Saturday, September 27, 2014

Baytown Yet Again

Sunday morning I paid yet another visit to Baytown Nature Center. This time I had a very specific objective: To see the male Brown Booby that had been reported there. It is a rare bird for Texas and a species that I had never seen before.

Sure enough the bird was perched where it had previously been reported. Unfortunately, it was rather too distant for clear photos.

While waiting (in vain) for the Booby to fly closer, I checked birds at the water's edge.

A young Laughing Gull and several Forster's Terns were hanging out on pilings.

A couple of Spotted Sandpipers were wandering along the shoreline.

When it became clear that the Booby was not going to move, I headed for home, but on the way I stopped to admire Killdeer paddling in shallow puddles and a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron surveying the scene from a convenient snag.

I also stopped to watch a beautiful Tricolored Heron as it completed its morning grooming.

My final sighting was of a pair of Osprey circling high above me, one noticeably smaller than the other.

The smaller bird, presumably a male, kept doing dramatic aerial manouevres, no doubt trying to impress the female. 

As far as I could see, she wasn't very impressed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Meanwhile, in Our Yards

We took down all of our suet and seed feeders about a month ago. Not surprisingly, this means that not many birds have been visiting our yards.

One exception has been Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, since we have had maintained one hummingbird feeder throughout the summer. Last month this feeder was attracting a lot of attention from adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that were migrating through our area.

More recently, the feeder has been drawing in females and subadult males (below).

We put some suet and seed feeders back up last weekend, and also started putting out some sunflower seeds on our back fence. Almost inevitably, the first birds to appear were White-winged Doves and House Sparrows (below).

So the other day I was thrilled when a Mourning Dove turned up to check out the food situation. (Since White-winged Doves began visiting our yards in numbers some years ago, Mourning Doves have visited only rarely.)

Carolina Chickadees and a pair of Northern Cardinals have also come back to our yards but, as yet, we haven't seen the return of any Blue Jays, Northern Mockingbirds or Tufted Titmice. I hope we haven't driven them away for good!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday at Baytown (2)

The wetland area on the edge of Scott Bay isn't in the most attractive location.

However, when I arrived, it had a nice selection of waders, including 8 Roseate Spoonbills, and a dozen or so Great and Snowy Egrets.

A Great Blue Heron was too far away to photograph but several Tricolored Herons and a Little Blue Heron were just within range.

Although two adult Yellow-crowned Herons tried very hard to avoid being photographed, I managed to get a quick shot of one of them.

Unfortunately, there were very few shorebirds, and the ones that were present were too far away for decent photos: a Least Sandpiper, a Solitary Sandpiper, half-a-dozen Western Sandpipers and two Least Yellowlegs.

Beyond the wetlands the main trail ends at a gate but trails lead off to the right and the left. I headed right to the Scott Bay Overlook. I scanned the bay with binoculars, looking unsuccessfully for the Common Loon that had been reported there a couple of weeks earlier. All I could see were 50 Brown Pelicans, some swimming and some just standing about.

Back at the gate, I crossed the main  trail and looked over Heron Haven pond, disturbing a pair of Belted Kingfishers as I did so.

Snags in the pond were providing perches for three Black-crowned Night-Herons, the heron/egret species that I seem to see least often on my birding trips.

The path left from the gate gave me an even better vantage point for scanning the pond.

Several snags had Neotropic Cormorants.

Another snag had the only Osprey I saw all morning.

My final sighting was of three Anhingas. Two were perched on snags. 

Even when these birds are not swimming, it is easy to see why some people call them "snakebirds".

The third Anhinga circled overhead as I left Heron Haven and headed back to my car.

Although I had seen only a handful of the shorebirds I had been hoping for, I had really enjoyed my visit to Baytown. It was particularly interesting to see so many large wading birds, and to get to watch many of them from just a few yards away.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sunday at Baytown (1)

When I got to Baytown Nature Center at 8:00 on Sunday, it was cold enough for me to have to don a jacket. It was also overcast and windy, so clearly not the best weather for seeing and photographing birds. However, the various parts of the site had more birds than I'd seen there for years.

My first stop was by the roadside just after reaching Burnet Bay. The ditch on the landward side had a very cute young Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.

A few yards further along, I was surprised when an adult Great Blue Heron didn't fly off as I stopped beside it but rather stayed and let me take photos from just a few yards away.

Several Laughing Gulls were swirling around overhead and a juvenile came to check me out.

Burnet Bay was empty of birds but the newly-created wetland area on the edge of the bay was absolutely hopping with large waders. This area is so near the road that it makes a perfect place for viewing waders and watching how they interact with each other.

As one would expect there were Great Egrets stalking around in the shallow water, and flying overhead.

Snowy Egrets were even more numerous. Some were hanging out alone or with others of their species.

Several were happily fishing alongside half-a-dozen Roseate Spoonbills. 

It's easy to see how Spoonbills get their name.

Of course, when the birds are grazing, their bills aren't visible.

A Tricolored Heron (below) was also moving about near the Spoonbills, while a second Great Blue Heron and an adult White Ibis (below) seemed to prefer to keep to themselves.

After this, I drove to the parking area near the gazebo mound and walked along to Wooster Point. I was hoping that the pools by the trail would produce a selection of migrating shorebirds but this wasn't to be. The only shorebirds that I came across were a couple of Willets (below) and a couple of Black-necked Stilts.

I'm very fond of Black-necked Stilts and have been ever since I saw my first ones, back in the early 1990s on Kauai. So I couldn't resist stopping to take a few photos.

I decided to complete my trip by walking down to the new wetland area next to Scott Bay and by exploring the Heron Haven pond, a part of the Baytown site that I haven't checked out for years. As you will see in my next blog post, this area turned out to be the most productive part of my visit.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Last Week in Our Area

Fall migration may be here but, if so, I'm not seeing too many signs of it.

A few - but only a few - migrants turned up during the Saturday (Sept. 6) bird-walk at Kleb Woods. I missed getting photos of a Yellow Warbler but this Baltimore Oriole stopped to pose.

Three Eastern Wood-Pewees were presumably just passing through.

The best sighting of the day didn't involve migrants but some local residents. All of us were thrilled to see a family of three Pileated Woodpeckers pop up a couple of time during the walk.

The hummingbird feeders were drawing in plenty of birds. All the ones I saw were Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, like this female.

Back at home, our yards have been very quiet: We haven't been putting out much food, plus a Cooper's Hawk is hanging out in nearby trees. Early in the week a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (below) was defending our one hummer feeder from another male and a female. By the end of the week the males had disappeared and so females were able to feed.

If there weren't many signs of migration at Kleb, there were even fewer on the CyFair campus. The only migrant I spotted all week was a solitary Red-eyed Vireo.

There were quite a few of our normal residents around, though. The utility pylons on the north side of the campus seemed always to have at least one of our Red-tailed Hawks, while a Cooper's Hawk (below) also turned up a few times.

I don't think there was a single day that I arrived on campus without being greeted by a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret (below) or two.

Yesterday morning I went over to Baytown Nature Center in search of shorebirds. The latter were few and far between but there were plenty of other birds there. I'll post my pictures later this week.