Monday, December 26, 2011

Bulletin #148 - local birds

I have had a few good photos of local birds over the past month.

(Click on the photo to enlarge it)

This winter has seemed to have an influx of western birds into the Houston area. There have been several Sage Thrashers, Green-tailed Towhees and Harris's Sparrows. I have only seen Harris's Sparrows (Zonotrichia querula) on 2 occasions, both times in the far west Houston area. I can never remember reports of them on Galveston Island. So I was very surprised to find this adult at LaFitte's Cove in November. This 7.5" bird is our largest sparrow. He is IDed by the black face and pink bill.

Harris's Sparrow - adult
A flock of 6-7 birds was found a short distance away. The 1st winter bird has a white throat.

Harris's Sparrow - 1st winter
Also at LaFitte's Cove was this very pale American Robin (Turdus migratorius). I suspect this is probably a first winter female.

American Robin
Another bird I had not previously seen in Galveston was the Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus). Usually one sees their bulky stick nests on transmission towers and the birds perched on wires. I was surprised to see a flock of about 20 birds on a grassy median in the road, as I drove through Galveston. I stopped and got out to take a photo, but the flock spooked and flew away. I couldn't refind them. 2 hours later as I drove back the same way, the birds were back on the ground in the same place. Fortunately, it was Sunday morning with no traffic and I just stopped the car and took some photos through the open window. This bird is IDed by the gray face and breast and bluish wings.

Monk Parakeet
Fortunately, the fall has brought us a normal amount of rain and all the usual wet areas and ponds have filled up again. I had 2 duck species at LaFitte's Cove that were unusual. The first was 2-3 female Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola). Buffleheads at 13" in length are our smallest ducks. The females are IDed by the small size, and brown head with a  horizontal white patch.

Bufflehead - female
The other was a small group of Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis). The females are brown with a white patch at the base of the bill. The bird in front shows a peak or corner at the rear of the head. This is the most reliable field mark to differentiate Lesser from Greater Scaup.

Lesser Scaup - female
For only the second time in 14 years, I had some Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in my yard. I happened to look out and see 3 birds in the bird bath. I got my camera ready and they returned several times to drink over the next couple of hours. Unfortunately they didn't stay around, but I did see one bird again several weeks later.

Eastern Bluebird - male

Eastern Bluebird - female
Happy birding and photography,
David McDonald

photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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