Friday, May 2, 2008

Bulletin #36 - Upper Texas coast warblers & sandpipers

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
May 2, 2008

Bulletin #36 – Upper Texas Coast – warblers & sandpipers

Hello friends,

Here are a few more warblers from various locations this spring so far.

There are several ground dwelling warblers, in addition to the Swainson’s Warbler that was shown in Bulletin #34. They are all brownish to blend in with the leaf litter and muddy areas where they feed. All 3 are in the genus Seiurus.

The first is the Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla). He has a striped head with a central orange stripe. The breast has streaking. It is named for the round oven like nest that it builds on the ground. The sexes are similar. The second photo shows the orange stripe better. click ‘next’ once

The next two are very similar and for many people very confusing. The Louisiana Waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla) is distinguished by a long white stripe above the eye that extends to the neck. The eye stripe is wider and longer than the stripe on the Northern Waterthrush. Also, it has a longer bill, pinkish legs, and buffy flank patch which is perhaps the most important ID differentiation. Also, generally it has a white breast and clear, unstreaked throat.

So here is a Louisiana Waterthrush.

The Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis) (NOWA) normally has a thinner buffy eye stripe that doesn’t extend as far down the neck. Also, it is usually buffy to yellowish on the breast. The legs are generally dark, but may be pink.

The first photo is a pale breasted NOWA with pink legs. The second photo is a rather yellowish bird and lastly is another bird caught with wings up and tail flared as he was ready to fly off. The latter two have darker legs. click ‘next’ twice

The next warbler is an uncommon migrant through the upper Texas coast. The Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata) is similar to the Black-and-white Warbler, but it has a solid black cap and white face. The first photo is the Blackpoll and the second is a Black-and-white for comparison. The Blackpoll Warbler has bubblegum pink legs that confirm the ID. click ‘next’ once

The next warbler is the pretty Bay-breasted Warbler (Dendroica castanea). He has black face, back and wings with 2 white wing bars. There is also a rufous cap and rufous throat and breast stripes. This is a male.

The last warbler is the Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia). This is known as the black and white and yellow warbler. The male has a gray cap, yellow underparts with black streaks and black upperparts with white wing bars.

Shorebirds also winter on and migrate through the upper Texas coast. Here are a several migrants that I photographed in Galveston in April. Sandpipers are moderately easy to ID in breeding plumage in the spring, but can be difficult in non-breeding plumage the rest of the year. Fortunately, these are all breeding plumaged birds.

First is the Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria). This bird has a white eye ring, yellow legs, dark spotted wings, and streaked breast. It is the only North American sandpiper to nest in trees, making use of abandoned nests of other birds. Interestingly, the white eye ring is the eyelids and when the eyes are closed, the eye ring disappears as shown in the second photo. click ‘next’ once

Next is the Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus) (STSA). This is a long yellowish legged sandpiper with slightly downcurved bill. It has a white stripe above the eye, and brownish cap and face. The breast is heavily streaked. The second photo has a bird scratching his neck. This shows his long legs. click ‘next’ once

It feeds like a dowitcher and often intermingles with flocks of them. The guide books state that they can be differentiated as the STSA has longer legs and shorter bill, so he has to bend over or ‘tilt up’ to a greater extent than dowitchers. Here are a couple of photos of a STSA tilting up so much that their head is completely underwater. The second photo, the bird was standing in chest deep water and when tilted up, is almost completely underwater! He looks more like a duck than a shorebird. As I watched a flock of about 10 of these birds, I saw them do this many times. I haven’t noticed any other sandpiper submerge his head so often as these STSAs did. click ‘next’ once

The last photo is another STSA that I caught just as he plunged his head down. Interestingly, there is an air column formed, before the water closes in
around him.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

No comments: