The past week has turned out to be rather spring-like around here without the winds kicking up nearly as much as forecast and days nice and sunny. Until today, that is, when we woke up to cooler temperatures, cloudy skies all day, and off and on drizzly rain that turned into snow on the mountain. Clouds and rain like that are pretty unusual for us, but that moisture is always desirable and should bring out some more wildflowers and of course be an interesting new phenomenon for all those baby owls out there to experience. Checking in on some of them last week shows a few of them getting quite close to full-grown and about ready to disappear into the woods, while others have quite a ways still to go. At the Albuquerque Academy, the single little one this year has moved off the nest but so far still seems to be moving around in the branches of that tree and not yet able to really fly.
The two near Tingley Ponds are even more mature, but also seem to be sticking around close to the nest and each other. At both of those nests, the adults are usually in a different tree some distance away probably to encourage the little ones to try out that flying thing.
At the nest I’ve been watching on the west side, one little one is growing up but a few weeks behind those at the other nests, and from the other side I got a pretty good idea this week there’s at least one more younger one in there still hiding under Mom.
There are also two little ones in the nest near the Rio Grande Nature Center that are a little younger than the ones at the Academy or Tingley. Didn’t make it over to Willow Creek Open Space this week, but the three little ones there seem to be pretty well along, too. My oddball owls, the ones at Piedras Marcadas Dam who always get started way later than everyone else, finally may have hatched at least one little one last week from what I can tell from my photos, but it will probably be another week or so before I know for sure.
Last Tuesday, I’d stopped by Alameda Open Space to check on a couple of old hawk nests just to see if anything was happening, but they were still unoccupied. In the parking lot, however, was a Greater Roadrunner showing off its latest prize.
Last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip took the group first to Belen Marsh and then Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, followed by a quick visit to “Owlville” in Los Lunas on the way home. At Belen Marsh, the group got good looks at the expected American Avocet, Killdeer, and Black-necked Stilt,
but also had Wilson’s Phalarope and a couple of other good shorebirds. Not surprisingly, there were a number of Red-winged Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackles, and Western Meadowlarks around as well.
Whitfield turned up a good variety of birds for the group, including a Swainson’s Hawk and Ring-necked Pheasant, but there were also some good butterflies for those who happened to look down. First one spotted right at the Visitor Center was a Sleepy Orange,
and early in the walk a Common Buckeye sat there nectaring on a dandelion long enough for most folks to get a good look.
On the south side of the property we noticed several Pearl Crescents (Phyciodes tharos) and then toward the north, Painted Crescents (Phyciodes picta).
Although there are eBird reports of as many as 21 Burrowing Owls this month at “Owlville” in Los Lunas, and I’d seen five of them one morning the week before, in the mid-afternoon heat and breezy conditions the Thursday group only managed to spot two individuals.
Any day you see an owl is a good day, though, so I doubt anybody was too disappointed we didn’t see more.
Saturday, Rebecca and I were once again out looking for butterflies, this time in the East Mountains taking a look at the Tijeras Ranger Station, Otero Canyon, Sulphur Canyon, Doc Long, and Ojito de San Antonio. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t quite on our side with cooler than expected temperatures and a few passing clouds. Taking a break to let things warm up a little, it was fun to see a flock of Cedar Waxwings dash in to check out a neighbor’s feeders. Still not a great photo, but I just haven’t been seeing them this year and certainly not at such close distance.
Of the butterflies we would see that day, this is a male Mylitta Crescent, with its overall orange coloring, black webbing close to the body, and orange antennae clubs.
The female of this species I’ve regularly confused with its cousin, the Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella), but that day we definitely had Field Crescents, too.
The upper side of the Field Crescent has a lot more black and (zooming in) black antennae clubs. This next picture shows the underside with the very distinctive pale cell bar (that light colored bar in that orange patch on the forewing).
It was cool this week also spotting a Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus) that day at Ojito de San Antonio and later that week a Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) at Tingley Ponds. From Facebook it seems just about everybody is seeing Sphinx Moths everywhere this year, and this is the best picture I got of one hitting a crab apple tree in Sulphur Canyon.
Several visits to Embudito Canyon this week have been interesting, turning up in nearly the same locations a week later both the Mormon Metalmark
and that Yucca Giant-Skipper.
On Sunday, I was finally able to catch the Curve-billed Thrasher on her nest in Embudito,
and expect those eggs to hatch just about any day now. I’m also keeping an eye on a Cactus Wren nest there, where on a couple of recent visits the female’s flown out as I happen to pass by.
Both nests are very close to the trail but unnoticed by most passersby, and the birds don’t usually react unless a person gets too close or pays too much attention. Makes sense then not to point them out to others or to grab more than a quick photograph while the adults are off on a food run.