A little over two weeks since my last post, and while we caught a good snowstorm early in February, the weather’s been rather chilly but otherwise generally nice with clear skies. Starting to notice the days getting longer with a few days recently almost feeling warm, and while you know we’re due for at least a little more snow and a couple of cold snaps, Spring is surely on its way. Once again, I haven’t been getting out as often as usual and not coming across many birds or photo ops when I do, but every now and then there’s a surprise waiting for me out there.
Shortly after that big snowstorm, I made my way to Willow Creek Open Space where I’d seen a Great Horned Owl reported on eBird earlier in the year. We’ve had them nesting in that area for years so although it seems a bit early for nesting, it seemed worth a visit to look for them. The Audubon Thursday Birders were also headed there later that week and I figured they’d want to know, too. A little too cold and windy and starting to cloud up, so I only looked around the southern end where they’d nested in 2020…no luck there, but later closer to the parking lot I would spot one close to the trail.
Of course, by the next day one was spotted further south, and missed entirely by the Thursday Birders, so the birds must still be deciding on a nest site. I also looked (unsuccessfully) for any in a few other places along the way home and the next day that may be worth another visit in the coming months.
The weather was much better the next day, where I got a nice look at a Western Bluebird at the North Corrales Bosque.
A week later, I’d get a decent shot of an Eastern Bluebird near Rio Grande Nature Center.
There’ve been a few Mountain Bluebirds around as well, but none that I’ve managed to photograph.
In Embudito one day, it was fun getting pretty good looks at a pair of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers (who’d nested there last year). That day, the male showed off for me for a bit before flying off in the distance, first with a fun headshot
and then a more formal pose.
About a week later in Embudito, a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers caught my attention messing around in a cholla when another bird nearby started calling. That one looked and sounded a little different, so I tracked it down and realized it was a Sage Thrasher, a species rare for me to see.
Off to Pueblo Montano/Bosque School the next day turned up a good number of porcupines but few birds, one of which and always a treat to see was a Western Screech-Owl.
Only one other person around that day, but it’s always fun pointing out an owl to anybody walking by with no idea they’re just sitting there.
Back at the Nature Center the next day, I was mostly hoping to see the Wilson’s Snipe in the irrigation ditch where others have been seeing it and we’ve seen it in past years, and checking to see if the Bald Eagle(s) were still perched in the trees across the river. But certainly keeping an eye out for any Great Horned Owls who usually are found nesting somewhere in the area every year. No luck on the snipe or eagle, and had earlier intentionally ignored one old hawk nest along the way that I look at every year but never see anybody using. Pointed it out on the way back (and told that story) when I just happened to take a look and surprise surprise….look who was finally using it!
First nesting owls of the year for me, and fun seeing I was the first to report it on eBird.
On Super Bowl Sunday, we drove down to Bosque del Apache for a most pleasant and productive morning of birding (41 species). Very few Sandhill Cranes or Snow Geese about (at least in the areas we visited), but a few goodies in the desert garden near the Visitor Center to start and others as we drove around the refuge. Some of my better photos from the garden included this Pyrrhuloxia
a House Sparrow,
a White-throated Sparrow,
one of the many Red-winged Blackbirds,
and a few of the (also numerous) Gambel’s Quail.
In the marsh by the Boardwalk Deck was a shy Great Blue Heron,
and for most of the day, we’d see a pair of Bald Eagles perched on the big snag in the large pond from the Flight Deck.
Not the greatest photo from such a distance and under terrible lighting conditions, but the first time I’ve ever seen two eagles perched so close together.
On the way home, we decided to drive the loop at Bernardo Wildlife Area where there was a chance of perhaps seeing a Ring-necked Pheasant. I’d seen several reports of their being sighted there recently, and they’re rarely seen around town in recent years. After first spotting a male a good distance away, we eventually had great fun finding three more much closer and sometimes out in the open.
Looking forward to moving from winter to spring, and surely a few more good bird sightings in the weeks ahead.