Saturday, December 28, 2013


In my last post I was complaining that we weren't seeing the normal number of winter residents in our yards this year. So I was surprised to get up on Christmas Eve and see several winter birds flocking to our feeders.

Our Orange-crowned Warbler was here as usual, this time trying to eat from the suet feeder by hovering under it.

Several Yellow-crowned Warblers decided to drop in.

Five Chipping Sparrows turned up. They fed mainly from seeds that had fallen down from the feeders but occasionally tried out the seeds on the fence.

Five American Goldfinches arrived also and divided their time between the feeders and the birdbath.

The birdbath was equally popular with our Tufted Titmice.

Dee had mentioned seeing a Ruby-crowned Kinglet earlier in the month but I had missed it. It finally appeared on Christmas Day, although I didn't manage to get any photos until yesterday.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In Our Backyard

All of our resident birds have been coming to the feeders in our backyard.

I always enjoy watching Northern Cardinals rolling sunflower seeds around in their beaks until the shells have been removed.

Our usual House Finch family has been largely absent. However, a single female has been visiting frequently. Unfortunately, she has some form of avian pox and her left eye is completely covered over. She may survive, as long as she has access to our feeders and as long as her right eye remains unaffected.

The Tufted Titmice that moved in earlier this year are still constant visitors.

The biggest surprise has been the lack of winter residents so far. We have had the occasional Chipping Sparrow and Yellow-rumped Warbler, but the only bird that seems to have settled in is an Orange-crowned Warbler.

I'm hoping that more birds will move in when we have more cold fronts, in the early new year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Katy Sparrows

Earlier in the week I took a brief trip out to the Katy Prairie, hoping that a variety of sparrows had moved into the area with the latest cold front.

Sharp Road was surprisingly empty of birds, except for a few Savannah Sparrows. 

So I headed over the Longenbaugh Road, usually a prime site for winter birds. On the way I checked out the grass around the parking lots in Paul Rushing Park but found only a handful of Killdeer.

The bridge over Bear Creek was quiet when I arrived but it wasn't long before a couple of American Robins turned up.

A Loggerhead Shrike watched from on a utility wire.

After a couple of minutes the first sparrow appeared: A White-crowned perched on a small tree and sang.

This seemed to wake up the other sparrows. 

A small group of Chipping Sparrows flew in.

A Vesper Sparrow popped up on a fence wire across the road.

A couple of White-throated Sparrows put in a very brief appearance.

Then, just as I was getting ready to leave, the bird I had most wanted to see finally flew in: a Harris's Sparrow.

So my quick trip didn't turn up any spectacular birds but at least I had gotten to see a few sparrows. Besides, any day I get to see a Harris's Sparrow I count as a good day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Back at Work

The first week back in Cypress after our Valley trip the weather was so bad that I did almost no birding. However, the past few days have been drier and brighter, so I've managed to do a few walks around the CyFair campus.

The ditch on the north side of the campus is attracting a lot of Great Egrets, up to two dozen at a time. Some of them perch on the bridge crossing the ditch, which makes it easy to photograph them.

The same ditch usually has a couple of Great Blue Herons. These spend the nights in nearby trees.

The bushes and trees south of the ditch are full of Northern Mockingbirds. I've given up trying to count how many of these we have on campus. 

Sometimes one of the Mockingbirds turns out to be a Loggerhead Shrike, always a welcome sight.

Our many White-winged Doves tend to stay mainly in the trees, while our equally numerous Mourning Doves spend their days grazing in the short grass.

The other day I was watching our resident Red-shouldered Hawk (below) when a pair of Cooper's Hawks zoomed across between me and the Red-shouldered.

A few minutes later our resident pair of Red-tailed Hawks circled lazily overhead. As is typical of hawks - but not falcons - the female (top) is visibly larger than the male (bottom).

As I walk from building to building, I frequently see birds perched on the rooftops. Last week a pair of Black Vultures caught my eye.

This week it was a Crested Caracara, a bird that we don't see very frequently on the campus although it is very common on the prairie just a few miles west of the college.

Winter residents have been slow to arrive this year but they're trickling in now.

The first to arrive were Ruby-crowned Kinglets and our three winter Warblers: Yellow, Rumped, Pine and Orange-crowned (below).

Eastern Phoebes were early arrivals also.

Only a few sparrows have turned up so far. This morning I noticed a handful of Savannah Sparrows and I expect they'll be joined by many more before too long.

The only other sparrows I've spotted this month have been a couple of Song Sparrows, a species that I don't normally see on the campus.

Although Cedar Waxwings haven't arrived yet, I saw my first flock of American Goldfinch this morning. 

Surprisingly, Goldfinches still haven't appeared at our feeders at home. Perhaps they'll turn up with the next cold front to move into our area.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Valley Trip 6: Edinburg Wetlands Center

I had bad luck with the Wetlands Center because it was closed all three times that I tried to visit. I still managed to see some birds, though.

The Center's parking lot provided the first Curve-billed Thrasher of the trip.

The ground nearby was busy with Inca Doves. 

Around the corner a Cooper's Hawk was lurking in the trees.

A Loggerhead Shrike was surveying the scene from the top of a utility pole.

Walking the path alongside the edge of the Center's property, I got the only good view of a Ladder-backed Woodpecker that I managed on the whole trip.

The same path allowed me a view of the Center's main pond, where White Pelicans were preening.

Back in the public park, a Tricolored Heron was fishing in the lake.

My final birds were a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers that were foraging in the trees around the lake.

The Trip Overall
We both enjoyed our three days in the Valley enormously and we ended up with a trip list of around 90 species, many of which were birds I hadn't previously seen in 2013. We saw most of the birds we particularly wanted to see, the exception being the Gray Hawk. Surprisingly, we didn't spot a single Buff-bellied Hummingbird, even though people we ran into were seeing them everywhere.

The highlights for me were, of course, the sightings of three life birds: Common Pauraque, Ringed Kingfisher and - after years of looking! - Green Kingfisher.