Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Great Morning at Brazos (2)

As we continued our walk around 40-Acre Lake, it seemed there was never a dull moment. The sighting of the Purple Gallinule family chicks was followed by close-up looks at four more adult Gallinules and then a Common Moorhen with two chicks.

The most common species was Yellow-crowned Night Heron. We must have seen 20 or more.

Most of the Yellow-crowneds were adults but a few were juveniles.

Several Green Herons were busy fishing.

A Great Blue Heron flew off as we approached but landed again only a few feet away and then stayed to give us good looks. From the speckled plumage on its neck, I assume it was a juvenile.

A White Ibis also let us watch it from a close distance.

Great Egrets and Cattle Egrets frequently passed by

Great Egret

Cattle Egret

As always at Brazos Bend, there were plenty of Red-eared Sliders and American Alligators, many of them so decorated with vegetation that it was easy to overlook them.

One alligator considerately waited until we had passed by before crossing the path behind us.

Some yards further on, we had to walk carefully past another that was lying right on the path.

After finishing our walk around 40 Acre, we moved on to have a picnic at Elm Lake and then to take a quick peek at Creekfield Lake before heading home. I'll report on this section of the trip on Thursday.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Great Morning at Brazos (1)

We took a visiting friend to Brazos Bend State Park yesterday and couldn't believe how empty it was: In our first 75 minutes walking around 40-Acre Lake we met only 4 people.

Perhaps because there were so few visitors, the birds were much mellower than usual. For example, an Anhinga on the fishing pier let me get within 3 feet before it croaked and threatened to fly.

One of the high spots of the visit was the number of Purple Gallinules. We saw six adults (and two chicks) at 40-Acre and another at Creekfield Lake. All of them were in the open and were remarkably unconcerned by our presence.

The only one that kept its distance was an adult accompanied by two chicks. It was behaving rather oddly in that it constantly kept its wings outstretched.

We wondered if the Gallinule was raising its wings in an attempt to provide shade for the chicks. However, later in the day I saw another Gallinule behaving in the same way although it had no chicks to protect. So perhaps raising wings is a way either to keep cool or is part of the Gallinule's hunting technique.

Talking of hunting, we also got to see a Little Blue Heron catching a snack.

This particular Little Blue seemed to be having rather a bad hair day.

I have a very busy day of work today, so I'll have to leave comments on the rest of the trip until tomorrow.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Watching Western Kingbirds

I walked across the CyFair campus yesterday to see how the Western Kingbird family is getting along, only to find that the birds had disappeared. So I spent the next 20 minutes hunting everywhere for them. No luck! Disappointed, I headed back to my classroom - and there were the young Kingbirds perched in a small pine just 30 yards from the site of their nest in the roof of the basketball court.

They seemed unconcerned by my presence and I was able to take a series of close-up photos of one of them.

However, I was dismayed to see that there were now only two you
ngsters instead of the three I had seen previously. I hoped that this didn't mean that one had already been lost to one of the many predators that prowl the campus - coyote, raccoon, cottonmouth.

There was another problem, too. The Kingbirds had moved into a tree that was on the territory of a pair of Northern Mockingbirds. The latter perched flew in and out of the tree, protesting loudly about the intruders.

The young Kingbirds stayed where they were but were clearly aware of the Mockingbirds' presence.

Then an adult Kingbird tried to land in the tree but saw the Mockingbirds. It veered away and landed on a nearby rooftop. While one of the young birds sat and screeched to be fed, the other flew up to the adult and was duly rewarded.

The adult flew off and I turned my attention back to the tree. Surprise! The third young Kingbird had turned up. Bigger surprise! There were now four young birds in the tree.

So, in spite of all the habitat loss and degradation caused by current construction work on campus, the Kingbird pair had managed to raise a brood of four young, just as they had done in previous years. Great job!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting Bigger and Bolder

The three young Western Kingbirds at LSC-CyFair are getting bigger and bolder every day. On Friday they were feeling brave enough to move into separate trees.

While I was watching, a parent flew in and one of the youngsters immediately joined it and was rewarded with food.

A second youngster was quick to follow its sibling and it, too, was rewarded.

The third chick stayed where it was.

It was soon fed by the other parent, while the other chicks complained loudly at missing out on this round of food.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

Our yards are swamped with birds at pres
ent. As we can see many of them from our living-room couch, it's making it hard to focus on the World Cup on TV.

We're getting through sunflower seed at an amazing rate. We have run out of suet and couldn't find any more yesterday, so the Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers probably won't be around much until we re-stock.

Two pairs of Blue Jays bring their young to our feeders several times a day. They and the N Mockingbirds seem to be the brightest of the many birds that visit daily.

Young Blue Jay

Our Carolina Wrens like clearly understand about balanced diets. They will eat lots of suet, then hop over to have some sunflower seeds, and then search the hanging baskets and plant pots for other seeds and bugs.

Our 14+ House Finches try to monopolize the seed feeders.

Some of the males have striking red plumage that positively glows when the sun hits it.

However, Carolina Chickadees nip in whenever there's a free portal. I thought the scruffier-looking Chickadees I was seeing were youngsters but now I realize they are worn adults.

Two adult N Cardinals push their way in occasionally while two young males, too timid to go to the feeders, spend a lot of time watching the feeding frenzy from the fence or
the shed roof.

The squirrels often watch forlornly from the roof, too.

20+ White-winged Doves - including many young - are around all the time. The young Doves have beautiful eye markings.

The Doves really seem to feel the heat, as many of them perch with their wings slightly raised to help them keep cool.

Yesterday's drop-ins included 4 Common Grackles and a European Starling. We're hoping the Starling doesn't tell his friends about our feeders. The last thing we need is a bunch of Starlings muscling in on the scene!