Owl Babies

A major milestone this week in this year’s tracking of Great Horned Owl nests around town; all the baby ones popped up for a look around! I’ve been checking on a number of nests ever since seeing the first one starting to nest on February 6, tracking down four more nesting pairs the following week, and another one the week after that. Right on schedule at that first nest near the Rio Grande Nature Center, at 37 days a little one peeked out as pictured in my March 16 blog post. That got me checking on all the others at least once a week hoping to see that they were also all doing well. Although the females had seemed to have changed position and were sitting up a little higher in all of the nests I visited, I was just not seeing any little ones long past their expected date. I’d never realized before that they could well have hatched but spend the first week or so still deep in the nest protected by their mother.

So it was off to the Big Bend region of Florida for a week of butterflying on a trip we’d planned months ago and which I’ll post some photos in my next blog post. Naturally, while off on that trip, Facebook posts from various friends showed little ones popping up at all the owl nests I’d been visiting, and I could hardly wait to get back and check on them.

First up was the one at Albuquerque Academy. Mom was perched up on a branch above the nest busy cleaning her feathers, but surely glad to finally be off that nest.

Great Horned Owl - AA

Great Horned Owl – AA

At least two little ones were present, one of whom seemed particularly interested in what was going on while the other one was busy snoozing.

Great Horned Owl - AA

Great Horned Owl – AA

I hadn’t been back to the one at Willow Creek Open Space in Rio Rancho since the Thursday Birder trip on February 24, but had seen pictures online that they’d successfully had a couple of little ones, so headed over there next. It may have been a little early in the morning, so they weren’t very active while I was there, but pretty obvious something’s going on in that nest, too.

Great Horned Owl - Willow Creek

Great Horned Owl – Willow Creek

A good friend of mine from back when I had to work for a living lives very close to the next nest on my tour, so I picked him and his wife up to show them what I refer to as “their” nest. This one, just off Montano, is in a small stand of trees and despite looking for it pretty hard, I’ve yet to spot the male anywhere in the area. Mom was staring at us pretty hard, but the little one just seemed interested in looking at us looking up at it.

Great Horned Owl - Montano

Great Horned Owl – Montano

Since my friends had a little extra time, they came along to check out the Piedras Marcadas nest. This one is quite close to another of my former co-worker’s home, so I refer to it as “her” nest. These owls are using the same nest where they had quite a go of it last year. In 2015, the female had been sitting on the nest since at least mid-March, but we think maybe the first brood failed and they tried again, finally showing us two little ones in mid-May, much later than all the others. This year, I’ve also seen the former tenants, a pair of Cooper’s Hawks, harassing the female as she occupied their old nest. But, good news! All seems to be going good there this year as well with at least one little one interested in what’s going on in the neighborhood.

Great Horned Owl - Piedras Marcadas

Great Horned Owl – Piedras Marcadas

After dropping my friends off back at their home, it was off to the last nest of the tour near Calabacillas Arroyo. On every visit since I first spotted her tail feathers poking out the side of the cavity in mid-February, that female has been quite hunkered down and almost impossible to see, but maybe sitting up a little higher with her ears sticking out at the end of March. No problem seeing her this week, though, as she was up and out of the nest showing all those tail feathers and letting those two little ones take a good look around, while the male proudly looked on from a nearby tree.

Great Horned Owl - Calabacillas

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

Kathleen Covalt, who I’d never met before but had shared tips with on Facebook, happened to be there also taking pictures of these guys, and later in the day posted a great picture of them suggesting in her caption that the little one popped up just to let Mom know I’d come to visit – too funny!

On the way home, I checked in on the Albuquerque Academy team again. On my earlier visit, I’d noticed a pair of Swainson’s Hawks perched in a tree a fair distance away from the owl nest,

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

and on my later visit was treated to an impressive acrobatic display by one searching back and forth across the fields.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

I’m certainly looking forward to checking on all those little owls as they grow to maturity over the next month or so, and just might have to keep an eye out for the Cooper’s and Swainson’s Hawks that should start nesting soon. But first, I’ve got to get through all the pictures from that butterfly trip to Florida and will post some here soon.


About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
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2 Responses to Owl Babies

  1. 1nmbirder says:

    Great post on the owl progress. I was gone this week so hadn’t had a chance to check on the nest. Hopefully I will get around to see them next week. Looks like lots to see!!

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