Monday, February 14, 2011

Bulletin #131 – Mexican Visitors and GBBC

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

February 14, 2011

Bulletin #131 – Mexican Visitors and GBBC

There have been a couple of Mexican vagrants in my area of Texas recently.

The first was a Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savana). This handsome bird looks like a cross between an Eastern Kingbird and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. It normally occurs from Mexico to South America. However, it turns up regularly in the USA along the Texas coast and east coast. This was the first one I had an opportunity to see in the USA and photograph. It was in Galveston Island State Park in January and it may still be there.

In this photo he landed with his back to the strong wind that day and his tail feathers blew over his back.  

The second bird was a Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivacea). This is another bird that has an extensive range from Mexico to South America. It was at Goose Island State Park near Rockport TX. It is a small (4")sparrow like bird. The only US Field Guide that shows it, that I have, is National Geographic. In that field guide, it is listed in the same family as sparrows. However, the IOU (International Ornithologists Union) include it in Thraupidae family (Tanagers). This bird is a male. He IDed by the olive body and black face and breast with yellow stripes on the face.In the sunlight, he was beautiful and the book illustrations don't do him justice.

While waiting for the grassquit to appear, I photographed this Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla). It is IDed by the reddish crown, plain face with distinct white eye-ring. The breast is unstreaked.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual event in February, sponsored by National Audubon and Cornell University Ornithology to get people everywhere in North America to count the birds in their yards, local parks or anywhere else desired. The dates are Feb 18-21, 2011. All you have to do is count the most number of birds of each species that you see at any one time. Plan to spend at least 15 minutes in a location. Then you enter your data online. You can pick any time during those 4 days. Also, you can do several sightings in different locations or the same location on different days over those 4 days.

Hummingbirds are unusual in winter here in Houston, but I have been blessed to have several of these jewels in my yard, the last 3 winters. When I entered 3 different hummer species last year in the GBBC, I was queried by a screener to make sure I had identified them correctly. Currently I have just 3 of them, a female Black-chinned and this stunning Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis). I showed his photo before Christmas when he first showed up. But he is still here and I took this photo of him last week hunkered down near the house to avoid the wind and 30 degree temperature. For a tropical species, he is quite cold tolerant. 

This 1st winter male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) showed up this weekend. 

Other birds at my feeders that I hope to find and enter on the GBBC next weekend are the Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata). This drab olive bird has grayish head and no distinguishing features other than the faintly streaked breast shown here. All these photos are taken out my kitchen window. 

The male Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus) is the brightest winter warbler I have at my house. I have several pine trees to attract them and they readily come to the peanut butter mix on this feeder.

The female is less brightly colored with the yellow just on the breast. 

The peanut butter mix even attracts the Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) in my yard. This is the only feeder I have found that will attract the kinglets that normally eat insects. 

So, if the Great Backyard Bird Count interests you, I hope that you will participate next weekend and survey your yard or a local park etc.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald


photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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