Monday, September 15, 2014

Last Week in Our Area

Fall migration may be here but, if so, I'm not seeing too many signs of it.

A few - but only a few - migrants turned up during the Saturday (Sept. 6) bird-walk at Kleb Woods. I missed getting photos of a Yellow Warbler but this Baltimore Oriole stopped to pose.

Three Eastern Wood-Pewees were presumably just passing through.

The best sighting of the day didn't involve migrants but some local residents. All of us were thrilled to see a family of three Pileated Woodpeckers pop up a couple of time during the walk.

The hummingbird feeders were drawing in plenty of birds. All the ones I saw were Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, like this female.

Back at home, our yards have been very quiet: We haven't been putting out much food, plus a Cooper's Hawk is hanging out in nearby trees. Early in the week a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (below) was defending our one hummer feeder from another male and a female. By the end of the week the males had disappeared and so females were able to feed.

If there weren't many signs of migration at Kleb, there were even fewer on the CyFair campus. The only migrant I spotted all week was a solitary Red-eyed Vireo.

There were quite a few of our normal residents around, though. The utility pylons on the north side of the campus seemed always to have at least one of our Red-tailed Hawks, while a Cooper's Hawk (below) also turned up a few times.

I don't think there was a single day that I arrived on campus without being greeted by a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret (below) or two.

Yesterday morning I went over to Baytown Nature Center in search of shorebirds. The latter were few and far between but there were plenty of other birds there. I'll post my pictures later this week. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Down to the Coast (2)

Rollover Pass on Bolivar can be a great birding site or a poor one, depending on the state of the tide and the number of anglers present there. When we went on the Labor Day weekend, the tide was high and the site was crowded with fishermen. In spite of this, we saw quite a few birds out in the water, along the beach and even in the parking area.

The water had a few large waders (Snowy Egrets and a Tricolored Heron) as well as several groups of Brown Pelicans. The latter species usually fishes by diving into the sea from a height but these birds were adopting a different approach. They would float on the water and then suddenly fly just a few yards before settling back down onto the water and grabbing fish.

Two Marbled Godwits turned up and began to groom as we were watching.

The edge of the beach had adult and young Laughing Gulls.

There were Semipalmated Plovers (with black neck band) and Sanderlings also.

There were some adult and young Wilson's Plovers, distinguished from the Leasts by their heavy bills.

A handsome American Oystercatcher was prowling along the water's edge, while a Willet wandered nearby.

There were Royal and Least Terns, too.

One of the Leasts decided to bathe and groom.

The parking area itself had several of the same birds but also had a couple of Ruddy Turnstones.

The puddles had Snowy Egrets.

As we prepared to leave, I mentioned to Dee that I was disappointed not to have seen a Reddish Egret, a bird missing from my 2014 list. Amazingly, right then one flew down into one of the puddles among the parked vehicles.

It even proceeded to groom just yards from our car.

It was certainly a very good note on which to end our short visit to Rollover.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Down to the Coast (1)

Sunday morning we headed for the coast in spite of a weather forecast that promised severe thunderstorms and 80% chance of rain. We were right to ignore the forecast because the only rain we saw were a couple of light showers as we were leaving Houston.

Our destination was Galveston via Bolivar but we decided to make a quick visit to Shovelers' Pond in Anahuac NWR on the way.

One reason for dropping in at Anahuac was in hopes of seeing shorebirds. However, the water level at the pond was so high that there were virtually no shorebirds or waders around. To compensate, there were plenty of Whistling Ducks and Gallinules.

Several adult Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were supervising their offspring.

On this occasion, though, they were greatly outnumbered by their prettier cousins, Fulvous Whistling Ducks.

This duckling stood up to show us that it really didn't have a black belly.

Common Gallinules (formerly Common Moorhens) were even more abundant. Some adults were grazing alone.

Others were accompanying their chicks.

The chicks varied in age and color.

Purple Gallinules were much scarcer than on our previous two visits and they were even more difficult to photograph. This is the only picture I managed to get of an adult.

I was a little luckier with this juvenile, whose plumage was just beginning to turn purple.

As we were completing the auto-loop, I spotted a Neotropic Cormorant that was struggling to deal with a large fish it had just caught. 

It was still trying to eat the fish several minutes later when we left on our way down to Bolivar Peninsula.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ducks Again

The other day I had to drive my wife over to the North Cypress Medical Center at Huffmeister and 290. While she was inside, I took the opportunity to go and check out the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (BBWD) on the two ponds behind the Medical Center. At this time of the year, there are roughly 50 BBWDs on and around the ponds.

Most of the ducks are juveniles and they tend to hang out with their siblings.

The adults have a dark brown crown of feathers extending from the back of their neck all the way to their bill.

On the juveniles the brown crown ends well before reaching the bill.

When the ducklings are very young, their parents usually keep a close eye on them. However, as the ducklings get older, the parents are less vigilant.

Apart from the BBWDs and several species of exotic ducks, the ponds have a couple of resident pairs of  Mallards. I couldn't resist taking a photo of this striking female Mallard.