Almost a month into winter now and while there have been a few chilly days, the weather in general has been rather nice lately. Interestingly, birding has been a little up and down depending on the days I get out and where I go with very few birds on some days and then a good number and variety on others. Two weeks ago following my last update, things were pretty quiet between East Ella and Dixon Road in Corrales, but I got a nice shot of a Song Sparrow and its reflection,
and was glad to see the pair of Great Horned Owls still sitting in their usual tree. It continues to amaze me how well they can hide in that nearly leafless tree and I only spotted this one at first knowing it could be there; didn’t see the other one (not visible in this photo) sitting just feet away until really spending some time looking.
That week, the Audubon Thursday Birders headed out to find some raptors in the plains near McIntosh, NM. The group ended up with a good list including American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk,
and a fly-by of a Rough-legged Hawk (first I’ve seen in a year) along with a number of other non-raptor species.
We’ll sometimes see a Golden Eagle out there at this time of year, but didn’t spot one that day.
A couple of days later, I took a good long walk at Pueblo Montano on a morning that seemed unusually quiet for birds (and porcupines for that matter), but maybe due to the somewhat overcast sky. During the Christmas Bird Count about 3 weeks earlier, an expert birder reported 4 Western Screech-Owls and 3 Great Horned Owls in the area (at 4:30 am!), and recently I’ve been seeing owls more regularly in other spots they’ve been seen before. Not having much luck with anything, I spent a little time looking carefully to see if I could find any owls about. Sure enough, after looking closely enough near where they’d nested last spring, I picked out a Great Horned Owl just sitting there looking like a branch.
Another expert birder has since reported seeing two of them just a few days ago, so I might be taking another look soon.
Two other birds I saw that morning included a young Red-tailed Hawk in a tree close to the Bosque School that was there at the start and had apparently only turned around by the time I finished,
and a Great Blue Heron in the pond close to the river, who seemed a bit surprised to see me out there but only flew a short distance away when it saw me.
Last Tuesday and then again on Thursday with the Audubon Thursday Birders, I got out to Alameda Open Space and (on Tuesday) across the river in the bosque on both sides of Alameda. Both days it was fun to see a Black-crowned Night-Heron on the pond nearest the parking lot
and six more in an inaccessible roosting area on the west side of the river north of the bridge. There were a good number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets along the irrigation ditch that morning where I often see them at this time of year, but none that would pause long enough for me to photograph, and a most cooperative Brown Creeper pecking along the lower trunks of several trees but still tough to photograph well.
A large Bushtit flock busy in the bushes lining the irrigation ditch were a little easier to photograph.
And, as usual at this time of year, porcupines were hanging out in the leafless trees; this is one of a pair occupying the same tree in the Corrales bosque.
I’ve made several trips to the Rio Grande Nature Center lately hoping to spot the Bald Eagles that sometimes fly by or roost in several spots close to the river. On the way there, I stopped once to check in on the Western Screech-Owl that’s found the most spectacular cavity to call home for most of the last year and was glad to see it still sitting out in the open taking a nap.
A nearby tree had a Hairy Woodpecker making quite a bit of noise hammering away.
And, finally, on my most recent visit to the Nature Center, I did come across a young Bald Eagle in a tree busy eating a fish on my side of the river. It did let me get reasonably close without seeming too concerned, but then took off with its meal heading to a favorite snag on the west side of the river.