Monday, December 22, 2008

Bulletin #61 – House Birds and a Mammal

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
December 22, 2008

Bulletin #61 – House Birds and a Mammal

Hello friends,

With the clean-up from hurricane Ike, I have had little opportunity to get into the field for the past 3 months and both my favorite places, LaFitte’s Cove in Galveston and Anahuac NWR sustained considerable damage. Anahuac just reopened 2 weeks ago. However, one can always check around in your own yard.

In late September, I found a pair of Nashville Warblers (Vermivora ruficapilla). I first noticed them in the bird bath, refound them in a tree and I waited patiently for them to return to the bird bath and was rewarded with my best photos ever of this species from 16 feet away. In California last June, I spent at least 2 hours trying, without success, for a good photo.

This bird is IDed by the gray head, eye-ring, and yellow throat. The male also has a rufous cap (as the scientific name suggests), although I am sure most birders never see it. In fact, most birds of the genus, vermivora, also have a similar orange or rufous cap. The second photo shows the bird leaning forward and the rufous feathers can be seen. The first photo was the bird-of-the-week on the Houston Audubon web site in October.

The Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius) is a common migrant spring and fall and it winters in the Houston area. The blue-gray head with white spectacles, hooked vireo beak, and wing bars ID this bird. Because of the yellow underparts and green back, vireos are often confused with warblers. Look at the beak. It is thicker and the upper has a hooked tip. click ‘next’ once

You may remember some photos of a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperi) that was on my driveway in August and shown in Bulletin #52. Here is the link to the photo.

Well as luck would have it, in late October, I looked out my kitchen window one morning, and there was an adult Cooper’s Hawk in my birdbath. I took the photos through the window to prevent disturbing the bird. How cool is that to have such a big bird drinking from the birdbath. The adult has a black cap, gray back and rusty striped belly. click ‘next’ once

The last bird is in my yard now, a Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis). This hummingbird is normally a resident in northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Occasionally in winter, some of these birds are vagrants to the upper Texas coast. I had one in my yard for 20 weeks over the winter of 1995-6. It is worth while to persist in keeping your hummingbird feeder filled after fall migration in the Houston area, as you might get lucky and have this bird or a western USA hummingbird spend the winter with you. I first saw this bird on December 11. I finally IDed him on the 13th and he has been here daily since. What a nice winter treat. The field marks on this bird are the green throat, red bill, buffy belly and rufous tail. click ‘next’ once

I have also had a number of mammals at my house over the last 10 years. I live in a wooded area on an 1.5 acre lot. Mammals I have seen in my yard include Eastern Gray Squirrel, Eastern Fox Squirrel, Nine-banded Armadillo, Raccoon, Coyote, Virginia Opossum, and Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. There are also some bats in the summer and of course mice etc, but I don’t know the species.

Recently my dog caught a Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) and brought it to the back door. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these marsupials, one form of defense is to play dead (playing possum). The opossum curls into a ball. The dog can then pick it up and carry it. It doesn’t hurt the possum. Well I took some pictures of the opossum, before I took it to the back to let it go. Here are 2 photos. The second is a close up showing the large teeth. With these teeth, it is a wonder it needs to play possum. click ‘next’ once

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

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