Monday, May 12, 2008

More Migrants at Work

I went into work early this morning, hoping that a cold front might have brought some migrating birds to the CyFair college campus. My hunch paid off! There were lots of new birds in the clump of trees at the start of the nature trail.

First up were two flycatchers, who gave me very good looks and were even obliging enough to pose for photos on various trees and shrubs. Unfortunately, they were Empidax flycatchers, of which we get three almost identical species. So they were fun to watch but impossible to identify.

Empidonax Flycatcher

The next bird up was impossible to mistake: a Blackburnian Warbler. His plumage was so stunning that I forgot to use my camera until he was disappearing into the foliage. So this is the only photo I got.

Blackburnian Warbler

The next hour was hectic as I scrambled around in the undergrowth, following a succession of other warblers and trying to get photos of them while trying to avoid stepping in fire ant nests. However, taking photos of such restless birds as warblers is not easy, particularly with a digital camera. (Digital cameras have a significant time-lag between when you press the release and when the shutter actually opens.) I ended up with photo after photo of branches that a warbler had just left. Very frustrating!

Overall, though, I had an excellent hour's birding. As well as Blackburnian and Magnolia Warblers, I had good looks at three new-for-2008 warblers: Canada, Wilson's and Black-throated Green. So my year list has moved to 188 species.

On Friday, I'd noticed a Carolina Wren using a nesting box by the trail and had found that she'd just started building a nest there. This morning the front of the box was hanging open and so I went to look. The nest was now complete - and the wren was sitting on it. She flew away when I closed up the box but hopefully she will return to lay her eggs.

Just as I was leaving, I noticed a different but familiar-looking bird on a tree top. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed that it was a female Orchard Oriole. Just at that moment, she was joined by a male in full breeding plumage. A great way to end a good hour's birding.

P.S. 5/13/08

A quick walk this morning revealed a very different story: Only one Empidonax and one Canada Warbler. However, I did spot a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, another new bird for the campus list.


Birdwoman said...

Oooh! A Rose-breasted Grosbeak! (Drool...) My next-door neighbor saw one in our neighborhood last week, but I haven't seen one here. Based on your reports, I'm going to redouble my efforts. I figure they MUST still be in the area.

Jeff Mohamed, said...

They're a nice bird. We saw them at High Island earlier in the month but it's even better when they turn up in your local patch. It looks like there's going to be a final fallout of migrants this weekend, so it will be a good time to watch for Grosbeaks, particularly as the weather should be fine then.