Friday, December 14, 2007

Just Another Cardinal - Or Not?

On Wednesday I took an hour away from work to check out Longenbaugh Road again. Among many other birds, I spotted what I was sure was a Pyrrhuloxia. But when I checked on the Internet, I found out that this bird would be very unusual here. So I assumed I was mistaken and didn't report the sighting.

This morning I read a message on Texbirds from Jim Hinson (a great local birder), saying that he had seen a Pyrrhuloxia at exactly the same place where I saw my bird.

Naturally I did a detour to Longenbaugh Road on my way to work. And the Pyrrhuloxia was very obliging this time - not only did she appear, but she kept coming out into the open over and over again.


The site also had several sparrow species, including Field Sparrow (US life bird #396 for me), White-crowned, Vesper, Song and Lincoln's.

Field Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Immature White-crowned Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

The busiest and perhaps the prettiest bird was this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Other birds included American Robin, Roby-crowned Kinglet and Orange-crowned Warbler.

American Robin

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Birding Longenbaugh Road

At 7:30 this morning I drove down to Longenbaugh Road, 20 minutes southwest of where we live. It's a farming area where they flood the fields and attract ducks in the winter. It didn't feel like winter, though: 72F at 7:45. (Yesterday it was 83F or about 27C!)

It was very misty at first, muffling the sound of hundreds of Snow Geese in the fields and occasionally passing overhead in V-shaped flocks. There were also flyovers by flocks of Canada Geese and groups of White Ibis. A Bald Eagle and a Great Blue Heron were just visible on the ground through the mist.

I spent some time trying to get photos of some of the Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels on the roadside wires, but they would move on as soon as I stopped the car opposite them. All in all I saw maybe ten Red-tailed, varying from a dark morph right through to one with a pure white breast and a complete brown helmet. I saw about the same number of Kestrels, interpsersed on the phone lines with twice as many Loggerhead Shrikes and Northern Mockingbirds. The hedges had Savannah and Lincoln's Sparrows, as well as an Eastern Phoebe engaged in its morning grooming session.

A Distant Red-tailed Hawk

Further along, I stopped at a small bridge over Bear Creek. The latter had only a trickle of water but this was enough for morning baths for Chipping Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds. The water also attracted American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadees and Northern Cardinals. I caught a brief glimpse of a different sparrow and managed to grab a quick photo: Harris Sparrow, a new life bird for me.

Further east, mourning doves and European Starlings lined the wires, while a pair of Northern Harriers buzzed a field on my left, followed by a pair of Crested Caracaras crossing the road just ahead of me. The trees at the road end had more Red-tailed Hawks and Eastern Phoebes, and a single Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Heading back west, I saw several Great Egrets in the fields and caused panic in a flock of 7 Killdeer.

Visibility had improved by now and I was able to make out a few Northern Shovelers and Snow Geese among hundreds on Northern Pintails in the flooded fields on both sides of the road. Every so often hunters would fire a salvo and the air would fill with Pintails.

Back on the Katy-Hockley Cut-off, there were two Black Vultures. Then my final bird: a solitary and rather unexpected Roseate Spoonbill fishing in a small creek by the roadside.

So an enjoyable two hours of birding, with a total of 30 species.

Back at home, Dee and I sat in the backyard for half an hour and were rewarded by seeing a Cooper's Hawk fly onto a branch not 20 feet away in our neighbor's yard. The front yard had House Finch, White-winged Dove and Pine Warbler.

Monday, December 03, 2007

One for the Record Books

We have a small bed of mainly native flowering plants in our back yard. Yesterday I noticed an unusual butterfly there and managed to grab a photo of it.

A web search revealed it to be a Rusty-tipped Page, a resident of Mexico and other Latin American countries. My sighting is only the third ever in the USA: It was seen once before in New Mexico and once in southern Texas, way down near the Mexican border.

Judging by the condition of its wings, the specimen in our yard probably got swept up to Houston by a recent storm front.