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)

Dec 27, 2010

On the Island

For a change this Winter we headed south to Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. Usually hurricanes come from the other direction but in this case it arrived from the north in a minivan and a full-sized truck. Although the main purpose was to celebrate Christmas with the family and get the kids to the beach, but a tertiary objective was to do a little birding. Christmas Eve morning we went to Charlie's Pasture and the day after Christmas we went to the Leona Turnbull Birding Center. We also saw quite a few birds all along the island.

Most noticeably, the gulls and terns plumage around the head had drastically changed (see the posts from this summer) and made identifying species a little more difficult. I also had not had a lot of time recently to study the field guides and brush up on key field marks. This picture below is of a "winterized" Laughing Gull. In Summer their head would be almost completely black.

laughing gull

Another gull in varying plumage was this young Herring Gull.

young herring gull

Here's a picture of an adult version in winter next to a Brown Pelican. It might not look like it next to the pelican but the Herring is one of the bigger gull species.

bown pelican and herring gull

Many of the other birds had also broke out their winter clothes, and for the last few days we were there they needed it as the temperature dropped into the 40's with 30 mph winds. In the picture below is a Black-bellied Plover. In breeding season the adults of this species look much more like their names would suggest.

black-bellied plover

The breeding vs. nonbreeding plumage on the Willet (below) is not as drastically different, other than the former will have more markings and be more buffy in color.


The Sanderling below, of which there were quite a few along the beach, would show more rufous color around he head, neck, and breast in the Spring and Summer. You would most likely only see this in Canada or much further north.


At the Birding Center and Hans-Suter park I also saw a few birds away from the water. I particularly like this Orange-crowned Warbler in mid leap and the White-tailed Hawk on a power line.

orange-crowned warbler mid-jump

white-tailed hawk

Dec 19, 2010

Back to the Same Spot

Another chilly morning (for Central Texas) and I went back to the same field a few miles from my house to find another type of sparrow and maybe a towhee. Although the Towhee could not be coaxed out--I do believe I heard it though--I was able to get a nice picture of this Field Sparrow. These guys are often told apart from other sparrows by their pink beaks, eye-rings, and baby-faces. I thing many of the smaller birds have this last trait though.

Field Sparrow

Dec 14, 2010

Hidden Crowns

The last tow days I have been attending a conference for work on the east side of town, which gives me the opportunity to run over to Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory during lunch. A pretty good deal if you don't mind eating with the flies or among the smell of a waste-water treatment facility. This area is bordered on the south by the Colorado river and goes through a section of woods and different levels and sizes of ponds before ending up in fields on the northern side. So on any given day you can see a large number and variety of bird species. Unfortunately, in the hour or so I had for lunch I could not cover each area, but still managed to see a quite a few cool birds. Perhaps the best bird I saw was one I could not get a picture of--the Common Snipe. I also saw Red-tailed Hawks to Meadowlarks, neither of which wanted their photo taken.

On the ponds I did see this Spotted Sandpiper and this male Northern Pintail.

spotted sandpiper

northern pintail

As you can tell, by the time I got out of the car and took the photo of the pintail he was well into his retreat posture and I did not have time to pretend to be aloof in order to get a better shot.

On the road leading around the ponds there were as usual a bunch of American Pipits wagging their tails up and down. I particularly like this little guy's shadow.

american pipit

Finally, as I drove down the dirt road between the southern most pond and the woods, I saw both a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and an Orange-crowned Warbler. Interestingly enough, both of these birds rarely exhibit the field marks for which they are named. The kinglets are fun because of their un-bird-like bravado in the face of strange men with cameras.

ruby-crowned kinglet

orange-crowned warbler

Dec 11, 2010


This morning I went back to the same place I went last week looking for more sparrows. Interestingly, where Song Sparrows seemed to dominate the landscape a week ago, today it was the Lincoln's Sparrow. In the bush I chose to focus on there were at least 10 and I was able to capture the following shots.

lincoln's sparrow

lincoln's sparrow

AS sparrows can tend to look very similar, what I find diagnostic about these guys is the finer streaks in the chest with a buffy color between them. If you look at the pictures of the Song Sparrow from the last post you can see the difference.

While I was studying the bush I heard the distinctive song of a White-throated Sparrow. Jumping from Lincoln's Sparrow to Lincoln's Sparrow I was lucky to land on him before he disappeared. This is one of my favorite birds.

white-throated sparrow

On my way back to the truck I also came across a small flock of Chipping Sparrows and quite a few Northern Cardinals. This female posed for me, which has not happened lately with this type of bird.

female cardinal