Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two Very Different Birds (and a Third)

When I took a very quick look at the CyFair campus nature trail on Friday afternoon, I came across two very different birds.

One was an Eastern Wood-Pewee. This delightful little bird is a flycatcher that visits the campus every year during spring migration. I have seen at least one every day for the past two weeks. 

Like other flycatchers, it perches on a branch and then hurls itself up into the air to chase passing bugs. Once it has caught a bug, it often returns to the same perch.

The other bird I ran across was a female Great-tailed Grackle. Great-tailed Grackles are one of the most common birds on the campus, where most of them seem to spend their time hanging out and looking for scraps in the parking lots. Although they do not have the same beautiful glossy black plumage as their male counterparts, the females are still impressive birds. 

The one I encountered on Friday was eating berries among the brambles that grow by the side of the nature trail boardwalk. I tried several times to get a picture of her actually eating a berry but I was too slow. 

I was a little luckier when she decided to pose among some wildflowers.

Just as I was about to leave, I noticed a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in a nearby tree. He was too well hidden among the leaves for me to get a clear photo. Then a female Grosbeak appeared and stopped on a branch just long enough for me to grab a picture.

With any luck, I should see more Grosbeaks and other migrants over the next two weeks or so, since this is typically when most spring migrants appear on the campus.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

CyFair Birdwalk

As part of Earth Week, I led a birdwalk across the CyFair campus on Thursday morning. Unfortunately, it was another day with very few migrants, except for a couple of Baltimore Orioles.

However, I was able to show the three students who participated a good number and variety of birds.

As usual, Northern Mockingbirds were everywhere.

White-winged Doves were everywhere, too, and we also saw a few Mourning Doves.

I was pleased to see that we still had a small group of Savannah Sparrows.

A couple of Loggerhead Shrikes were perching on lampposts and swooping down to catch bugs in the grass. 

No walk around the campus would be complete without a few European Starlings, the only invasive species that turns up regularly at the college.

The students were excited to see a Green Heron fishing by the waterfall.

Surprisingly, they were just as excited to see a male Mallard in the ditch along the northern edge of the campus.

While we were watching a Spotted Sandpiper in the same ditch, I noticed a much less common visitor: a Solitary Sandpiper.

I missed getting photos of a Swainson's Hawk, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Crested Caracara but fared better with a Turkey Vulture that flew over as I was saying goodbye to the students.

Our tally for the walk was 32 species, which I thought was quite good for 90 minutes:
Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Egret, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Crested Caracara, Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Purple Martin, N Mockingbird, N Cardinal, Savannah Sparrow, E Meadowlark, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Great-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, European Starling.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Foto Friday

The Western Kingbirds that nest on the CyFair campus have returned. I saw at least three during my Thursday morning birdwalk.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Local Area Birding

Our yards have been busy with all our normal residents but we've also had a couple of spring migrants. Dee saw a male Indigo Bunting while I was at work and then she drew my attention to another new yard bird: Gray Catbird.

The Bald Eagles nesting near the Longwood detention pond are thriving. There are still two eaglets in the nest but one looks like it will be fledging soon.

On the CyFair campus one of the Black Vulture eggs has hatched.

The mother was lurking nearby but there was no sign of a chick.

I haven't seen many migrants on the campus so far this spring but a couple popped up on Monday. One was a Great Crested Flycatcher.

The other was an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

I also spotted my first Swainson's Hawk of the year.

All of the apartments in our Purple Martin complex are occupied. 

I enjoy watching the Martins as they glide and swoop overhead, and also when they come in to land.

The Western Kingbirds which nest on the campus should be arriving any day now, and I'm hoping that the next couple of weeks will also produce some warblers and other spring migrants..

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Rest of My Morning at High Island

Before leaving Smith Oaks, I walked up to the observation decks overlooking the rookery, because I never tire of watching the antics of the nesting birds there.

Few sights in nature are more beautiful than that of Roseate Spoonbills in full flight.

Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets were looking splendid in their breeding plumage.

It was fun watching the Great Egrets as they flew back to their nests ...

... or as they returned with branches for nest-building.

Some Great Egrets were already sitting on eggs but others were at an earlier stage in the mating game.

I rounded off my visit to High Island with a brief visit to Hooks Wood, a site I'd never visited before. Black-throated Green Warblers were everywhere.

 Several species of warblers and vireos were present but most were too difficult to photograph. I missed getting a shot of a Golden-winged Warbler but managed a (just recognizable) one of a Blue-winged Warbler.

It was a nice goodbye bird for my trip.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Good Day at High Island

I managed to squeeze in a morning's birding at High Island and was lucky enough to see quite a range of birds.

At 7:00 a.m. the trees on the southern edge of Boy Scout Woods were crowded with Orchard Orioles. There must have been a couple of hundred or more.

An hour later, a patch of trees and bushes were hopping with action: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Three Indigo Buntings were popular with the watchers.

So, too, were two Painted Buntings, even if they stayed more hidden.

After that, Boy Scout Woods quietened down, although I did run across a couple of Summer Tanagers, three more species of Vireo, and several Gray Catbirds (below).

With some friends I headed up to Smith Oaks to see if things were better there. The woods were quiet there also, although a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (below) gave us good looks while a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the same tree was more difficult to see.

Back in the parking lot, I noticed a flash of orange in a tree right next to my car: Baltimore Oriole. A small crowd of birders gathered to watch as the Oriole flitted from branch to branch.

We were all so busy admiring the Oriole that it took us a while to notice that a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was hopping around just feet from the Oriole. 

Both birds stayed in the same tree for well over ten minutes.