones at the new nest, but did see at least one little guy.
and if you look carefully there on the left you’ll see Mom peeking out from behind it. It didn’t take her long to make it pretty obvious we should back off.
Planning to look for a few new butterflies in the coming week, but may just have to check up on the snowballs one last time before they disappear.