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

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

No comments: