Friday, January 18, 2008

Bulletin #25 - Houston winter birds #1

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
January 18, 2008

Bulletin #25 – winter birds Houston area #1

Hello friends,

Because of the problems of dropped images in the previous bulletins, I decided to get a Pbase web site to store the photos, and just put the links in with the text.

You can read the text and click on the images or just scroll through the images by using the previous/next buttons on the right upper side of the photo page.

Please let me know if you like this format.

I have made a few birding outings since Christmas and managed to find several good birds as well as get better photos of others.

On the Katy prairie west of Houston, there was reported a female Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatis). I saw this bird for the first time in the Rio Grande valley in October, but was unable get any photographs. This bird stays in the exact same spot and I found her readily and got a number of good pictures. It is a close cousin of the common Northern Cardinal, but differs in being basic gray, with a red crest and red periorbital area. The beak is yellow rather than orange in the N. Cardinal.

Also in the same location, I got photos of 2 sparrows.

The first is Harris’s Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula). This was only my second sighting ever of this bird. This is a large sparrow with white breast, black bib and head, and pink bill making ID very easy for a sparrow. The first photo is on the Houston Audubon Society(HAS) web site.

The other sparrow is the White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), a close relative of the Harris’ Sparrow. The breeding plumage consisiting of black & white striped head with a gray throat in is distinctive. This photo is also on the HAS web site. The similar White-crowned Sparrow has a white throat as well as the B&W striped head.

The Texas City dike area has become one of my favorite birding spots because it is the closest location to my house (20 minutes) that I can get to the coast. Also, the birds seem pretty tame as there are a lot of people around. I have shown several photos from there on previous bulletins.

This Common Loon (Gavia immer) is known as Great Northern Diver in Europe. He was on shore when I first saw him. I haven’t seen a loon on land previously.

When I approached, he entered the water, but I was able to get some extreme close-ups form 20 feet away. The first photo was shown previously on the 2007 year in review. The second shows the clean white throat of the Common Loon. The Pacific Loon in comparison has a black ‘chin strap’.

The Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is an uncommon but regular winter visitor to the upper Texas Coast. There is a group of about 4-5 at the dike and I have photographed them several times recently. Several of these pictures are on the HAS web site in the bird gallery.

The male is distinctive with his iridescent green head with round white check spot. His body appears mostly white and of course a golden eye. However, out of the sun, the head appears black as in the third picture.

The female is has a brown head with the golden eye and grayish body. Her beak is black with a yellow tip, but a few have more extensively yellow. She also has white wing patches that are visible at rest on the water.

The juvenile plumage is similar to the female, but doesn’t have the white wing bars. This bird has a lot of yellow on the bill.

Here are a male and female flying.

The Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is North America’s smallest duck at 13” in length. The male has a mostly white body and large white patch at the back of his head. The female is brown with a horizontal white head stripe. I was lucky to catch this female within 50 feet from shore. She is a cute little duck that reminds me of the rubber ducks our children play with in the bathtub..

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006-2008 David McDonald