All But Butterflies

Too many pictures to share so there won’t be any butterflies this time. We’ve seen a few around, particularly with the return of the Sandia Hairstreaks in Embudito on May 17, but the high fire danger has now closed off the national forests at least until mid-July and preventing access to most of our usual butterflying spots. Lots of bird migration going on, though, and I’ve gotten some fun photos of a number of birds along with a few other goodies.

One of these was of a Red-naped Sapsucker at Cienega Canyon (a couple weeks before the fire closures).

Red-naped Sapsucker

Two days later, four of us were off to Truth or Consequences on our 24-hour Birdathon for the Central New Mexico Audubon Society. Despite the warm and windy conditions, we’d end up with a respectable 77 species from six nearby locations (Las Animas Creek, Percha Dam SP, Caballo Lake SP Riverside Recreation Area, Mims Lake, Ralph Edwards Park, and Paseo del Rio). Photography was tricky under those weather conditions, but here are seven of the birds we saw:

Western Tanager
Vermilion Flycatcher
Bullock’s Oriole
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Phainopepla (f)
Bronzed Cowbird
Curve-billed Thrasher

Western Tanager, Vermilion Flycatcher, and Bullock’s Orioles are some of my all-time favorites. That Northern Rough-winged Swallow is the first I’d ever seen perched and not whizzing by. Don’t often see female Phainopepla especially close enough for a decent photo. Best photo I’ve ever gotten of a Bronzed Cowbird, and I don’t recall ever seeing a Curve-billed Thrasher (or any bird) carrying that long of a stick.

Our BOB (Bird of the Birdathon) took a bit of work. Stopping to look at the cliffs above the river at Caballo’s Riverside Recreation Area, one of us was convinced we were seeing an owl deep in a large cavity that others (me) had dismissed as surely a large rock or stick. Breaking out the spotting scope, Rebecca got on it soon enough, pointing out “that stick’s got legs,” and was indeed a Barn Owl. While we watched, it lifted one leg a couple of times and stretched out a wing making it a little easier to recognize.

Barn Owl

A few days later saw me out looking for birds at Pueblo Montano. I’d notice several flycatchers around, including the usual Black Phoebe and Ash-throated Flycatcher along with some of those pesky other ones I have trouble identifying. Merlin tells me this one is a Hammond’s Flycatcher so I’m going with that.

Hammond’s Flycatcher

And once again, I got a nice look at the normally loud, but well-hidden, Yellow-breasted Chat.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Working in my yard the next morning (bagging up tumbleweed, again!) I noticed a cholla had popped into bloom.


Later on a walk at Ellena Gallegos OS, I’d get pretty good looks at a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers chasing each other around.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

On Monday, I headed to Corrales mostly hoping to spot a few migrant birds and maybe a hummingbird nest, but knowing I’d likely check in on the owls that have been unusually popular with folks this year. On the way, I’d first note that the Osprey had completed their new nest right next to the one they’d used the last few years, and have taken up residence.


Not too many birds about along the Corrales ditch, but I would get a nice pose from a Western Bluebird on the New Mexico Olive.

Western Bluebird

As I was closing in on the owls, another photographer pointed out an adult and one of the little ones high in a cottonwood a fair distance from the nesting cavity that held most folks’ attention. She explained that just a few minutes earlier, she’d seen the adult grab a duckling from the ditch and carry it up to feed the little one. (She later posted photos to the Critters of New Mexico Facebook Group.) While trying to get a good angle on them, the adult started calling (rather unusual during the day) and might actually have been yelling at me even though I was quite a distance away. Got my shot and wandered off.

Great Horned Owl – Corrales

Doing our survey for the New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network at Embudito the next day, we’d only see 6 species but lots (14) of Sandia Hairstreaks, a species that has been hard to find since early April. Instead of butterflies, however, we would find a nesting Curve-billed Thrasher and also a Cactus Wren,

Cactus Wren

and see a Gopher Snake crossing the trail.

Gopher Snake

With the mountains closed down starting Thursday morning, a trip to the Biopark seemed a good idea since I hadn’t been in quite some time. One of the highlights for me was seeing my first hummingbird nest for the year.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

It was also cool to come across a Wood Duck family in the Japanese Garden.

Wood Duck

Some of the flowers were over the top, as well, including this Purple Rockrose

Purple Rockrose

and some large peonies.


Friday morning, I’d thought to go look for birds at Calabacillas Arroyo, knowing that the Audubon Thursday Birders had just gone the day before and thinking it might also be good for a few of those spring migrants. Just happened to look at eBird before leaving for an idea of what’s being seen and was surprised to see a friend had recently reported nesting Great Horned Owls there. You might remember several of us had seen adult owls around since February, but were unable to locate a nest after seeing they weren’t using older nesting spots. I’d given up on them and hadn’t been back since early April. Friday’s visit easily turned up an adult and one of the young ones, but I still had no idea of where the nest had been.

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

Emailed my eBird friend about it, and passed the word on to a few others. And then this morning, they texted me exactly where the nest was and that they’d also seen two owlets. With their input, it was easy to find the nest cavity (only once before have I noticed whitewash on the ground implying an owl’s likely right above you), and I’d see one of the adults and young ones off aways to the east (about where they’d been the day before).

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas
Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

This seems to be the other adult high in a tree north of the nest cavity.

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

Kept looking around the area for a second owlet without having any luck and had almost given up when I decided to look a little closer around the cavity tree. Hehe…

Great Horned Owl – Calabacillas

About joeschelling

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

6 Responses to All But Butterflies

  1. paula graham says:

    Wow, a celebration of the beauties to be found around you. Gorgeous photos

  2. Rebecca Gracey says:

    The young owls and Cactus Wren and Black-chinned Hummingbird on their nests were a treat to see.

  3. Fabulous gallery and gorgeous captures!

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