Monday, October 6, 2008

Bulletin #53 – Houston summer/fall birds #2

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
October 6, 2008

Bulletin #53 – Houston summer/fall birds #2

Hello friends,

I haven’t been to Anahuac NWR since hurricane Ike, but I assume it is in disarray as much of the debris from The Bolivar peninsula would have washed across Galveston Bay and piled up on the shore at Anahuac. Also, it was probably inundated for the storm surge.

However, I did make several trips in August and got some good photos.

The Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) is a common sandpiper over the northern 2/3 USA and all of southern and central Canada. In fact, as a child growing up in canada, it was the only shorebird I ever identified. In breeding plumage, the spotted breast and bobbing gait is distinctive. This bird winters all across the southern USA and seldom is seen with the spotted plumage. It loses the spots in winter. The first weekend of August, I found one bird that had not molted yet. There were a pair together – one with spots and one without. Here is the breeding plumage bird.

And here is his companion without spots. This bird is IDed in this plumage by the yellowish legs and the white shoulder spot. Here are 2 photos of the same bird. click ‘next’ once

Also, I found a juvenile Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus). The juvenile has a more gray-looking back and pale pink legs.

Rails are always difficult birds to find, but on 2 successive weekend visits to Anahuac NWR, I found and adult and juvenile King Rail (Rallus elegans). This large rail (14.5”) nests at Anahuac and uses fresh water marshes. It is a warm brown color with a long bill. These were the best views I ever had of this bird. I have probably only seen it 5-6 times in 20 years. Rails are very thin side to side to allow then to walk between the reeds in the marsh. This was the source of the expression ‘thin as a rail’.

Here is the adult – 2 views. click ‘next’ once

The juvenile has a spotted breast rather than the warm brown of the adult.

The Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus) is our only breeding sparrow in the Houston area (excepting the House Sparrow which is an old world bird from a different family). This sparrow, as it name implies, lives along the sea coast from New England to Texas. It is quite an attractive sparrow in the spring, but by late summer before it molts, becomes drab or as described ‘worn’.

The yellow line above the eye is an important ID mark. Here are 2 photos of a ‘worn adult’ bird as described in Sibley. Look closely at the tail of the bird in the second photo, and you can see the feathers are very ragged. click ‘next’ once

This Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) is also showing wear and needs to molt a new set of feathers. The handsome bird with gray back and white breast looks like he has formal wear on. The distinguishing mark is a terminal white band on his tail. This bird has almost no white left on the tip of his tail.

The Tricolored Heron (Egrettea tricolor) in my opinion is more beautiful as a juvenile than the adult plumage. The juvenile has reddish stripes on the neck and reddish spots on the blue-gray wings and back.

This is the same bird in 2 photos. The first is the complete bird, and the second a close up of the head and neck. 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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