It comes as a bit of a surprise to me it’s been two weeks since my last post. Normally it seems there’s new stuff ready for posting pretty much every week, but between the weather, doing taxes, and a quick weekend trip for a new butterfly, time got away from me. Speaking of time, this coming Thursday marks the four year anniversary for this blog. Since starting it on March 5, 2011, the 169 posts so far have been sort of a diary for me of what I’ve been up to since retiring from that work thing. And it’s been a fun ride to this point and surprisingly different from those daydreams at work wondering what one will do with all that free time. Photography has definitely become even more of a passion, a number of delightful new friends have joined my world, my birding hobby has certainly been kicked up a notch, and a whole new world opened with this butterfly thing. In addition to a number of domestic trips, travel since then has taken me twice to Brazil and Panama, and also to Belize, Ecuador, and Peru in pursuit of those interests. Just getting outside nearly every day forces you to notice even more of what’s going on in the natural world from snakes and colorful lizards to porcupines and bears, and every now and then one of those photographs turns out really well.
The main event the last two weeks was making a quick butterfly trip to Houston with my friend, Rebecca (who first turned me on to those incredible creatures), to visit our butterflying friend, Steve. Steve’s been along on several butterfly trips with us, and for a couple of years now has been offering to show us one he gets in his neighborhood that we don’t see this far west, the Falcate Orangetip. We made plans several months ago to visit last weekend, and almost cancelled after hearing weather forecasts for cool temperatures, rain and clouds. Luck was with us, however, and the temperature rose and clouds broke just enough over the weekend that we got to see a few of them. This is the best I could do photographing the male.
Females tend to emerge a week or so after the males, so it was fortunate that we got to see both of them during the two days we spent looking.
The trip an unqualified success after getting those, everything after that was just gravy. Of the few other butterflies that took a chance on the weather, we got nice looks at a Gulf Fritillary
and a couple of Question Marks.
If the weather’s too cold or cloudy for butterflies to be active, there’s always birds to look for. Steve showed us a Bald Eagle nest in a small pine grove right in the middle of a busy construction zone; an impressively large nest and the first I’d ever seen, but we never got good looks at anybody in the nest itself. We also visited a protected area for nesting Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, but again missed seeing any although it was exciting to see a Pileated Woodpecker, my first in quite a few years.
Impressed so far with my new 80-400mm lens, I’m still working with it to practice catching birds in flight. Although generally quite overcast that weekend, hanging out by a lake provided several opportunities to work on that. Quite close to us was a flock of Ring-billed Gulls sailing by,
and this one seems proud to have nailed the landing.
Almost too close to be able to focus, we were also strafed by a Brown Pelican. We usually only see the American White Pelican occasionally at home, so it was fun to see this one.
And much further away, but a good test of my ability to focus at such a distance, were a Great Blue Heron
and a Neotropic Cormorant.
While we were off in Houston, the Audubon Thursday Birders took a trip up to the Sandia Crest House, where they tell me the weather was perfect and they got to see all three species of Rosy-Finch and several Evening Grosbeaks. I had taken a trip up there earlier that week on a sunny day hoping to photgraph the Rosy-Finches in good light, but was unsuccessful waiting two hours for them to show up, so may just have to head up there again soon.
Returning from Houston on Sunday to wintry conditions a big change from the weather of the last several weeks, Wednesday was about the only day worth going out. A friend had told me of another Great Horned Owl nest over in Rio Rancho, so I went to take a look and quickly spotted it up in a leafless cottonwood tree in someone’s back yard.
That’s the third active nesting site I’ve seen this season, but rumor has it there’s another one in an area where I’ve seen them before, so that one’s on my list to find soon if the weather would just get back to normal.
This week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip went to Los Poblanos Open Space, where a good-sized group of hardy individuals spent a chilly morning seeing a surprisingly good variety of nearly 30 species – the trips are always considered a success when we see more birds than people, so once again it was a successful day meeting that goal.