Monday, November 7, 2011

Bulletin #144 - miscellaneous birds

I have finally been able to get out and do some birding this fall. Winter birds are starting to arrive and the last of the fall migrants are about passed through the upper Texas coast.

I have had a number of good photos of hawks since the last bulletin

This beautiful Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was perched in a low dead tree beside the road on Galveston Island as I was heading to LaFitte's Cove, early one morning. I stopped the car and took the photo out the opened window so as not to disturb him. A number of beginners or non-birders see the white head and think this is a Bald Eagle. However, notice the brown stripe through the eye. On a Bald Eagle, the head is entirely white.

Osprey - Galveston
 On November 5th, on a trip to Brazoria NWR south of Houston, a White-tailed Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus) was in a small dead tree beside the road. This large (20") hawk is a specialty of coastal Texas. It is IDed as an adult by gray back, red shoulders and white underparts. The tail is white with a black terminal band as seen in the 2nd and 3rd photos.
White-tailed Hawk - adult

 One of my nemesis birds to photograph is a Merlin (Falco columbarius). This 10" falcon is just slighly larger than the common American Kestrel. Last year I got my first photo of this bird (only a fair photo), but yesterday, I had one in a tree beside the road and got my best photo. The female is brown backed with brown striped breast. The male has a gray back.

Merlin - female at Brazoris NWR
The Northern Caracara (Caracara cheriway) is a common raptor in Mexico and south Texas. The adults have a black body and yellow legs, but the juvenile and 1st year birds have a brown body and gray legs. I found a family group of 3 birds yesterday and got a photo of the juvenile for the first time.

Northern Caracara - juvenile
I found this weird looking duck at LaFitte's Cove yesterday. I think it is a hybrid between Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals. No one has commented on Texbirds yet to refute my guess.

Hybrid Teal - ?Green-winged x Blue-winged at LaFitte's Cove, Galveston 11/6/2011
The drought all summer has caused most of the damp marshy areas to be bone dry. Thus any remaining wet areas have attracted the migrating shorebirds. One such area is El Franco Lee Park in SE Houston. They kept it wet by pumping water into the area from a creek. In any event, this Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) was spotted about a week ago and hangs out right in front of the observation gazebo. This is the second Ruff in the past 3 years in the Houston-Galveston area and the first record ever for the city of Houston. It is a Eurasion shorebird that does show up regularly in North America, but mostly on the east coast. This bird is IDed by the plump body, small head and short bill. I must admit, I wouldn't have known what it was. Usually they are found by birders from Europe who are very familiar with it. This particular bird is a juvenile because of the beige unstreaked breast.

Ruff - juvenile at El Franco Lee Park, Houston TX

Lastly, the Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) is another shorebird. It usually is difficult to see and photograph as it stays hidden in wet grassy areas. However, with a shortage of marshy places this year, many have been forced to forage in the open. This has given us birders our best looks at numerous birds as well as good photo ops. It is IDed by the long bill, striped head and 3 long beige stripes down the back.

Wilson's Snipe
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: