Bit of a gray and occasionally wet (always welcome around here!) day today , and seems a good time for another blog update. It’s that time of year again and the baby Great Horned Owls are starting to appear all over town. Things are blooming and greening up everywhere and slowly warming up, bringing out a few new butterflies for the year just about every time I look.
There are at least two owl nests near the river reported on eBird that I haven’t yet found despite looking pretty carefully, and one that I’d been looking for and finally spotted near Bosque School pretty much the same day it appeared on eBird.
While searching the east side of the Rio Grande near Central Avenue for those other two nests, I did get a nice shot of an Eastern Bluebird.
I’ve yet to see any little ones at the nest near Dixon Road in Corrales, although friends have occasionally seen two peeking out of their cavity and the female seems to have moved to another tree. And I keep expecting to spot little ones near the Rio Grande Nature Center, but have only spotted the female still sitting on that nest. Friends have also seen at least one little one at the Atrisco Bosque nest, but I haven’t been back recently and the nest itself is rather high in a tree.
There was a report of a Great Horned Owl from City Place more than a month ago, where they’ve nested regularly over the last several years, but I hadn’t spotted them during one or two cursory visits. So it was a surprise on April 14 to see a fairly mature little one ogling me next to its mother quite low in an evergreen, with another little one higher up in the tree.
Even more surprising was not seeing any of them in that tree on a return visit four days later. Looking around the neighborhood I spotted a woman pointing her camera up a tree further down the block and figured that’s where the owls must have gone. Indeed, she readily pointed out two of them hanging out together,
and a third little one a little further away in the same tree and the mother a few trees away. The woman had quite a (sad) story to tell as she seems to have been following their progress for quite some time. It seems the female owl lost an eye awhile ago, and just the week before she’d come across the male, lying dead in the grass. The young ones seem to be getting fed okay, however, and should be able to go off on their own soon.
Later that same day, I got a text from friends about a Long-eared Owl apparently spending the afternoon in the Community Garden at Los Poblanos Open Space. That’s a species I’ve never seen in the wild and have been wanting to see for years. Dropped everything and headed right over; sure enough several other birders were there who pointed it out sitting quietly at about eye level.
We kept a good distance away to avoid spooking the bird, and I didn’t stay long since other birders were on their way for a look. At some point, apparently someone decided they just had to get closer causing the bird to fly just a short distance away and a little higher in a tree rather than vanishing into the distance. Those who showed up later in the afternoon were rewarded with excellent photos.
On the way home from that event, I detoured by the nest near Calabacillas Arroyo. I’d suspected on April 10 with Mom sitting high up in the cavity there might be one or more little ones soon. A friend confirmed seeing one there later that evening, but I still hadn’t seen it. Getting there a little later in the day must’ve been the secret, and here’s who I saw that afternoon (4/18).
I didn’t make it back to that nest until yesterday (4/27), and after at first being disappointed at not seeing anyone in the cavity was somewhat surprised to note that one of the little ones had climbed to the top of the snag and, like always, was busy keeping an eye on me.
Even more entertaining was backing up a little and from a different perspective realizing that there were two of those little guys.
So that’s the owl story for this posting. A couple of other birds since my last update include this Black-crowned Night-Heron from the rookery just south of Bridge Blvd near the river,
and a Snowy Egret fooling around in the Bosque School pond.
Last weekend while out looking for butterflies with Rebecca at The Box and Water Canyon a Red-naped Sapsucker showed up at quite close range. (Acorn Woodpeckers were also around, but stayed farther away.)
Fairly common to see by now in Embudito Canyon are two butterflies that we got to add during our surveys for the New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network, the Two-tailed Swallowtail
and the Short-tailed Skipper.
Our trip to The Box was quite productive in turning up a few Common Sootywings, two Golden-headed Scallopwings (which turned out to be a Socorro County record for Rebecca!), and a Common Streaky-Skipper.
Onward to Water Canyon where we’d see a large number of Sonoran Metalmarks
and a single Thicket Hairstreak.
We’d add a few more species once we got into the canyon proper, including the first Great Purple Hairstreak for the year, all in all a pretty good butterfly day.