Friday, February 29, 2008

Bulletin #28 - Houston winter birds #4

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
February 29, 2008

Bulletin #28 – winter birds Houston area #4

Hello friends,

Each winter, I seem to have an unusual bird or two in my yard. Last year it was a Hermit Thrush that stayed all winter. This was the first time I had seen this bird in Texas! This year so far, the most unusual sighting was a male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus). Again, this is a first for my yard and I think the first time I have seen this bird in Texas. He was on the feeder outside my kitchen window one morning as I was leaving for work. I grabbed my camera with 300mm lens and got several photos through the kitchen window. Then I got my big lens and tripod and went outside to get clearer photos, but he was gone and never seen again.

Peterson describes this bird as a ‘sparrow dipped in raspberry juice’. It is purplish all over with an unstreaked breast. click ‘next’ once

Another common yard bird in winter is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). As well as eating sap and insects, they also take fruit. I had a female in my yard last winter that I managed to photograph on numerous occasions. Most photographs of woodpeckers show the bird vertically on a tree trunk, so I was delighted to get this bird in various other locations. One of the most comical was watching her eat berries from a hackberry tree. She would land at the end of a branch and then flip upside down to reach a berry.

These 3 photos are consecutive, about 1/3 second interval. The first is upright, the second going over backwards, and the last with a berry in her beak while completely upside down. click ‘next’ twice

One of the ducks that has eluded me until this winter is the common Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis). This is its split name on the IOC world bird list. It was split from Eurasian (Common) Teal (Anas crecca) by IOC but it hasn’t been recognized yet here in the USA.

The sleeping male in photo #1 has bright brown head with green racing stripe. The female in the second photo is brown with green wing patch. press ‘next’ once

Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) also winter in Texas. They are beige and white, but have a white line around the bill. In addition, the black markings on the belly are visible in the photo. Hunters call this bird ‘speckle belly’.

I found this Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) on an organized field trip in January. It is a typical brown sparrow with streaked breast. However, the identifying markings are the distinct white eye-ring and white edges on the tail.

Lastly, the huge White Pelican winters along the Texas coast. They are very tame and will come right up to you for fish scraps etc The Texas City dike is a great place to see these beautiful birds as fisherman are cleaning their catch and feeding them the entrails.

The first shows a bird preening and the second shows a close-up of a bird with a corneal scar on its right eye. I saw that this bird had an abnormal eye color and was able to get a photo. Fortunately, it appears that he still has some clear cornea left so it isn’t likely to be totally blind in that eye. As a physician, I’m interested in these medical problems or injuries in wildlife when I find them. click ‘next’ once

I birded on New years Day and the weather was warm (60s) but windy. I found a new butterfly at High Island to start 2008. I have since had this butterfly in my backyard.

This is the Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebes sennae). This butterfly is yellow with open wings and more greenish with wings folded. He has reddish or rusty spots. He landed on this wild grape vine that was an identical color to him. click ‘next’ once

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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