Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sheldon Lake

Sunday morning I was out bright and early on my way to Sheldon Lake, which has now become a state park. The site has a new entrance road, which runs south from Garrett Road a mile or so east of Beltway 8.

Last time I visited, the field by the entrance road had scores of White Ibis and Little Blue Herons. This time there was just a solitary Northern Mockingbird around.

One of the ponds further along the road had a Yellowlegs and a Snowy Egret (below).

This bird was not doing the usual Snowy Egret routine of dashing around in the water so that its yellow feet would stir up prey. Instead it would dip one foot daintily into the water and gently draw circles with it.

The ecology ponds were largely overgrown and, while beautiful, had few birds. 

A Belted Kingfisher at one pond flew off before I could raise my camera. A Great Egret was more cooperative, perching proudly on top of a snag.

I watched for several minutes as an adult Little Blue Heron crept across the lilypads as it hunted for its breakfast.


I made a quick trip to the top of the 3-story observation tower. (It was quick because the elevator was working!) From the top platform you get great views over the lake.



Back on the ground, I got into the car and drove over to boat ramp near the end of Pineland Road.

A walk along the edge of the lake turned up hundreds of dragonflies.

Gulf Fritillary and Common Buckeye butterflies were plentiful also.

At the fishing jetty, I was able to watch several Common Gallinules and two Pied-billed Grebes (below).  

Some juvenile Neotropic Cormorants were fishing nearby. (I could tell they were Neotropic rather than Double-crested because their lores were dark rather than orange.)

 Across the water, an Anhinga was drying off its wings while a few yards away, a Little Blue Heron was preening. I felt privileged to get to share part of the morning with them


Friday, October 16, 2015

Breakfast Birding

When I'm at work, I usually carry a camera when walking between buildings and to or from my car. I know that if I don't, I'll invariably run across an interesting bird - or maybe an ordinary bird doing something interesting.

Yesterday I was heading to my office from the staff parking area when I noticed a Northern Mockingbird on the ground. (We have a zillion Mockingbirds on campus.) It had just caught a bug and was whacking it on the ground to kill it. I was too slow to catch that action but I did get the rest of the sequence.


Open wide.

All gone.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Birding near Home

This weekend I had only a couple of hours free for birding and so I spent the time checking out three sites in our neighborhood.

The first place I visited was the Little Cypress Creek Preserve on Telge Road. I was hoping for migrating birds but, unfortunately, all I saw were residents, like this Red-bellied Woodpecker.

As I was leaving, I noticed a movement in a nearby tree. One of the resident Red-shouldered Hawks.

I managed to approach the tree from a different angle to get a slightly better look.

Next up was a walk around the Longwood retention pond on Hufmeister Road. My main aim was to see if I could spot one of the Bald Eagles that nest there each winter.

One of the eagles was present way over on the far side of the pond.

There were other raptors, though.

A Red-shouldered Hawk perched for a while.

Several Broad-winged Hawks (my first of 2015) circled overhead.

They were joined by a couple of Turkey Vultures.

Far back near the road, a Red-tailed Hawk posed on a utility pole.

A Great Egret was enjoying the morning sun from the top of a tree.

Down near the water's edge a Tricolored Heron was hanging out with a Snowy Egret.

The mud flats had attracted a bunch of Killdeer as well as a Solitary Sandpiper (below).

Out on the water, eight Pied-billed Grebes were cruising around with half-a-dozen American Coots. They all fled as I approached!

My final birds were several Northern Mockingbirds.

One of these was lacking most of the top section of its beak. It was still singing away, though.

On my way home I made a brief stop at our small neighborhood pond, where I found a Green Heron preening in the morning sunlight.

It was totally unconcerned by my presence and even let me take this head shot.

Not a bad bird with which to end my mini birding trip!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Few Signs of Migration

The past ten days have brought few signs of fall migration in our yards or on the CyFair campus. Two walks at Kleb Woods didn't produce a lot of interesting birds either.

On my first visit to Kleb the site was comparatively quiet. Lots of resident birds appeared but other sightings were limited to a Brown Thrasher and a Great-crested Flycatcher.

My second visit was to take part in last Saturday's bird walk. This produced many more birds, although most were well out of camera range.

One of the ponds had a Snowy Egret (below) as well as four Little Blue Herons, a Tricolored Heron, a Least Sandpiper and two Solitary Sandpipers.

While the area near the visitor center had Indigo Buntings and Scaly-breasted Munias, the trail north of Draper Road was the most productive part of the site, with Eastern Bluebirds (below), both species of Vulture, House Wrens, American Crows, Red-tailed Hawks (below) and my first-of-2015 Brown-headed Nuthatch. 

In the field beside the trail, it seemed that every cow was  accompanied by a group of Cattle Egrets.

In Our Yards
Back at home several Monarch caterpillars have appeared on our milkweeds.

Unfortunately, most of them disappear within a day or two, presumably eaten by birds or other predators.

Our feeders have continued to attract a large number of our resident birds as well as numerous squirrels. They occasionally attract other animals too.

I'm now looking forward to the arrival of our winter residents. I'm not sure which will be the first to arrive but I suspect that it will be Orange-crowned Warblers. Let's see if I'm right.