Since my last posting, it seems most of the owls have joined the party and started their nesting season. We’d stumbled across a first nest on February 10 near the Rio Grande Nature Center, and about a week later started coming across a few others. Owls were being seen in different locations at Willow Creek Open Space, but it wasn’t until February 19 that we were surprised to spot one nesting high in a cottonwood.
A day later, a friend told me of one nesting near the Tamaya Resort that I got to see the following day.
Having such good luck, I thought to stop in on the couple in Corrales near Dixon Road where the adults have usually been easy enough to spot year-round. Sure enough, they’ve again nested in their usual cavity although the female can easily duck down out of sight.
The male was easy to spot in one of his usual perches across the ditch from the nest tree.
Early this week, I noticed a eBird report of an owl nesting across the river from the Botanic Garden (an area now shown as Pat Baca Open Space). Remembering where one nested last year, it seemed worth a look, and sure enough (although you had to look pretty closely quite high in the tree) I made out the female on the same nest as last year.
The eBird report only mentioned seeing the nesting female, but I also spotted the male where it perched last year to keep an eye on the nest.
Still looking for a few more active nests, but haven’t been working it quite as much as some previous years. One location that keeps attracting my attention is near Calabacillas Arroyo, where a pair has nested in several different spots since at least 2013. Back at the end of January, I’d spotted one of them (probably the male) in one of the hiding spots he’d used last year, and again just last week. Of the two tree cavities nearby that they’ve used in the past, however, there’s no indication that the female is nesting or that those cavities are even usable anymore. I’ll keep looking, since I have heard that others have recently seen both owls canoodling around in the evening and it’s only a matter of time before they settle down. Just to give you an idea of how well they can hide, here’s a couple photos of that male in his hidey hole…pretty much the only reason I spotted him was knowing I’d seen him there before. Here’s one photo taken from the ditch bank trail.
See him just below the light brown leaves to the left of the closest tree in the center of the picture? Here’s another one from a little closer on the trail from about the left side of the first picture.
Yep, that’s our guy in the middle of those big light brown cottonwood leaves. Enough of this silliness; here’s the one shot I took from maybe 10 feet away where he was a little more in the open.
I try to get shots like that pretty quickly and then head off to minimize any disturbance.
Anyway, here’s a couple of other photos from the last few weeks. First a Spotted Towhee from Embudito Canyon.
Canyon Towhees are usually much more common there, and sometimes I’ll see Green-tailed Towhee, but Spotted Towhees not so much.
Got a good look at a porcupine quite low in a tree one day near Tingley Ponds,
and with the weather warming up for the first time in months, the Spiny Softshells and Red-eared Sliders have come out for some sun. This Red-eared Slider seemed to be in the middle of a yoga routine.
Also fun to see a Belted Kingfisher hanging out with all the cormorants on the island with the blue trees. When I see kingfishers there, it’s usually on one one of the bosque ponds.
But here’s the good news – the BUTTERFLIES ARE BACK! Just in the last week or so, I’ve noticed an occasional Mourning Cloak passing through which is not that unusual since they over-winter as adults and are sometimes seen when the weather gets warm enough. As the end of February approached, I started keeping an eye out for the first of our spring butterflies, the Sandia Hairstreak on the Texas Beargrass (Nolina texana). I had hopes of spotting one on March 1, a day of unusually warm temperatures, but nada. Rambled back on over the next day, which was even warmer, and yep, there one was right where I’d been expecting it.
Nice enough day that there were also several Mourning Cloaks, a Dainty Sulphur, and the first Hoary Comma I’ve seen in quite some time.
It’s great to start seeing butterflies again, and with spring arriving in just a few more weeks, all the bird and butterfly activity should start really picking up.
That’s a wonderful picture of the Sandia Hairstreak. It looks like she could be laying an egg.
Interesting observation. I’ll have to pay more attention over the next few months.