Friday, December 28, 2012

London at Christmas

"The weather outside is frightful". The words of the Christmas song say it all . It has rained almost all day of every one of the ten days that we've been in London.  This hasn't put a damper on our holiday festivities but it has meant that my birding here has been limited to looking out for birds while taking brief walks in local parks and watching birds in the garden of the house where we're staying.

The main garden visitors have been those two most English of all birds, a Blackbird and a Robin.



Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits and a Goldcrest have made brief appearances in weather too bad for photographs while Carrion Crows have perched on nearby rooftops and trees and Black-headed Gulls have wheeled ceaselessly around in the sky overhead.

A walk in Clissold Park turned up more Carrion Crows and Blackbirds.

I always enjoy visiting the ponds in Clissold Park because they have a range of water birds that are so used to people that they are easy to photograph. Coots and Moorhens abound.


Although Mallards are the most common ducks, there are plenty of Pochards - the males with bright orange eyes - and Tufted Ducks, too.

A Little Grebe proved too elusive to photograph but Black-headed Gulls were another story.

The Stoke Newington reservoirs and Abney Park graveyard produced several more bird species, but I'll leave reporting on those for another day.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Katy Prairie in December

Last week I took my last drive of the year  onto the Katy Prairie.

A Ferruginous Hawk was still hanging out along Longenbaugh.

Red-tailed Hawks were everywhere.

Several skeins of hundreds of Snow Geese passed overhead.

Three times the road ahead was blocked by Black Vultures.

As usual, Crested Caracaras perched on utility poles by the roadside.

There were plenty of smaller birds, too, including Northern Mockingbirds, Eastern Meadowlarks and Red-winged Blackbirds.


At Warren Lake I was so surprised to see a flock of 60 White Pelicans that I initially didn't notice the edge of the lake was hosting hundreds of Greater White-fronted Geese.

The Geese noticed me, though, and they filled the sky over the lake as they lifted off and flew to safety.


As we're in the UK for the holidays, it'll be January before I get another chance to check out the bird situation on the prairie.  Hopefully, more winter birds will have turned up by then!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks fly over the CyFair Campus.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch visits one of our suet feeders.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hawk Watching

One of my favorites among common birds is the Red-tailed Hawk. Many of these magnificent raptors are year-round residents in our area, and many more fly down here to join them for the winter. (BTW, they are even more common in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we often saw 30-40 in a day and once even 72!) There are few sights that I enjoy more than that of a Red-tailed Hawk circling overhead, like this one that I watched over the CyFair campus last week.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

CyFair Campus Birds

Last week was a fairly quiet week for birds on the CyFair campus. I was hoping that the colder weather would bring in Cedar Waxwings and perhaps some more sparrow species but this didn't happen. Nevertheless, there were enough birds to insure that every brief walk I took around the campus produced something worth looking at.

Whenever I drive over to Longenbaugh Road and other parts of the Katy Prairie, I see lots of Crested Caracaras. However, we don't see many Caracaras on the campus and so I was pleased to see this one.

Our resident Red-tailed Hawks usually perch very high up on the utility pylons along the north side of the college grounds. This one, though, decided to perch by the entrance road for a change.

I don't think I've ever before seen as many Eastern Phoebes in southeast Texas as I have this fall. And they are as common on the campus as elsewhere in the Houston area.

Apart from Northern Mockingbirds, the most common campus birds at present are Yellow-rumped Warblers. I see and hear them every time I leave the building where my office is located.

Sometimes it's very easy to see how this species gets its name.

We seem to have more White-throated Sparrows than usual this winter.

Lincoln's Sparrows are also plentiful at the moment.

Although we used regularly to have a winter flock of about 20 American Pipits, I have only seen a solitary bird so far this winter. It seems rather lost hanging out in grassy areas with Savannah Sparrows and Killdeer.

Over the summer I would see Mourning Doves wherever I walked on campus. Then in the fall they were largely replaced by White-winged Doves. However, I am glad to say that not all of our Mourning Doves have been displaced, because they really are charming little birds.

We don't see many gulls at CyFair. However, a couple of Ring-billed Gulls have been hanging out on the lamp posts in the parking lots. Their plumage certainly looks fine against the deep blue of the Texas sky.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Yard Birds

As we're still a cold spell, our yards continue to be busy.

The most frequent visitors to our feeders are undoubtedly Carolina Chickadees. It is rare to look out of our living-room window for more than a few minutes without seeing one or two Chickadees flying in to grab a seed and then darting off into ther trees immediately behind our yard.

When we see House Sparrows in our yards, it's usually a flock of 20 House Sparrows that arrive in a rowdy bunch. In between these mass visits, though, an individual Sparrow - like the male below - will sometimes sneak in by itself to snack on some suet.

Every winter for 4-5 years now a solitary Ruby-crowned Kinglet has moved into our yards for several months. It's a bird that Dee and I both enjoy watching, even though we rarely get to see its ruby crown. Here it is on Tuesday.

We were luckier last year, when this same bird would often raise its crown as it approached our feeders.