Sunday, November 18, 2012

Today's Bird: The Common Ground Dove

This whole week, I'm going to be posting birds from a single trip to a single park, Estero Llano Grande in Weslaco, Texas. I'm extremely grateful to live so close to one of the greatest state parks in the country and one of the best hotspots I could imagine. In addition, I'm thankful for the wonderful folks who work and volunteer there including Huck, John, Kyle, Mary and all the desk workers who swipe my pass. You guys make my Saturdays amazing.

Today's bird is the Common Ground Dove.  They live all over the deep, deep south, including the lovely Weslaco, Texas.  They're a bunch smaller than a Rock Pigeon or a White-Wing Dove and they spend mot of their time on the ground (duh) foraging for seeds to eat.  I don't see them every time I'm out, but when I do, I'm always struck by their beautiful color. 

This picture is from Saturday's bird walk--November 17, 2012.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Today's Bird: Sayaca Tanager

Today's bird is the Sayaca Tanager.  The Sayaca Tanager is one of the birds that I only got to see in the lowlands of Bolivia and after that, they disappeared.  These little guys get replaced by birds that look and move similarly at different elevations, but this bird is unique to the lowlands.  They have the same shape and habits as our our tanagers (here's one from a previous post) but better colors, for sure.

This entrepreneurial little guy had figured out how to slip through the chain link fences of the parrot cages at the Santa Cruz Zoo.  He was more than delighted to steal the food from the fancy tropical birds.  I took this picture in Santa Cruz on June 22, 2012.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Today's Bird: Cinnamon Flycatcher

This is a Cinnamon Flycatcher! I liked this bird because the name makes so much sense.  South American birds are usually named for what they are (like the Black-Capped Warbling Finch) but even then I still get a bit confused.  What is a warbling finch, exactly?  Anyway, unlike those, this name is really obvious.  The bird is structured like most of the flycatchers I'm used to seeing around back home.  And as for the Cinnamon part, the name appears to be a perfect fit.

I took this picture along a dirt road somewhere in Bolivia...probably a couple hours outside Cochabamba on June 28, 2012.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Today's Bird: Spotted Sandpiper

Today's bird is the Spotted Sandpiper.  They're pretty common in marshes and wetlands around here.  They're always bobbing their tails and poking around for food in the mud.  I know this bird doesn't look like a Spotted anything, but this fellow (or lady, can't tell) is in the fall plumage, which is actually kind of dull looking.  You can tell Spotted Sandpipers apart from semi-similar birds by checking out the yellow legs, white notch on the flank and the black and white eyebrow stripe.

They live all over the United States, so check out your local wetland.  This one happened to be at Santa Anna National Wildlife Refuge on November 5, 2012.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Today's Bird: The American Kestrel

Happy Hundredth Blog Post!  Today's bird is one of my favorite birds ever, the American Kestrel.  The Kestrel is a type of Falcon--it's a smaller, sleeker bird of prey.  Coming in at only about 9 inches, it's pretty small.  I think I like them so much because they're so colorful and they're so intense looking. The nice colors on this one make him particularly attractive--he's a full grown, adult male.

I took this picture at Delta Lake in Edcouch on October 28, 2012.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Today's Bird: Snowy Egret

Today's bird is the Snowy Egret.  Snowy Egrets are everywhere around here.  I see them flapping their wings over the expressway all the time.  They're in your canals, in the local ponds (hide your kids, hide your wife?)

Anyway, my favorite feature of these waders is the big, yellow feet.  It's like they're wearing socks.  Nice, fashionable look!  I took this picture at Delta Lake in Edcouch, Texas on November 4, 2012.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Today's Bird: Summer Tanager

Today's bird is the Summer Tanager!  Summer tanagers live mostly in the southeastern United States with a little bit of overlap inthe New Mexico and Arizona.  During migrations, they often pass through and a few sometimes even spend the winter here in the RGV.  I think they're pretty awesome looking: the boys are fire-engine red like this one and the girls are a lovely yellow.  You can tell the apart from other birds that may look or move similarly because of the big, thick bill.

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

Today's Bird: The Red-Capped Cardinal

Today's Bird is the Red-Capped Cardinal.  It's one of the few cardinal species that lives in Peru and Bolivia.  I actually found this guy and IDed him myself, which is exciting because I was pretty reliant on my bird guide for most of the trip.  I actually beat my trip mates into Bolivia because I'd come from Peru, so I spent a couple of days lingering in Santa Cruz and taking some bird walks outside of town.  I spotted this guy at the Bio Center Guembe on June 23, 2012.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Today's Bird: Piping Plover

Today's bird is an endangered species: the Piping Plover. Scientists estimate that there are about 8,000 Piping Plovers left on Earth.  They suffer from a mix of habitat encroachment and from the effects of climate change, which are altering their migration patterns and could potentially destroy even more of the beachfront where they live.  You can read more about Piping Plovers and how to help them here

I took this picture on October 21, 2012 at Mustang Island State Park near Corpus Christi.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Today's Bird: Green-Winged Teal

Introducing, back in the RGV for the thousandth winter in a row: The Green-Winged Teal!  They're one of the many types of ducks that choose to spend the winter with us.  Estero Llano Grande, the park I visit most frequently, is sort of a haven for these guys because they have three or four big ponds that are filled to the perfect depth for migrating and wintering ducks.  I really enjoy when they're here.  They make for easy bird watching and it's fun to watch them shed their less-exciting summer plumage and move into their "dress clothes" for winter and spring.

I took this picture today (November 3, 2012) on my afternoon bird walk at Estero Lllano Grande.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Today's Bird: Brewer's Blackbird

Lots of people have been asking me what the creepy birds are that congregate in and around Texas grocery store parking lots.  There's a variety of birds in those flocks.  Most are Great-Tailed Grackles and Bronzed Cowbirds, but every once in awhile you get one of these--a Brewer's Blackbird!  They're pretty nondescript birds but they're a welcome change from the squawking birds that creep on you when you're picking up your family groceries.  I took this picture near the border checkpoint in Sarita, Texas on October 20, 2012.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Today's Bird: Andean Flamingo!

Yesterday, I asked my friend Melissa what bird she'd like for her birthday, and she said something pink.  Turns out, I can deliver on that.  I give you the Andean Flamingo!  Happy Birthday, Melissa!

I always thought of Flamingos as swap birds.  I figured they wandered around in the Everglades and in zoos and that was about it.  It turns out that Flamingos live in high altitudes too!  There are three types in Peru and Bolivia and here's one of them. As my bird book notes, its the rarest of the Flamingos--not nearly as common as the James and Chilean, its highland counterparts.

I took this picture somewhere outside La Paz, Bolivia on July 6, 2012.