Owl Business

Like everybody else, over the last month I’ve mostly been hanging around the house and keeping my distance from people whenever I do get outside. The most stressful part for me has been my weekly trip to the grocery store. Timed for when it won’t be crowded and all set up with face mask, disposable gloves and sanitizer, most folks seem conscientious about social distancing but there’s always a few acting totally oblivious to the whole idea. Managed to get out a few times to check in on birds and butterflies, usually reasonably close to home but a couple times to good spots farther from home but decidedly few people about. The day after my last posting, Rebecca had the idea of meeting at Mars Court, where we successfully located two of those Acorn Woodpeckers she’d thought we might find…pretty distant, so the pictures of them aren’t that great. However, we’d also see a surprising number of other species including a Cassin’s Finch

Cassin’s Finch

and a ridiculous number of Pygmy Nuthatch, a bird I rarely see and had never gotten a decent photo. This time I did.

Pygmy Nuthatch

We’ve also taken a few other trips to Three Gun Spring trail and one to a new butterflying spot, Canon Monte Largo, in the foothills east of Belen. Three Gun’s been good since we run into very few other people and it’s had some good butterflies and birds lately. Canon Monte Largo is way out in the boonies, where we’d only see one other vehicle and I never did see any other people but was good for butterflies that day. In addition to our usual Sandia Hairstreak and Southwestern Orangetip, Painted Ladies (of course), and a few others, we’d see the first duskywings for the year, the first Acmon Blue

Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon)

and Short-tailed Skipper.

Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa doris)

Most interesting was seeing like 20+ Mormon Metalmarks, a species I might see one or two times every year but never more than one.

Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo)

That weekend, I made an early morning run by the Great Horned Owl nests that are still accessible (the little ones at the Nature Center and Albuquerque Academy appeared a while ago but are off limits these days due to the pandemic). Big news of the day (4/11) was seeing a little one at Pueblo Montano who I got a better look at a week later (4/19). Interestingly, if you zoom in on that picture you’ll note (as I did on getting home) what appear to be a pair of paws from maybe a rabbit brought up for dinner? Also, a large feather just below the cut off branch on the left from maybe a Cooper’s Hawk?

Great Horned Owl – Pueblo Montano

Fun surprise as I headed back to my car at Pueblo Montano was first hearing Killdeer and then spotting an entire family of the two adults and three of their tiny little ones. I’d only walked to the edge of the field they were in to try to get some quick pictures, but found it fascinating to watch their behavior for maybe a minute. The two adults ran off a little to the north and northwest with the female giving me quite the “broken wing” display to get my attention,


while those little ones somehow had already been trained to dart off in the opposite direction, stop for a second, and then run off a little further.


Next, I took a look at Calabacillas Arroyo, where those owls had been unusually early nesters this year and we’d seen two owlets already out of the nest in mid-February. I managed to spot two of the owls that day (4/11) close to where I’d seen three of them a week before.

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

Nothing had changed at Willow Creek or Corrales that day, although in Corrales the female was more visible sitting up even higher in the cavity than she had earlier.

Great Horned Owl – Corrales

I’d return a week later (4/19) and didn’t see her anywhere around, although the male was in his usual spot, but in that cavity that at first looked vacant eventually got a brief look at two little ones!

Great Horned Owl – Corrales

Shortly after that, a run by Willow Creek turned up at least one little one there, too.

Great Horned Owl – Willow Creek

Several visits over the last two weeks to Embudito Canyon, where it’s usually pretty easy to avoid running into people early in the day. I haven’t seen any new butterflies there lately but the birds have been good. Like everybody else (and it’s always fun running into some of the other birders who are getting out for their “essential” exercise), it took a few trips to track down the Scott’s Oriole first reported last Thursday. I’d maybe heard it once or twice, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I got close enough for a pretty decent photo.

Scott’s Oriole

While looking for it last Friday, I did get good looks at several others including one of the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers,

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

a Black-throated Sparrow showing off from the top of a cholla,

Black-throated Sparrow

and a Cactus Wren from whose nest I’d inadvertently surprised it.

Cactus Wren

On the way to Embudito, I’d taken a look at the Cooper’s Hawk nest I’d first noticed a couple of weeks ago. I was a little surprised this time seeing the hawk standing up on the nest, and even more surprised to get home and look closer at my photo, where you can see the female’s tail as she sits on her eggs while this other one’s standing tall – most unusual.

Cooper’s Hawk

So that’s the latest from here. There should be even more new butterflies and birds appearing soon and I’ll hope to be able to get out there now and then despite all this pandemic business.






About joeschelling

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

8 Responses to Owl Business

  1. paula graham says:

    What an abundance of creatures you have there…Brilliant.

  2. Great Kildeer pictures!

  3. Linda Otterson says:

    I am so thankful for your blog Joe. The owlets peeking out of their nest and the killdeer baby are priceless. I ran into Lefty at Embudito today. I did not see the Scott’s but saw two blue gray gnatcatchers and an orange crown.

    • joeschelling says:

      Thanks, Linda. As one of those “at risk” folks, I worry about following the guidelines but am doing my best to avoid others out there. Hope Lefty gets that Scott’s soon; I tried pretty hard, but finally heard it singing (as I had several other times) and managed to sneak up on him. Owls and kildeer were truly a bonus!

  4. Very nice series of images Joe! Enjoyed seeing them!

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