Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Local Area Birding

Our yards have been busy with all our normal residents but we've also had a couple of spring migrants. Dee saw a male Indigo Bunting while I was at work and then she drew my attention to another new yard bird: Gray Catbird.

The Bald Eagles nesting near the Longwood detention pond are thriving. There are still two eaglets in the nest but one looks like it will be fledging soon.

On the CyFair campus one of the Black Vulture eggs has hatched.

The mother was lurking nearby but there was no sign of a chick.

I haven't seen many migrants on the campus so far this spring but a couple popped up on Monday. One was a Great Crested Flycatcher.

The other was an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

I also spotted my first Swainson's Hawk of the year.

All of the apartments in our Purple Martin complex are occupied. 

I enjoy watching the Martins as they glide and swoop overhead, and also when they come in to land.

The Western Kingbirds which nest on the campus should be arriving any day now, and I'm hoping that the next couple of weeks will also produce some warblers and other spring migrants..

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Rest of My Morning at High Island

Before leaving Smith Oaks, I walked up to the observation decks overlooking the rookery, because I never tire of watching the antics of the nesting birds there.

Few sights in nature are more beautiful than that of Roseate Spoonbills in full flight.

Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets were looking splendid in their breeding plumage.

It was fun watching the Great Egrets as they flew back to their nests ...

... or as they returned with branches for nest-building.

Some Great Egrets were already sitting on eggs but others were at an earlier stage in the mating game.

I rounded off my visit to High Island with a brief visit to Hooks Wood, a site I'd never visited before. Black-throated Green Warblers were everywhere.

 Several species of warblers and vireos were present but most were too difficult to photograph. I missed getting a shot of a Golden-winged Warbler but managed a (just recognizable) one of a Blue-winged Warbler.

It was a nice goodbye bird for my trip.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Good Day at High Island

I managed to squeeze in a morning's birding at High Island and was lucky enough to see quite a range of birds.

At 7:00 a.m. the trees on the southern edge of Boy Scout Woods were crowded with Orchard Orioles. There must have been a couple of hundred or more.

An hour later, a patch of trees and bushes were hopping with action: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Three Indigo Buntings were popular with the watchers.

So, too, were two Painted Buntings, even if they stayed more hidden.

After that, Boy Scout Woods quietened down, although I did run across a couple of Summer Tanagers, three more species of Vireo, and several Gray Catbirds (below).

With some friends I headed up to Smith Oaks to see if things were better there. The woods were quiet there also, although a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (below) gave us good looks while a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the same tree was more difficult to see.

Back in the parking lot, I noticed a flash of orange in a tree right next to my car: Baltimore Oriole. A small crowd of birders gathered to watch as the Oriole flitted from branch to branch.

We were all so busy admiring the Oriole that it took us a while to notice that a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was hopping around just feet from the Oriole. 

Both birds stayed in the same tree for well over ten minutes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

Birding the East Side

Sunday morning I set off early and in gloomy weather to visit a couple of sites of the east side of Houston.

I started off at the Kathryn J. Whitmore Preserve. As I couldn't see any trails into the preserve, I just stayed for a while and birded from the road. Lincoln's Sparrows were foraging along the verge, Blue-winged Teal were paddling around and a Belted Kingfisher was fishing from a utility wire. Male Red-winged Blackbirds (below) were singing and displaying.

A Little Blue Heron was posing by the edge of the water.

My next stop was Sheldon Lake Environmental Center, always a pleasant site to walk around. 

Perhaps because of the weather, birds were fairly scarce except for Yellow-crowned Night Herons.

I'm not sure how many I saw - at least 15 and maybe more. Unfortunately, most of them were standing in places where they were partially obscured by branches.

While I was photographing the Heron above, I noticed an alligator was keeping a close eye on me.

A Giant Swallowtail was a pleasant surprise, even if it was looking rather the worse for wear.

I looked carefully around all the ponds and on several trails but I wasn't able to find a single Black-crowned Night Heron. However, just as I was leaving, I finally got a clear shot of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

This Week at LSC-CyFair

Although spring migration is now well underway, I've seen few signs of it on the CyFair campus. I did hear and even get a glimpse of a Chuck-will's-widow early in the week but I was too slow to get a photo of it. There are signs of spring all over, however. 

Rabbits are everywhere.

Male Northern Mockingbirds are singing and displaying desperately to attract mates.

Our Purple Martin apartment complex is fully occupied.

When we think of Purple Martins, we tend to picture the handsome males.

However, the females are also handsome-looking birds.

Handsome is not a word I've ever heard applied to Black Vultures. I mention Black Vultures because a student showed me where one has laid two eggs deep in the undergrowth by the nature trail.

We didn't go near the eggs but, even so, the mother emerged to keep an eye on us.

I've asked the student not to back to the eggs, in case the mother abandons them. Luckily, they are are well off the beaten track and should be safe until they hatch.

I keep noticing Black-bellied Whistling Ducks by the campus detention ponds. This is something I haven't seen for two years; in fact, since they did a lot of work reshaping the edges of the ponds in 2011. I'm hoping it means that adults will bring their ducklings to the ponds later in the year, something that I used to enjoy watching every summer. In the meantime I'll settle for watching two Whistling Ducks which have taken to grazing on a small patch of grass between the library and the technology building. 

They don't seem to mind that, every hour, hundreds of students and staff walk by just a few yards away.