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)

Jun 28, 2011

On the Road

It seems as though my blog entries have become longer yet less frequent. This makes sense as I think I am birding less often on quick trips around my house. The same holds true this time and I apologize ahead of time for its length.

This past weekend we were visiting family in Houston and decided to leave a few days early to take the kids to the beach in Galveston and the Houston Space Center. During contract negotiations about itinerary I managed to preserve one morning of birding. Friday morning (my favorite time to bird by the way) I headed out early knowing I only had a few hours. I grabbed a quick Texas-shaped waffle, yogurt, and coffee from the hotel lobby just as it opened and headed for the car. I pulled out of the parking lot to this sunrise.

Sunrise in Galveston

Not sure what the saying is but I'm going with "Red sky at night, birder's delight." My plan was to hit about four spots on the Upper Texas Coat (UTC) Birding Trail that were on the island within ten or so miles from the hotel. The first stop, toward the city, held twice as many transients as birds (2 homeless men - 1 pelican). Without getting out of the car, I quickly moved on to my next spot which was scheduled to be a location on the bay between the airport and Moody Gardens. Unable to find it and losing valuable time, however, I kept traveling West on the island on a commercial street through the center of town. As business became fewer and father in between, I began to notice a few more birds but at this point I was worried that it was going to prove to be a very uneventful day of birding. Not long after, however, a large Crested Caracara took off from some tall grass in an open field to my right. As I pulled over he alit on a telephone pole granting me a few nice pictures.

Crested Caracara

With my hope restored I continued on the road until the turn off to my next stop, a section of agricultural fields and marshes stretching out toward the bay. Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls continued to fly overhead and a few Eastern Meadowlarks briefly popped up on to grass stalks and fence posts. On of the more common birds that day, Willets crossed to road and called down to youngsters from telephone poles.



As I continued down the road the tall grass on both sides of the road were dotted with various egrets and herons. As I past one turn in the road I came across a small pond that almost abutted the pavement. To my surprise nearly every type of wading bird I could have expected to see was sharing the water. I rolled the car to a stop, rolled down the windows, and shut off the engine. The 50 or so birds for the most part ignored me. For half an hour I was able to watch and listen as the birds ate, bathed, and communicated with each other, each in their own evolved way.

A Roseate Spoonbill made its way through the shallower parts moving its large bill from side to side.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Undeterred as he was forced to move around a Great Egret.

Roseate Spoonbill

A Reddish Egret pranced through the water in its unique feeding dance.

Reddish Egret

Its shaggy neck feathers fluffing up as other birds approached his space.

Reddish Egret

Eventually, the spoonbill flew away and I decided to move on to see what else I could find in the time I had left that morning. On the road back I finally stopped to take a picture of one of the hundreds of White Ibises I had seen that day.

White Ibis

In the next field over a Cattle Egret shared a pasture with a grazing cow.

Cattle Egret

At the entrance to a nature preserve a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes were perched on the rail to the boardwalk. I saw quite a number of these birds that morning which was great because I had seen only one around Austin in the last year.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike 1

By this time, I needed to return to the hotel. After picking up the family, I wanted to drive back by the pond to see if the kids could see all the different types of large wading birds. Unfortunately, fishermen had come and the birds had scattered. We drove a little further down to where the road ended at the bay and the kids got out of the car to stretch before the drive back to Houston. In the five minutes we were standing on the rocks looking out at the bay I saw two birds I missed in the morning.

First, a Magnificent Frigatebird flew overhead.

Magnificent Frigatebird

And as we got back into the car I noticed the distinct orange bill of an American Oystercatcher in the grass to my right.

American Oystercatcher

Jun 6, 2011

Warming up...

Here in Central Texas we have reached high temperatures earlier than even usual. We were well into the 90's in early may and I believe hit the century mark right around June 1st. It is already too hot to do most things outside after eleven and it is not even officially summer.

Anyway, early mornings tend to be OK and that is when you want to go birding anyway. As I had my daughter's dance recital early in the afternoon and still had quite a few things to do I decided I would stay close to home and limit myself to a hour or so.

It turns out this was more than enough time as nothing was really out, and all the usual species made themselves known early and often. Near the pedestrian bridge where I planned to turn around, however, I got a great look at a Downy Woodpecker and two very patient Inca Doves. Unfortunately, the doves were perched on top of a gigantic metal hand rail which look terrible in photos. I am always shocked at how much smaller they look than the more common White-wing and Mourning doves, although you probably can't tell from the picture below.

Inca Dove