Nesting season for the Great Horned Owls is now in high gear and fun for me to spot three more nests this past week, bringing the total so far this year to seven. Last Saturday, with excellent directions from my friend, Vicki, Rebecca and I made our way south from Rio Bravo Blvd. on the east side of the river to locate the first of the three new ones.
A bit of a walk for that one and the nest was pretty well-hidden, so it was a treat to eventually spot it. Another interesting sighting that morning was a Neotropic Cormorant paddling around by the water treatment plant outflow.
Heading back to town, we then searched for one I’d seen reported on eBird on the west side of town near Coors/Montano. From the notepin on the eBird map, it looked like an easy one to find since there were only a few trees right at that spot. Truth be told, however, the pin was a little off and there weren’t any birds in any of those trees. Heading further up the arroyo looking everywhere, however, the nest appeared in a most obvious location (if you were standing in the right spot).
Got the third one today in Willow Creek Open Space in Rio Rancho. For the last several years, I’ve regularly seen a pair of owls perched in a tree close to the parking area, but have been unable to ever locate a nest. But with the much-appreciated help of residents out walking their dogs this morning there it was! Very well-hidden and in the shadows a fair distance from the trail, those ears gave her away.
In past years, we’ve almost always found nesting Great Horned Owls in the bosque on the west side of the river between the Open Space Visitor Center and the area around the Bosque School. I’ve made several trips looking for them this season without success, but know it’s just a matter of time until someone spots them again. When you’re out looking for old hawk nests or other likely nesting cavities, you can’t help but spot any number of porcupines hanging out in the trees. This one was low in the trees along the irrigation ditch just north of the Bosque School and busy munching on the new tree buds.
This guy was north of Montano and kind of fun for being so out in the open and showing those orange buck teeth and long black claws.
On our Saturday outing, Rebecca and I also checked in on the Western Screech-Owls at Tingley and Los Poblanos Open Space, but didn’t see any cute little heads poking out of either spot. Since then, apparently an arsonist started a fire right at the base of the Tingley tree and the bird hasn’t been seen since. There have been several fires during the weekends in that area in recent weeks and obviously the authorities are working hard to catch whoever that idiot is.
Checking out the other screech-owl boxes set up at Los Poblanos, we were quite surprised to find that a pair of American Kestrel have seems to be taking up residence in one of them.
As we approached along the trail, the male poked his head out and then the female swooped in to perch on a nearby branch. Only the second time I’ve seen them nesting, I’ll certainly be returning to check on them in the future.
We also stopped by Los Poblanos Inn that morning to drop off a picture of the Barn Owls the gardener there had shown me last week, and couldn’t help myself but take a couple more pictures since they were both there again that morning. This time, I fooled with the camera adjustments a bit and got a little better photo in that dark barn.
With continuing reports of the Northern Pygmy-Owl being seen in Cienega Canyon, on Sunday morning I made the long walk in to look for it. On other trips, I’d eventually spotted it high in the aspen trees, but more recently people have been seeing it in a tree cavity. Although others I met along the way did get to see it, nobody was home when I got there, but with directions from my friend, Pat, I was able to locate the cavity for my next visit. While I was looking around, a bunch of Steller’s Jays started squawking and making quite a ruckus in the bushes near the creek, the cause of which turned out to be a Sharp-shinned Hawk making low-level passes through the bushes. Just amazing how quickly they can fly and maneuver through pretty tight spaces, and of course impossible to photograph. But I did get one of the jays scanning the area after the threat had passed.
Weather’s been so warm and sunny for the last two weeks (up until yesterday’s snow storm!), the butterflies have started flying again and Rebecca and I have seen 3-4 species already. The most commonly seen, and reported to us by several friends this week, is the Mourning Cloak.
Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip headed up to the Sandia Crest House for a look at the rosy-finches that show up every winter. It’s pretty easy birding sitting in a warm restaurant sipping coffee while waiting for the birds to appear, but that day it took a bit longer than usual. We had a single individual when we first arrived, and eventually about a dozen came in for a quick snack. So at least we got to see a few, but were a little disappointed not to see the usual flock of close to 100 come swirling in from out of the clouds for a frantic feeding session before instantly blowing away in the wind.