Today's bird is the Sandwich Tern! Terns are closely related to gulls and sometimes they hang out together (there was a laughing gull in the background). They're one of America's more rare terns, only living along the Gulf Coast. Their distinguishing feature is the black bill with that little yellow tip; it's a sure thing you've got a Sandwich rather than one of the other types of terns that's also lurking in the original, uncropped version of this photograph. I took this picture at South Padre Island on the bay side on May 26, 2012.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Today's Bird is the Great Blue Heron! You've probably seen this bird before in marshlands or along coastlines. They live just about everywhere in the United States and at almost 4 feet tall, they're tough to miss. This is one of the few birds I remember from my childhood and could identify from a really young age. I took this picture at South Padre on May 19,2012.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Today's Bird is the Purple Gallinule! This is a pretty rare find in South Texas. They only really hang around during the summer, and even then it's a big deal when someone spots one. They don't show up on the Texas state-wide rare bird alert, but they will show up on our Lower Rio Grande Valley Hotline, which gave me the location for one that I started looking out for last week at Estero Llano Grande. When I was coming back into the Visitor's Center from an extensive search, two of the park rangers called me over and said, "Did you want to see the Gallinule? It's right here in the spotting scope..." I got a good look at it but it was too far for a picture. But...this Saturday, at the South Padre Island Birding Center, who should I run into but my favorite Marsh Chicken? It's a pretty unmistakable bird...
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Today's Bird is the Lincoln's Sparrow. He's one of many "Little Brown Birds" that I run into from time to time. Before having a camera, I didn't really bother to study them because there was no way I could remember all the distinguishing features and so many sparrows look alike. The Lincoln's lives down here during the winter, migrates up through most of the United States and into the Rocky Mountains and Canada. No matter where you live, keep an eye out! I took this picture at South Padre Island's World Birding Center on May 9, 2012.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
Today's bird (or in this case, birds) are Black Neck Stilts. They're tall, lean and make a funny little squeaking noise that sounds a bit like a dog toy. They live along coastlines and in marshes in the western United States. In the winter, lots and lots of them come down here to hang out by us in the warm weather. I see them almost every time I bird at Estero Llano Grande. They'll hang with whoever's in the pond by the front deck: ducks, sandpipers, coots...they're not fussy. I spotted this pair at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center Boardwalk on April 21, 2012.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Today's bird is one of my recent favorites: the Blackburnian Warbler. Around here, they're a migrant, coming up from Central America to head towards the northeast. Like lots of other warblers, they're not always this striking--my first Blackburnian was actually not black and orange like this but was more of a drab gray and yellow. This guy, in his full splendor was stopping over at South Padre's Warbler Rest Stop on May 19, 2012.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
It's true: there's no such thing as a seagull. There are tons of different types of gulls in the United States, but none of them is called a seagull. The most common are probably the Ring Billed and Herring Gulls, but different coastal areas have their own special gulls that plague their beaches and steal their french fries. Around here, this is our gull: the Laughing Gull. They're everywhere at South Padre, but they'll fly inland as far as McAllen and you'll see them hanging out in parking lots and open spaces. I took this picture at South Padre Island on May 19, 2012.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Today's Bird is the Red Breasted Merganser! It's one of a few types of Mergansers that live in the US, but these guys are mostly found in salt or brackish water along coastlines. My range map also shows them on the Great Lakes. If you spot one, look for a lean duck with a long beak (rather than a more spatula type) and a seriously bad hair day. I actually ran into one this weekend at South Padre because they migrate through the Gulf, but I took this photo on a cold but beautiful winter birding trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts on December 29, 2011.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Today's bird is the American Golden Plover! If you've ever seen or read The Big Year, Jack Black's character identifies it as his favorite bird. When his father asks why (noting that it's just small and gray), he explains the migration route: from the Arctic Circle to Argentina and back in a single year. On their long journey, they stop on beaches in Central America and Texas and in fields in the central United States. I was lucky enough to catch this guy on the South Padre Island Bay on April 6, 2012. Hope he's having a safe trip to Canada.
Today's bird is the Orchard Oriole! Orchard orioles live mostly in the eastern half of the United States but they're only seen during the spring and summer. For us in South Texas, they're migrants. I've only seen a few, but when I do run into them, I'm struck b how small they are (only about 7 inches tall) compared to our Altamira, who's much stockier and taller. I took this picture at the South Padre Convention Center on April 11, 2012.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Friday, May 18, 2012
Today's bird is the Altamira Oriole. They're America's largest oriole, checking it at about 10 inches tall. Like the Kiskadee, they're a Rio Grande Valley specialty bird. This is pretty much the only place you can see them. When I went up to King Ranch to see the owl, even that was too far north. This is where they're from. They're great feeder birds (they like peanut butter and seed) so they're pretty easy to photograph at the different parks around here. But this pair is building a nest on a power line at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. The nest will dangle down like a little purse...the next time I'm there, I'll try to get a picture of what it looks like completed. I took this picture on March 31, 2012.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Today's bird is the Roseate Spoonbill! It's a Gulf-Coast specialty bird in the summer, but down in South Texas you can see them year round. Their name is pretty apt: the pretty pink with that big, soup-spoon of a bill. What they do is bend over and skim through the mud and the muck at the bottom of shallow ponds looking for food. When you see them in a flock, they'll walk back and forth, sweeping their heads to move their giant bill. These aren't the first Spoonbills I've seen--the first one I saw in the wild was on a run in a Weslaco Canal. I knew right away what it was because of the pink feathers. This flock was hanging out at the deck pond at Estero Llano Grande State Park on May 12, 2012.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Today's Bird is the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo! I had a cuckoo clock when I was a kid but never really worried too much about what actual cuckoos looked like. Turns out, they're pretty big. I saw this bird on South Padre Island on a day when I was plagued by small birds (mostly flycatchers) that can only be identified by sound and, of course, they weren't singing. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the branches on a nearby tree flop and bend. I raced over and as soon as I got my binoculars on it, I knew for sure what it was...I'd passed it a bazillion times in the bird guide thinking, "I won't see one of these any time soon." Lucky for me, I live in one of the greatest migration zones in the country. I took this picture on May 5th, 2012.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Monday, May 14, 2012
Today's Bird is the Great Kiskadee! The Great Kiskadee is a Rio Grande Valley bird. This is probably the only place in the country where you really get to see them. They're a type of flycatcher, so they mostly eat bugs, but they've been known to eat fish as well; a friend of mine actually a story of a Kiskadee picking those big fancy goldfish out of the Koi Pond in her backyard. Once you know what they look like, you'll see them EVERYWHERE With their little bandit masks and large size, they're pretty distinct. The Kiskadee was the first bird I saw on my first birdwatching trip in the Valley back in 2007, but I took this picture at Estero Llano Grande State Park on May 12, 2012.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
This little guy (who happens to be a Black Bellied Whistling Duck Duckling) wants to wish all of the moms out there a happy Mother's Day today. It takes great moms to make adorable children like this one. I took this picture at South Padre Island's Convention Center on May 9, 2012.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Today's bird is the Green Parakeet. The last Parakeet I posted was a different species that seems to only have a small flock down here. Green Parakeets, on the other hand, have several, large, well-established flocks throughout the Rio Grande Valley. The giant hailstorm we had did some damage on the flock I usually see (at 10th and Dove in McAllen) and I haven't seen them since. But, I stumbled on these guys in a small business plaza in Weslaco. They were up in the dried palm fronds and a few others in the flock (there were six all together) were popping in and out of woodpecker holes on another palm. I've actually seen them a few times since, so I wonder if they're setting up shop here. I took this picture on April 28, 2012.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Thursday, May 10, 2012
While I do have some photographs from a short bird trip I took yesterday, I haven't processed them all yet. So, today's bird is the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher! He's a tiny little thing, maybe 5 inches. He's blue-gray (duh) with a long tail. This photograph looks nice but it's one of about 20 that I took and the best of the lot. Since gnatcatchers are always on the move (catching...well...gnats), they're hard to get a good picture of. I took this picture at Frontera Audubon in January of 2012.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Today's bird is the Greater Roadrunner! They really don't look too much like the cartoon, nor did this one seem to be doing a particularly good job foiling coyote plans. Anyway, they're pretty common all over the southwest, but I actually don't get to see them often. They mostly live in the dryer, scrubbier habitats, and most of my regular birding haunts are closer to the gulf, making them a bit more tropical. I happened to run into this guy at Bentsen State Park this weekend (Cinco de Mayo, 2012) in Mission Texas.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Today's bird is the Rufus Crowned Sparrow! It's a bird that lives mostly in the American Southwest. I really struggle to identify different types of Sparrows because to me, they all look like little brown birds. Like its relatives, the Rufus-Crowned's pretty nondescript. I actually had to get some help on the ID, so thanks to the people of WhatBird! The win here is really the photograph itself; we were hiking some trails and he landed in a bush about 3 feet away. I took at Eisenhower Park outside of San Antonio, Texas on March 25, 2012.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Have a great Monday!
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Have you had a dramatic encounter with a wild turkey? Post about it in the comment field!
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
On this first day of May, it seems only fitting that today's bird be the Cape May Warbler. The Cape May lives up in eastern Canada/northeastern United States during the summer. It spends its winters in Central America. Normally, it flies across the whole Gulf of Mexico, through Florida and up to it's summer home during April and May. For whatever reason, this one got a touch lost--maybe blown off course? Lucky for me, though, because it was tired, hungry and cooperative for a whole bunch of photos. I took this on April 29, 2012 at the South Padre Island Convention Center grove, affectionately (and appropriately) known as the "Warbler Rest Stop."
Happy May, everyone!