Monday, May 19, 2008

Bulletin #38 – Upper Texas Coast – misc. spring birds

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
May 19, 2008

Bulletin #38 – Upper Texas Coast – misc. spring birds

Hello friends,

The best bird of the spring migration wasn’t a migrant at all. This Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus) was on the beach at Bolivar flats early on a Saturday morning 2 weeks ago. I saw him a long way down the beach, but I knew it was something special. I wasn’t sure what he was, but I knew to take a lot of photos as other experts would be able to ID the bird later. Jaegers are pelagic birds that chase other birds to steal their food. They usually come onshore only to nest in the arctic. Most observers see them from shore as a far off dark bird. On pelagic trips offshore, they may be seen at closer range, so it was most unusual to see it sitting on a busy beach!

This bird became an instant star as he was featured on the Texas Rare Bird Alert, along with being the Houston Audubon Society ‘bird of the week’ last week on their web site.

Jaegers have long central tail feathers and the Pomarine Jaeger has the feathers twisted at 90 degrees, so the end of the tail looks fatter than the more proximal portion.

Here are 2 photos showing him on the beach and flying away. The long tail feathers can be plainly seen in the second photo. click ‘next’ once

The other unusual bird was from the end of March. The Ross’s Goose (Chen rossi) was a very difficult bird for me to find. He is usually found in fields with Snow Geese. I looked for him 3 times west of Houston (50 miles from home) as well as on a trip to Monterey CA in February. On that trip, he had been staked out by my guide there, but when I got there, no bird.

As luck would have it, someone found one associating with domestic geese and ducks in a subdivision 7 miles from my house. The location was posted on the Texbirds web site. I went there and he was as tame as could be, because the homeowners were feeding all the waterfowl.

The Blue Grosbeak (Guiraca caerulea) is a little larger than the other blue migrant, the Indigo Bunting. He is also much less common to find. I finally got some good photos this year. The bird has a much bigger beak than the Indigo Bunting and the male Blue Grosbeak has 2 brown wing bars. Here he is in a mulberry tree.

Another bird I was able to get better photos was the Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurious). The beautiful male is chocolate brown with black head and wings with 2 white wing bars.
The first year male is yellowish with a black bib.

I found this Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) eating a mulberry at High Island. Even though his name suggests they eat only insects, they will eat some fruit.

Lastly is the resident Barn Owl (Tyto alba) at Smith Oaks on High Island.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,David McDonald
photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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