Monday, April 29, 2013

I Missed it!

On Thursday there was what some people are saying was the biggest fallout of migrant birds on the Texas coast in 50 years. And I had to work! 

So I took Friday off and headed for the coast, hoping that lots of the previous day's arrivals were still around.

I got to Lafitte's Cove on Galveston at 7:30 a.m. and there were certainly still some birds. 
The most numerous were Gray Catbirds. There were dozens of them on and near the paths.


Thrushes were abundant, too. I failed to get photos of several Wood Thrushes but did better with Swainson's Thrushes at the drips.

A couple of people told me they'd seen Indigo and Painted Buntings. However, I saw only a single female Painted.

Summer and Scarlet Tanagers were hanging out in the trees, although usually in places where I couldn't get photos. I came away with only one shot of a male Scarlet.

After 90 minutes at Lafitte's, I had seen just two warblers - a Yellow and an American Redstart. So I decided to drive back to Houston and pop in at Russ Pitman Park to look for warblers there.

When I arrived I immediately came across a couple of  Gray Catbirds (below) and three Wood Thrushes (below). 

A little later a Baltimore Oriole popped up.

Two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were foraging near the nature center.

Before heading home, I spent 30 minutes watching vireos and warblers flitting through the trees in the yard behind the park. A Red-eyed Vireo was just within camera range.

Male and female American Redstarts were moving too fast for me to get more than a record shot.

I was thrilled to see my first Magnolia Warbler of the year but again I wasn't able to get a decent photo.

So in the end I had missed out on last week's big fallout and had seen only a few of the commoner migrants. Oh, well, that's how birding goes sometimes! Perhaps I'll finally get lucky with migrating warblers at the college next week - or not. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

At Work and at Home

Our yards at home continue to be busy and we still have both Red-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches. More fun to watch, though, are our Carolina Wrens. We always have an adult pair.

Now the adults have two young, which they regularly lead around our backyard, with each parent normally taking charge of one youngster. The young birds often stay on the fence while the parents go and bring them food, from our feeders or from the garden.

Sometimes waiting to be fed can be very tiring.

The birding scene at CyFair has been quieter than usual so far this migration season, so I was pleased when a few Indigo Buntings showed up earlier this week.

Luckily, Cedar Waxwings are still with us, although the flock of 1,000+ that we had has now shrunk to a few dozen.

I'll be quite sad when the last of the Waxwings head north, which I suspect will be fairly soon. They are such extraordinarily beautiful birds!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Busy in Our Yards


Our yards at home have been very busy lately!

The front yard and its feeders have attracted a good range of birds daily: White-winged Doves, American Robin, Downy Woodpeckers, House Sparrows, House Finches, Northern Mockingbirds, Carolina Chickadees and Northern Cardinals. After a long absence, Red-bellied Woodpeckers have finally started visiting on a regular basis again.

 Most of our winter residents and visitors have gone now but a few linger. An American Goldfinch popped up on April 20, and a flock of 12-20 Cedar Waxwings flies into our oak tree most evenings. Best of all, we still have at two Red-breasted Nuthatches. 

 Unfortunately, I’m sure these birds will head north very soon. However, we also still have at least two Brown-headed Nuthatches, both of which seem so unconcerned by our presence that I can stand a couple of feet away without disturbing them. 

 We’ve never had Brown-headed Nuthatches before this winter but they are year-round residents at Kleb Woods and in Tomball. So perhaps they will decide to settle in our yards. I really hope so, because they are delightful little birds!

If our front yard has seen the largest number of birds, our backyard has definitely seen the most activity. This is partly because our resident pair of Carolina Wrens now has two young, which they regularly lead around our flower beds, containers and fences, presumably showing them where and what to eat.

Then there are the Blue Jays. These seemed to vanish from our yards for two years, but they are back now - and back with a vengeance. 

The adults are fairly well behaved but three juveniles have taken to playing noisy games of tag through the backyard. While watching them the other day, I noticed an adult Blue Jay fussing over a baby just outside our living-room window. At one point the baby was parked in a yucca plant, where I was able to get a photo.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

High Island Rookery

I still haven't reported on our visit to the Smith Oaks rookery at High Island, so here goes!

On our previous visit two weeks earlier most of the birds were still busy collecting twigs and building nests. This time, the nest-building seemed to be completed.

Almost all the Neotropic Cormorants were sitting on nests but a few individuals were flying in and out.

At least one couple was still mating.

Most of the Roseate Spoonbills were also on nests.

As always with the Spoonbills, some were arguing over property rights.

Others were trying to decide whether it was worth risking a lurking alligator to go down to the water to feed.

The most numerous birds were Great Egrets, resplendent in their breeding plumage.

Keeping the plumage in prime conditions takes a lot of work.

When one of a pair would arrive back at the nest, it would often announce, "Honey, I'm home."

Sometimes, though, the waiting partner appeared to be less than thrilled and to be asking, "What took you so long?"

We scanned all the nests for signs of chicks. If you look carefully at the picture below, you can just see that this nest has two baby birds in it.

Another nest appeared to have only one chick.

After checking out the rookery, we spent a little time wandering the nearby woods in search of migrant songbirds. Although it wasn't a good day for migrants, we did manage to see a few. Among the warblers were a Northern Parula and a Black-and-White.

The larger birds included a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and several Indigo Buntings.

However, the best sighting was undoubtedly that of a Lesser Nighthawk. We often see Common Nighthawks but seeing and getting to watch a Lesser was a real treat! 


Friday, April 19, 2013

Anahuac NWR: Part 2

We had a pleasant drive around Shovelers' Pond, although birds were comparatively scarce.

Male Red-winged Blackbirds were singing and displaying at several points. 

We also saw Eastern Kingbirds at various points along the way.

White Ibis were among the few waders that we came across. Many were juveniles, like the one below.

Large numbers of American Coots were accompanied by a handfuil of Common Gallinules.

We spotted only two Black-necked Stilts, busy preening. The brown back of the one on the left shows it is a female. The one on the right has the black back of a male.

The boardwalk was echoing to the calls of Clapper Rails. One of the Rails was incredibly loud and every so often it would get responses from other nearby Rails. Unfortunately, we never saw any of them!

The baby alligators were still under the bridge at the start of the boardwalk. I counted over 20 of them but there was still no sign of their mother.

On our way to High Island we stopped off for a brief look at the Skillern Tract, where White Ibis watched us from their perches in the trees by the trail.

The only birds visible from the observation platform were a dozen or so adult and juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Herons.

A male Vermilion Flycatcher was wary of our presence but stopped for a moment just within camewra range.

A couple of Indigo Buntings and a female Orchard Oriole (below) were the only migrants that we saw.

As it was already early afternoon, we decided to push on to High Island, where our first stop was going to be the rookery.