Monday, May 30, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 5-30-11

I spent an hour at LaFitte's Cove this morning from 10-11am.

The weather was warm and overcast with a strong southerly breeze.

The ponds along the boardwalk are almost totally dried up. Across the raod from the parking area, the pond had 6 Spoonbills, 2 Neotropic Cormorants and no ducks at all.

There were no migrants at all.

Birds in the woods were 3 species doves (Mourning, Inca, White-winged), Cardinal, No. Mockingbird, Blue Jay, and Common Grackles.

Waiting for the birds to come back in the fall!

(C) 2011 David McDonald

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bulletin 139 - other migrants

David McDonald photography
Friendswood TX

Here are some of the other migrants seen over the past few weeks.

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) is by far the more common cuckoo that we have in Texas during migration. This one flew down to the drip at LaFitte's Cove and sat there while we clicked away with our cameras. This is full frame photo. One can see the lower mandible and part of the upper is yellow. The bird is also supposed to have a yellow eye-ring, but this may be a young bird as there is just a hint of a few yellow feathers around the eye.

The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) is a summer resident here. Often we find them during migration in the woods. Notice that they characteristically perch along the branch rather than across the branch. This family of birds including Whipoorwill etc are usually dull brown with some white spots. One can tell that this is the Common Nighthawk as the wings are very lomg and extend beyond the tail. Nighthawks catch insects in the flight. The other birds in the family perch and just dart out to catch their bugs, so don't need as powerful wings and their wings are short.

The Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) is one of 4 kingbirds that are similarly colored with green backs and yellow bellies. This is not a usual bird along the coast. It can be differentiated form the other 3 by voice or by the tail. Notice the dark tail with a white lateral edge. None of the other 3 have the lateral white edge. The bird was at LaFitte's Cove.

The Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadfelphicus) is similar to the Red-eyed Vireo in coloration, but the colors are more muted. It is differentiated by the yellow throat.

The Tanagers are the bright red migrants. The male Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) is all red in breeding plumage. This bird was at LaFitte's Cove and is the best photo I have ever taken of this magnificent bird.

His cousin, the male Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) is red with black wings and tail. This stunning bird along with the male Painted Bunting, are the 2 birds that most beginning birders want to see.

Shorebirds are another attraction on the upper Texas coast during migration. The ponds at LaFitte's Cove are a good place to look for many of them. They are often a difficult identification problem for begining birders, but with study, most can be sorted out. After 5 years, I can now confidently ID most of them in the breeding plumage that we find in spring migration.

The Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) is IDed by yellow legs, bicolored bill and the clean demarcation of the breast streaking from plain belly.

The Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus) is a long legged bird that has very dark streaking and a rufous top of head and cheek. They often don't obtain the dark streaks until May, so earlier birds are quite pale.The first photo is a bird that is still molting. The second is one in full breeding plumage with bright rufous cheeks and very dark streaking. This was the first time I have seen this bird in full breeding plumage.

Lastly, the tiny (0.11 oz) Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) also makes the 500 mile trans-Gulf flight from the Yucatan to the Texas coast. These little jewels are also seen in good numbers in the usual migrant traps. This year I saw them drinking water at the drip for the first time. Normally they just drink nectar, but I guess they are dehydrated for the flight and need to quickly replace their lost fluids.

Here is a female drinking from the puddle under the drip.

The next week I saw this male sitting on a pebble in the drip to take a drink. Amazing! I had never seen a hummer on the ground before.

So the spring migration is over and we are left with the summer doldrums, until the birds head our way in the fall migration. However, many wonderful memories and photos remain to remind us of the beauty and wonder of this annual act of nature.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 5-21-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood TX

It was overcast on Galveston Island today. I checked out LaFitte's Cove to see if any very late migrants were still passing through.

The pond across from the main parking lot had 9 Mottled Ducks, 1 Blue-winged Teal and 5 peeps (?semi-palmated) but I wasn't sure.

In the woods, I found only 2 migrants, a Scarlet Tanager and a Thrush.

The most unusual sighting was a Purple Gallinule in the pond to the right beyond the gazebo. This is a first for me at LaFitte's Cove and I would expect them to be breeding at this time. I'll have to watch in the coming weeks to see if I can refind the bird and perhaps some chicks.

Here are 2 photos of the peeps. Any ID help would be appreciated

The Purple Gallinule.

(c) 2011 David McDonald

Sunday, May 15, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 5-15-11

I birded the woods for 3 hours this morning. The weather was sunny with a north breeze.

A few migrants were still present, but fewer numbers than the last 2 days.

Warblers seen or reported were - Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Black-throated green, Black-and-white, Am. Redstart, No. Waterthrush - total 8 species

Other migrants were a few empids, catbirds, YB Cuckoos, Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireos.

After lunch another birder found Yellow and Tennessee Warblers (total 10 now), Blue-headed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Baltimore Oriole and Indigo Buntings. Thanks Lynn.

An unusual sighting in the woods was a White Ibis probing under the sidewalk. I have seen a Great Egret in the woods several times, but the White Ibis was a first for me.

The last 3 days have been as good as any 3 consecutive days during the whole spring, but I'm afraid this is the bitter end and we will have to wait for August to see the warblers coming south.

(C) 2011 David McDonlad

Saturday, May 14, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 5-14-11

I birded from 10am to noon.The north breeze kept some birds in the woods from yesterday. It was as busy as some days during this years peak migration.

Warblers seen were - No. Parula, Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Black-and-white, No. Waterthrush, Am. Redstart - 9 species in all

Several YB Cuckoos including one that came to the drip.

Other migrants were Red-eyed Vireos and 1 Philadelphia Vireo, Indigo Buntings, Swainson's Thrush

A pair of Bronzed Cowbirds was also in the woods.

Photos from today...

Blackburian Warbler - female                          another photo same bird

Black-throated Green Warbler - female

Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew down to the drip. This photo is uncropped.

The same bird looking at the camera - he almost looks like a raptor with the curved yellow bill.

(c) David McDonald

Friday, May 13, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 5-13-11

I checked out LaFitte's Cove for a couple of hours mid-afternoon today.

I was hoping that a few late migrants might have dropped in with yesterday's rain and I wasn't disappointed.

Warblers seen or reported were Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Black-and-white and Am. Redstart - 6 species in all.

2 vireo species - Red-eyed and Philadelphia were also seen.

Other migrants were numerous Eastern Wood-Pewees, both orioles, Swainson's Thrush, YB Cuckoo.

There were still some shorebirds in the pond across the street from the main parking area. Also, a pair of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks as well as the Mottled Ducks were in that pond.

Altogether a pretty good day for mid-May!

PS - Stephan Lorenz reported an additional 6 warbler species in the morning as well as both tanagers

A few photos...

American Redstart - 1st year male                 Chestnut-sided Warbler

Red-eyed Vireo                                            Swainson's Thrush

(c) David McDonald 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 5-6-11

I checked out LaFitt'e Cove late afternoon today to look for any stragglers.

Weather was sunny, warm and still.

2 warblers were present - Magnolia and Black-and-white.

Other migrants were several Red-eyed Vireos, 2 Scarlet Tanagers, 1 Baltimore Oriole, 3-4 YB Cuckoos, several Gray Catbirds, 3 RB Grosbeaks, several thrushes - GC and Swainson's, a few unIDed empids.

The ponds are almost gone but a remnant pool under the boardwalk had Pectoral, Stilt, Least Sandpipers; Greater Yellowlegs, and LB Dowitchers.

We will be soon into the summer doldrums.

(c) David McDonald

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bulletin #138 - migration #4 - warblers

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood TX

(Click on image to see larger photo)

The Common Yellowthroat  (Geothlypis trichas) is a very widespread warbler in North America. It lives in marshy areas. I noted how brown the breast and belly were, so looked in Sibley. The eastern form is like this, but western birds are more yellow - white on the breast and belly. Also, the shape of the black mask and white line above varies. There are many subspecies in North America (about 13).

This male Bay-breasted Warbler (Dendroica castanea) was very cooperative by staying in a dead leafless tree for about 1 hour and allowing everyone to get good looks and photos.

The male Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) is another widespread species in North America. This was my first opportunity to get a photo of this bird at the drip. It is IDed by being all yellow, and the male has the reddish breast streaking.

American Redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla) were everywhere the last few days. The male is black with orange wing and tail patches and orange flanks.

The female is gray with yellow patches. These birds are perhaps the most active warblers when foraging, so the best way to get a photo is at the drip. They fan their tails constantly flashing the colorful patches, as shown here.

There were also many Magnolia Warblers (Dendroica magnolia) recently. This bird is IDed by the yellow underparts with black streaks, gray head and back and white wing and tail patches. Here are 2 photos, with the second showing the white on the tail.

In an earlier bulletin, I showed the male Kentucky Warbler (Oporornis formosus). Here is the female. Notice that the black 'mustache' doesn't extend onto the breast.

The first year female Northern Parula (Parula americana) lacks the breast bands.

Lastly, I obtained my best photos of an Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus). This terrestrial warbler walks along the forest floor, foraging in the leaf litter. Thus it is drab brown above. It has a streaked breast, bright white eye-ring and orange stripe on top of its head. The sexes are similar. This photos shows the profile of the bird.

This photo of its head shows the breast streaking and orange crown stripe.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald
photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 5-3-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood TX

I spent the late afternoon at LaFitte's Cove. The weather was breezy form the north. There were many birds flitting in the trees, but few at the drips for the photographers.

Warblers seen and reported - Tennessee, Golden-winged, No. Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, BT Green, Blackburnian, Prairie, Bay-breasted, Black-abd-White, Am. Redstart, Ovenbird, Mourning, Hooded - 16 in all that I am aware of.

Lots of other migrants - both orioles and tanagers, Indigo Buntings, several empids, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, loads of catbirds, Wood and Swainson's Thrushes, Veery

(c)2011 David McDonald

Monday, May 2, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 5-2-11

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood TX

I spent 2 hours at LaFitte's late afternoon today. The winds were calm and a brief shower occurred in Galveston mid afternoon that caused a lot of birds to drop in.

Warblers seen or reported were - Tennessee, 2 Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Nashville, No. Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, female Cape May, BT Green, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, B&W, Am. Redstart, Ovenbird, No. Waterthrush, YB Chat - total 17 species!

Other migrants were Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Empids, both orioles, both tanagers, Indigo Bunting, RB Grosbeak, YB Cuckoo, Wood Thrush, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, White-eyed, Red-eyed, Philadelphia, Warbling, and Yellow-throated Vireos
There were birds flying around everywhere. This was certainly the birdiest I have experienced this spring.

Good birding,

David McDonald
(c) 2011 David McDonald