Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fotos

Winter is the time for sparrows, many species of which are now moving into our area. I see large numbers of Savannah Sparrows every time I venture out onto the Katy Prairie and I've now seen quite a few other species, including White-crowned, Field, Vesper and White-throated. I've also started seeing a few of my favorite sparrow species, the Harris's Sparrow.

At 7.5 inches, the Harris's is our largest sparrow and its pink bill and black face make it easy to recognize.

As it happens, the one in the photos was in exactly the same place where I saw my first-ever Harris's Sparrow several years ago - right next to the Bear Creek bridge on Longenbaugh Road just east of Porter Road End. For all I know it could be the very same bird.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

You Never Know Quite When

We invited friends over for Thanksgiving and I was looking forward to showing them some of the birds - particularly the Red-breasted Nuthatches - that constantly come to our feeders.

Wouldn't you know it! Although the weather on Thursday was beautiful, the only birds to visit the yards were male and female House Sparrows.

So our guests had to make do with a sighting of a Red-shouldered Hawk circling our house instead.

Of course, the next day, when our guests had left, our yards were full of visitors.

The Nuthatches were enjoying snacking on sunflower seeds.

The Orange-crowned Warblers preferred suet.

Our Ruby-crowned Kinglet went for the suet, too. (If you look carefully at the back of its neck, you can just see a tiny part of its ruby crown.)

We were even graced with a visit by a female Northern Cardinal.

We used to see several Cardinals every day but they have been almost totally absent for a couple of months. They may simply have been too busy raising another brood of babies to visit us. If so, I expect they'll start showing up again soon, bringing their youngsters with them.

Close Encounter
On Saturday I noticed that the Chickadees in the yard behind ours were making a terrible racket. I walked over the fence to see what was agitating them. Just as I reached the fence, a Cooper's Hawk swooped in and settled on a branch just 4 feet away. We both froze for a few seconds, no doubt equally shocked by the encounter. Then the hawk zoomed away. I think that's the closest I've ever gotten to a non-captive raptor.
.he  visitors ursday was o

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brazos Bend: Part 2

After 40 Acre Lake we had a picnic at Elm Lake, where a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks were keeping watch over the area.

Apart from the hawks and a large alligator, the lake was quiet.

On our way out of the park, we stopped to do a quick walk around Creekfield Lake.

A group of Black Vultures was clustered on the far bank.

Further along that bank a Roseate Spoonbill was bathing with half-a-dozen White Ibis.

A Tricolored Heron was hunting nearer to the path.

There were adult and young Common Gallinules also.

The Gallinules were unconcerned by a large group of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks grazing in the water.

Our last sighting was of an adult Whistling Duck keeping watch while its five young fed.

Whenever they were alarmed, most of the young birds rushed to be near their parent.

This will probably be our last visit to Brazos Bend for a while. For the rest of the year, any birding I do will probably be on the Katy Prairie, now that sparrows are turning up there in some numbers.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Brazos Bend State Park

Last Saturday morning we met up with some friends for a walk and a picnic at Brazos Bend State Park.

We began with a stroll around 40 Acre Lake, much of which is unfortunately now covered with invasive water hyacinth.

The stretches of open water were busy with Blue-winged Teal and Pied-billed Grebes.

As usual, there were also several alligators.

The edges of the lake had many large wading birds: Great Blue Herons (below), Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets and White Ibis (below).  

Common Moorhens and American Coots foraged among the vegetation or floated across the surface of the lake. 

An Anhinga perched on a log to dry its wings.

The trees along the sides of the lake had Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Cardinals (below) and many Eastern Phoebes (below).

Meanwhile, Killdeer explored the mud around the lake and Red-eared Sliders basked in the sunlight.

Our final sihting before moving on to Elm Lake was of a Snowy Egret trying to scare up prey in the shallows.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looking for Yellow-rumped Warblers

Monday morning I went out for a quick walk around part of the CyFair campus. I wanted to see if I could find some Yellow-rumped Warblers to photograph. The Warblers seem to like the small pine trees growing along the path behind the CASA building and so that's the area I headed for.

That part of the campus has a great many Northern Mockingbirds and several turned out to look me over as soon as I arrived.

I disturbed an Eastern Phoebe, which flew up to a safer perch.

A couple of Yellow-rumpeds were pottering around in a pine near the path but it was difficult to get a clear picture of them amongst the branches.

A moment later another Warbler popped up on the bare branches of a different tree and stayed there long enough for me to get a few shots.

I kept waiting for the bird to turn round to show its yellow rump but it wouldn't oblige. However, just as I was leaving, another Warbler appeared and let me grab a quick photo.