Friday, August 1, 2008

Bulletin #48 - Houston summer birds #2

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
August 1, 2008

Bulletin #48 – Houston TX area summer birds #2

Hello friends,

I hired a guide, Darrell Vollert, of Chappell Hill Texas. This town is about 1 hour west of Houston. I went specifically to find some of the migrants that I had missed in the spring. Some of the birds nest in that area.

Darrell’s website is

We found most of the target birds including Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons). This bird somewhat resembles the White-eyed Vireo except for the yellow throat. click ‘next’ once

The next was the Swainson’s Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii). They nest in the area and we were able to tape in a bird, who finally perched up and allowed some photos. I had photographed this bird on the ground during migration, but the light was horrible. This is one of the more difficult warblers to locate. It is brownish with white eye stripe, bright brown cap and long bill. click ‘next’ once

The Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) was readily located on some power lines in the middle of town. The dark tail with lateral white margins is the ID mark to separate this bird from other similar kingbirds.

The one bird we saw, but were unable to photograph was the Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis). Luckily for me, several weeks later Ed and Bernice Jackson, who live just northeast of Houston, reported a nest of the birds on Texbirds. They were kind enough to show me the birds and nest with chick. Kites are graceful hawks of the tropical regions. The Mississippi Kite is a fairly common bird, but I had seen it only 3 times before. Here is the adult perched, and the nest with a chick. click ‘next’ once

Ed also offered to take me in his boat on the Trinity River to find the Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus). We made the trip a week later and found several of these graceful birds soaring over the river. This bird is unmistakable. Thanks a million Ed and Bernice for showing me those birds.

The Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) is the smallest and most secretive of the herons in USA. It is confined to the southeast and perhaps the best place to see it is at Anahuac NWR just east of Houston. To photograph them is a struggle. Jay Mangum and I went to Anahuac on July 4th and we both managed to get some respectable photos of this bird. The way we finally did it, was to just sit in the car for 15-20 minutes and wait for the bird to come out of the weeds to feed. The birds are brown with vertical stripes on the breast and dark top of head and back. The male has black on the head and the female has dark brown. Here are the male and female. click ‘next’ once

Bolivar Flats along the coast on July 4th had a large flock of Reddish Egrets (Egretta rufescens). This heron is strictly confined to salt water and marsh areas. As it was just after breeding season, they still had the bushy neck feathers and plumes extending beyond the tail. Here is a close-up of this bird and a second photo of him scratching his head. click ‘next’ once

This bird also exists in an all white plumage variant and I saw my first ever white Reddish Egret in the same flock of birds. This bird photo is now posted on the Houston Audubon Society web site.

There were some nice shorebirds on Bolivar flats as well. Here is a Long-billed Curlew with his wings raised to show the brown underwing color.

The Willet is a dull gray shorebird with exceptionally marked wings in flight. This is the best photo I have taken of this bird in flight. It also made the Huston Audubon web site.

Here is a Barn Swallow and nest with 3 babies. There are 2 more photos of the babies in nest, so to see them click ‘next’ twice.

Lastly is a neat looking dragonfly, the Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina). I assume it is named for the orange and black wings. I had seen pictures of it in books, so when I found one at Brazoria NWR, I knew exactly what it was. This is a male.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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