Monday, April 30, 2012

Today's Bird: Scissor-Tail Flycatcher

Happy Monday! Today's bird is the scissor-tailed flycatcher.  They live all over Texas and through some of Oklahoma.  I see these guys all the time on the highway, sitting on power lines or fence posts.  When bugs come, they flick up into the air and snag them, using that giant tail (which splits into a scissor shape) to steer.  Although I've had this bird on my list for years, this is the first high-quality picture I got.  I took this photo outside the gates of Estero Llano Grande State Park on March 31, 2012.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Today's Bird: The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Hurray for the Pygmy Owl!  Here he is, all 7 inches of him.

The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl is a resident of South Texas, but people don't see them often.  There was a flood a few years back at one of their traditional nesting sites and since then, they've been extremely tough to find.  To see this one, I went on a tour of the King Ranch in Kingsville.  The tour went down to the Norias division, which is in the southern part of the ranch land, about an hour and fifteen minutes from my house.  We got in around 7 am and our guide Jim played some tapes of the owl to draw it out.  Sure enough, he popped out of the brush onto this tree, ready to be documented by six enthusiastic birders.  Fun Pygmy Owl Fact: They have false eyes on the back of their heads.  Predators don't know when they're not looking.  When they look sideways, they kind of look like Voldemort from the end of the first Harry Potter when he's connected to Professor Quirrel's head...and even though this picture is a little blurry, I think it's worth it:

Happy Birding!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Today's Bird: Ruddy Duck

Today's bird is the Ruddy Duck!  The Ruddy Duck, is to date, my favorite duck I've seen.  They're diving ducks with a flat tail.  They start out kind of brown, with black stripes on their faces, but as they get older and into breeding plumage, they get a blue bill and a cool, bandit-like mask like this one here.  Sometimes, it's tough to get a good picture of one because they're always diving down (rather than flipped, backside up, like other ducks) and coming back up someplace else. I took this picture in January of this year at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Today's Bird: Curved Billed Thrasher

Today's bird is the Curved Billed Thrasher.  This is a bird I see fairly regularly, especially in the state parks that I visit.   Usually when I spot CBTs, they're on the ground, pushing leaves around with their long beaks.  I hear them before I see them because of the little rustling that they make in the brush and their great camo.  I took this picture at Quinta Mazatlan, a bird park in McAllen right near the airport back in January.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Today's Bird: Monk Parakeet

This technically should be yesterday's bird because I took this picture and added the monk parakeet to my life list YESTERDAY.  Normally, you can spot Green Parakeets around the valley (especially in North Central McAllen) and there's a flock of Red-Crowned Parrots in my neighborhood.  But these little guys aren't usually around.  In fact, the best place I've heard of to see them is in central Austin.  But, I was reading the Lower Rio Grande Valley Birding Hotline Blog and they had an address for these guys.  Should you want to go see them for yourself: go to the corner of 5th and Gardenia in Hidalgo.  Drive down 5th a little ways and you'll see a big nest (see below) on a telephone pole on the left side of the road.  Wait.  They'll be there.

Usually when I go look for something on the Rare Bird Alert, I have to wait around, and maybe I don't get to see it at all.  But the birds were nearly exactly at their reported location and it was the easiest rare life bird ever.  Here they are:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Today's Bird: Yellow Headed Blackbird

Today's bird is the Yellow Headed Blackbird.  Down here, they're not extremely common, so when there's a flock of them, someone usually posts about it or folks are chatting about it when I check into a state park.  I found out about this group from Huck, who's a volunteer bird guide at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco.  The birds all around are a mix of other stuff (mostly Red Winged Black Birds and Bronzed Cowbirds), but what I came for were the Yellow-Headed and there were about 8 of them (you can see a couple in the background of this photo).  I took this picture at the Weslaco Lakes Granary Storage Facility on March 3, 2012.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Today's Bird: Prothonotary Warbler

This year's migration has been outstanding for me thus far.  I've added almost 30 new birds to my life list and begun the long process of differentiating between shorebirds.  This is one of the many new birds I've added in the last couple weeks: the Prothonotary Warbler.  He lives in the eastern half of the United States during the late spring, summer and early fall and spends his winters along the coast of Mexico.  This particular bird was so tired from his flight that he didn't mind a little photo shoot.  I took this photo at the South Padre Island Convention Center "Warbler Rest Stop" on April 21, 2012.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Daily Bird: Crested Caracara

I want to try something slightly different with my blog.  Rather than post about full trips, I'd like to transition to a new format that I'm going to call The Daily Bird.  What I'll do is post a quick paragraph about a bird, where I saw it and include the best picture I have.  So, without further ado:
Today's bird is the Crested Caracara, one of my favorite South Texas birds.  It's a bird of prey, with a face only a mother could love. This guy's on a telephone pole (duh) in south Mission somewhere along the Military Road between Conway and Shary Roads. I took this picture in the late afternoon of February 21, 2012. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Challenging Day at SPI

I spent most of the day Friday at South Padre Island hoping to pick up some birds on migration. I had a phenomenal day of birding, marked most excitingly by six new life birds. So far, this migration season has been good to me and it seems like there's more where that came from!

Frustratingly, though, I took a bunch of pictures of birds that I can't quite ID, and I'm yearning for some answers. I tried to post them to Whatbird (my normal source of ID help) but the photos won't upload. I'm going to post them to Flickr to see if I can get some help. Here's the link to that Flickr photo album:

Even though there were some birds that I couldn't I ID, there were plenty of birds that I could, including my six new life birds. Here's one of them. This is a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak: