Saturday, April 30, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 4-30-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

I spent 6 1/2 boring hours at LaFitte's today trying to find some birds. The strong winds from the south indicated a slow day and it was fulfilled. This was perhaps the slowest day in April.

Warblers seen or reported were few - Tennessee, Magnolia, BT Greeen, Common Yellowthroat, Am Redstart, No Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Yellow, Blackburnian - 9 in total and most of these were single birds.

No vireos or tanagers at all. No orioles or Indigos until 4pm. There were several Gray Catbirds and Swainson's Thrushes

You know things are slow when the highlight was a turtle in the drip!

A few photos...

Magnolia Warbler        Yellow Warbler     Tennessee Warbler - female

An unusal sight was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting on the ground in the drip.

Here is the highlight - and Eastern Box Turtle subspecies Three-toed in the drip. It can be called Three-toed Box Turtle as well. Thanks to Cody Conway for confirmation of the ID.

Better Birding hopefully,

David McDonald
(c) 2011 David McDonald

Friday, April 29, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 4-29-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

I arrived at LaFitte's Cove about 2pm and spent 5 hours there. The weather was windy from the south, so I knew it would be just an average day.

As it was slow in the woods initially, I checked out the ponds for sandpipers. As well as the usual yellowlegs, dowitchers and a few peeps, there were Solitary, Stilt, Pectoral Sandpipers as well as a single Wilson's Phalarope. The Stilt Sandpipers were mostly still molting but 2 were in full breeding plumage - see photos below.

Warblers I saw or reported by others were Tennessee, Golden-winged, No. Parula, Yellow, Magnolia, BT Green, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Ovenbird, No. Waterthrush, Kentucky, and Common Yellowthroat for a total of 14 species.

Other migrants were both Tanagers, RB Grosbeak, both buntings, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, YB Cuckoo, 2 thrush species - Swainson's, Veery

Photos from today....

Bay-breasted Warbler        Kentucky Warbler female        Ovenbird

Pectoral Sandpiper    Stilt Sandpiper - molting    Stilt Sandpiper - breeding     Wilson's Phalarope - male

Swainson's Thrush    Indigo Bunting needing to preen after bathing

 Good Birding.

David McDonald
(c) 2011 David McDonald

Thursday, April 28, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird report 4-28-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood TX

I birded the woods at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston from 5:30 - 7:30pm this evening.

There were good numbers of warblers seen or reported.

The highlight was a male Black-throated Blue Warbler at the drip at 7:20pm. It had been seen earlier in the day as well.

Others were Tennessee, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Nashville, No. Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Cerulean, Magnolia, female Cape May, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted, Black-and-white, Am. Redstart, Worm-eating, Ovenbird, Kentucky, Canada, Hooded and Common Yellowthroat for a total of 23 species!

Other migrants were Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole, Swainson's Thrush, Philadelphia Vireo.

A few photos from today...

This male Common Yellowthroat has extensive brown on the breast.

American Redstart - male

American Redstart - female

Magnolia Warbler - male

Philadelphia Vireo

Good Birding,

David McDonald
(c) 2011 David McDonald

Bulletin #137 - migration #3 - warblers

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood TX

(Click on the photos to see a larger image)

The Worm-eating Warbler (Helmithiros vermivorus) is a plain brown warbler with a neatly striped top of the head, which makes an easy ID. It one of my favorites because it is uncommon. I still remember seeing my lifer at High Island years ago. This photo was taken at LaFitte's Cove, Galveston.

The Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca) is my favorite due to its vibrant coloration. The male is black and white with a brilliant orange face and throat. Here are 2 photos of a bird at Quintana. The first is in a tree above the drip and the second on the rocks around the pool at the base of the drip.

The Kentucky Warbler (Oporornis formosus) is another secretive bird that is easiest to see during migration. The bird is yellow below and olive above. He has no wing bars, but has a unique black mustache on the face. In the male, shown here, the mustache extends onto the breast. He was found at LaFitte's Cove.

The Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) is a bright yellow bird with blue wings and 2 white wing bars. He aslo has a black line through the eye to the beak. The sexes are similar. This has been one of nemesis birds over the years, but this year I finally saw several birds and obtained my best photos of this species. This photo was taken at LaFitte's Cove.

 Here is a great side by side comparison of the 2 predominately black and white colored warblers. The male Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia) has a striped top of head, and a black cheek and throat.

The female of the same species has the similarly striped crown, but the cheek and throat are white.

The other species is the Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata). The male of this species has a solid black crown with white face. He also has a faint yellowish wash on the wings. Also, the legs are orange-pink. This is another good field mark for this species. These 3 birds were all photgraphed at LaFitte's Cove.

In the last bulletin, I showed the different field marks for the 2 species of waterthrushes. However, if you look in the field guides, there are 2 color variants of the Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia novaboracensis). Note, the scientific name has changed for this species. The genus was previously Seiurus. The 2 color variants are white and yellow. I found both of them this year. The first is the whiter bird. It has a white eye stripe similar to the Louisiana Waterthrush and is thus a more difficult ID problem, but look at the leg color.

Here is the more familiar yellowish bird. The eye stripe and flanks are a buffy yellow color.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

LaFitt'e Cove Bird Report 4-27-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood TX

I wasn't able to get to LaFitte's Cove today, but Tad Finnell reported an exceptional day of birding.

The winds finally cooperated and large numbers of birds dropped in.

He reported 22 warblers species including No. Parula, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Canada, Cerulean, Blackpoll, Kentucky, and Blackburian.

 3 species of thrush were found - Swainson's, Gray-cheeked and Veery

Several western species were also reported including Western Kingbird and Clay-colored Sparrow.

Good birding,
David McDonald

Sunday, April 24, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 4-24-11

I was at LaFitte's Cove from 1-4:00pm.  There was a strong south wind and thus few birds.

There were only 3 warblers seen or reported - female Cape May, Blackburnian and Northern Waterthrush. The waterthrush stayed in the drip for about 1/2 hour and caught several worms. He was the yellowish type described in Sibley.

Other birds were Bronzed Cowbird, both orioles, Blue Grosbeak, Gray Catbird, Indigo Buntings, YB Cuckoo. No tanagers or vireos were seen during this time.

Maybe a front this week will bring in some birds, but the last week has been dismal for birders, but good for the birds.

David McDonald
(c) David McDonald 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 4-22-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

I went to LaFitte's Cove in Galveston in the morning from 9-11:30am and again in late afternoon from 5-6:30pm. The weather was overcast with occasional sun and calm to south winds.

There were few birders and few birds.

A total of 6 warbler species were seen - Tennessee, Nashville, Orange-crowned, Yellow, B&W, and Blackpoll. The most surprising to me was the 3 Blackpoll seen this evening. I have never seen 3 of this species in the spring. In fact, it was the only warbler that came to the drip, that I saw.

Other birds were Bronzed Cowbird, both Orioles, both Buntings, both Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, White-eyed Vireo and Eastern Kingbird.

The ponds had numerous shorebirds and waders. The sandpipiers were Least, Solitary, LB Dowitcher, and both Yellowlegs.

I'm sure that the woods will be full of birders on the weekend. I hope that the birds are there as well.

David McDonald
(C) David McDonald 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 4-20-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood TX

I spent a little over an hour at LaFitte's this evening and it was the quietest yet this migration season.

There were only 7 birders! And not many more birds.

4 warbler species found - Blackpoll, Tennessee, Common Yellowthroat, N. Parula.

Other migrants were 1 Painted Bunting, half-dozen each of Indigos and Orchard Orioles, 2 Easten Kingbirds.

1 each Catbird, Summer Tanager, Eastern Wood-Pewee

The most unusual sighting was the Brown Thrasher walking along the sidewalk as there were no people there!     Photo1     Photo2

As I was leaving someone pointed out this FOS Common Nighthawk on a branch of the large dead oak in the center of the woods.

Hopefully better birding on the weekend.

David McDonald
(c) David McDonald 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bulletin #136 – migration #2

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

April 18, 2011

(Click on the photos to see a larger image)

I will be posting the reports of the birds found on my various outings on the blog now. I posted the first one Sunday April 17th from LaFitte's Cove, Galveston. Please feel free to check in often to the blog to find my field reports.
Last weekend provided better birding and we actually had a fall-out on Friday, with a front that came through before noon and the winds shifted to the north. I birded at Quintana on Friday and LaFitte’s Cove on the weekend.
The rock-star bird in the spring is always the gaudy male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris). I had good looks at several of them at Quintana and here are 2 photos.

There were many Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea) all weekend. The male is all blue, but sometimes some will not be completely molted and still showing some brown feathers during spring migration. This one at the water feature in Quintana was all blue.

The female Indigo Bunting is light brown, with a slight bluish wash on the wings and tail. Also, there is some streaking on the breast. This streaking, on the breast, is an important field mark to differentiate the female Indigo from the female Blue Grosbeak who lacks the breast streaks.

In keeping with the colorful birds, here is my best photo ever of a breeding male Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra). It is a simple ID as it is the only bird in North America that is all red (even the cardinal has black on the face).

A nice treat was a pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus) that landed in the Quintana sanctuary. This spectacular bird has the longest tail of any songbird in the USA. The male has the longer tail.

The female has a tail about 1/3 shorter.

Now I turn from the beautiful non-warblers to the plainest of warblers. I got my best photos of the waterthrushes. These 2 species are difficult if not impossible for beginners to separate in the field. I still have trouble myself and I like when an expert is present to call the correct ID. With these photos, I think it should be easier to see the differences in the species.

So here is the Louisiana Waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla). The field marks are the wide white eye-stripe that goes a long way down the back of the neck, the buffy flanks best seen in the second photo, and the pink legs as seen in the first photo.

Here is the Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis). The differing field marks are the narrower eye-stripe that doesn’t extend as far down the neck, the flanks are white to slightly yellowish, and the legs are grayer.

Happy Birding and Photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 4-17-11

David McDonald Photogrphy
Friendswood TX

I spent time at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston from 12:30 TO 3PM
The weather was poor for a fallout with gusty south winds.
A few birders were there and a few birds were still to be found.

The Golden-winged Warbler was refound from Saturday and glimpsed briefly by several of us, but again no photos were obtained.

Other warblers were Hooded, B&W, Kentucky, Tennessee, Am Redstart, Blue-winged, Northern Waterthrush. Another birder reported Blackburnian

Other migrants included Catbird, Scarlet & Summer Tanagers, Swainson's Thrush, many Indigo Buntings, Orchard Oriole

Good birding
David McDonald
(C) David McDonald 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bulletin #135 – migration #1

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

Spring migration has been slow so far, but is starting to pick up as we near mid-April and the peak time for large numbers of birds to show up. There have been some birds, but usually only 1 or 2 of each species.

However, while looking for migrants, some other interesting birds have been seen.

The most exciting bird for me was a Sharp-shinned Hawk  (Accipiter striatus) at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston. This is the first time I have ever seen this bird perched. It is a juvenile with the brown back and orange-brown breast streaks.

The difficult ID problem of this bird is with its cousin, the Cooper's Hawk. The adult birds are virtually identical, but at least the juveniles are slightly different in that the Cooper's Hawk has dark brown breast stripes as shown here for comparison.

Here is an unusual bird I photographed at LaFitte's Cove (Galveston) last weekend. It is a quiz bird. What is the species of this bird? I'll give the answer at the end of the bulletin.

One of my friends, who receive these bulletins, called me recently to say that there was a bird sitting on eggs in the parking lot behind a Mexican restaurant near my office. So of course I had to check it out.

You can see the eggs surrounded by bark mulch. The green is a ground cover used here in Houston. Notice how the mottled eggs blend in. There is no nest at all, the eggs are just laid in a depression in the mulch. Anyone have an idea of the species of bird that laid these eggs? Most of us rarely get to see nests and eggs.

Well the bird is one of my favorite and more beautiful shorebirds. Here is the parent doing the broken wing routine to draw the intruder away from the nest. The orange rump and breast stripes are visible.

And here it is on the concrete curb. Obviously, it is a Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). I find it amazing that she would nest in a parking lot with people coming and going all day when there is a 20 acre field about 30 yards away!

The American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica) is an early migrant through Texas, such that the birds are still in non-breeding plumage. I saw this bird for the first time 2 springs ago. But like all things, once I saw one and realized what it was, I have seen several more the last 2 years including 5 so far this year. It is the typical plump plover shape like the Killdeer above, but has a small thin bill, black cap and white line above the eye. The location was
Yacht Basin Road
on Bolivar, just west of Rollover Pass. That seems to be a good location on the coast to find them.

Here is a female Northern Parula (Parula americana). This small (4.5") warbler is IDed by the yellow throat, gray back with a green patch and yellow lower mandible. The female has incomplete or absent breast bands. Also, the broken white eye-ring differentiates this bird from its cousin the Tropical Parula (no eye-ring at all)

All the birds this day seemed to want to face the camera to make sure I saw their field marks. This Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla) has a yellow breast and throat, olive back and gray head. It also has a prominent white eye-ring.

Lastly, this White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus) made sure that I saw the 'whites of his eyes'. Seldom is one close enough in the field to see the white iris of his eye, so you have to use other field marks. He is IDed by the 'yellow spectacles', gray throat and 2 white wing-bars.

Answer to the ID of the quiz bird above.  First we need to figure out which family the bird belongs to. All black songbirds, in North America, are either crows or icterids. It is black with some brownish tones and has a conical bill. The size and bill don't fit for a crow. This looks like an icterid or blackbird. We can rule out meadowlarks and orioles as none of them are all black. It isn't a grackle as the tail is too short. There are no wing patches either white, red or yellowish, so it can't be a Bobolink, Red-winged or Yellow-headed Blackbird. Tricolored Blackbird is a CA bird and never seen here, but it also has the wing patches. Two more,  Brewer's and Rusty Blackbirds can be seen here but they both have white or yellow eyes, so we can rule them out as well. So what we have left are cowbirds. It isn't a Brown-headed Cowbird as the male has a brown head and this is lacking in our bird. So it must be either a Bronzed or Shiny Cowbird. Both are rare visitors here. Everyone knows that the field mark for Bronzed Cowbird is a red eye. Our bird has a brown iris. So when I looked this bird up in the field guide, I noticed that both the juvenile Bronzed Cowbird and the Shiny Cowbird have dark irises. Only the adult Bronzed Cowbird has the red eye. Notice the back of the neck with the ruff of feathers sticking out. This ruff of feathers is a characteristic of the Bronzed Cowbird. The juvenile Bronzed Cowbird is brown, so this bird is a 1st spring Bronzed Cowbird, as he still has a few brown feathers that haven't molted to black, nor does it have the red eye. It was an interesting identification problem for me. I assumed it was a Bronzed Cowbird with the neck ruff of feathers, but the brown eye threw me off at first, when I saw it at home.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald


photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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