Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bulletin #54 – Houston summer/fall birds #3

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
October 18, 2008

Bulletin #54 –Misc UTC summer/fall birds #3

Hello friends,

I went to Chappell Hill, Texas, about 50 miles west of Houston, to bird with guide Darrell Vollert on Labor Day weekend. I have used Darrell several times previously. Darrell's website is

I was particularly interested in the small flycatchers known as 'empids', a contraction of the genus name empidonax. There are 11 different empids in ABA area. They are all very similar and best IDed by voice. So Darrell was my expert to find these birds as they migrated through the area. The smallest of these birds (5.25") is appropriately named the Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus). They all have 2 wing bars and an eye-ring. This one is mostly grayish.

The other one we found was the Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens). This bird does nest across the southeast USA. It has a more greenish back. The wing bars on this bird are buffy that may indicate a 1st year bird. click 'next' once

A third empid, that I photographed in Galveston the week before, is the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris). It also has a greenish back, but considerable yellow on the abdomen. click 'next' once

Another bird Darrell found for me was a migrating Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). These hawks breed in the western USA and migrate all the way to Argentina for the winter. They can be found moving through the upper Texas coast in late summer. This is the lighter color phase. The overhead view is unusual as the wings are white and the trailing edge is dark. This is the reverse pattern of many raptors. He also has a dark chest.

Galveston before the hurricane hit on Sept 13th also provided some good photos. The Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula) resembles a female Mallard, but is a resident breeder along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I found several in the pond at LaFitte's Cove. Here is a pair swimming side-by-side. The male is in the foreground with the yellow bill. The female behind has a dull orange bill. The second photo shows a male with the blue wing patch. click 'next' once

The most exciting bird of the last several months was a European sandpiper that was found in Galveston. This bird, I think, is unique in that the sexes have different names. The male is called a Ruff. The female is called a Reeve. The scientific name is Philomachus pugnax.Interestingly, it was found by a Norwegian birder. The bird had been missed by all the local birders, as it is so rare. In fact, this is only the second time in 18 years that I have seen it. It is a female in non-breeding plumage and quite indistinct. I certainly would not have known it was something rare. Here are 2 photos. click 'next' once

This female Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrine) posed beautifully for her portrait. The white under the tail is a characteristic of this species and is clearly visible.

Also, this Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) flew to an open branch and provided my best photo ever of this species. The yellow belly, gray throat, and rufous on the wings is characteristic of this genus. This is the only species of this genus that occurs here.

Lastly, on a visit to LaFitte's Cove at dawn on an overcast drizzly day, I found both an Armadillo and an Opossum. I have been unable to find these mammals in the past 18 months since I got my larger lens and they were both here 10 minutes apart and at the same location! 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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