Saturday, September 24, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 9-24-11

It was a great day again at LaFitte's Cove. The weather was slightly overcast, warm and still. The mosquitoes were out in force, enjoying the half-dozen birders.

There were 10 species warblers seen or heard. I saw Northern Parula, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Prairie, Wilson's, and Hooded. Mike Austin also heard Black-throated Green, Yellow, Nashville and a possible Waterthrush.

Northern Parula
3 species of vireos were seen - Red-eyed, White-eyed and Warbling.

The only flycatchers were empids. Mike Austin IDed Yellow-bellied and Least.

Least Flycatcher

Other songbird migrants were Baltimore Orioles, Gray Catbird, BG Gnatcatcher, Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Buntings.

An accipiter, I think a sharpie, was hunting in the woods and seen 3 different times.

Just before leaving about noon, I found this Chuck-will's-widow roosting on a log about a foot off the ground. I was able to show him to Janet Rathjen and her 2 friends. He was hard to photograph due to lots of vines in front, but I was able to get about 20 feet away and get this one - uncropped. This was my 4th of this specoies to find at Lafitte's so far this fall.


On Stewart Road just past 8 Mile Road on the way to LaFitte's Cove this morning, a cooperative Osprey was sitting just off the road.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Bulletin #143 - hawks and fall migrant birds

I finally have some available time to look at some of my photos for the past few months after a hectic summer.

I showed a photo of the adult Red-shouldered Hawk picking up the crayfish from early July. I went back and looked at some others, and some were also good. Here are 2 sequential photos 1/8 second apart as he is just about to pick the crawfish off the grass and just after as he is lifting off afterwards.

I also put those photos uncropped with the one before and 2 after in a slide show. The whole clip lasts less than a second. Click on 1 second below the photos to speed it up.  Link

 So here are some other fall migration birds I found the last couple of weeks.

First is an Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi). This large  (7.5") flycatcher usually sits at the top of tall trees. He is IDed by the dark vest. Although he looks similar to an Eastern Kingbird, he doesn't have the white tip on the tail. I saw one of these the last 2 weekends at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston. Often, I don't see a single bird in a year.

Olive-sided Flycatcher
A favorite flycatcher of mine is the Great Crestyed Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus). Of the 4 myiarchus species in the USA, this one is the brightest yellow. I knew thisa bird from childhood, as they nested in a bird house when I was growing up in Ottawa, Canada. There have been about a dozen in the last 2 weekends.

Great Crested Flycatcher - LaFitte's Cove
 And here is one from my backyard who caught a large grasshopper.

Great Crested Flycatcher
A common fall warbler is the Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla). This was the first I have seen this fall at LaFitte's last Saturday. It is IDed by the gray head and yellow throat and underparts. The back is olive or green. It has a prominent white eye ring.

Nashville Warbler
This is also the first Wilson's Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla) I saw this fall. It is all yellow and olive except the male has a black cap.

Wilson's Warbler
Lots of Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) are also passing through. They tend to travel in small flocks and suddenly you will se 8-10 or more. Here is a fist fall male plumaged bird. This is the first photo of this plumage I have taken. The bright orange shows it is an oriole, and he lacks the any black on the head.

Baltimore Oriole - 1st fall male
The best bird so far this fall was this Chuck-will's-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis). At 12" in length, this is our largest nightjar. These noctural birds, like owls, are tough to photograph as they aren't out during daylight hours. One can see them in migration as they tend to flush and fly off, when you approach them. You usually don't see them until they fly. I was fortunate to be standing at the drip at LaFitte's Cove when this bird flew in and perched abot 30 feet away on some low branches. This is only the third photograph I have ever taken of this bird, and by far the best. The diagnostic mark is the brown throat as well as the size.

Chuck-will's-widow - LaFitte's Cove, Galveston
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 9-17-11

I spent 3.5 hours at LaFitte's Cove this morning. The weather was overcast with a slight breeze, but still hot. There are now quite a few mosquitos.

I saw 5 species of warblers including 2 new ones for the fall migration (B&W, Yellow, Ovenbird, Nashville and Wilson's). The latter 2 were FOS for me.

Nashville Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
There was only 1 species of vireo seen today - a Red-eyed.

The most common birds were Great Crested Flycatchers with perhaps 5-6 seen. Other flycatchers were Olive-sided, Least and Yellow-bellied.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher

The only other migrants were Baltimore Orioles.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 9-11-11

It was only a fair day at LaFitte's Cove this morning. No drips were running.

There were 4 species warblers - the usual Black-and-white and Canada, but also an American Redstart, and an Orange-crowned (seemed pretty early for the OC). Here's the Redstart.

There were 2 pecies of vireos - White-eyed and Warbling. Here's the White-eyed.

There were several species of Flycatchers - Great Crested, Eastern Kingbird, several empids and an Olive-sided. The Olive-sided was perched at the top of a dead tree as is his custom.

He darted out and snagged a large bug and returned to the same perch.

After eating the bug, he flew to another tree and allowed a good photo of his olives sides.

This is an uncommon bird for me to find. I had one at LaFitte's in the same tree this spring, but these are the only 2 sightings so far this year.

Other birds were Brown Thrasher, 1 Chuck-will's-widow (seen only because he was harassed by a pair of Mockingbirds and flushed),  and several Baltimore Orioles.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 9-10-11

It was a beautiful day to be birding, sunny with a few clouds and light breeze. The drips were on today. The schedule is Wednesday and Saturday mornings due to water restrictions on Galveston Island.

The woods had lots of birds this morning. There were 4 species of warblers seen - 2 Black-and-white, 3-4 Canada, 1 Ovenbird and 1 Mourning. Here is a Black-and-white enjoying the drip.

There were several Warbling Vireos. There was a number of flycatchers including an eastern Wood-Pewee, an empid, a couple of Great Crested Flycatchers and maybe 10 Eastern Kingbirds. including this one.

There were numerous Baltimore Orioles with numerous juveniles. Here is a juvie male at the drip.

Other migrants included a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo  and best of all 2 Chuck-will's-widows. I was watching the drip when this one flew into the back of the drip area. Best photo ever for me (only the second one) of this species. I don't think I have ever seen the feet of any of this family of birds. His toes can be seen wrapped around the tiny branches. Talk about a stroke of luck!

It was so much fun today, I'll check it out again tomorrow.

PS - another birder was at LaFitte's before 8am and saw Veery, Dickcissels, Worm-eating Warbler and Red-eyed, and Philadelphia Vireos besides the birds I listed.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bulletin #142 -fall birds

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

Well my 'pet' hawks don't hang around anymore as I can't get any more crayfish. I don't know what happened to the juvenile, as I have not seen it since July 11th. I don't know hawk behavior. Perhaps the adults drive off the young to find their own territory? I certainly am going to hope that is the case rather than something bad happened to the bird.

There are currently 3 adults in the area, and I don't know whether they are trying to pair up for next years breeding season. While I still had some crayfish in mid July, I wantd to try and get an action shot of the adult swooping down to pluck the crayfish off the grass. I just used a 24-105 mm lens and focussed on the crayfish and then set the focus to manual. I managed to get a few photos and here is the best of them. These large birds are quite aerobatic!

Fall migration has begun. I have had several hummingbirds coming to the feeders since I put them up last week. At first there were just single birds, but now I have several in the yard at once.

I have been to LaFitte's Cove in Galveston to look for fall migrants. Here's a Black-and-white Warbler.

The next one is a Canada Warbler.

The last of the warblers I was able to photograph, was a Magnolia Warbler.

Several species of flycatchers were also seen. Here is an Eastern Kingbird.

Several species of empidonax flycatchers were found. They are a difficult ID problem, so I usually have to post them to Texbirds and ask for help. This one is a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

An unusual bird for LaFitte's Cove was this Magnificent Frigatebird soaring just above the trees last Saturday.

August was the hottest month in Houston history with 100 degrees or more for daily highs for 30 of the 31 days. It was just too miserable to be out birding, so I plan to make up for it as the cooler fall days bring us some relief.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2011 David McDonald

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

LaFitte's Cove Bird Report 9-3-11

Galveston Island finally has some water. The tide is very high from the tropical storm in the Gulf. Many of the low areas are flooded with sea water. (along Stewart Road, 8 Mile Road etc) At least there will be some mud flats afterwards for shorebirds.

At LaFitte's Cove this morning, there was an osprey flying low over the entrance road on the way in.

The weather was windy and sllightly overcast, but a little cooler than last weekend.

The woods were free of migrants except for a single Black-and-white Warbler.

The sprinklers were on in the woods watering the trees and thus the drips were running, but no birds were around to enjoy the water.

The best bird was this Magnificent Frigatebird soaring just above the trees. A first for me at LaFitte's.