Friday, March 29, 2013

This Week

Apart from the continuing large flock of Cedar Waxwings, our colony of Purple Martins and a few Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, the CyFair campus has been very quiet for birds. Of course, when I say this, I'm not counting the species that are always well-represented on campus: White-winged and Mourning Doves, Northern Mockingbird and Great-tailed Grackle (below). 

One of our resident pair of Red-tailed Hawks has been visible most days.

I hadn't seen any Killdeer for quite a while but a few have been turning up lately. Last year a pair nested near the tennis courts and so I need to keep an eye out for nesting activity over the next few weeks.

At home I haven't seen any sign of most of our winter visitors except a Rufous Hummingbird and some American Golfinch since early in the week. However, two American Robins have begun turning up every time I water the front yard. I love watching them as they cock their heads to listen for activity below ground and then dig out any worms they hear.

After a spell of digging, our Robins tend to fly up into a tree to clean the soil off their beaks.

From underneath their plumage is particularly striking.

Weekend Trip
All being well, by the time you read this we'll be on 2-day trip to Galveston and Bolivar. We'll look in at Lafitte's Cove and High Island to see if any migrants have arrived. We'll check out the rookery at High Island and will probably also check out Rollover Pass and Bolivar Flats Sanctuary for shorebirds and terns. Although it's very early in the spring migration season, we're hoping to see at least a few interesting birds.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Not So Fast!

The other day I was commenting on how spring had arrived. I was a little premature. Winter seems to have returned for a  final short spell. One result is that bird species that I thought had left our yards have reappeared.

One Orange-crowned Warbler and several Yellow-rumped Warblers are again frequenting our yards. The Orange-crowned visits the suet feeders while the Yellow-rumped feed in our trees or drink at the birdbath.

We currently have at least two Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Unlike their Brown-headed cousins, these Nuthatches are amazingly unafraid of people in our yards. They will fly down to eat at the feeders even when I am standing only 3 feet away.

After seeing hardly any American Goldfinches in our yards for weeks, a small flock has appeared and is constantly at our feeders. Many of the birds have much brighter plumage than they had earlier in the year.  

A solitary Chipping Sparrow has returned also, a pretty little bird that Dee and I are always glad to see in our yards.

Our resident Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, House Finches, Carolina Wrens and Carolina Chickadees all continue to show a high profile, too. And our White-winged Doves are as omnipresent as ever. This one demonstrated the species' adaptability by managing to eat from our suet feeders.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Is Bustin' Out All Over


You know it's spring when Green Anoles perch on your azalea flowers ...

and when male Green Anoles start puffing up their throats to attract females.

Another sign of spring is when snakes start showing up. I saw two banded water snakes at Edith Moore Nature Center on Sunday.

I missed getting a photo of a ribbon snake on the CyFair nature trail but a rat snake stayed to pose.

Also at CyFair, our flock of Cedar Waxwings has now grown to over 1,000 birds. We get a few dozen Waxwings at home, too, and they've been busy the blossoms on our neighbor's pear tree.

The arrival of spring means that most of our winter resident birds have now moved on. The male Rufous Hummingbird in our backyard is an exception.

Other exceptions were the American Goldfinches I saw at Edith Moore.

Luckily, as winter residents move north, spring migrant songbirds and shorebirds begin passing through our area on their journey north. Examples are the Pectoral Sandpipers and American Golden Plovers (below) which have arrived at Paul Rushing Park.     

 Spring migration is the most exciting part of the year for birders in the Houston area. So Dee and I will start visiting High Island, Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula looking for warblers and shorebirds. Our first trip to the coast will be on March 29th but I hope to see migrants at closer sites before then.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday


I never think of Brown-headed Nuthatches as being particularly sociable birds. So I was surprised when two cuddled up together on a branch of our mulberry tree. I was even more surprised when a third joined them.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Brazos Bend: Part 2

Without a doubt, the most numerous birds in the park were American Coots. There were scores of them at 40 Acre, Elm and Creekfield Lakes.

They have the most amazing feet, just right for walking on marshy ground and on lily-pads.

There were also plenty of Common Gallinlues (formerly Common Moorhens), their red face shields glowing in the sunlight.

Great and Snowy Egrets were fairly few and far between. We stopped to watch this Snowy as it ran through the shallow water, stirring up prey with its bright yellow feet. 

In addition to scores of White Ibis, there were several darker ones. I thought this might be a Glossy Ibis but the red eye shows that it's a White-faced. 

This was a White-faced Ibis, too.

The only ducks we saw on the lakes were Blue-winged Teal. The male below is in breeding plumage.

It is rare to visit Brazos Bend without seeing an Anhinga or two, and Friday's visit was no exception. This Anhinga was drying its wings after a spell of fishing.

All of the lakes had a few Pied-billed Grebes. They get their name from the dark band that runms vertically across their bills.

This one was doing a good job of scratching its ear, probably not the easiest thing to do well when you have webbed feet.

The lakes and and trees around them had good numbers of Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants. The larger one on the right is a Double-crested Cormorant; the other two are the much smaller Neotropic species.

On our walks we passed several large colonies of Black Vultures.

Most Herons were conspicuous by their absence but we came across several Yelow-crowned Night Herons.

I spent a while watching this one fishing near the observation deck at Elm Lake. It was so focused on the task at hand that I don't think it even noticed me standing a few feet above its head.

Our final sighting was of another Heron, this time a Little Blue Heron stalking through the reeds and grasses at the edge of Creekfield Lake.

As usual, Brazos Bend hadn't produced any unusual species or sightings. However, we had enjoyed seeing the wide variety sof wildlife that make the park their home.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Home of the American Alligator

If you want to see alligators, head on down to Brazos Bend State Park in the spring. A walk around 40 Acre Lake or Elm Lake is certain to provide good looks at plenty of these remarkable creatures. We strolled around Elm Lake yesterday morning and saw about a dozen of all shapes and sizes.

First up was a young alligator lurking by the boardwalk to the fishing platform. Like all young gators, he had yellow stripes running across his body and tail.

When we reached the main path around the lake, we came across a smallish adult that looked much more active.

 Then there was a fairly large adult dozing right by the side of the path.

A slightly bigger one was facing the water, giving us a nice view of its profile.

Then came a 12-footer, sunning itself right next to the path.

I'm always amazed by how tolerant the alligators at Brazos Bend are of the park's human visitors. I can think of few other animals that would allow people to walk around taking photos from just a few yards.

Of course, alligators are not the only wildlife in the park. Scores of Red-eared Sliders sun themselves on logs in the water. 

The park also has plenty of birds. For example, yesterday there were White Ibis everywhere, including dozens perched in the trees along the Elm Lake path.

However, I'll leave my comments on the birds we saw until my next posting, on Monday morning.