Friday, April 30, 2010

You just gotta love that prairie!

Yesterday I took my lunch up to Paul D. Rushing Park on the Katy Prairie in hopes of finally seeing the Baird's Sandpipers that have been hanging out there for a couple of weeks. They're a species that I've never seen.

I pulled into the parking lot, trained my binoculars on a group of 5-6 birds in the grass, and I was looking at the Baird's.

A friendly birder pulled his car up alongside mine to tell me that I should watch out for Nighthawks. He had just spotted both Common and Lesser near the parking lot. (I hadn't yet seen a Common Nighthawk this year and I'd never seen a Lesser.)

Sure enough, a little later both birds flew by and I even got a couple of decent shots of the Common.

So in just a few minutes I'd seen two life birds. That's pretty good lunchtime birding.

I took a quick walk around the nearest of the park's several lakes and came across a Common Nighthawk resting on the ground. They really are odd-looking birds!

The other birder had also told me that there was a pair of Fulvous Whistling Ducks around. I wasn't lucky enough to spot them but I did run into a pair of their Black-bellied cousins.

There were plenty of other birds, too: 70 Buff-breasted Sandpipers, a score of Savannah Sparrows, a pair of Crested Caracaras, a White-tailed Hawk and lots of Black-necked Stilts, Killdeer, Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Meadowlarks and Barn Swallows. A Horned Lark came close enough for me to attempt a photo.

My lunch break almost over, I decided to drive back to work via Longenbaugh Road. If I were lucky, I might just see a Dickcissel to add my year list.

I turned onto Longenbaugh and the first bird I saw was a Dickcissel, looking very pretty against the blue Texas sky.

Now I really had to hurry back to work. But wait. A hawk was flying above the road. I pulled over and watched a Swainson's Hawk circle overhead. That was year bird #179.

As this is nesting season, I wasn't surprised to see it being chased away by a Blackbird.

My lunchtime birding foray had turned out to be very worthwhile. I just love the Katy Prairie!


Jayne said...

You must have one awesome camera to take the great bird photos you do. Mine are all just dots in the distance. I saw some blackbirds chasing another, bigger, bird the other day, but I have no idea what it was they were chasing.
I love those whistling ducks, very attractive.

Jeff said...

For most bird photography, you need a pretty long lens, Jayne. My current is a cheap 70-300mm zoom. But on my camera it functions as a 105-450mm zoom, which is enough for birds if they're not very far away.