Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Commonplace Rarities

One of the things I like most about backyard birding - aside from the obvious savings in gasoline - is that it turns otherwise mundane birds into exciting discoveries. Every addition to the yard list, however humble, is still a prize to be treasured. It may not have the prestige of finding a North American first on Attu, but for me the thrill is about the same.

Great-tailed Grackles are considered trash birds here in Texas, one of those species that you tend to ignore because there are bunches of them everywhere. Well, everywhere except my backyard. In the four years since I moved here only once have I seen one from my yard, and that was a brief view of a distant bird in flight. This is sort of odd, considering that they are dirt common less than a mile from my home. I guess suburban habitat isn't much to their liking. They seem to prefer gas stations and mall parking lots.

Cattle Egret is another ubiquitous roadside bird that I rarely see from my yard (two sightings in the last four years). Northern Flicker is a common winter visitor to Southeast Texas, but I've only seen flickers in our neighborhood twice, most recently earlier this week (Oct. 23rd). Sharp-shinned Hawk, Hermit Thrush, and Dark-eyed Junco are a few of the other "common" species that I've only had here on one or two occasions. Cooper's Hawk and Eurasian Collared-Dove are common enough nearby that I expect to get them eventually. Both are long overdue.

This afternoon I again wasted some time searching the yard for neotropical migrants. At least one Ruby-throated Hummingbird was still present, but returning winter birds have become more prominent lately. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Eastern Phoebes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-rumped Warblers are back in good numbers, and the sparrows can't be far behind.

Later I was in the kitchen with Michelle when she looked out the window and noticed a small brown bird hopping around in the bushes and grass. She asked me what it was, and I went to look, fully expecting it to be just another Carolina Wren. Was quite shocked when it turned out to be a House Wren, #120 for our yard list! Funny how my earlier searching produced nada, and Michelle just looks out the window and gets a new bird for the yard. Good spotting Michelle!


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