Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bulletin #126 – Misc local birds

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

November 27, 2010

Bulletin #126 – Misc local birds

This fall has found me with an overload of chores and family obligations and almost no time for birding. However, I have managed a few hours here and there to get into the field.

I did find a few interesting birds in those trips.

The first is a Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus). This bird was found at LaFitte's Cove on Galveston Island Sept 12, 2010. This is a very rare bird here in eastern Texas. I have only seen it twice before in 20 years, both times in the spring.

This particular bird is a juvenile as can be IDed by the yellowish eye ring and the faint gray tips on the tail feathers. Notice the scientific name means red eye. The adult has the red eye ring.

The next bird is a Merlin (Falco columbarius) I saw at Anahuac NWR on October 2, 2010. This 10" falcon is a very strong flier, taking birds and insects on the wing. This is my first photo of this species. It isn't uncommon, but usually I see them in the flying and thus cannot get a photo.

The brown plumage is either a female or immature bird. The male is gray.

Next we have an old friend of mine. This female Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris) at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston was found again on November 20. These birds are non- migratory, but this bird is about 75 miles east of their normal range and is likely the only one of her species on the upper Texas coast. I first found and photographed her Oct 29, 2006. This was my first time to see her since last spring.

I went to Brazoria NWR on Thanksgiving and found several Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus). The majority of the birds we have here are the brown females. So finding this gray male was a treat. This bird is easily IDed by the white rump as it flies low across fields and marshes. 

I followed the bird as it flew, but lost it as it soared upwards into the sun. I looked back where it had been and this brown female glided along the same path just taken by the male. 

She also soared upwards and as I continued to follow her and snap photos, I saw a second bird enter the scene. This was the male dive bombing her from above. She saw him and banked sharply upwards to meet the challenge.

The next frame has them almost talon to talon. I don't know whether they actually touched or collided as it happened so quickly. 

The last photo with both in the field has him continuing down and her up and away to the right. 

My camera shoots 8 frames per second, so the time interval of the 3 photos was only 1/4 second. We see these confrontations fairly often, but only with luck are we filming a single bird when it gets challenged and are able to capture the action.

This morning it was 36 degrees at my house. Winter is here and with it the first of the usual winter birds. I have heard Eastern Pewees and a Northern Flicker in the area. I have had several Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the yard.

And my favorite winter guests have arrived early this year. I have had a Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis) at the feeder for the last 2 weeks and this morning saw what I think is a male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). Both these birds were present last year and the Buff-bellied has been here for 3 winters now.

I finally tracked down the Buff-bellied yesterday to see where he roosts, when not at the feeder and got a confirmatory photo. He is identified by the red bill, green back and throat and buff belly (of course). He is usually quite vocal, and that is how I can find him roosting in the bushes.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald


photos copyright 2010 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask for subscribe.