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)

Jan 29, 2012

Old Stomping Grounds

Have you ever experienced the situation where after you buy something you start to notice the same thing everywhere around you? Suddenly, everybody seems to be driving the same car as you. The song you just learned the name to is now on the radio all the time. I'm sure there is a scientific explanation for this, and I am hoping so, because it will also explain how the same thing happens when birding. Once you find a bird in a location, you almost always see it there again and with even greater ease (rarities excluded of course).

When I first moved to the Austin area 2-3 years ago I found Cypress Creek park just about two miles from my house. This is an LCRA/county park that is on the tip of a small finger of the very east end of Lake Travis. On one side there is an entrance with a fee station and a boat ramp. On the other side you can park on the free side where people can fish when the water level is high enough. Early in the morning in January, it is usually empty. Two winters ago, I would come there often looking for sparrows and especially Spotted Towhees. The first winter I didn't see one the first few times I went looking there. Finally, towards the end of the season, I had one pretty much land in my lap. The next time I went back, sure enough, I saw one within thirty minutes. I went back a couple times in the summer--for different birds like the Summer Tanager and Yellow-billed Cuckoo--but I haven't really been back to Cypress Creek park since.

Over the last two or so years I have seen a bunch of towhees in areas scattered in almost every direction outside of Austin. This morning, with an outing planned for the Chinese New Year celebration across town, I figured a short birding trip was in order. Sure enough, Cypress Creek park was cool, sunny, empty, and full of Spotted Towhees! (Also, probably the largest collection of American Robins in a general area that I have experienced.)

Owl House

Jan 22, 2012

A New Challenge

These pictures aren't the greatest but under the conditions aren't bad either. The Nikon d90 I have let's me use just about every lens in auto focus and the program mode, which comes in handy when taking pictures of small, active birds like the Yellow-rumped Warbler. The problem is, without a pretty significant size telephoto lens, I have been experimenting with a digiscoping process of attaching my d90 to my 60X power scope. With a tripod it is easy enough to shoot slower moving ducks, waders, etc., at least once you have the knowledge to manually adjust shutter speed and aperture. Focusing, however, is a different challenge. Other than only being able to use manual focus, you also have to finely focus through a much larger range as the scope is set in the 60X setting. Furthermore, as you are forced to use a tripod, panning and searching for birds becomes a frustrating chore; you are really forced to pick a spot and wait. The great positive to this style of birding is that you can more easily enjoy a cup of coffee while you wait for birds to appear.