It’s been a busy couple of weeks around here and the weather hasn’t been too cooperative lately, but I have gotten out a few times to see what’s going on. As usual, every time I do get out there, it seems there is always something interesting to see and photograph.
About a week ago, it was off to Tingley Ponds, where folks had been reporting that the Green Heron and Snowy Egrets were back in town and a most unusual for our area male Vermilion Flycatcher had been seen over the last several days. I wouldn’t spot the Green Heron during my visit, but there were three Snowy Egrets working the pond edges together and uncharacteristically didn’t seem very concerned by the people walking by.
It was also interesting seeing several Cooper’s Hawks in the area making low-level passes through the woods, one of which I managed to get a picture of flying over me and showing off those fluffy white patches on their legs.
Exciting to see and not very common at the ponds was a large Osprey perching in the cottonwoods and then flying in circles low over the ponds hoping to snag a fish.
I thought my picture was pretty good until I got home to see somebody else got nearly the identical shot but with the eyes well lit and clutching a good-sized trout! Circling the north pond I ran into several other folks out looking for that Vermilion Flycatcher in the area it had been seen before. After wandering around that area for awhile, I headed on back around the pond and was almost ready to head back to the car when I spotted that guy. Calling, everybody came running and the bird cooperated nicely for them to see and photograph it.
As long as I was in the area, it seemed a good idea to check in on the nesting Great Horned Owl south of the Rio Grande Nature Center. This was the first active nest I’d seen this year, but since it’s a bit of a hike to get to, I only rarely make a visit. On that day, it looked like the little ones are growing up fast and probably about to start working their way out on the branches in preparation for taking that first flight. They were quite actively begging for food while Mom sat there patiently and probably waiting for them to move closer to her.
The next morning, I first headed over to Elena Gallegos Open Space wondering if the Western Screech-Owl was still hanging around. Didn’t spot it, but did get to watch two Cooper’s Hawks fighting over what looks like a small bunny rabbit; after chasing one off the other was busy with lunch for probably ten minutes.
Later that morning, in what’s become something of an annual tradition since retiring, I met up with several of my former co-workers during their lunch break to show them one of my nesting owls. This year, we met up at the Albuquerque Academy and had our best viewing ever of all three little ones and also both adults perching nearby. One of those little ones appeared quite talkative welcoming us on our visit (I’ll assume).
I managed to get out looking for butterflies with Rebecca twice in the past week, first checking out Hondo Canyon, where it seemed we were just a little early. The chokecherries were budding but not quite open yet, so we didn’t see a couple of species we were hoping to see. We did get a few species, though, including Southwestern Orangetips, and our first Juniper Hairstreak and Thicket Hairstreak for the year.
A couple of days later, we headed back to Las Huertas Canyon almost three weeks since our last visit, and the butterfly action had picked up considerably. The Yucca Giant-Skipper we’d first seen on April 4 was still there,
and we’d finally see those species we’d expected to see by now on that visit to Hondo Canyon, the Silver-spotted Skipper,
and the Short-tailed Skipper.
Also interesting to see in addition to our usual Rocky Mountain Duskywing (Erynnis telemachus) was what we believe is the much smaller Afranius Duskywing (E. afranius) and a couple of Dreamy Duskywing (E. icelus).
There were several Hoary Commas flying about as well that day, a couple of which posed nicely.
One last butterfly for this posting was a Mormon Metalmark I’d seen on the Audubon Thursday Birder outing April 14 to Embudito Canyon. This is a species I only see maybe once or twice a year, so it’s always a treat when I do.
On Monday, I again made the rounds of three more of the Great Horned Owl nests I’ve been watching. Things are coming along, albeit a little slowly at the Montano nest. When I first arrived, the little one was tucked under the adult and out of sight, but soon popped up for a look around. It’s looking pretty mature, but still sharing the nest with Mom.
At Piedras Marcadas, I’d see both adults on nearby trees and all three of the little ones looking around. One in particular seemed quite interested to see me while the other two hid in the nest.
The most interesting of the nests, however, was the one near Calabacillas Arroyo. My first impression on arriving was that the nest had been abandoned and that this year’s show must be over since all I saw was the empty cavity and no owls anywhere around. Looking around more carefully and searching the nearby trees at first didn’t turn up anybody, but on my second pass, I finally spotted a little one much higher in the same tree as the nest and blending in well with the background. How that little one got that high in the tree amazes me, and I can only assume it figured out a way to climb up that branch. Focusing in on that area even closer and looking from various angles, one of the adults was also perched quite close by. With no idea where the other adult and other two little ones might be, I took a few pictures and then left them alone to head back to my car. It wasn’t until I got home to look more closely at the pictures that the mystery was solved when I noticed at least one of those other little ones hiding under the obvious one.
It won’t be long now until all those little ones learn to fly and everybody disappears into the woods until next year. But more and more birds are returning on their annual spring migration, and more species of butterflies should start appearing as we move toward summer, so no doubt there will be some fun sightings in the weeks ahead.
Joe, I love your photos and stories. One comment on the cooper’s hawk. You refer to the “scruffy white patches on their legs”. I think you are referring to the white underrated coverts that are visible alongside the tail feathers in your photo. Those coverts are usually tucked in and hidden. During spring’s courting season, the male Cooper’s Hawk likes to show off what he’s got to the eligible ladies and will display those feathers in flight. They also may hold their wings high while flying as another courting display. Dan
Thanks, Dan. I couldn’t come up with that word ‘covert’ today, and didn’t know that about it being a breeding thing.
I learned about that a few months ago when I saw the same thing in photos I took in Tucson. I asked the experts at the Raptor Free Flight program at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and learned about this display. Wikipedia has a bit more on their Cooper’s Hawk page.
Your owl photos are amazing! I am always looking for owls in my area, and have yet to find a nesting pair. What an amazing opportunity you have to observe more than one!
Thanks! Not quite sure where you live, but ebird.org is a good resource to see where they’ve been reported. I see there’s a couple seen just north of Fulton IL this month; might be worth taking a look.
Thank you for your tip. I live in Illinois about 40 minutes from the Fulton area. I am traveling to Albuquerque and Sante Fe this summer, so through your blog I am enjoying a “preview” of the wildlife in the area.