Early Spring Sightings

Early spring and the weather around here lately has been mostly nice and warm with a few windy and cloudy moments. Fruit trees are in full bloom and most of the other trees are starting to show a hint of new green leaves. While not getting out too often recently looking for butterflies, when I have there have usually been one or two new species for the year flying about. One I’d been expecting to see for a few weeks was finally spotted nectaring on the flowering willow trees, the Southwestern Orangetip.

Southwestern Orangetip (Anthocharis sara thoosa)

Several other species were also seen hitting the willow one day, including Sandia Hairstreak, Spring Azure, and Gray Hairstreak.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

Another quite common one most of the year was a Checkered White that finally managed to land long enough to photograph.

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

A bit unusual to see this early in the season was what I’m pretty sure is a Sleepy Duskywing.

Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo)

A good part of my time outdoors over the last two weeks has been spent looking for more Great Horned Owl nests, and checking in on the eight I’ve been following expecting to start seeing little ones pretty much any day now. Their incubation period is apparently 33-37 days, so having a pretty good idea of when they first start nesting lets me know about when to expect those little ones. I’m pretty sure that’s happened in several of the nests now, but yesterday was the first time I managed to actually see one of those little white tennis ball babies, looking out from just in front of Mom in the photo below.

Great Horned Owl – Albuquerque Academy

Pop was in the very next tree winking proudly at me.

Great Horned Owl – Albuquerque Academy

Others have seen possibly two little ones in the nest near the Rio Grande Nature Center for more than a week now, but although the female is obviously sitting way higher in the nest, I’ve yet to spot more than a bit of white fluff in that nest. There are certainly little ones in the nest near the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC), with the female sitting up quite high and actively moving around during several recent visits, but again I’ve yet to quite make out a young one.

Great Horned Owl – NHCC

Every visit there has set a nearby Cooper’s Hawk off squawking and flying around, and while it doesn’t seem to be objecting to the nesting owl as they sometimes do it might be trying to attract a mate since it’s time they started nesting and there seems to be quite a few old nests in that area.

Cooper’s Hawk

On last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder outing to Pueblo Montano Open Space, everybody got a good look at that nest which should also have little ones by now but is pretty high in a distant tree so might be tough to see them for a few more weeks. A treat that day was seeing the male right above us near the trail, first time I’ve seen him since they started nesting.

Great Horned Owl – Pueblo Montano

In other owl sightings, it seems really surprising to me that the Western Screech-Owl first reported in mid-January in Columbus Park is still being seen. In my experience they typically hang out for only a week or so before disappearing somewhere else in the woods.  And since I’d been hearing reports of a few more Burrowing Owls showing up in “Owlville” down in Los Lunas, I stopped by there recently.  A little too windy and cloudy to expect to see them out, but one of them was sitting there waiting for me as I pulled up.

Burrowing Owl

After that, I stopped in at Valle de Oro NWR intending to track down a Great Horned Owl nest I’d heard about, maybe see the Common Black-Hawk that was reported as nesting in the area, and kept an eye out along with everybody else I ran into down there for the recently reported Varied Thrush. No luck on any of those and the weather was still a little unusually windy and cloudy so birds were mostly keeping hidden. I did get nice looks at a Swainson’s Hawk that was buzzing around me near the parking area much like a Northern Harrier had a few weeks ago.

Swainson’s Hawk

Highlight of the day, however, was coming across a slow-moving porcupine making its way along the irrigation ditch trail toward a tasty-looking small tree. Usually snooozing away high in a tree, rarely do I see these guys on the ground and never before noticed how big those claws really are.


Seems our Osprey pair are back trying to nest in the same place they tried last year before a big windstorm blew their nest down. Here’s the best shot I got on my visit on April 2. From pictures others have posted on Facebook since, it seems they’re making real progress and the nest has gotten considerably larger and probably just about ready for use.




About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
This entry was posted in Birding, Butterfly, Critters, Photographs. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Early Spring Sightings

  1. Mike Powell says:

    Wonderful posting, Joe. I am amazed at all of the owls that you are tracking (and love the shot of the burrowing owl). As for butterflies, things are even slower here in Northern Virginia. I’ve seen a bunch of Spring Azure butterflies and a few Mourning Cloaks, but nothing else so far. We’ve had a massive return of ospreys and that is keeping me busy, along with other birds, like the warblers that are returning too.

    • joeschelling says:

      Thanks, Mike. Definitely fun for me at this time of year tracking down those nesting owls, most of whom have now hatched little ones over the last week or so and we’ll get to watch mature over the next month and a half. If that crazy winter ever ends for you back there, spring in Virginia is absolutely amazing and undoubtedly present some excellent photo opportunities.

  2. Rebecca Gracey says:

    What a wonderful porcupine picture. I also enjoyed the Orange-tip butterfly photo, and the Burrowling Owl picture needs to be framed. Perfect composition!

    • joeschelling says:

      Glad you liked! The porcupine was fun to see and didn’t run away like the last one we saw on the ground. Bet there are some better Burrowing Owl pictures out there in the next month or so.

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