It’s always tricky trying to come up with a title for my blog posts, and seems like I have to do that before adding any text or pictures. I had two ideas for this one. At first I was thinking to make it about realizing once again how I lead a ‘charmed life’, after noting the weather this past week has just been perfect and after having had some amazing and unexpected experiences on almost a daily basis recently. But then I got to thinking that the last couple of weeks has also had me notice that butterfly season is winding down and my attention is turning to seeing what birds might be around as the Fall migration gets underway.
Shared on Facebook recently were two short videos, one on birds and one on butterflies, pulled together from my photos so far in 2021. In less than a minute each, you might get a sense of the amazing variety possible to see just by getting out there and taking a look around.
Rarely do I post individual pictures on Facebook, since not everyone is on it (So far, I’ve avoided Twitter, Instagram, and such myself.). Here, though, is one taken with my phone that I posted to Facebook.
These three dogs, seen outside the Highway 4 Cafe & Bakery in Jemez Springs, just seemed ready to roll and out for a good time. We’d seen them on our way to Valles Caldera National Preserve, where I hoped access into the preserve would be much easier than on previous visits. That turned out to be the case, and we were able to drive the well-maintained dirt roads deep into the back country and catch some of the aspen gold along with the incredible views.
The next few days saw me making almost daily visits to Embudito Canyon mostly looking for some of those late season butterflies on the chamisa that was in peak bloom. Another one of the rock sculptures there caught my eye one day; anybody else see that cartoon face?
On the 19th, I added a new butterfly, Ceraunus Blue, to my list of Embudito Butterflies, bringing the total to 68 species seen there since 2011. A few of the other butterflies seen in the last couple of weeks include Painted Lady,
and Hoary Comma.
There have also been regular sightings of American Snout, such as this dorsal view,
and more often, a ventral view.
It’s been a little surprising, too, to come across one or two Lupine Blue butterflies there lately, including this one seen on last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder outing.
Last Monday had me beginning that transition from focusing on butterflies to keeping an eye out primarily for birds. Starting at the bosque ponds in the woods behind Tingley Beach turned up a good mix of ducks and Canada Geese, but not the Belted Kingfisher I’d hoped for and most of the ducks were pretty far away. There was one Pied-billed Grebe close to shore for this photo,
and several Wood Ducks wandering around the concession stand when I headed back to my car along the normal fishing ponds.
Not many birds around that morning until as I was making my way along the far side of one of the ponds, I spotted a Black-crowned Night-Heron on the shore. Despite being on the shaded side of it, I took a couple of photos from a fair distance away and then slowly continued along the path hoping not to disturb it. Just past it, a guy was sitting there fishing who the bird also ignored. Strolled up and let him know what I was doing before taking a couple good shots of the unusually complacent Black-crowned Night-Heron, the first of those living a charmed life moments for the week.
Two days later found me wandering around the woods at Pueblo Montano. Not many birds about and no porcupines (who can easily be seen in good numbers once the leaves fall), but a delighful day to be out and about. Deciding to wrap it up and head over to Los Poblanos Open Space to see the newly-arrived Sandhill Cranes and possibly a few raptors, I thought to take a look at a tree cavity that I’ve long suspected might be used by a Western Screech-Owl, and once heard from a friend about having seen one there. Not sure why I bother, since it’s always been empty in all the numerous times I’ve looked over the last few years. So in the next installment of my ‘charmed life’, here’s what was there that day.
Not only was the owl there, but he was wide awake and looking right at me. Usually, they seem aware of your presence but pretend to be snoozing away the day. I should also mention that this photo was taken with quite a long zoom so as not to annoy the bird. Here’s another shot taken with a more reasonable zoom.
Thursday was my first time with the Audubon Thursday Birders since the pandemic shut everything down, and it was fun seeing so many old friend many for the first time since then, and we did see some good birds. Only photo from the day was right at the end of one of the White-crowned Sparrows recently returned for the winter.
Yesterday morning, I decided to head out to Romero Road in Corrales and walked through the bosque and took a look at the Rio Grande. Surprised to see so little water in the ditch there, and most of the birds seemed to be hiding or perched high in the cottonwoods. It was so quiet that when four Sandhill Cranes flew over just above the trees you could hear their wings moving through the air.
The river was quite low, but made for a nice photo with the fall colors just coming into their own against the backdrop of the Sandias.
Still early enough in the morning, on the way home I decided to give Calabacillas Arroyo and the trail north to Alameda a look. Often a little quiet for birds, it can be good at times and turn up some interesting sightings near the dam overflow. First bird I saw just as I was leaving the parking lot was this Great Blue Heron hanging out high in a cottonwood. Usually, they’ll fly off as soon as they notice me, but this one seemed content to just sit there showing off.
Pretty quiet walk from that point on, and after making it to the dam overflow (where there were two more herons waiting for fish but far on the other side of the river), I started heading back. Although I usually return on the same trail in the bosque close to the ditch, for some reason this time I took the parallel trail closer to the river. In one more ‘charmed life’ incident, although I had very little expectation of seeing one especially at this time of the year there in the golden cottonwood leaves a Great Horned Owl appeared. I’d last seen them there in early May shortly before they’d usually disappear until the next breeding season.