Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bulletin 163 - miscellaneous birds

This edition will have various birds that I saw over the summer, but did not feature previous bulletins.

The Houston area was host to a couple of very uncommon birds this summer.

The first was a Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus) at Sabine Woods. This bird first appeared near the end of spring migration. If accepted, it will be the first North American record for this bird. I didn't have a chance to see it in the spring and as I had seen it many times in the tropics, wasn't particularly interested in driving 120 miles to attempt to locate it. Through May, there were not any further reports and then in early June, it again was mentioned on Texbirds. It apparently was a female and had mated with a Northern Mockingbird and was raising a family in Sabine Woods. So I went to see it. It is IDed by the lack of white wing patches. Notice how dark the wings are as well.

Tropical Mockingbird
The other rare visitor was a female Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) in breeding plumage. This shorebird is native to Eurasia. It will occasionally appear on the east coast or in Alaska. I did not see it on my Alaska trip in 2010 however, so it was a lifer for me. It was found by an astute birder in late May, at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge in with a group of Hudsonian Godwits. Pretty amazing that a rare bird like this appears 25 miles from home! This was the first Texas record for this species. It is identified as a godwit by the 2 tone straight beak.

Black-tailed Godwit - female
The next 2 photos confirm the species. Here is the solid black tail with white terminal band and white uppertail coverts.

Black-tailed Godwit - female
Most importantly, however, to differentiate the bird from the Hudsonian Godwits was the white underwing. Hudsonians have black underwings.

Black-tailed Godwit - female
IOn the Arizona trip in August, T again saw the Whiskered Screech-Owl (Otus trichopsis). This small 7.25" owl came in to the tape and posed long enough to give me my best photos ever.

Whiskered Screech-Owl
Like many buteo hawks, the Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) comes in various colors from light to dark. They are called color morphs. This is an intermediate morph juvenile bird on a power pole.

Swainson's Hawk - intermediate morph juvenile
One type of photo I have always admired is a hawk with a snake. I have seen a number of these photos over the years, but only once did I actually see a hawk with a snake. That was in my neighbor's yard but several years before I started doing photography. Well I finally hit pay dirt on the AZ trip in August. We stopped to photograph a Swainson's Hawk on a pole. He flew off and I saw him carrying a rather long snake in his talons. Fortunately, he circled around overhead and I was able to get the photos.

Swainson's Hawk with snake
And another.

Swainson's Hawk with snake
On a visit to Galveston in September, I saw this beautiful male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus). The salmon-red color is stunning along with his magnificent tail.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - male
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - male
Now, we have a quiz. I saw this Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons) at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston in early September. What field mark isn't showing in this photo and why? Please email me with your answers. I will publish other photos in the next bulletin along with the correct answer.

Yellow-throated Vireo

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2012 David McDonald

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