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 14, 2012

Patience is a Virtue...

For those of you that use eBird, you already know what an incredible resource it can be for birders. If you have never used it, there is a link on the right side of this page that will take you there. In fact, many of the gadgets that list sightings on this page are using eBird data. Birders can use this site to look up what birds they might see at different locations at different times. The data is there because birders enter in details of species seen when they are out in the field. There is so much data provided by this site that almost every time I log in I find something new and interesting. The following link will take you to a chart describing when and where the first of each species was spotted in Travis county for this year. Travis County Arrivals Looking at this data, you'll see that the first Golden-cheeked Warbler was spotted in Travis Co. on March, 6th. Along Bella Vista creek I expected to see one perhaps as early as April; knowing the habitat was good for this endangered species which spend their Summer here in Central Texas along hillsides with a mix of Ashe Juniper and Oak. I had been keeping a look out each time I birded the area hoping to see my first in this location. As the days have been getting hotter, I have been out less. Having just a few minutes this morning on my way to work, I decided to stop by and try my luck. Sure enough one Golden-cheeked Warbler diligently made its way through a clump of trees, rewarding my patience.

Jun 13, 2012

Summer Sparrows

For the most part, I think of sparrows as being Winter birds in central Texas. From late Fall through early Spring it is possible, if not easy to find seven species in a day. On a good day, one might see 10 or more. During the summer the number of Sparrows available decreases. Lark Sparrows are fairly common, and of course House Sparrows are always around. But there are a couple other year-round Emberizidae to be found during the dog days of birding if you are lucky. The Rufous-crowned Sparrow is one of these, though I do not seem to encounter them that often. This morning, I was lucky to find this one singing near by. Rufous-crowned sparrow at The Creek By Bella Vista by Gideon McClure

Jun 7, 2012

The Right Tools

There's a truism that states something to the effect that part of doing something well requires having the right tools. In regards to birding, quality binoculars is a must. For the past few weeks, I have also been trying to focus my efforts on recording bird songs and calls. This requires not only the right recording equipment but also knowledge of technology in order to share it with the public through this blog. From learning code to having the right software, it has been a real trial and error process--sometimes frustrating and sometimes rewarding. You can see the evolution through the last five posts or so. In this post I am going to try a new way of embedding the sound clip, and if things go as planned I hope it will be the final solution. Let me know what has worked for you. Below is a clip from an apartment parking lot in an urban setting. One bonus to this, city birds like their environment are noisy, so the sound should be strong. City birds at La Taza Coffee Shop by Gideon McClure

Jun 5, 2012

Bird Talk

I could probably count on two hands the times I was really close to a bird. A couple years ago a Great Blue Heron let me get to within about 5 feet. I was able to take this photo--even though he had moved away a little by then--with a 60mm macro lens that I had on the camera to shoot butterflies. great blue heron with macro lens Earlier in May of this year, I had a close encounter with a Chestnut-sided Warbler. He was confident enough to come within a foot of my outstretched hand while foraging in the low hanging branches. But while these instances can be exhilarating, (what I've heard said, "moments that make birders out of non-birders"), they are hardly the norm. Most of the time it feels that birds operate at the edge of a frustrating perimeter where you are just able to get a brief look or catch a clear field mark. When one sits in the open for just a second or two, we say we got a "good look!" I imagine that our brain often fills in what we don't actually clearly see when we spot a bird. In the initial flash, we get a good deal of information about relative size, shape, color and maybe a field mark. Then, based on knowledge from reading field guides, listening to more experienced birders, etc., our brain adds detail and tells us what we saw (or at least what we think we saw). This theory is similar to how we process language. Experienced listeners hear about every 3 words that are spoken but are able to use context and history to fill in the gaps. This is why people speaking other languages appear to be speaking at such a fast rate. But is this unique to the spoken word? Once I heard an interview with a music historian talking about the intricacy of the music of Miles Davis. Miles Davis (from Legacy Recordings on flickr) He demonstrated this complexity by slowing down the music and playing much smaller segments of the songs within the songs, and the notes we do not even hear him playing. Instead, what we hear when we listen is the big picture of the song. Is our brain able to fill in notes even if we don't play music? My guess is yes. I imagine we do the same when we listen to birds singing. At first, we hardly notice the different "languages" being spoken around us. Maybe one day, we start to listen but think how impossible it would be to learn. Eventually, with lots of practice we get good enough to recognize maybe a hundred words (though good luck ever trying to speak it). Of course by this point I am completely off from where I started and where I intended to go with this post. Originally, I wanted to share a sound recording from this past weekend. There are a number of different sounds going on in this clip, but I wanted to point out two in particular. Two species of songbirds, the Carolina Chickadee and the Painted Bunting, are producing calls. Listen to the short clip below. (I tried new software which attached a second-long clip over it, but just try to ignore it.) You may or may not be able to pick them out depending on your knowledge of these birds. If you can't, try thinking of the calls described as phonetic text: the almost repeated "Chicka-dee-dee-dee" and for the Painted Bunting, a consistent but less frequent "tsick". Were you able to hear each one?