A month to go before spring officially returns and our weather has gone back and forth over the last two weeks. Usually still pretty cool all day, the typical clear and sunny weather is regularly disrupted with stiff winds, overcast skies, and even a bit of precipitation now and then. When I have gotten out, on most days there haven’t been too many birds about maybe because of where I went and when but probably just staying quiet hidden in some warmer spot.
In my last posting, I’d mentioned hoping to show the Audubon Thursday Birder group on February 7 the pair of owls at Pueblo Montano. We were a little worried since although we’d seen them there a week earlier, they were nowhere to be found on visits a day or so before bringing the group. It was a treat to see that they were again back in the same spot when the group showed up. I keep hoping they’ll start nesting somewhere nearby soon, but as of last Sunday they were still just parked next to each other.
The next week had the group on an all-day outing to Bosque del Apache NWR that turned up an excellent list of at least 60 species for the 19 birders on the trip. One of the first birds I’d see at our first stop on the refuge was the Brant that had been reported (and photographed for an eBird report the day before) – easily identified by its field marks but its odd posture confused us until we realized it had died sometime in the last day. At that first pond at the north end of the refuge, we’d also have 3 Bald Eagles in the big cottonwood there and another adult in a snag off to the east – the first of at least six we’d see that day. My best picture of them was the two on the tall snag from the Eagle Scout deck.
The group spent a fair amount of time just working the gardens at the Visitor Center where we stopped for lunch. It was fun for me getting nice close-up shots of the Green-tailed Towhee
and female Pyrrhuloxia,
but somehow got so occupied with those two (and lunch) that I missed out on nearly all the different kinds of sparrows being seen right there (Black-throated, Brewer’s, Harris’s, Golden-crowned, White-throated, White-crowned, and Song).
After lunch we drove the North Loop of the refuge, stopping first at the Eagle Scout deck to be treated to the Snow Geese lifting off in a blizzard of birds,
and a flight of American White Pelicans coming in for a landing.
Working our way around the North Loop, we’d get good looks at a Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk close to the road that patiently sat for pictures,
and not much further along a young Bald Eagle.
Lots of Sandhill Cranes and a large flock of Wild Turkey were busy wandering the open corn fields, but none of my photos of them were all that good. Returning to the Visitor Center to run through the birdlist before heading for home, a young Red-tailed Hawk caught our attention and we weren’t sure of its identity until seeing that red tail as we watched it fly off.
This past Sunday, I started out at Albuquerque Academy in search of their owls. For the last few years, they’ve had an “open campus” allowing visitors public access to the grounds any time, but recently are limiting access to students and official visitors at least when classes are in session (as I’ve noticed on two weekday occasions in the last few weeks). On Sunday, however, all the gates were open and I went first to check on the winter roost tree I’d seen one in recently but others have missed (not too surprising since they can hide really well in that big, thick Ponderosa pine). No luck for me that morning, either, but then I wandered over to the nearby tree where they’d nested before and was thrilled to see the female back in the old nest – the first owl nesting I’ve heard about so far this year!
That, of course, got me checking in on a few of the other owls around to see if any of them are yet nesting. Just saw one in the usual spot in Corrales, the two (first photo in this posting) at Pueblo Montano just sitting there, and today again saw a single individual parked in a tree close to the bike path north of the Nature Center,
but none of them have started nesting as far as I can tell.
Two other fun birds to see that day were this Cooper’s Hawk
and a male Ruby-crowned Kinglet – always tough to photograph (as my book says “a hyperactive midget”) and only sometimes showing that ruby crown.