Sunday, September 30, 2012

Today's Bird: The Blue Jay

In hopes of giving you all breaks from birds with insanely long names, here is a friend with whom we should all be familiar.  It's a Blue Jay! They're mean little buggers--squawking at anything that moves, chasing other birds, hogging feeders...but at the end of the day it's undeniable that they're pretty handsome birds.  We actually don't have Blue Jays in the Rio Grande Valley (we've got Green Jays instead).  I actually took this picture in Austin on the trail at Lady Bird Lake on April 16, 2012.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Today's Bird: The Slate-Throated Redstart

Today's bird is another South American bird, the Slate-Throated Redstart.  They're pretty common for their elevation and habitat (humid mountain forest below 2,600 meters) and they're super cute! If you look really closely, you can see a red crown of feathers on the top of his head.  They only get these when they're excited or extra attentive, as I'm sure he was given the fact that I was taking his picture. 

The name Redstart might sound familiar as we have the American Redstart, which is pretty common and then a few others that are more rare, like the Painted Redstart.  No matter which they are, don't be too thrown by the name.  They're really just Warblers, which is bird code for small and fast.

I took this picture on June 18, 2012 near Aguas Calientes, Peru.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Today's Bird: The Golden-Billed Saltator!

Today's bird is the Golden-Billed Saltator.  They're about the size of a Blue Jay and nearly as common, as long as you're in Peru or Bolivia in medium altitude.  I saw my first one in Peru one of my first few days out birding, but I couldn't get a good picture until this one.  I actually snapped this while we were hunting for the Red-Fronted Macaw (another post for another day) in the morning on July 2, 2012.  We were somewhere between Cochabamba and a small town called Cerro Tunari.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Today's Bird: The Blue and White Swallow

Swallows are kind of like day-time bats.  They swoop around and catch bugs.  It's not very often that you catch one sitting down like this.  Usually, they're zipping past you at a zillion miles an hour, twisting and turning as they go. 

This is a Blue-and-White Swallow, another South American bird with a super-long name.  At least it's an accurate description.  For me the most interesting thing about the swallows was where I saw them.  The bird species are layered throughout the different tiers of elevation and one species replaces another.   Blue and White Swallows are extremely common, but once you pass about 4,300 meters, they're replaced by Andean Swallows, their highland cousins.

I took this photo just outside downtown Aguas Calientes (the town you go to on your way to Machu Piccu) on June 18, 2012.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Today's Bird: The Wood Stork

Wood storks don't live in many places in the United States, so it's a pretty big treat to get to see one.  I've met folks whose houses are teeming with them in Florida, but down here by us it's just the lonely bird or two in the summer time.  Then, in September, they disappear further south.  This is actually the third Wood Stork I've seen, but the first time I ever managed to snap a picture.  It's not the best photo (it's the best one I have though!) but I really wanted to share this slightly ugly but totally majestic bird.  I took this picture at Estero Llano Grande State Park here in Weslaco on September 1, 2012.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Today's Bird: Black-Capped Warbling Finch

Today's bird is the Black-Capped Warbling Finch.  It's one of those South American birds that was excessively named.  At least this one's descriptive--it's a Finch that warbles with a black cap.  In going through my notes, it took me a little while to figure out which bird this was as there was a whole collection of black-capped birds we saw on the trip. There were even different types of Warbling Finches; this is one of many.  At least the photo was date stamped, which helped me narrow it down.  I took this picture on June 29, 2012 near a small town called Saipina in Bolivia.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Today's Bird: The White-Cheeked Pintail

Another South American bird with an absurdly long name.  This one's called the White-Cheeked Pintail.  It's a duck (duh) that lives all over south America in both fresh and salty water.  I saw my first one at some salt marshes outside of Lima, but this picture is actually from the zoo in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  While I don't include captive birds on my blog, this guy was free to come and go from the zoo--he'd discovered water, the free food and wasn't planning on leaving any time soon.  I took this picture on June 22, 2012.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Today's Bird: The White-Browed Tit-Spinetail

Today's bird is extremely exciting.  It's the White-Browed Tit-Spinetail! I often joked with my bird guide, Jose Antonio, that South American birds have WAY too many names.  Saying White-Browed Tit-Spinetail is not the same as saying Blue Jay.  It also takes awhile to type...Anyway, the White-Browed Tit-Spine Tail is what's called an Endemic bird.  It means that it's only found in one country.  They're a special treat to get to see them and usually you have to go to some far-flung place; they're not just hopping around town waiting to be seen.

We hiked 8 miles to see this (and a lot of other birds) at the Royal Cinclodes Polylepis Preserve near Abra Malaga, Peru on June 16, 2012.

And just to show you what endemic looks like, here's the range map for the White-Browed Tit-Spinetail (one more time!) care of the Endangered Species Program at the US Fish and Wildlife Department (see the map and other relevant information here)


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today's Bird: Red-Crowned Parrot

Today's bird is the Red-Crowned Parrot.  You might think I took this photo in Peru or Bolivia, but actually they live right here in lovely Weslaco, Texas.  Most nights when I'm walking the dog I run into the flock that lives in my neighborhood.  I'd been trying for a few weeks to get a good picture.  Then one morning on my way home from the gym, I saw them hanging out on a power line! I rushed home, grabbed my camera and thankfully they were still there! I took this picture in the parking lot of Hair Trix on Westgate Rd. in Weslaco, Texas on 8/22/12.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Today's Bird: The Common Paraque!

Happy Birthday to my friend Anne! In honor of your birth, I'm posting a bird that we've seen together, the Common Paraque.  I hope that my readership is enjoying the "find the bird" puzzle that is this photograph.  Common Paraque (say: pa-rah-key) live only in South Texas.  They nest and sleep on the ground and like other Nighthawks and Nightjars, they're nocturnal.  I found this one sleeping in its traditional spot at Estero Llano Grande State Park on 9/15/12.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Today's bird: Gray Hooded Parakeet

Today's bird is the Gray-Hooded Parakeet! These guys live in scrubby highland in Bolivia and Chile.  They spook pretty easily, so it was a bit tough to get a photo.  This is the best one of the lot that I took.  Normally, I make a note about where I was when the photo was taken, but to be honest, I'm not entirely sure.  I was somewhere not super-far from Cochabamba, Bolivia on July 2, 2012.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Today's Bird: The Peruvian Pelican!

Today's bird is the Peruvian Pelican.  He looks a lot like the Pelicans we have here in South Texas (which are called Brown Pelicans), but he's a fair bit larger and stockier.  The place where I took this picture is called Pucusana.  It's a small fishing town off the coast of Peru, just south of Lima.  The town's fish processing and packaging center was loaded with Peruvian Pelicans and gulls trying to get their fair share of the throwaways.  I took this picture on June 12, 2012.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Today's Bird: The Greater Rhea

Today's bird is the Greater Rhea!  Greater Rheas kind of look like ostriches or emus.  They're almost five feet tall and weigh more than 40 pounds.  Pretty serious bird.  Also, they can't fly.  Which was particularly sad for this bird who lived near the Santa Cruz Airport.  Ahh, the irony.  I took this picture in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on June 24, 2012.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Today's Bird: the Torrent Duck!

After multiple requests that the blog be reawakened, I bring you: The Torrent Duck! Torrent Ducks live in South America, in relatively low-lying areas.  They hang out in fast-moving rivers, swimming amongst the rapids (hence their name). The female is pretty fancy for a girl duck--she's the one with the red belly and blue-gray back.  The male has the fancy black and white headgear. I got to watch this pair dive in and out of the white-water in Aguas Calientes, Peru on June 19, 2012.