Bella Vista Creek

Welcome to Bird of the Day!

You might notice some recent changes to the blog. For one, the banner image above has changed from Mustang Island on the Gulf coast to a picture of a local birding spot near my house. Likewise, I plan to focus many of the upcoming posts on birding that area. On the right hand side of the page you will also see the addition of a new gadget that lists what birds have been seen in that area in the last 30 days. Further below, there is a link to ebird for more historic information about the birds seen at Bella Vista Creek. Feel free and contact me on the blog about what you think. Click on images to enlarge. (All photos by gbmcclure)

Jul 31, 2010

Group Gathering

Friday night, we headed down to Highland mall to get a look at the estimated 300,000-500,000 Purple Martins that have gathered together before they will migrate south for the winter.

We got there around 8:00 pm and watched for a good 45 minutes as the enormous flocks of these birds circled in layers over our heads. I was surprised to see around 100 people also gathered in the parking lot to witness the event. At about 8:45 the sky cleared in what seemed like just a minute. I took this picture and there are more, including a video, at the More Photos link to the right. At one point a group of about 8 egrets flew through the mob (of birds).

PUMAs late

Jul 24, 2010

That's Incredible!

For those that don't know/remember, That's Incredible was a show from the early 80's that features people demonstrating crazy stunts. It was hosted by Fran Tarkenton. Who? Fran Tarkenton was the Brett Favre 30 years ago; he was the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.

To make a long story short, I thought of that expression today as I was watching and listening to the BOTD. I went out this morning with the intent of taking a photograph of this bird and was not disappointed. As a treat, it was also in the open and very cooperative--allowing me to sit on a nearby picnic table and observe for a good 10 minutes.

pileated woodpecker

This is definitely the longest and best look I've had of a Pileated Woodpecker. I think they are also my favorite bird. The rest of the morning also proved interesting as the large spiders were present again.

orb weaver

I've also noticed that these spiders come in pairs, but on different webs which are separated by about five feet.

In a field off the highway, early in the morning, there was also nearly 20 Cattle Egrets keeping company with the resident cattle. I took this picture of two of them next to what looks like a very healthy cow. These egrets are typically around 20" tall to give you an idea of the scale of size.

cattle, egrets

Jul 22, 2010

Just out of Reach

My birding day today could best be described by those words: Just out of Reach. It seemed as though every corner I cam around a Painting Bunting was singing from a treetop just out of the reach of my lens. Nevertheless, it was still fun to hear and WATCH them sing, as they staggered their songs in between those of the Northern Cardinals on either end.

Thankfully, I was just out of reach of the numerous large spiders enjoying the morning sun. I was so intent on looking for birds I almost walked into this guy.

banded argiope

This Banded Argiope is actually harmless, although at nearly 6" across it is still intimidating at first. They are in the Orb Weave family of spiders known for their intricate webs.

The birding was mostly less exciting than the insects, with the exception of the six wild turkeys I flushed in the early morning and the BOTD below.

Louisiana Waterthrush 3

Unfortunately, as I came around a bend in the creek this Louisiana Waterthrush flushed up into the tree between me and the sun. I grabbed a quick photo with hopes of backtracking for a shot in better lighting but he was not to be found again.

Jul 16, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

For this part of Texas, early July is the probably the low point for birding. I should look back at earlier posts because I have a feeling I said the same thing about June. I anticipate a similar August. Nevertheless, up to this point I've never seen nothing.

I decreased my chances of seeing anything unusual Tuesday by refusing to travel more than about 10 miles, in order to have time to fit in some skateboarding before the heat became unbearable. The first thing that struck me was the large number of Killdeer that had gathered at this city park. I easily saw between 15-20 Killdeer speed-walking across the soccer and baseball fields.

Second, although I see turtles here always, I rarely see them past the water's edge. This Red Eared Slider was on the walking path through the park. As I got close to him he went into his shell, and after I passed by he came out and "took off" in the other direction.

Red-eared Slider

I imagine this is the view the hare had at the end of the race.

As I walked back to the car two American Crows flew into the cedar trees to my right. I took this relatively poor picture of one of them.

American Crow

Though it is not a very good picture, its content is one that I've been looking for and with some editing will be turned into a very different piece of art.

Jul 9, 2010

Nocturnal vs. Insomnia

One of the benefits, if there is one, to not being able to sleep is that you are up and ready to bird even on days you didn't plan on going. Since I was awake at the hour most young women are finally leaving the party at Snoop Dog's house, and there was finally a break in the rain, I decided to head out. I definitely did not want to go far, as rain was forecast again for mid-morning.

As is typical for a central Texas summer day in a relatively urban setting, most of the usual birds were out. I did expect to find more, however, as tropical storms to the south had been creating interesting weather. And like a said we were experiencing a brief dry morning. On the lake I did spot one Great Egret and a couple Great Blue Herons. In addition, there were easily five Green Herons along one side of the lake. I got this shot as it flew right by me.

green heron

I was heading back thinking which common bird was going to be the BOTD when I just happened to look up at the right spot into a large Live Oak and see this guy.

great horned owl 2

I cannot say for sure, but I believe this Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is the same one I have seen at this location twice previously. The other two times he was easier to spot as he was being harassed by a crow.

Jul 6, 2010

The Circle of Life

Last week was a tough one, as my beloved St. Bernard, Dylan, passed away. She was 12-years-old and lived a great life filled with love, dog biscuits, and walks. Here is a photo of her distinctive howl. She will be greatly missed.

Dylan in Albuquerque

In order to distract myself, I busied myself in the garage with the cleaning and reorganizing task I had been putting off for months. While I was outside, my neighbors called me over to help them with some baby birds that were lying in the grass of their front yard. At first I noticed two, very young birds lying in the grass. Looking up in the tree I saw the nest had come loose from its perch and was dangling. Inside two more birds were clinging to it for dear life. Buzzing about the tree, obviously upset were mother and father Northern Cardinals. After order was restored, somewhat, I snapped this photo of the babies.

baby cardinals ready for food

While nothing can replace the ones we lose, the world does continue to turn, and new life is created each minute.