Friday, May 9, 2008

Bulletin #37 – Upper Texas Coast

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
May 9, 2008

Bulletin #37 – Upper Texas Coast

Hello friends,

Well spring migration has come to a close and what a great time it was! There were 2 fantastic days for birds, with lots of opportunity for photographs.

I made a list of the birds that I had not photographed yet, and tried to spend more time, seeking out these specific species. I was able to get most of the list checked off.

Among the warblers, I found all the common ones and even 2 rarer species – Blackpoll and Cerulean. I’m still lacking Cape May and Black-throated Blue – but I don’t recall that either of them was mentioned this year from Texas anywhere until 2 days ago and I didn’t have time to go.

The shorebirds were going to be a challenge, as I wasn’t sure of my ID skills in the field, so I took lots of pictures of different birds and then sorted them out at home. I missed only 2 – Baird’s Sandpiper and American Golden Plover. But, I did photograph Stilt, Semipalmated, Solitary, Pectoral and Upland Sandpipers, Wilson’s Snipe, Hudsonian Godwit and Wilson’s Phalarope.

So, I have a much reduced list for spring 2009!

The Bay-breasted Warbler (Dendroica castanea) was in Bulletin #35, but it was a head on view. Here is a better profile of the beautiful male and the second photo is a female. Her colors are duller. click ‘next’ once

The Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) is yellow warbler with no white anywhere. The male shown here has reddish breast streaks. The female lacks the streaks.

The Blackburnian Warbler is my favorite among the warblers. There were several birds at High Island last weekend and I was able to get many pictures. The male has a black back, white wing bars and breast and beautiful bright orange face, throat and breast. The popular name is ‘fire-throat’ and when you see one of these birds in the sun, he positively shines.

The Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) is the last of the 3 phalaropes for me to photo. Phalaropes are unusual in the bird world, as the female is the brightly colored of the sexes. She courts the male, lays the eggs, and then he incubates them and raises the young. Here are 2 photos of the female. click ‘next’ once

The Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) is an uncommon shorebird, but fortunately, it migrates through Texas in the spring on its way to the arctic. I have only seen them at a distance in the scope. But this year when I wanted to photograph them, I managed to get to within 25 yards. Godwits are large sandpipers with a slightly upturned bill. The Hudsonian Godwit male has a brick red belly. The female is brown and gray as in the second photo. click ‘next’ once

The smallest sandpipers are popularly called ‘peeps’. There are 5 of them in North America – Least, Western, Semipalmated, White-rumped and Baird’s. They range in size from 6” to 7.5” and can be a daunting ID challenge to birders who aren’t expert. However, they can be sorted out.

The easiest to ID is the Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla). At only 6” in length, it is the smallest sandpiper in the world. His distinguishing feature is yellow legs. He has a short bill. All other peeps in North America have black legs. He is generally found on mud flats.

The Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers are generally found on beaches. They are similar in size and coloration except the Western is more reddish in breeding plumage.

The difference is the bill shape. The Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) has a shorter straight bill. Semipalmated means partially webbed feet. This feature can be seen on the front foot.

The Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) has a longer bill that drops down at the tip. The reddish-brown on the face and head is brighter than on the Semipalmated above.

The last 2 peeps – White-rumped and Baird’s both have very long wings that extend beyond the tail.

The White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) feeds on mud flats and wades into deeper water. He has gray and rufous back, straight bill and a reddish area on the base of lower mandible. Both the white rump, seen when flying, and this reddish spot on the mandible are diagnostic for this species.

I don’t have a photo of the last peep – Baird’s. But I hope that these close-up photos of the other 4 will help you to sort out these small sandpipers.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

No comments: