Ah, spring in New Mexico when you just never know what the weather will bring. Warm and sunny most days, sometimes calm but typically winds can crank up pretty high, and interrupted occasionally with a day like today of cold and clouds and even a touch of snow. Not too many pictures this week, and mostly from checking in on some of the nesting Great Horned Owls. It’s always fun at this time of year finding their nests, know that they’ll be there continuously for a couple of months, and getting to watch their little ones appear and grow to maturity until that day when they all disappear into the woods until next year. I’ve been checking in regularly with the nest at Albuquerque Academy where others keep getting excellent pictures of what seems to be a single new owlet, but who usually still seems to be hiding under Mom’s skirt during my visits.
She’s sitting up so high surely at least one egg has hatched (and I had seen the little one a week earlier). Waiting around a little bit, finally that little one peeked out for me from what must be the warmest and fluffiest spot around.
Earlier in the week, a friend had told me about a nest near Tingley Beach that’s been used for the last few years but was new to me, so worth my taking a look one morning. Found the nest easily enough (thanks to excellent directions), but didn’t spot the male or any little ones.
I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of a nest in that area that show several little ones that are growing up quickly, so need to get back there and take another look soon. For the first time since mid-February, a week ago Saturday I decided to look in on the nest between Campbell Road and the Rio Grande Nature Center. The female was sitting pretty high up in the nest and has certainly been nesting long enough, but I didn’t spot any little ones on that visit. On the way back to the car, however, it was fun spotting a House Sparrow who seems to have taken up residence in an old cottonwood for the nesting season.
Another visit to the owls yesterday had the female acting quite alert when I first arrived,
and the male was pretty obvious lower down a short distance away.
But the cool part during my short time there was having the female start moving around a bit, and looking closer, to see her feeding a mouse to a little one that popped into view.
Checking in on a couple of other nests, the one at Piedras Marcadas and another one on the west side, showed the females still patiently sitting on those eggs while the males were keeping an eye on things from a nearby roost. At Piedras Marcadas, the male is doing his best to hide in the leaves and I made sure to respect his privacy this time and for once he didn’t fly away upon seeing me.
For the other nest, the male was much closer to the nest and sitting out much more in the open than on earlier visits.
This past weekend, Rebecca and I made the long drive down to Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area about 40 miles west of Carlsbad, NM.
An oasis in the middle of rather dry desert terrain (with nasty thorn bushes), we’d been there two years ago looking for the Henry’s Elfin, a small butterfly usually seen in the eastern U.S. but whose range just barely extends into southern New Mexico. It is never very common here and only flies in early spring, but we’ve been hoping to see it for quite awhile now. The weather was ridiculously cold and cloudy on our earlier visit, and while we managed to see a couple of other good butterflies on that visit, we didn’t spot any of those elfins. Certainly warmer and sunnier last Friday, but there were just crazy high winds blowing all afternoon and it looked like the host plant Mexican Buckeye was a little past its prime. The next morning, after almost deciding to give up and just head for home, we went back out there again to give it one more shot. The winds had died down for the most part, but it had also turned a bit chillier and clouds were building up. Waiting around for it to start warming up, we gave it a good couple of hours of looking and were just about to call it a day when Rebecca spotted a single one just hanging out on a vine tangle that sat there long enough for me to run over to also get a look. Too cool – lifer #434 for my US list and new for both of us for New Mexico!