Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kids Gone Wild at Sabine Woods

Took the kids to Sabine Woods on Sunday.  I was worried that it would be buggy, because Sabine Woods is one of the buggiest places on earth, but it's early in the season and there was nary a mosquito to swat. May not have been buggy, but it certainly was birdy.  Saw a fly-away Solitary Sandpiper and 9 species of warblers, which is pretty good for March, and even better considering that I was keeping an eye on two mischievious children. Have to watch them like a hawk. They actually had a good time, and here is the photographic evidence:
Bryce is at that stage where he's lost his upper baby teeth and is still waiting on replacements. Lucy actually took an interest in the birds, but it was definitely playtime. Hopefully their antics didn't bother the other birders there too much. Here is the obligatory bird photo:
Got several "at least you can tell what it is" quality photos of this Northern Parula, which was serendipitous, because I'm presently working on a painting of one in a cypress swamp setting. If it comes out well I'll post it to the blog when it's done.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Anahuac N.W.R., 2/24/13

Took the kids to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge today.  Discovered that Lucy has very sharp eyes and an unusual talent for spotting alligators. Highlights included the lingering pair of Tundra Swans at Shoveler Pond, the brilliant male Vermilion Flycatcher that has been wintering near the refuge visitor center, and a Crested Caracara along FM 1985. This Red-tailed Hawk was photographed in the Wet Soil Unit.  It didn't fly when we rolled up beside it, and may have been ill or injured. Its plumage certainly didn't appear to be in the best condition.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday Morning at Pleasure Island

This morning I took the kids to Pleasure Island to look for the Pacific Loon that Gerald Duhon discovered yesterday along the North Levee. One of the first birds seen from the levee was this very approachable Osprey. Check out those savage talons!
Didn't have to go much further to find the Pacific Loon, which was staying close to shore in the company of a Common Loon. Got this photo of them together for direct comparison:

Pacific Loon, giving its wings a little stretch:
This Common Loon was swimming right alongside the road.
Afterward we went back to check out the awesome playground near the bridge. Bryce and Lucy particularly enjoyed the tire swing.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Birder's Playlist

For quite a while now I've been collecting songs about birds and birding to create a birder's playlist.  There are more good songs about birds than you might think - at present I have upwards of 150! Here's a current favorite of mine (and a hauntingly beautiful love song), "Stellar Jay's Wing" by Switchback:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter Hummingbirds

Last Saturday (Jan. 28)  Golden Triangle Audubon Society had a "mini field trip" to see winter hummingbirds at houses that are hosting them locally. We started at John and Jana Wittle's home in Nederland, where we saw Rufous, Broad-tailed, Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds. From there we drove to Harlan Stewart's house, where we got to see another Buff-bellied and 3 more Rufous. Steve Kuritz's place in Beaumont produced 3-4 more Rufous. The final stop was at my home near Lumberton, where we had 2 more Rufous and an unidentified Archilchus sp. Total hummingbird tally for the day was 18-21 individuals of 5 species. Not bad!!! And along the way we also saw a few other goodies, such as Merlin, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Pine Siskin. Here's a photo of one of our wintering Rufous Hummingbirds, taken yesterday from the kitchen window.
On January 21 I was off work, and visited the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary near Kountz. I was hoping for Henslow's Sparrow, but once again, no such luck. Thought I might also have a chance at Red Crossbill, but didn't get any of those either. Was surprised to find a Grasshopper Sparrow there - seemed a bit out-of-place in the pine savanna. Also scared up a few White-tailed Deer, including two bucks with magnificent racks of antlers. Brown-headed Nuthatches are common in the woods there, and a few came down from the treetops for a closer look at me, like this inquisitive little fellow.
Finally, here's a photo of one of the many Pine Siskins that have been hanging around our feeders lately.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Broad-tailed Hummingbird!

This morning I was taking flower pictures along our driveway - one of our azaleas has started to bloom a couple of months earlier than usual. It was drizzling and humid and about 70 degrees, which is more or less typical January weather in Southeast Texas. Heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch calling somewhere in a neighbor's yard. That's a bird we don't get here most winters. Went back into the house, and looking out the kitchen window I noticed a bird perched at one of our hummingbird feeders.  Turned out to be a Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Yee-haw!!!  In ten years of living here I've only had Broad-tailed once before (this month is the ten year anniversary of my move from California to Texas). Here are a couple of pictures of what is so far my best yard bird of 2013:

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year!

So the world didn't end in 2012.  Disappointed...again.  Ended the year with 402 species.  It's been a long time since I had a year list that topped 400. Didn't really spend much time birding, but a couple of trips to California and a few stops in Arizona helped raise the total.

It was an odd year.  Didn't get Great Horned Owl until December 30th.  Missed some "easy" birds like  American Bittern, Kentucky Warbler, and Lark Sparrow. Got some "hard" birds, like Yellow Rail, Swainson's Warbler, and Smith's Longspur.  No pelagics, unless you count Pigeon Guillemots seen from shore. The only screech-owl on my year list is Whiskered.  Heard but unseen birds included Elegant Trogon, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and Canyon Wren (the latter heard in three states!).

In June, on our way to California, we stopped in Mesa to visit friends of Michelle.  Water Ranch in Gilbert wasn't far from where we were staying, so I went there one morning to look for desert riparian birds.  Near the parking lot I saw a few Peach-faced Lovebirds. Didn't take much notice of them, since they fell into the category of uncountable exotics.  Figured they must be recent escapees.  A few months later I got a surprise when I received the November issue of Birding, and learned that Peach-faced Lovebird had been renamed Rosy-faced Lovebird, and had just been added to the ABA checklist.  The basis for its addition to the checklist was an increasing Arizona population centered in Phoenix and Mesa - a population that until then I didn't even know existed.  And on the cover of the magazine was a photo of a pair of Rosy-faced Lovebirds - a photo taken at Water Ranch in Gilbert, of all places.

Rained all last night, right through the fireworks, and hasn't stopped yet. Front lawn is flooded.  First bird of 2013 was a Carolina Chickadee that Lucy and I saw at our feeders this morning.  Then there was a Carolina Wren in our front yard. Our wintering Rufous Hummingbird made #3.  And so it begins...