As Spring gets well and truly underway, trees are blooming and starting to leaf out and a few wildflowers have popped up around here. With just a touch more rain, the desert wildflowers should kick into gear too. In Ojito de San Antonio earlier this week, the apple trees were in full bloom, and this picture reminds me of some of those one of my friends in Taiwan, Wenshou Chuang, has been posting online since he’s retired.
A couple of trips this week to check in on the owls seem to show most choose those nest sites in hopes of hiding in the leaves taking over the cottonwoods in the bosque just as their little ones prepare to leave on their own. It can’t happen too soon, as those little ones are growing up fast, including the three owlets near Calabacillas Arroyo who seem to need too much space for the adult to be in the nest with them.
Mom, meanwhile is keeping a watchful eye out from a nearby tree.
A friend of mine on Facebook recently posted her observation at just how well these creatures blend into invisibility in their environment. As an example, here’s a wider angle picture that shows both the nest and the observant adult.
Here’s a little help…
That’s the nest in the upper red box with the adult female in the lower box pretending to be a vertical branch.
I’m starting to wonder about the nesting pair at Piedras Marcadas, where the female has been sitting on that nest now for almost 40 days, while their incubation period is 33-37 days. I did notice today that she had turned around from the position I’ve always seen her before and might be sitting up a little higher, so maybe we finally have some little ones there. As usual, the male was keeping a vigilant watch from maybe 20 yards away. Check out the talons on this dude! He is more obvious than most males, perhaps because of the regular harassment by the Cooper’s Hawks who also nest in the area.
Because their nest is so very high in a cottonwood, I haven’t been back to see what’s been going on in Pueblo Montano for a few weeks. I only saw two of the little ones there today, but have seen three in past visits, and these guys too seem to have just about filled all the available space in the nest, growing up and just starting to take on their adult coloring.
Not far from that nest, an adult I presume to be the female seems to be dozing but surely is aware of everything going on in the neighborhood.
She’s doing a pretty good job of blending into the background, too.
On the hunt one day for another possible nest near Alamo Farm, it wasn’t an owl that caught my eye but a snoozing raccoon, one of the few I’ve ever seen here.
I did stop by the nest at the Rio Grande Nature Center today where the female was standing tall on the nest in much the same pose as I’d first seen her back in mid-February. I only got a glimpse of one owlet whose head barely showed above the nest, but yesterday, others had posted pictures of the little ones off the nest and perched on close by branches. That was the story at Calabacillas today, too, with the owlets completely hidden in their hollowed out stump of a nest. It was a bit cool this morning with a pretty good breeze blowing, so a return trip in calmer conditions should have them more visible. A big surprise this week was hearing of another Great Horned Owl nest in an area we’ve had them before, but that I hadn’t found on my last few visits.
In that picture, you can only see two owlets, but there is for sure a third and rumor has it maybe even four. Hopefully, everybody will be awake and the weather a bit better on my next visit.
A few other birds were out and about while I was on some of my rambles this week. Shortly after taking that picture of that apple blossom in Ojito de San Antonio, a Spotted Towhee was just begging to have its picture taken.
And, later that same day in Embudito, a Crissal Thrasher did everything it could to get my attention.
Also seen there that afternoon was my first dragonfly of the season, a Variegated Meadowhawk.
My favorite, though, was at Pueblo Montano Open Space the day I checked up on the owl nest, where the same Black Phoebe that appeared in my last posting posed in even better light, and this crazy sharp new lens of mine really did an excellent job of capturing the moment.
Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birders trip took us to Four Hills Open Space. While a little cool and breezy, the group spotted most of the usual suspects despite it being pretty quiet for birds. About the only picture I got that day was of a Sandia Hairstreak butterfly desperately trying to warm up and which was fun to show to some in the group who’d never seen one.
Another friend of mine in Taiwan, 張福麟, regularly posts some of his butterfly pictures on Facebook, so here’s a couple of special ones we’ve seen here this past week. New for the season in Embudito was a Mormon Metalmark, one of only two species in this family I’ve seen in New Mexico.
In a visit to Las Huertas Canyon near Placitas this past weekend, Rebecca and I nailed our target Yucca Giant-Skipper, that we’ve seen there the last couple of years.
We also saw a single Short-tailed Skipper, which I’d think we’ll start seeing more regularly in the next few weeks.
A real surprise that day, since we’d only seen it once before in New Mexico, was seeing not one, but two Question Marks.
There have been quite a few of the related Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis) seen already this year, including several that day, but the distinctive white spot below the typical white crescent (“comma”), the tails, and color pattern identify this one as the Question Mark.