I continue to be amazed at what you can run into just by getting outside and looking around, even if the original plan called for something entirely different. My mission the last couple of weeks has been to start tracking down those Great Horned Owls that must be starting to nest about now – a job that starts by wandering the leafless woods checking out old abandoned hawk nests that they seem to like. Too often, those lumps up in the trees are neither owls or nests, but porcupines – if you zoom in on this one, you can just make out those orange teeth.
Up until recently, however, doing income taxes and working on identifying those Brazilian butterflies has kept me from getting out all that much. Income taxes are now done and we’re pushing 200 species from the Brazil trip including at least four species that are new to science and haven’t been observed before – pretty cool!
Way back on February 13, the Audubon Thursday Birders had a reasonably successful morning at Los Poblanos Open Space, seeing a few good birds for this time of year but not many photo opportunities. About the only one I ended up with was this one of a male Ring-necked Pheasant that flew across the trail right in front of us before making a spectacular landing.
While scoping out the woods around Tingley Ponds unsuccessfully for owls one day, I did get a close-up of a young Neotropic Cormorant, the first time I’ve been close enough to see those aqua eyes.
On another day engaged in the same mission in the area around Alameda Open Space, again no owls, but with a few warm days in a row, at least four species of butterflies have started flying, including the overwintering Mourning Cloaks.
Last week, the Audubon Thursday Birders met there for their weekly walk and turned up about 20 species of birds despite its being a really cold and windy day. It was enough just trying to get out of the wind and stay warm that I didn’t get any pictures that morning, but enjoyed being out with that hard core group of birders.
My friend Rebecca had the excellent idea of spending Saturday down at Bosque del Apache NWR to see what birds might be about down there. Perfect weather, warm and not windy, brought out at least 20 Red-tailed Hawks, 3 Bald Eagles, several American Kestrels and other unusual hawks, and all of the uncommon species that have been being seen there lately. It took two trips to the field where the Palm Warbler’s been for more than a month now, but we did finally get good looks at it. On the drive in, it was clear that Spring is on its way as the Western Meadowlarks were perched on fenceposts singing their loud melodious song.
Just at the Visitor Center feeders were White-crowned Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Spotted and Green-tailed Towhees, American Goldfinches, and a couple of rather uncommon sparrows, including the White-throated Sparrow
and an immature Harris’s Sparrow.
Other birds around that day included Mountain and Western Bluebirds, Phainopepla, Pyrrhuloxia, and plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers.
And (yes!) on Sunday following directions from my friend Judy and her friend Allison, I found the first nesting pair of Great Horned Owls down near the Rio Grande Nature Center.
I’m guessing that’s the male sitting up proudly there, while you can just see the female tucked down in the nest there to the left if you zoom in. There must be more about, so a few more exploratory trips are in order soon. The pair I’d seen in Willow Creek Open Space back in mid-January weren’t in their usual spot that day, and I was unsuccessful in finding another spot nearby where some people I met said they’d seen a nest. Another trip there is definitely on the schedule.
This week, the Thursday Birders are off to my local patch, Embudito, where hopefully everybody will get to see a few of the special birds that I’ve seen there lately, including Black-throated Sparrows, Crissal and Curve-billed Thrashers, and on my last two visits, the Cactus Wren that’s taken up residence here for the last several years.
The biggest surprise there this morning was seeing the first Sandia Hairstreak of the season, about three weeks earlier than we usually see them.
The New Mexico State Butterfly, first discovered in the Sandia foothills in the ’60s, these little guys are found on or near the Texas Beargrass (Nolina texana) for the next couple of months.
It’s great the weather seems to be holding in a Spring-like pattern, though there is sure to be at least one more cold snap, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else is out and about these days.