Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bulletin #95 – October/November birds

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
November 10, 2009

Bulletin #95 – October/November birds

Hello friends,

LaFitte's Cove (#68 on UTC Birding Trail) on west Galveston Island has at least 3 species of woodpeckers present. Besides the Ladder-backed Woodpecker in Bulletin #91 which is still present, there is a male Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens). This bird has a white back and a red occipital patch.

After I got home and looked at the photos, this one was amazing to me. He is working on this slender stick and has his head turned completely upside down! It gives me a crick in my neck just looking at him.

The other species of woodpecker was the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (YBSA) (Sphyrapicus varius). There were at least 2 males, a juvenile and an adult. They seemed to be together, so maybe a family group. The juveniles must molt early in the autumn, as I have never seen a juvenile here without any red on his head. However, Sibley states that the juvenile plumage lasts from August to March. The juveniles have no red at all as seen in the bird in Maine in the first week of October from Bulletin #93.

By mid October, this juvenile bird had a few red feathers on his head and under the throat. All YBSAs have a red top of head. The male also has a red throat. He is eating holly berries on a native Youpon Holly tree.

Here is a full adult plumaged male YBSA. Notice the solid red on crown and throat.

And here they are together on the same tree. This is why I thought they might be a family group. I saw them together several times.

In my travels I found an oak tree that had been worked over by a sapsucker. They make a horizontal line of small holes in the bark to let the sap drip out. My interest was drawn to the tree by butterflies on the trunk.

Here is a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) drinking the sap.

And another location on the same tree had another Red Admiral along with several species of flies and bugs enjoying the free meal. Notice the 6 horizontal holes with sap dripping out.

A Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) has appeared on Bolivar again this winter. It is the first in 2 years. I photographed one in Ft Travis Park in winter of 2007 and it is my all-times favorite photo.

Here is a photo of the current owl on Bolivar. Unfortunately, it is a field that has no entry, so it will be tough to get a close up like the one in 2007

American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana) winter in huge numbers along the Texas coast, with flocks in the thousands on Bolivar flats just before spring migration. These long legged wading shorebirds are gray with a white wing bar in winter. I have found my first birds for the winter in the past 2 weeks. Interestingly, the thin black bills are different in the sexes with the males being straighter and the females more upcurved. I saw them feeding in a shallow pond and they upend like a dabbling duck.

Here is a male with just a slight upcurve to the tip of the bill along with a second bird upended.

Here is a female American Avocet who has a much more upcurved bill.

The winter hawks are arriving. I managed to photograph 2 of the 3 species of falcon we have here.

Here is a male American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). The 2 vertical black lines on the head along with rufous back ID the bird. This male has gray wings. A female would have rufous wings.

Here is a 1st year Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). It has a brown back and pale top of head, but the distinctive black mustache is visible. This is only the second Peregrine that I have photographed. He was 50 yards away in a field. For those people who want all the details, it is the tundra race of this bird, as it has the large white patch on the side of the head.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonaldemail: davidkmcd@comcast.net

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