Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Today's Bird: The Black Vulture

In honor of posting something creepy for Halloween, today's bird is the Black Vulture!  Black Vultures are pretty common around the United States, hanging out on the sides of roads, picking up carrion to eat and nearly getting hit by cars.  You can tell them apart from Turkey Vultures because they have more rounded wing tips, gray heads, and their undersides look different.  Turkey Vultures are kind of white under their wings, but Black Vultures are only white on the tips (I call them the Vulture Hand Prints...).

While Vultures are pretty common in the states, they're also common in Peru.  I took this picture at the Villa Marshes outside Lima, Peru on June 12, 2012.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Today's Bird: The White-tailed Kite

Today's bird is the White-Tailed Kite! White-Tailed Kites are a type of bird of prey (check out the angry looking beak and legs).  They spend a lot of time "kiting" or hanging out in the sky, the way this one is in the photo.  They just sort of hang in the air catching the draft, flapping their wings once in awhile looking for delicious mice to eat.

White-tailed kites are mostly around in the Valley during the winter and spring, so I go through the summer without seeing them and then they're back!  Last weekend, I ran into two at Delta Lake in Elsa, but this picture's actually kind of an old one.  I took it on the side of the road in Mission, Texas on February 21, 2012.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Today's Bird: The Puna Ground Tyrant

This little bird doesn't look like much, but they're extremely cool.  This is the Puna Ground Tyrant.  He's named for the region of the Andes where he lives called the Puna, which is in the high-high mountains (above 3,600 meters!).  There aren't a lot of other birds around up there, so he doesn't have much competition for attention...there's a few other members of his Genus who also hang around up high.  They're apparently called "tyrants'' because they're pretty nasty to their food, although I never got to see it.

I took this picture in the Puna somewhere outside La Paz on July 7, 2012.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Today's Bird: The Smoke Colored Pewee

Today's bird is a lovely but simple Peruvian bird: The Smoke-Colored Pewee.  The Smoke-Colored Pewee lives in mid-level forests.  It's a type of flycatcher so it eats spiders and insects.  This one's a bit more sizable than the ones you might be used to if you live on the East coast of the United States.  He's much than his American cousin (the Eastern Wood Pewee) but his behavior and overall appearance is fairly similar. 

I took this picture outside Aguas Calientes on June 19, 2012.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Today's Bird: The Great Egret

The Great Egret is a pretty common bird around here.  I see them in canals around town, flying over the Expressway while I'm driving, and in the local state park where I bird most often.  Even though they're extremely common, they're also extremely beautiful.  When they're full sized, the white is really pure and they're just SO BIG. 

Sometimes people mistake Great Egrets in flight for cranes.  Look out for a bent neck instead of a straight one.  Cranes fly with their neck straight out, but Egrets have them curled up. 

I took this picture at the South Padre Island Boardwalk World Birding Center on October 8, 2012.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Today's Bird: Ruddy Turnstone

Today's Bird is the Ruddy Turnstone.  They get their name from what they do best--using their little bill to flip over rocks and find the delicious creatures beneath them.  They're a staple here on the Gulf Coast, but I was also delighted to see them in Peru!  I remember turning to my guide and asking if they were the same Ruddy Turnstones and he looked at me, very disappointed and said, "Oh. You have those too.  No point telling you how great they are..." 

Their field marks make them pretty easy to identify, so the next time you're out celebrating an oil-spill free Gulf Coast (or so says BP...), look for these fellows.  I took this picture on Mustang Island on October 21, 2012.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Today's Bird: The Killdeer

It amazes me that Killdeers have not become extinct.  They're actually the most widespread plover in America.  They're extremely common in fields, both man-made and natural.  They lay their eggs out in the open on little stick nests.  Unfortunately, they don't really understand how the game of soccer works (or baseball, or football), so their nests sometimes get trampled by unsuspecting sportsmen.  They also try to draw predators away from their nests by doing a "broken wing dance" and making a sad, sad little noise.

Like I said, can't figure out why they exist.  I took this picture in Corpus Christi, Texas in the parking lot of a La Quinta hotel on October 20, 2012.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Today's Bird: Magnificent Frigatebird

Today's Bird is the Magnificent Frigatebird.  The best place to see these birds is out at sea, but I got lucky with this one and happened to be on shore.  It makes for a better picture if the camera's not rocking.  This is actually my second life-Frigatebird, but my first US sighting.  The first one I ever saw was in Mexico while Emma and I were on a cruise.  I didn't expect to see any birds other than gulls and was delighted to catch a lifer!

I ran into Frigatebird #2 on South Padre Island on May 26, 2012.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Today's Bird: Ash-Breasted Tit-Tyrant

With a name like "Ash-Breasted Tit-Tyrant," it must be South American.  This little guy lives on the slopes of the Andes in the same type of highland forest that the White-Browed Tit-Spinetail lives in.  He's pretty tiny at only about 5 inches, so I was excited to be able to snag a picture.  He posed for me near Abra Malaga, Peru on June 16, 2012.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Today's Bird: White-Faced Whistling Duck

Today's Bird is the White-Faced Whistling Duck.  For those of you who live down in South Texas (or follow my blog, or both), you might be familiar with the Black Bellied Whistling Duck.  This is his Bolivian cousin!  They live in the lowlands, so the two times I saw them on my trip were both in Santa Cruz.  I saw some at a nature park outside of town, but I actually took this picture at the zoo.  This is another one of those birds that could've left if he'd wanted to, but there really wasn't much incentive to be anywhere else.  Nice water, food, and a good atmosphere. 

I took this picture on June 22, 2012.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Today's Bird: Yellow Warbler

Today's Bird is the Yellow Warbler. You can tell a Yellow Warbler apart from other small yellow birds by the streaking on its chest.  There's a few other indicators to help tell females apart, but the streaks are the easiest and most obvious on the boys. The Yellow Warbler is a North American bird that's fairly common.  They migrate through South Texas and a few will stay the winter, but most will head on down to Central America.

I took this picture at the Warbler Rest Stop on South Padre Island on April 29, 2012.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Today's Bird: the Burrowing Owl

The Burrowing Owl is one of the very few owls I've seen.  The reason this one's not as hard to spot is that they actually come out and hang around during the day.  They live in the Western United States, but I actually saw this one in Bolivia.  Oddly enough, the best place to see them is the airport, right near the parking lot.  So, if you're ever looking for a Burrowing Owl...head off to the Viru-Viru Airport!

I took this picture on June 24, 2012.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Today's Bird: Wilson's Snipe

Today's bird is the Wilson's Snipe.  Whenever I think about this bird, I remember the scene in "Up" where the old guy sends the cub scout out to look for a Snipe...turns out they're real!  They don't come out when you clap though; they're really pretty shy.  They have this great streaked camouflage that they use to hide out in dried grasses or reeds just like this one is here.  The thing I like best about them is their head-to-bill ratio and the way the two parts connect in sort of a seamless flow.

While this isn't the best picture ever taken of a Wilson's Snipe, it's the best one I've ever taken...I took this at Estero Llano Grande on October 13, 2012.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Daily Bird: Botteri's Sparrow

Today's bird is the Botteri's Sparrow.  It's the kind of bird you might pass over because of its looks.  Think of it as the ugly duckling of Sparrows. Not because it turns into something's a very ordinary looking bird.  But it's important because it's so rare in south Texas.  Seeing this bird is a pretty big deal.  I took this photo at the King Ranch on April 28, 2012.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Today's Bird: Buff-Belled Hummingbird

Today's Bird is the Buff-Bellied Hummingbird.  Even with all that name, he still lives here in the United States.  He's the only Rio Grande Valley local hummer.  The other ones we get--Ruby-Throated, Black-Chinned and the occasional Allen's, are all migrants.  But the Buff-Bellied Hummers are around pretty much all the time.

If you look really closely, you'll be able to see my favorite feature--at tiny black tip on an otherwise orange bill.  I took this picture at Estero Llano Grande State Park on September 1, 2012.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Today's Bird: The Capped Conebill

Today's bird is the Capped Conebill, one of many different types of Conebills I got to see in Peru.  Capped Conebills live in mid-level altitude in Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Bolivia between 1500-3000 meters.  They're fairly common but I was still pretty excited to spot one on my own without the aid of my guide.  I took this picture on the road outside of Aguas Calientes on June 19, 2012.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Today's Bird: American Redstart

Last week, I posted a Redstart from Peru, but this one's all home-grown.  These little guys live in the Eastern Woodlands.  The males look all Halloween-y like this one here.  The female has the same feather pattern but is gray and yellow instead of black and orange.  I saw my first American Redstart on my in-laws' property in Western Pennsylvania.  I remember looking through my book and realizing for the first time that it's not just ducks that have different male and female looks. 

When I see American Redstarts now, it's because they're on migration, headed to South or Central America.  This time of year, I run into them with some regularity, but they move so fast and are so small that I have trouble getting a good photograph.  Although this photo isn't perfect, it's the best one I have..If only they'd slow down...

I took this picture at South Padre Island on October 8, 2012.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Today's Bird: The Humbolt Penguin!

By request from my brother (who asked me to hurry it up already with the penguins...) here they are! The Humbolt Penguins!  Humbolt Penguins live off the coast of southern Peru in a small, cold water current called the Humbolt Current.  They're not as cute as baby, fluffy Emperor Penguins but they're pretty awesome all the same.  I took this picture from a small boat that we took from Pucusana, Peru on June 12, 2012.

I feel like any other words I would say would just distract you from looking at this picture, so I'll stop.  Enjoy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Today's Bird: Fasciated Tiger Heron

Today's bird is the Fasciated Tiger Heron, one of my favorite birds I saw in Peru.  It's a heron, so it's structured like a Great-Blue, the big American Heron you've probably seen before. 

The picture you're looking at is actually a juvenile (a young bird).  The grown up bird was there as well and I have photos but honestly, they're not all that cool-looking.  The "tiger" part really only describes the juvenile.  The adult is kind of dark colored and doesn't look like he's ready for a dance club like this one does...

The Fasciated Tiger Herons live in forested areas with fast moving streams.  That made Aguas Calientes, Peru the ideal place to see one.  I took this picture on June 18, 2012.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Today's Bird: Green Kingfisher

There are three types of Kingfishers in America--the Ringed, Belted and the Green.  The Belted is the one that you're used to seeing if you live, well, just about anywhere in America.  The other two--the Ringed and the Green--live exclusively in South Texas.

The Green Kingfisher is pretty small (only 7-8 inches tall), which makes the giant bill look pretty hilarious.  I always kind of wonder why they're not top-heavy--I'm half-expecting this one to tip over as I'm taking the picture.  This one happens to be female.  The adult male has a red chest instead of a green and white one.  I took this picture at Estero Llano Grande State Park on September 15, 2012.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Today's Bird: Inca Tern

Today's bird is the Inca Tern! Based on its name, you shouldn't be surprised that it's a South American bird.  They live all along the coast of Peru and are fairly common around Lima.  I saw a few perched along the shore in a small town that we visited.  But this shot came from getting on a boat and headed out toward a rock island where we went to look for penguins (we found them...I have photos...they're coming).  The boat driver took a big handful of fish guts and chucked them off the edge of the boat.  Dozens of Inca Terns and Gulls came to see what the deal was.

I took this picture on June 12, 2012 near Pucusana, Peru.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Today's Bird: The Sparkling Violetear

Today's bird is one of many hummingbirds I saw while in South America--the Sparkling Violetear.  My guide said that most of the hummingbirds were named by Europeans, who didn't really know what hummingbirds were (apparently there aren't really any in Europe).  So, they gave them names that kind of described what they looked like.  This one is one of the ones that they did a pretty good job on.  It does, in fact, sparkle and has a violet-blue patch over the ear area.  So, well done conquistadors--you named this hummingbird well.  Everything else...not so much. 

I took this picture on June 16, 2012 at Lake Huacarpay, a highland lake outside of Cusco, Peru.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Today's Bird: Andean Geese

Today's Bird is the Andean Goose.  No shocker--they live at altitude (in the Andes) in highland lakes.  They're not a super-common bird, but they're findable.  We didn't see any at the first highland lake we visited, but when we got to the second they were hanging out right in the middle of the field.  I know they look like domestic geese, but I promise they're not.  I took this picture in the wilds of Lake Piruay, a couple hours from Cuzco, Peru on June 16, 2012.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Today's Bird: The Red-Vented Bulbul

Today's bird is the Red-Vented Bulbul.  Just to help you dissect the name, Red-Vented is a nice way of saying that it has a red hindquarter, which is pretty evident from the photo.  The Red-Vented Bulbul lives in the Pacific Islands, but some crazy people brought 2 birds to Texas years ago.  Turns out it was a male and a female and now there's an established flock living in Houston, Texas.  I ran into two of them in the Montrose neighborhood near Baby Barnaby's (a great place for breakfast!) on June 9, 2012.  It took me awhile to identify it because it was such an odd bird, but with some careful bird guide work (and a little help from Emma) we figured it out.  Turns out if you see one, they ask you to submit some special paperwork, so I even got to send in a form about how and what the bird was doing.  Pretty sweet.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Today's Bird: Anhinga

Today's bird is the Anhinga.  This one happens to be a female (you can tell by the tan neck and head--boys are all black).  I know it looks crazy, but this one's not a South American Bird, they live right here in the USA.  They're in the dinosaur bird collection; I sense that they're closely related to pterodactyls or some similar flying dino.  Anhingas are pretty common along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida year round.  Their range creeps a bit farther north in the summer, but really, they're water birds.  Keep an eye out for them on your next trip south.  I took this picture at Estero Llano Grande State Park on September 15, 2012.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Today's Bird: The Great Horned Owl (et)

Today's bird is the Great Horned Owl! Lots of birders talk about their "hook" bird--the bird that made them want to be a birder, and the GHO is mine.  I was working at Montezuma Well National Monument and living on the property.  In the late evening, I was going for a walk, when I saw a giant bird swoop low in front of me.  I followed it and it was a Great Horned Owl sitting in a tree.  After a couple of minutes, it took off again and silently flew over my head.  I'm pretty sure it could've picked me off if it had wanted to.

These don't look like the Great Horned Owl I saw back in Arizona.  They're way too FLUFFY! I took these guys' picture at my friend Dianne's wedding, which she had at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin Texas on April 16, 2012.