Just about a week of summer left before the official start of fall and you can certainly sense it coming. The aroma of green chile being roasted all over town is a big hint, but the weather’s changing a bit, the quality of sunlight has definitely changed, and the leaves are giving serious thought to changing color. Somehow, it seems I didn’t get out much in the last week or so or at least didn’t take many photographs, but there are a few I thought I’d share.
An adult Cooper’s Hawk caught my eye as one of the few birds spotted during a morning walk in North Corrales the day after my last post.
The following day, the Audubon Thursday Birders visited a new location for the group, the La Ventana Natural Arch and The Narrows in the El Malpais National Conservation Area about an hour west of Albuquerque. Most of us were a little surprised at how good the birding was there that morning. With more standing water and lush vegetation than I’ve ever seen there, the group got a nice variety of birds, including several flybys by a flock of Pinyon Jays, which are less commonly seen these days than in the past.
A small flock of Lesser Goldfinch joined us for lunch and obligingly posed for photographs.
The La Ventana Natural Arch is quite photogenic, but so large my lens couldn’t take it all in – here’s a picture of it I took a couple of years ago.
Opposite the arch was a nice view of the moon setting behind the cliffs.
A highlight that morning for me was a colorful caterpillar Rebecca pointed out that we later identified as the last instar of a Black Swallowtail. Rarely do we see butterfly caterpillars anywhere, and it is rarer still for us to be able to identify them, so this was indeed quite special.
Several days later, I was off to the Rio Grande Nature Center and Tingley Ponds thinking I might find some other interesting bugs, caterpillars, or dragonflies if the birds were going to continue hiding out for the summer. Naturally, other than a single butterfly, none of those invertebrates appeared, but a couple of interesting birds did. While scanning the Candelaria Pond at the Nature Center, I had another too fluffy bird, a Say’s Phoebe, pose nicely in a nearby olive tree.
Deep in the shadows of what I think is New Mexico Privet were several female Western Tanagers actively munching down on the ripe berries.
Later on the north pond back in the woods at Tingley, I got to watch a Green Heron stealthily hunting along the shore.
Oh, and the butterfly? A nice fresh Orange Sulphur.
Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder outing headed out to the Manzano Pond and Quarai Mission, one of three components of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The small fishing pond at Manzano surprised us with several Osprey flying about,
a male Belted Kingfisher flying between several favored perches around the lake,
and a Rock Wren working the tile roof of a nearby building.
I don’t see Rock Wrens very often at all around here and usually more in the winter, so it’s been interesting that another one would pose at our next stop, Quarai. It was even more surprising this morning on a visit to Embudito Canyon in the Sandia foothills near my house to spot five of them at once around their usual rocks on a trip to in addition to this one perched with a nice snack on the wilderness boundary fence.
After working our way around the Manzano Pond and adding a number of other species, including a Spotted Sandpiper, we continued on to Quarai to add a few more species. The ruins of the old Spanish mission church there are pretty dramatic, standing about 40 feet tall, and are a pretty dependable spot to find nesting Great Horned Owls during breeding season. Although it’s way too late in the year for that, we still looked in all the niches not really expecting to see any owls. It therefore came as a nice surprise a little later when a Great Horned Owl did flush from the adjacent cottonwoods and most of the group got a quick look before it disappeared into the woods.
A perfect morning, we enjoyed a picnic lunch under the cottonwoods before heading for home. Along the way, we spotted a large hawk perched on a power line.
A closer look showed it to be a most bedraggled Red-tailed Hawk; no telling what kind of mischief it’d been up to that morning.