Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bulletin #20 - Upper TX coast #2

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
Nov 15, 2007

Bulletin #20 – Upper Texas Coast – Fall 2007 – part 2

Hello friends,

Fall migration along the upper Texas coast is another exciting time as there are several species of birds that are more numerous than during spring migration. Also, many birds are in non-breeding plumage which can make for difficult identification problems.

The first bird is the Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia). Here is the juvenile with a large orange beak with black tip, as well as extensive brownish feathers. The Caspian Tern is the largest USA tern at 21” long.

The Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) is a distinctive relative of gulls and terns with its lower mandible longer than the upper. I have seen this bird many times, but in Sibley they show a picture of the bird lying flat on the ground with its bill outstretched. I had not seen this posture previously, so I took his picture.

Fall migration brings a huge number of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) through the upper Texas coast as all the birds in eastern North America migrate around the gulf into Mexico and beyond.

Here are a couple of photos of females this year. The first is the only time I have been able to completely freeze the wings of a hummingbird, so that every feather is visible and clear.

The next shows the white tips on the tail feathers of the adult female.

Next is the Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). I had missed this bird in California where it lives, both in May and September this year. Yet a few of them migrate and winter along the upper Texas coast. Thanks to Chris (one of the subscribers) this beautiful male was visiting some flowers at her workplace only 7 miles from my house. I went over and got photos of this bird. Go figure – I travel 1500 miles to see it and miss it twice and later it shows up 7 miles away from home. This bird is only 3.75” long. click ‘next’ once

I found this American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliates) sitting quietly on a rock just offshore at the Texas City dike. As the tide was out, I was able to get within 25 feet of the bird and he didn’t move. Here is a close up of this bird.

However, the reason he didn’t move was because his right foot was tangled in fishing line and he was only standing on his left foot. I never did see him put his right foot down. The fishing line is clearly visible against a grackle, behind the oystercatcher. Many birds are maimed or killed by careless fishermen who discard pieces of monofilament line into the water. I hope this beautiful bird survives.

Adjacent to the oystercatcher was this juvenile Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus). It is a semipalmated by the dark back. The juvenile is distinguished by the scaly appearance of the head and back as the feathers are all edged with cream. Semipalmated means partially webbed feet. The partial webbing between the toes is easily seen on the right foot.

Wood Storks (Mycteria americana) pass through here in the fall. The juvenile has a yellowish beak as opposed to the adult with a black beak.

And here is a group of 2 juveniles and 1 adult aloft. Notice the necks outstretched and the black on the wings.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2007 David McDonald

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