Welcome to Bird of the Day!
Jun 27, 2010
One of the evenings I was there I headed out to Enchanted Rock State Park. This is located in a section of Texas called the Edwards Plateau, or "The Hill Country" in marketing terms. It is a beautiful section of Texas and the State Park itself is very nice. The main attraction for most visitors is the hike to the top of Enchanted Rock, 425 ft. in 0.6 miles, which is really only challenging if it is wet. The attractions for me, however, were the various birds flitting through the trees and shrubs around the creek at the base of the rock.
I first arrived after a brief rain and the park was still a bit wet. This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was one of the many birds eagerly trying to dry off.
As the name of the park suggests, you are constantly walking on either trail or some large rock as you make your way around the park. Some birds are doing the same. I found this Inca Dove and female Northern Cardinal going from rock to rock, as well.
Soon after, I heard a flutter in the tall grass just to my left. As I turned, a male Painted Bunting popped-up about ten feet away and at eye-level. Before I could take his picture he was gone, and it was getting dark. I snapped this picture of sunset over the park with the intent of returning early the next morning.
I arrived the next morning, early and dry. I missed almost the same photo opportunity with another Painted Bunting but was rewarded with good looks at Cassin's Sparrows and Bell's Vireos. The BOTD was this female Orchard Oriole. She flew into a tree to my left with another female and one male. Of the three, she was the the one who stuck around for a picture.
On my way out, this Lark Sparrow seemed to announce the exit of the only human in the park.
For more pictures of this birding trip click here.
Jun 25, 2010
Jun 23, 2010
The first place I visited was Hans Suter Wildlife Area. This was a beatiful place to bird and a great variety of bird species were present. Perhaps my favorite bird was also the BOTD from this area--The Black Skimmer. Here I managed to get a good picture of its typical feeding behavior.
Also of note that morning was this wonderful Wood Stork.
Unfortunately, he was a little far out for the lens, so the photo does not match how absolutely unique this bird is. To me, he is a cross between a Great Egret and a Turkey Vulture.
Also, rare for this time of year was this Ring-billed Gull.
Here he is seen with a crab in his mouth. Later, I came back to this spot and found this Tricolored Heron. I captured the following series of him catching and eating a fish. It reminded me of the snakes we kept as kids.
Mustang Island State Park
As you can tell from the new header photo, the view of the coast from Mustang Island State Park is beautiful. I was there on a Monday morning and I was the only person on the beach. The only other thing around was this group of gulls and terns. We stood for a few minutes, it seems, both enjoying the view.
This particular photo is of a Sandwich Tern and two Royal Terns. The key distinguishing fieldmark between the two being the beak color. In this next photo there is also a Caspian Tern.
Between the various locations I birded, I also saw Forster's Terns and Least Terns.
Packery Channel Park
Of all the places I went, Packery Channel was probably the least active with birds. Most likely, this was due to the boaters and fishermen in the water. But just across the road I was lucky to find this Osprey with a nice catch.
This next one is not a great photo, but it's a pretty good look at how these birds rotate the fish lengthwise in flight in order to decrease drag. You can see this alignment taking place as the Osprey is taking off.
The last place I visited was one of the more interesting. From the road it does not appear as a prime spot, but once I started the walk down the sandy road I was pleasantly surprised. The first bird I spotted was this Long-billed Curlew.
From the edge of the trail I was teated to the sights and sounds of Eastern Meadowlarks and this Horned Lark.
All in all, it was a great summer trip to the coast. I saw and photographed a great deal of birds, as well, that are not in this post. To see many more photos from this trip click here.
Jun 19, 2010
There were at least 10 American Robins (Turdus Migratorius)in juvenile plumage. Most were on the ground, but a few like this guy popped-up into the tree. Robins are thrushes and can often be identified by breast color and pattern. As adults, American Robins have the more familiar red breast, but in the juvenile stage have the spotted breasts as in the picture.
Another abundant bird yesterday was the State bird of Texas, the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus Polyglottos). Let's also go by numbers and call this the BOTD as I'm sure I saw at least 20 or more of these guys. The one pictured below, like the Robin, is marked as a juvenile by the spots on the chest.
Finally, a number of Lesser Goldfinches were also in the area. Many of these were in different stages of either molting or development. In previous posts I have pictured adult lesser Goldfinches and described the color variations between those in Texas and elsewhere. The following pictures show even more of the variation that can exist within this species depending on the day you see them.
Jun 13, 2010
The first bird I saw, or should I say heard, this morning was a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks. The first flushed pretty quickly as he saw me coming, but the second remained still and allowed me to fire off a couple shots. At the time, I chalked it up to the fact that he was a more mature bird and perhaps not quite as quick to abandon his post. When I got home and downloaded the picture, I noticed he was missing his left eye, which also could have been a factor. Definitely, he's had better days.
The last, new bird I saw of the day was also the BOTD. This Prothonotary Warbler crossed the river, bounced around the foliage, and finally appeared as I was walking back up the trail to my car. Definitely, she's had better hair days.
Other than the hawk, the Prothonotary Warbler, and a first-year male Summer Tanager, other birds were out and looking their best. This was one of a number of Eastern Bluebirds out this morning. I cranked up the exposure a tad to make him stand out.
Also out in good numbers were Eastern Kingbirds and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
All in all, a Better Day (than I expected).
Jun 12, 2010
Jun 11, 2010
Early in the morning I was lucky enough to see this Painted Bunting. He soon saw me too and took off, but I figured if I was patient he might come back. Sure enough, he returned, and this time he hung around just long enough for me to change the settings on the camera. Here is the resulting picture.
He was cooperative, but not enough for a third exposure. A little later I came across this Carolina Wren singing from a nearby branch. I have found these wrens to be real show-offs and willing to repeat their calls for quite sometime before they will fly away. As you can tell from the following photo he sat for the full three frames.
Jun 9, 2010
I am writing today, June 9th, about yesterday's BOTD, which was actually first spotted Sunday, June 6th, but was not eager to have its picture taken. Frustrated yet? So I had seen the bird, but had no picture. Intent on getting the photo, I went out in the very early hours on Tuesday to my usual spot. Unfortunately, the wonderful folks at the County Parks and Recreation did not receive my telepathic message to get to work on time. So when I arrived, the parking lot to the access point was still blocked. Oh well, TGFLB. Assuming, it would be a waste of a trip I set out in the heat and humidity to recheck the spot. As luck would have it, one BOTD was still there and the energy sapping climate made him more cooperative.
The Chuck-Will's-Widow gets its name from the sound it repeats over and over again at night. Austin is on the southwest end of its summer range. These Nightjars are odd birds. They are active at night and roost on the ground during the day. This is also where they lay their eggs and do not build nests. When flushed they fly lamely away and take the position seen in this photo. It is so awkward, it makes you take pity on them. I snapped a few pictures and moved on. Lunch-break over.
When I got home from work in the evening I found these gals enjoying a bath. Perhaps they didn't get the weather report of the 2+" of rain that was about to fall in just a few hours.
I took this photo by a method called digiscoping. For those that don't know, that is the process of taking a picture using your spotting scope as the lens. There are a variety of ways to do this from using your phone's camera to buying a special connector. These female Lesser Goldfinches are year-round resident here. The males have a black back in Texas.
Jun 7, 2010
I was walking over a small creak in a city park today where a concrete bottom had been poured to create a small drop-off. Clinging to the incline was this horrible creature.
In some ways a crawfish (basically a freshwater lobster) is pretty tough: it can cling to the side of a rock with water rushing over it for hours and it has a wicked exoskeleton. On the other hand, in a moment it can be plucked from the water and eaten by a Great Blue Heron (or someone from Louisiana).
Likewise, this Fiery Skipper butterfly can fly with more agility than modern jet planes but just as easily be plucked from midair by a passing bird. Grass Skippers can be identified by the big black eyeballs position of wings at rest (Back and up like a jet).
So next time the going gets tough I'm going to try and remember, that the possibility of something 20-times my size reaching down and eating me is pretty slim. And hopefully that will provide some comfort.
Jun 5, 2010
Under an overpass near the same spot I noticed that an Eastern Phoebe nest, which had been "knocked down" a few days before, was back up. Two phoebes as usual were perched on the fence just outside the overpass.
As activity settled down, I decided to walk across the park to small meadow on the other side. On one side there were a few trees with a good amount of shrubs grown up around the base--ideal habitat for some good birds. I did not have to get that close before I could hear the vireos and see the buntings.
Among the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Painted Buntings, and Carolina Chickadees sharing this spot, I could hear a call that was distinctive among them and different from the White-eyed Vireos I heard earlier in the morning. Soon, from relatively deep in the foliage, I spotted the BOTD--this Bell's Vireo. Sorry for the poor photo, but it never did feel comfortable coming farther out.
I hung around for another 30 minutes hoping for a better shot. I even tried the old "look away and pretend I don't care" technique, but had no luck.
Jun 3, 2010
As a kid, I can remember my parents and their friends gathering at a house to see the photos of a trip. My parents' Ireland vacation comes to mind. The carousel was loaded and coffee was served. (Lengthy) conversation took place at every slide. Today, photos are collected on Flickr, Picasa, etc., and "friends" are invited to look at them. Conversations are "comments", usually brief and cliched.
Now don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of Flickr. Heck, there is a link to it at the left of this blog post. But as much as I want to take the picture, I want to talk to somebody about it. And for every excellent picture I see, I want to ask the photographer a hundred questions. Truth be told, I also want a cup of coffee.
If I go out and take some photos, if I wanted--with the technology at my touch today--I could have them downloaded and in a slide show in 30 minutes. I could project them onto a 26" monitor, zoom in, and even show them to you in black and white. The coffee, however, is still going to take 15 minutes to brew.
So, by all means, share and store you pictures online with friends far away, but don't forget the good, old, healthy slide show. Oh yeah, and if you want me awake, I'll need the coffee.
Jun 1, 2010
As I pulled into the parking lot at the first spot, a beautiful male Lesser Goldfinch alit on a large wildflower 20ft. from my truck. Lesson learned: assemble your camera before you leave the house! Oh well, I was mainly there to look for the Golden-cheeked Warbler. After hiking the 1.5 mile trail I was able to get brief looks at three, and one picture of tail feathers exiting the top of the frame. Close by there was a Lark Sparrow and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow on a power line. As I was driving away, a Greater Roadrunner crossed the gravel road. I don't believe this carries the same significance as a black cat.
From the first location I took a scenic road that follows a creek and headed toward my next stop. Along the way, I noticed a number of birds in the trees next to the creek and what seemed like hundreds of furry caterpillars crossing the road. Toward the end of the road, I also saw my BOTD--this relatively cooperative Painted Bunting. Fortunately no one was behind me as I stopped the truck in the middle of the road to takes some pictures.
At the next stop, I was looking particularly for the Black-capped Vireo. After a very quiet 30 minutes, and the sun and temperature rising, I abandoned the attempt in hopes of finding some other summer residents at my third location. It turned out to still be surprisingly active at 11:00 in the morning. Just off the parking lot Lark Sparrows were using the paved walkway and hummingbirds were visiting the flowers. On the closest trail, this Ash-throated Flycatcher was perched nicely on a open branch.
As I slowly made my way back to the car, a group of wrens, a Summer Tanager, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo also made brief appearances. The drive home, of course, seemed twice as long as the one going out there (why does it always seem that way?), but I made it home just in time for lunch.