Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bulletin #90 – Fall Migration & Juveniles

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
September 10, 2009

Bulletin #90 – Fall Migration & Juveniles

Hello friends,

Well our spring drought is fortunately behind us and we are getting some rain. However, we are still 9" below normal rainfall for this time of year and thus our marshes and wetlands have low water levels or in many cases are completely dried up. For those who are not familiar with the Houston area, we average about 1" of rain weekly all year long. This has been especially bad, since Hurricane Ike last year inundated the coastal marshes with salt water and we need extra rain to flush out the salt.

I went to Anahuac NWR 2 weeks ago for the first time since spring migration. The 'willows' area only has a single willow tree still alive. There were no songbird migrants to be found. However, there were lots of juvenile birds as to be expected this time of year.

Here is a juvenile Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) with a yellow beak. Adults have a black beak.

Next is a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea). This spotted gray bird has a thick beak, red eye and long legs. It doesn't resemble the adult at all.

The juvenile Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) has a red and white head and neck. This individual was not in the least concerned with me taking his photo and I was so close, this is all I could get in the photo.

The Green Heron (Buteroides virescens) comes in 3 plumages; juvenile, 1st summer and adult. This was the first time I saw the first 2 of these plumages.

Here is the 1st summer bird. It has a streaked throat and a few white spots on the wing.

And here is a juvenile plumaged bird. Notice the extensive white spotting on the wings. He is in the typical crouched position when hunting.

While driving around the auto loop at Anahuac, I noted for the first time a somewhat peculiar behavior in several juvenile birds. I call this 'kneeling' I'm sure there is a term for this, but no one has come up with it when I posted these photos on Texbirds. The adults must do this on the nest to incubate the eggs, but I had not seen it in the field.

Here is the juvenile Green Heron above resting on his legs.

Also, I saw a juvenile Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) doing the same thing. The juvenile has yellowish-orange legs.

Last weekend on Galveston Island, I finally found some songbird migrants. Here is a female Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia).

The Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens) is an olive backed bird with bright yellow breast and black face with white eye arcs. This is the best photo I have obtained of this bird.

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) at 4.25" in length is a tiny bird that is difficult to photograph as it rapidly flits through the leaves like a warbler. There was a large flock of them at LaFitte's Cove on Galveston on Sept 5th, so I stalked them patiently and got this close-up.

However, 2 frames before (1/3 second) I caught him relieving himself. Notice how his legs are horizontal vs about 30 degrees above horizontal in the above photo. Like dogs and cats, he squats to relieve himself.

The most exciting photo for me was probably the least attractive bird. This is the Alder Flycatcher(Empidonax alnorum). This was the first time I had definitely seen this bird, confirmed by experts. The 'empids' in the USA are a group of 11 species of small flycatchers all with eye-rings and wing bars. Most of them are very similar and can only be IDed by voice. This is the 10th of this group I have now photographed and thus have just 1 left to go of this difficult group of birds. I have to be with a guide to ID the bird for me as I don't know the songs. Here are 2 photos of this bird.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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