The biggest thrill was a Black Crowned Night Heron in our yard in late March. It was in one of our tall Arizona Cypress trees and was being mobbed by the Acorn Woodpeckers and Mexican Jays. It was the same kind of racket they make when the Great Horned Owl is in our trees, so I was quite surprised to see a Heron. There had been high winds the days before this sighting so we figured this bird got carried off course and was resting before heading out again.
A couple weeks later our neighbor Laura Mullen called to say there was a big bird that looked like a heron in their tree, so I went over and sure enough, a Black Crowned Night Heron was resting in their Chinese Elm. Could it be the same bird or another that got blown in on another day of high winds? This one seemed less tolerant of people, so I'm guessing it's a different bird. Last we saw it was in one of our big trees heading up canyon.
On a sad note, The earlier high winds we had in March, with gusts over 50 mph snapped off the top of the old Sycamore tree that housed the Great Horned Owl nest that we've been watching since moving into this neighborhood. The nest was in a large cavity in the main trunk and the mama owl was sitting on eggs that were about a week from hatching. Sadly, the tree snapped at the weekened spot where the nest cavity was and the eggs were crushed when they fell to the ground. :( The mother sat near the rubble on the ground for a while, but soon flew off into the trees across the creek. It was a sad event for the locals who have watched this nest since 1988! The adult owls are still in the neighborhood and are dueting nightly and hanging around, so we're hopeful that next year they will nest nearby once again. Our local owl expert, Helen Snyder is working toward putting a nest platform up on the stump that remains and hoping they'll return to their old tree next year.
Elf owls and Western Screech owls are courting and starting to nest now, so we still have them to watch, but it's not going to be the same without our Great Horned Owls to watch.
Now that it's May, it is peak birding here in Portal and Cave Creek Canyon. Every day there are birding groups looking into our yard at our beautiful colorful springtime birds.....orioles, tanagers, buntings, grosbeaks, warblers, flycatchers & hummingbirds.....lots of blues, yellows and reds!