This time of year is always special around here with near perfect weather and the chamisa and cottonwoods putting on their spectacular autumn colors. The shady green bosque woods down by the river changes to a vivid gold for just a few weeks before the leaves blow away leaving just those gray branches until the rebirth of spring.
The fragrant chamisa blooming at this time also brings out the last burst of butterflies before they too disappear for a few months. Several visits to Embudito Canyon this week led to sightings of a fair number of butterfly species, including several that we haven’t seen many of this year, such as Fulvia Checkerspot and Fiery Skipper.
Plenty of the more common species, including this fresh Painted Lady, are also still active at the chamisa.
Another visitor that starts appearing about this time every year and stays through the winter is the White-crowned Sparrow, which posed nicely for me during an Audubon Thursday Birder trip to the Open Space Visitor Center a week ago.
This week got fairly ridiculous with Great Blue Herons being seen just about everywhere I went. While we do see them pretty much year-round, this week they seemed to appear in places I haven’t regularly seen them before. The first one was along a canal at the Alameda Open Space, which flew up to a tree when I came upon it and was clearly hoping I didn’t see it as it posed as just another gray branch for a few minutes before flying off.
A few days later on a walk at Tingley Ponds, I spotted another one just above me in a tree. It didn’t seem at all concerned by my presence or even aware that I was there.
At one point, however, it did look down and gave me the view that I’m sure more than a few fish have seen before their demise, just to let me know I’d been noticed.
Realizing I was no threat, it then posed nicely in profile for me.
I’d also see them later in the week at the Rio Grande Nature Center, Valle de Oro NWR, and Bosque del Apache NWR.
Several of the duck species that will spend most of the winter here have now returned to Tingley Ponds. Those golden cottonwoods are reflected in the pond where this American Wigeon was paddling around.
The Wood Duck is one of the more flamboyant characters returning, and I had a group of two males and two females paddle up quite closely.
A good total of 33 birds were spotted on a gorgeous Fall morning at the Rio Grande Nature Center during this week’s Audubon Thursday Birder outing with a large group of nearly that many people in the group along for the walk. One of the good birds this week, which I also saw at Tingley earlier in the week, was a male Belted Kingfisher, which flew back and forth between two perches just a bit too far for my camera to reach.
A more cooperative bird was this immature Cooper’s Hawk, hiding in the shade close to the trail, who flew off after most of the group got a pretty good look.
Enjoy the autumn magic while it’s still here.