Saturday, October 18, 2014

This Week

The week started with a not-very-productive visit to the San Jacinto Monument. The mosquitoes were horrific while birds were not numerous. Among the few birds that were close enough to photograph were a couple of dozen American White Pelicans.

Birds were also scarce on the CyFair campus. Well, most birds. As usual Northern Mockingbirds were extremely plentiful, like this one that I thought looked pretty as it posed against the moon.

I'm enjoying every look I get at Scissor-tailed Flycatchers because it won't be long before they disappear from our area for the winter. I'll miss them.

Luckily, while winter drives some species out of our area, it brings us many more species. There has already been a significant rise in the number of Red-tailed Hawks I see on my daily commute. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Predictable Bird

One good thing about birding an area consistently over several years is that you get to know which birds are likely to be where at certain times. 

When I was at the San Jacinto Monument on Sunday, I had a sudden hankering to see a Belted Kingfisher, a species I haven't seen very often this year. So I drove from the Monument to the section of 225 just before the Lynchburg ferry landing, because the utility lines on the east side of the road almost always have a Belted Kingfisher.

Sure enough, a female Belted Kingfisher was perched on the lines.

Dee and I first saw a female Belted Kingfisher on these very lines on our first visit to this area ten years ago. I assume this is the same bird. If so, I wonder how much longer she'll survive.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Black Vultures

I have to admit that I like vultures. They aren't the most beautiful birds but they are superb fliers and they do a wonderful job cleaning up roadkill and other dead animals. When we lived in California, I spent a lot of time watching and photographing Turkey Vultures as they soared and glided effortlessly across the sky. I still see Turkey Vultures most days here in Texas but I now see many more Black Vultures, a bird whose range doesn't extend to California.

The reason I mention Black Vultures is that on Sunday I went over to the San Jacinto Monument and Black Vultures were everywhere.

There were two dozen in the parking lot opposite the Monument Inn. They were busy going through the garbage bins and arguing over plastic bags they had pulled out of the bins.

Two of the birds were clearly fans of fast food.

In the Monument park a more discerning vulture was checking out the barbecue grills.

Nearby ten more vultures had found a perch where they were unlikely to be disturbed.

I find that Black Vultures are much less skittish than their larger cousins and so it is much easier to get close-up photos of them. I came across one particularly obliging - and quite handsome - individual as I was leaving the park.


Monday, October 06, 2014

Waiting for Migrants

Although fall songbird migration is well under way, I'm seeing very few birds. Admittedly, I haven't been birding much lately but even so I expected to have seen more migrants by now.

My only sightings on the CyFair campus have been a Red-eyed Vireo and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. A trip to Edith Moore Nature Center on Saturday turned up only a single bird, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Yesterday morning I spent an hour at the Little Cypress Creek Preserve and was rewarded with three Marsh Wrens. Perhaps things will pick up soon!

If my visit to Little Cypress Creek didn't turn up many migrants, it did produce some good sightings of the resident family of Red-shouldered Hawks. Several times I saw two adults and a juvenile flying around together high overhead.  

The juvenile gave me some very good looks.

One of the parents seemed to be perched near me wherever I walked.

The other parent was a little more elusive and never gave me a chance for a totally unobstructed photo.


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Now that they are no longer molting, our resident Northern Cardinals are less shy about appearing in our yards. 

The female has grown a particularly splendid tail.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Baytown Yet Again

Sunday morning I paid yet another visit to Baytown Nature Center. This time I had a very specific objective: To see the male Brown Booby that had been reported there. It is a rare bird for Texas and a species that I had never seen before.

Sure enough the bird was perched where it had previously been reported. Unfortunately, it was rather too distant for clear photos.

While waiting (in vain) for the Booby to fly closer, I checked birds at the water's edge.

A young Laughing Gull and several Forster's Terns were hanging out on pilings.

A couple of Spotted Sandpipers were wandering along the shoreline.

When it became clear that the Booby was not going to move, I headed for home, but on the way I stopped to admire Killdeer paddling in shallow puddles and a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron surveying the scene from a convenient snag.

I also stopped to watch a beautiful Tricolored Heron as it completed its morning grooming.

My final sighting was of a pair of Osprey circling high above me, one noticeably smaller than the other.

The smaller bird, presumably a male, kept doing dramatic aerial manouevres, no doubt trying to impress the female. 

As far as I could see, she wasn't very impressed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Meanwhile, in Our Yards

We took down all of our suet and seed feeders about a month ago. Not surprisingly, this means that not many birds have been visiting our yards.

One exception has been Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, since we have had maintained one hummingbird feeder throughout the summer. Last month this feeder was attracting a lot of attention from adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that were migrating through our area.

More recently, the feeder has been drawing in females and subadult males (below).

We put some suet and seed feeders back up last weekend, and also started putting out some sunflower seeds on our back fence. Almost inevitably, the first birds to appear were White-winged Doves and House Sparrows (below).

So the other day I was thrilled when a Mourning Dove turned up to check out the food situation. (Since White-winged Doves began visiting our yards in numbers some years ago, Mourning Doves have visited only rarely.)

Carolina Chickadees and a pair of Northern Cardinals have also come back to our yards but, as yet, we haven't seen the return of any Blue Jays, Northern Mockingbirds or Tufted Titmice. I hope we haven't driven them away for good!