Still a week away from the official start of Summer and it’s starting to get hot with no rain in sight. At this elevation, it never gets really hot like Phoenix or Las Vegas, but when it pushes 100 degrees F you do start to notice. Lots of big clouds building up most afternoons, but nothing in the way of rain actually making it to the ground just yet and our ‘monsoon’ season not due for several more weeks. I might be noticing it more this year because my swamp cooler is on the fritz, but that’s another story. The worst part is having the mountains and river off limits due to fire restrictions since last weekend until those rains come, which requires creative thinking to find places to go these days. Before everything shut down, I stopped by Tingley Ponds and was glad to see a Snowy Egret poking around the pond edges and a pair of Green Herons, along with some of the first dragonflies of the year. The only picture that worked from that morning was this one of some kind of frog, who stayed around just long enough for a picture before swimming away.
Returning early this week, indeed access to the back ponds is closed, but one can still poke around the more civilized fishing ponds and maybe find a few pictures.
This week, I had several specific photographic objectives, something I never do and apparently for good reason. My friend Steve had recently gotten great pictures of the rather rare Bobolinks that are being seen at Valle de Oro NWR and of his Burrowing Owl nest in Black Arroyo with both parents and four new owlets. I made several visits to both places hoping for similar luck but without success. Valle de Oro seems to have stopped flooding the fields, so there weren’t many water birds around let alone the Bobolink, and while the adult Burrowing Owls were easy to spot, the little ones must’ve been hiding out in the burrow when I visited – surely they’ll be outside more once they get a little older.
While I didn’t get to see the little ones at Black Arroyo, another Burrowing Owl standing outside its burrow in Richland Hills allowed me to take what could be my favorite photograph of this species.
We did have a pair of them there in April and they may well be breeding, but in my short visits this is the only one I’ve seen recently.
Another objective I had was to photograph the glowing purple gorget of a male Black-chinned Hummingbird, which one doesn’t get to see very often. While I did get a couple pictures of that this week, none were quite in focus so I’ll have to keep trying. Did get a pretty good one of this female hitting the feeder, though.
Meanwhile, things have been happening at the Black-chinned Hummingbird nest at the Rio Grande Nature Center – the eggs have hatched!
The nest is pretty high up in the tree, so it’s hard to tell how many there are but in some of my pictures, it’s pretty clear there are at least two little ones, and they must be growing quickly since the female now perches either on the edge of the nest or nearby.
In the parking lot of the Nature Center there’s been a nesting Killdeer I’ve been watching since about May 15, and which must be close to hatching. Oddly, the first time I went to check on things this week, she was off the nest and I noticed there are only two eggs in the nest where there were four back in May. I didn’t spot any little ones running around so it’s a mystery what may have happened.
Today, she was back hunkered down on the remaining eggs, so this will bear watching in the coming days.
Last Sunday took me to a number of spots in pursuit of those photographic objectives and just to see what was going on at a few I hadn’t been to recently. The pond at the Open Space Visitor Center was dry as were the Tramway Wetlands, so little of interest going on there. Los Poblanos Open Space was a little livelier, with a pair of Greater Roadrunners who obviously weren’t getting along very well.
The guy on the left seemed to come out ahead and strutted off with the other one following. The winner climbed up a tree to pose rather proudly,
while the loser stayed on the ground for awhile before hopping up on an empty bird feeder.
On Friday, it was off to the Santa Fe Ski Basin in search of butterflies. While also under a drought, it does appear wetter and greener up there and the fire restrictions aren’t so strict. Meadows filled with wild iris and other wildflowers drew in a nice variety of butterflies including the rarely seen (by me) Black Swallowtail,
several nice Western Tiger Swallowtails,
and about the first Variegated Fritillary for the year.
We usually get up there a little later in the season and there are quite a few high elevation species to be seen. As long as they allow access up there, another trip in the next few weeks could be productive.