Time seems to have been getting away from me for the last couple weeks, so thought it time for a blog update with what few good pictures I’ve been able to get lately. There are a couple from just before heading out for that butterfly trip to south Texas described in my most recent post, and then some from a couple of outings during the last two weeks. Am hopeful things will settle back to normal soon and I’ll be able to get outside a little more frequently.
Back in mid-November, the chamisa and other late-season wildflowers were blooming and wintry weather hadn’t quite shown up yet. In Embudito Canyon, the sacred datura was just coming into bloom – a huge white flower tinged with lavender that opens at night before quickly fading away during the day.
A surprising sighting in the canyon and the first I’ve ever spotted was a Harlequin Bug, seen on the same globemallow that the equally cool Globemallow Leaf Beetle (Calligrapha serpentina) uses.
On October 22, the Audubon Thursday Birders visited the Open Space Visitor Center on what I seem to recall was a cool and cloudy day. About the only pictures from that day included this one of a group of Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches decorating a treetop almost like Christmas ornaments,
and this one from a closer viewpoint of a female Lesser Goldfinch feeding on dried seed heads.
The day after that, I was off to San Antonio and then further south to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas for almost two weeks, and then spent the following week going through a ton of pictures of all the fabulous butterflies and other things we saw on that trip. There was time for a break at Alameda Open Space with the Audubon Thursday Birders that last week. Pretty good birds that morning, exceeding our success criteria of seeing more birds than birders, and including larger birds like the Sandhill Cranes, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and a couple of immature Red-tailed Hawks. The first hawk was keeping an eye on the small ponds near the parking lot before flying to a nearby building and then off toward the river.
What I’m told is a second one perched in an open tree right by the river that afforded everyone a good long look.
Eventually, it too flew off into the distance.
Okay, only one more picture of a Red-tailed Hawk, this time from the November 19 Thursday Birder trip to Bernardo Waterfowl Area down toward Socorro.
This one’s not quite in as sharp a focus as I’d like, but did catch it calling loudly as it flew by an observation deck. Meanwhile at Bernardo we managed to once again exceed our success criterion despite much drier conditions than we’d had there on previous trips. Some years they flood the fields drawing in large numbers of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, Bald Eagles, and various ducks, but this year it seems the water got sent to Bosque del Apache further south and the birds followed. We did spot a number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets,
who seem abundant just about everywhere this year. With so many around, I’ll have to work on getting a good shot of a male displaying that normally hidden red crown. Leading the group of cars around the area, we also got a good look at an inquisitive Western Meadowlark before it flew off as all the cars arrived.
On a brisk, windy Saturday morning, Rebecca and I headed to Bosque del Apache NWR for this year’s Festival of the Cranes held from November 17-22. Several booths had rescued birds on display, one of which had this Great Horned Owl who photographed amazingly well. If you zoom in, you can see the fine feathers that allow these guys to fly so silently through the woods.
Out on the refuge drive, fewer Red-tailed Hawks than normal were seen, but then it may still be a little early in the season for them. There were a number of Northern Harriers flying about, and another goal for the year will be getting a good shot of one from a little closer viewpoint. This is the best I could do that day.
Near the end of our drive, I spotted a Cooper’s Hawk hiding among the dead branches of a tree. It seemed to be trying to hide behind the branches, but kept poking its head out to see what I was up to.
With the weather conditions so brisk, we didn’t see quite the variety of ducks we expected, but did get good looks at several pair of Bufflehead. This is the male of a pair that were busy diving for food in turns close to one of the viewing decks.
And this is his female partner.
Not surprisingly, there were a large number of Sandhill Cranes attending the festival along with huge numbers of Snow Geese and birders. This is my best shot of one of those Sandhill Cranes taking off from a short distance away, and it seems I might have finally figured out those camera settings to freeze the action in good focus.
That’s pretty much it for the moment. Will be working on finding that Ruby-crowned Kinglet, checking Los Poblanos Open Space for a few raptors in flight and maybe about time for a Western Screech-Owl; until you get out there, ya just never know what you’ll see.