At the end of my last posting, I promised a few pictures of owls and other birds from the Audubon Thursday Birder trip last week to the area around Stanley NM. I’ve made a number of trips to a few other places since then, but for two reasons kept finding myself back in Embudito Canyon where I was signed up to lead today’s trip. First, it really is my ‘home patch’ and I visit regularly, but second to get a sense of what might be flying during this week’s trip. So first are some pictures from last week’s trip to Stanley, followed by some of what’s been popping up in Embudito this week.
Although we did miss out on seeing the Mountain Plover and Long-billed Curlews we were hoping for around Stanley, we did get good looks at a good variety of birds out there on the short grass prairie. Two of the more common ones seen, and quite well posing as they were on fenceposts, was the Western Meadowlark
and the Horned Lark.
We’d also see several Loggerhead Shrikes, Say’s Phoebe, Northern Mockingbirds, and others before spotting our first owls of the day, two very nervous Burrowing Owls that quickly tucked into their burrow with just their eyes showing as we got out of our cars. Just a few moments later further up the road, we saw the first of the two Great Horned Owl nests we’d seen on a earlier scouting trip on May 10. The three little ones in the nest were nearly full-grown now
and were easily seen as we were driving down the highway keeping an eye out for them. Looking closer, we soon spotted the adult female pretty close by – that’s her in the lower left of the picture below, with the single immature one from the above picture in the center, and its two siblings there on the right.
Some really sharp-eyed folks in the group soon also picked out the adult male just a little further away, down and to the left of the female.
Here’s the whole scene zoomed out to show all five of them.
Need help seeing them?
Next up was lunch at a ranch house where we usually see Barn Owls. We did see one and another Great Horned Owl, but both had suffered some awful accident and were just piles of feathers and bones. In happier news, we spotted the large Swainson’s Hawk nest in the highest tree with the female protecting her eggs while the male perched nearby or flew around to keep predators away.
And, shortly after lunch, we’d see another Great Horned Owl nest with three still pretty little ones sitting in the nest maybe half a mile to the north along the same highway as the first one .
Looking at my notes, it seems I checked out Embudito four times this week before today’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip. The weather was perfect for birding this morning and our group of 17 would get pretty good looks at 27 bird species, including a couple that I hadn’t seen on my scouting visits, such as the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Western Tanager, and Cassin’s Kingbird. We even managed to spot several Scott’s Orioles, one of the target species for the morning, and that I’d only managed to see once although I’ve been hearing it all week. This is the best picture I was able to get of one of these guys that seem a bit wary of people.
Our other target for the day was the Black-chinned Sparrow, another one that has a very recognizable “bouncing ball” call that we’d hear all day but only catch brief glimpses of the bird. Earlier in the week, however, I got a pretty good picture of one.
Much more accommodating were the Black-throated Sparrows that nest in the canyon.
Everybody also got great looks at the Cactus Wrens that were loudly calling this morning. I haven’t spotted their nests yet this year, but they’ve been nesting in the cholla here for the last couple of years and have only been seen here since 2011. A Red-tailed Hawk also graced us with a visit, circling fairly low just above us toward the end of the walk.
Quite a few Curve-billed Thrashers were out that morning, calling loudly across the canyon. Earlier in the week, I found one sitting on a nest in the cholla but couldn’t seem to quite remember where the nest was to show the group.
Of course, with me and Rebecca along for the walk, we couldn’t help but notice a few butterflies were flying around that morning as well. Surely, everybody saw the big yellow Two-tailed Swallowtails (Papilio multicaudata) flying back and forth along the arroyo and certainly saw the gorgeous Arizona Sisters flitting around everywhere. Here’s a close-up of one of the latter from a few days earlier in Embudito (and the underside shown in last week’s post is pretty spectacular, too).
A few of us also got a look at a small grayish butterfly, the Bronze Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes aenus) close to the water tanks, small dark Common Sootywing (Pholisora catullus), and a bunch of Checkered Whites (Pontia protodice), and most of us got a great look at our New Mexico State Butterfly, the Sandia Hairstreak, perched on an Apache Plume flower.
Two others I’d seen earlier in the week and managed to get pretty good pictures of were the Canyonland Satyr we’ve been seeing there for a few weeks now,
and a Fulvia Checkerspot – I’ve only seen it this one time so far this year, but will be hoping to find again there soon.
There were two other creatures I’d seen earlier in the week that were new to me. On Sunday, I noticed a lizard poking around under the chamisa that turned out to be the first and only one of its kind (despite its name) I’ve seen there, a Common Checkered Whiptail.
And on Tuesday, this pair of damselflies was too busy mating to notice my intrusive presence; the male is the bright blue guy on top, the grayish female grayish below.
It still surprises me that a place I visit so regularly and look around so well can still turn up new and amazing things to see, so no doubt I’ll be spending even more time there in the weeks to come.