Monday, April 30, 2012

That Time Again

It's that time of the year again. The time when our resident yardbirds start turning up with their newly fledged young.

Our Northern Mockingbird pair started it off this year but unfortunately I still haven't managed to get a photo of their offspring.

Then our House Finches followed suit, although I'm not sure how many young they have. One dad keeps bringing a youngster to the feeder outside out living room window.

Yesterday a new brood of four House Sparrows appeared. 

They kept lining up on our fence and crying for mom to feed them.

When mom appeared, the chicks would start crying and flapping their wings to beg for food.

However, so far mom has always insisted on flying up into a tree and feeding her young out of sight among its branches.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Campus Bird Walk

My Friday bird walk around the campus turned out to be much more popular than I expected: 25+ students turned up to participate. Unfortunately, it was another windy morning and so very few birds were visible in tree tops or on the ground. The only perching birds we saw along the nature trail were Brown-headed Cowbirds, Northern Cardinals and Northern Mockingbirds. Birds on the ground were Mourning Doves and European Starlings.

Luckily the windy conditions brought plenty of flyovers: Mourning and White-winged Doves, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackles, Killdeer and Purple Martins. Also, the Purple Martin nesting gourds had lots of activity for the students to watch from only a few yards away.

When the students  left at the end of the walk, I stayed behind for ten minutes. Almost immediately a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flew in to perch over the trail.

Within moments a pair of Western Kingbirds came to perch nearby and they chattered away for several minutes.

Then as I neared the entrance to the nature trail, a very young Northern Mockingbird hopped onto the boardwalk ahead of me.

A parent flew in and watched anxiously from the boardwalk rail until the youngster 
managed to jump down and disappear into the grass beside the trail.

It's a pity the students didn't get to see the flycatchers and the Mockingbirds!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mixed Success

.I've managed to fit in a few short walks around the nature trail this week and the birding has been frustrating: Lots of interesting noises but usually only the briefest glimpse of birds!

A Great-crested Flycatcher has been present most days but refuses to leave the shadows when I'm in the area.

Lincoln's Sparrows haven't migrated north yet. However, they're being even more secretive than usual.

The Baltimore Oriole and Indigo Buntings are still around but disappear as soon as I get anywhere near them. Although Yellow-breasted Chats chatter away all over the place, I rarely get to see or photograph them. This picture is the only one that is even recognizable.

Outdoing even the chats in the noise department have been a couple of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Yesterday I finally managed to get a couple of shots of one them.

A pair of Green Herons continues to hang out in the early mornings in trees near the nature trail. 

BTW, one reason that I'm feeling irritated by the comparative lack of visible birds is that today I'm leading students on a birdwalk. I can just imagine their reactions if they don't get to have clear views of at least a few birds!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The CyFair Campus

Like other birders in our area, I was hoping that the cold front forecast for last weekend would bring a fallout of migrant birds. It didn't happen! It seems that the north winds pushed down as far as the northern coast of Mexico and so most birds had the sense not to attempt to cross the Gulf in such difficult conditions.

Monday morning did bring a handful of migrant songbirds to the CyFair campus, though. A few minutes at the nature trail before work turned up a Nashville Warbler and a Yellow-throated Green Warbler, a female Summer Tanager, an Indigo Bunting and a Baltimore Oriole (below).

We now have at least one pair of Green Herons at the college and one or both tend to hang out in the trees on the nature trail in the early morning.

The retention ponds are generally empty of birds now but the parking lot lights attract lots of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.


One of my colleagues tells me that at least one pair of Western Kingbirds has returned. A couple of pairs normally nest on the campus, including one pair that has nested for 7-8 years in a row in the roof of the basketball court. When work eases up, I'll have to go over to see if the birds have started nesting yet.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


In my previous post I was bemoaning the fact that, during our time at High Island, I didn't get good looks at the two Blackburnian Warblers that I saw . I know that I shouldn't complain, given that I saw 11 warbler species and birds of several other species also. But I do love Blackburnians.

Well, guess what happened when I did a quick walk around the CyFair campus nature trail on Wednesday. That's right, a Blackburnian Warbler appeared. And not only did he appear, but he stayed in clear view for several minutes. 

Now that's what I call serendipity!




Friday, April 20, 2012

High Island: Smith Oaks

After enjoying watching Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and other migrants at Boy Scout Woods, we headed over to Smith Oaks. It was very busy - with birders and with birds.

The utility wires in the parking area had Purple Martins.

In the woods, warblers were flitting around everywhere. Within a few minutes we had seen Tennessee, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green and Blue-winged, all too high in the trees for photos. Eventually one of the Tennessees came a little closer.

So, too, did a Black-and-white Warbler and a Yellow-throated.

A Prothonotary Warbler looked odd with what seemed to be a dark cap.

The cap turned out to be stains from mulberries!

However, for us the best part of the day was the time we spent watching a succession of larger migrants coming to feed on a small mulberry tree right next to the path.

Indigo Buntings popped in several times.

Two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers kept coming ...

and going.

Orchard and Baltimore Orioles (below) visited for minutes at a time.

Summer Tanagers joined in but I only managed to get photos of one of the females.

Our final sighting before leaving was of a male Scarlet Tanager, his plumage standing out dramatically against the foliage.

On our way out of High Island we drove past Boy Scout Woods, stopping to look at a Common Nighthawk that was sleeping on a branch near the road.

All in all, our trip to High Island had been a great success. For me the only real disappointment was that I hadn't gotten good looks at a Blackburnian Warbler, my favorite of all the warblers. I had seen two but only for a moment and at a distance. Oh, well, perhaps I'll be luckier on our next visit to the coast.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

High Island

We made a quick trip down to High Island to see if the recent bad weather had caused a fallout of migrating songbirds. We missed the best day - when 31 warbler species were seen! - but we still saw enough to keep us busy for several hours.

Early morning at Boy Scout Woods was dark and misty, as you can see from this shot of a Green Heron.


Gray Catbirds were everywhere. In spite of how many there were, the bad light meant I never got a photo of even one. An Inca Dove was easier to see and photograph.

Indigo Buntings were plentiful and one finally moved up into the light.

The stars of the show for Dee and myself were the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. These, too, were plentiful and they were too busy wolfing down mulberries to be disturbed by watchers and photographers. Most of the Grosbeaks we spotted were males but we saw a couple of females. One female was sharing a good tree with two males.

Here are just a few of the other photos I took of these beautiful birds.