Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Visiting Austin: Part 3

So why were there so many birders at the Hornsby Bend sewage plant on Sunday? Well, it turned out that they were there to see a very special bird: a Red Phalarope. This is a species which is at home on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans but rarely visits the US mainland. So to have one arrive in Austin, miles from either ocean and well inland was certainly an unusual event.

The bird was first spotted on Saturday, when it cruised near the edge of the pond and let birders photograph it from just feet away. Unfortunately, on Sunday it stayed near the middle of the pond and was clearly visible only through spotting scopes.

This is the closest view I got of it!

After waiting vainly for a while to see if the Phalarope would come nearer, I gave up and drove around the other ponds. Most of the ducks, including a pair of Wood Ducks, also stayed well out of reach but some Pied-billed Grebes came fairly close ...

while American Coots were less standoffish than earlier in the morning.

A Spotted Sandpiper, too, was more cooperative.

The edges of the ponds were vey busy with Hackberry Emperor (?) butterflies. The hardest part of photographing these was that they tended to land on and crawl around the top of my camera.

Mid-morning I left Hornsby Bend so that Dee and I could check out of the motel, get lunch and visit one more site before driving home.

The site we chose was McKinney Falls State Park, only a few miles outside Austin itself.

On an earlier visit, two summers ago, we saw plenty of birds there. This time, our total in an hour was 3 birds. (That's three total individuals, not species!)

An Eastern Phoebe greeted us.

After that, all we saw was a pair of Red-tailed Hawks.

Of course, the fact that the hawks kept circling overhead was probably why we didn't see any other songbirds.

However, it was still worth the hour we spent there. It's a beautiful park, there were lots of butterflies, and there were also some interesting plants.



Birdwoman said...

Birding is all about being in the right place at the right time, isn't it? Lucky you - at least you got a distant view of the Red Phalarope, which is more than I've ever had!

Pam said...

All is revealed! A Red Phalarope, very nice to see. I was surprised to see the Red Admiral, I don't know why but I didn't realise you had one of our species over there!