With only 3 weeks of Spring left to go, things are greening up nicely around here, more and more butterflies are starting to appear, and nesting birds are busy bringing in the next generation. While we were off in Texas running around looking for butterflies a couple of weeks ago, a friend reported finding a new Great Horned Owl nest near the Rio Grande Nature Center that had escaped everyone’s attention and had apparently gotten a late start. Nearly all the other nests in town have now been abandoned and the owls have all disappeared into the woods, so once we returned tracking down that nest was a pretty high priority for me. On the way to the location, it was a surprise seeing a Black-crowned Night-Heron that had taken up a perch along the irrigation ditch close to the bridge to the Nature Center. I’d never seen one in that area before and they’re usually a little more wary of people.
Following excellent directions, it was pretty easy to find the right tree for that new nest, but it was so well-hidden it took a little work to get a decent look at it. I never did spot either adult, but know they must’ve been quite close by.
Since I was in the area, it was off to the nest off of Montano that had also gotten off to a later start than most of the others to see if those guys were still around. Arriving to find the nest abandoned, it didn’t take long to spot the two little ones hanging out in the next tree over and clear they’d at least started to learn to fly to get over there.
Returning a week later, they seemed considerably more mature and are sure to take off on their own any day now.
At first, I only saw those two siblings perched close to each other but then spotted Mom just a couple of branches away – all 3 were giving me the eye in this picture (with the other little one hiding behind those leaves).
Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip to the Doc Long Picnic Area in the Sandias was a marvelous day for birding and the group would easily exceed its goal of having more bird species than people. With everyone looking carefully, we’d spot at least four species actively nesting, including this Cordilleran Flycatcher
and Red-breasted Nuthatch.
My friend, Michele, was first to notice that her photo showed little ones begging for food; it wasn’t until a few of us got home to go through them that several of us discovered we’d also gotten pictures of that behavior. Just minutes later, we spotted a similar cavity that was being used by Mountain Chickadees but my photos of that didn’t turn out so well. While walking along I mentioned that I hadn’t seen any hummingbird nests in nearly two years and was on the hunt for them; less than a minute later Pauline spotted one rather well-hidden high in a ponderosa and pointed it out to the group. Took some effort, but I finally got a decent shot of the female Broad-tailed Hummingbird when she returned to the nest.
Several other birds that morning that were a treat to see was a male Western Tanager (Liz got a crazy good picture of it flying toward her), Grace’s Warbler way the heck up at the top of a tall ponderosa, Red Crossbills, Black-headed Grosbeak,
and this singing Virginia’s Warbler.
After lunch following the birding, Rebecca and I headed back to Cienega Canyon and then up to Tree Spring to see if any butterflies were about. The weather was starting to get a bit cloudy, but we’d spot a few species still out. Highlight of the day for me was this very fresh Juniper Hairstreak flying around the lupines blooming in Cienega.
Just across the road from the Tree Spring parking area is a sort of catch basin that just now is in full bloom with wild iris, which can bring in a good variety of butterflies. Not too many flying that afternoon with the clouds and a little more water than usual in the muddy part that attracts butterflies, but the iris were stunning and we spotted one or two Snowberry Clearwing moths (aka hummingbird moth) nectaring on the flowers.
On Saturday, I made it over to my local patch, Embudito, unsuccessfully hoping to find sootywing butterflies or the Canyonland Satyr that should be flying now. We’d seen Common Sootywings there in the past and are wondering if we might also have the Mexican Sootywing, but I never saw either one that day. On Facebook, I’d seen that someone spotted one of those satyrs in another foothill area this week, but they also escaped me that day. I did, however, see two Green Skippers there,
and the first Bronze Roadside-Skipper, both species new for the year.
On both visits, I was a little surprised to still see a Sandia Hairstreak each time close to the water, and along with a few other species (such as Arizona Sister and Two-tailed Swallowtail), the tiny Acmon Blue.
There have also been a few odonate species flying about, including this interesting violet damselfly that I haven’t quite identified.
Monday was interesting with a couple of walks in the Corrales bosque. Very few butterflies about that early in the morning, but fun to spot at least three individual Viceroy butterflies, a species we don’t see very often around here.
Another interesting sighting that morning, pointed out to me by some folks walking their dog along the irrigation ditch, turned out to be a hognose snake. The first time I’ve seen one, its head is rather unique making it easy to identify.
A few good birds were out that day as well, including a Spotted Towhee,
several Black Phoebes,
and a Summer Tanager.
The next day in Placitas on a quest with Rebecca for a Strecker’s Giant-Skipper, we’d miss finding the butterfly but were treated to large flocks of Pinyon Jays calling and flying about and even landing nearby. It’s unusual to get such close-up views of these guys, who are usually high in the sky heading off quickly to some unknown destination.