After my recent trips to Utah and Mexico, I thought it was time to visit some local sites and get re-acquainted with some of our local birds. So Tuesday morning I drove to work via the Katy Prairie.
A utility post on 290 had a fine Red-tailed Hawk, while posts along the Katy-Hockley Cutoff had Black Vultures. A Crested Caracara flew ahead of me for a while before disappearing off across the fields.
I decided to visit Paul Rushing Park to see if any migrating shorebirds had dropped in there.
I had gone only 50 yards from the car when I flushed a Green Heron. It fled to the safety of a small tree, from which it dislodged a Common Nighthawk. The Nighthawk moved to another tree, in turn displacing a Northern Mockingbird. A Loggerhead Shrike watched nervously as I passed while Barn and Tree Swallows swooped overhead. A minute later, a pair of Common Nighthawks rose into the air and circled above me, their distinctive white wing stripes flashing in the morning light.
The lakes had a few larger birds: a dozen Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, five Great Egrets, two Yellow-crowned Night Herons and a Little Blue Heron. The only shorebirds I spotted were the usual Killdeer, plus a Black-necked Stilt and a Greater Yellowlegs.
A few Mourning Doves skittered away when I drew near them, as did three Eastern Meadowlarks. For once there was no sign of Horned Larks.
The next stage in my short trip was a drive along Longenbaugh Road, mainly in hopes of seeing Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Unfortunately, the utility wires had just really common birds: scores of White-winged Doves, dozens of European Starlings and a scattering of Northern Mockingbirds and Loggerhead Shrikes. My spirits were raised by a group of Dickcessels - only to fall when I realized the Dickcissels were actually House Sparrows.
Then, just as I was leaving Longenbaugh, I finally got lucky when three Scissor-tailed Flycatchers posed on a wire. One of them had particularly beautiful plumage.
I wasn't expecting to see anything of interest on my drive back to work along FM529. However, a flock of Cattle Egrets lifting off from a field caught my eye. As I watched, a hawk swooped through the flock. From its dark chest, light belly and distinctive wing patterns I had no problem IDing it as a Swainson's Hawk. A good bird to see on the way to work!