Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bulletin 174 - more end of migration birds

A formerly nemesis bird for me was the American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica). I first saw this bird on the Texas coast in 2010. Now I see it annually. This was my first time to find them on Galveston Island, on Settegast Road, very close to my favorite haunt at LaFitte's Cove. I actually saw about 5 birds over 2 weekends there. This is a beautiful bird in breeding plumage, but unfortunately, it doesn't molt to breeding plumage until it reaches breeding grounds in the Arctic.

American Golden-Plover - non-breeding

The Dickcissel (Spiza americana) is a sparrow like bird with its brown back. However, as can be seen by the large beak, it actually is in the cardinal family. The large beak, yellow breast and black throat actually make it look like a small meadowlark. This is a male. The female lacks the color on the underparts. It is named for its call (like the Killdeer and Chickadee). The rufous ahoulder patches are distinctive in both sexes.

Dickcissel - male


Dickcissel - male

My most exciting photos were finally getting some of the Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), This is one of the rarer birds in Texas during migration. I started doing photography in 2006, and finally got a glimpse of one last year but didn't get a photo. this year I saw 3 of them. It was a great year for Golden-wingeds on the coast. This bird is overall gray with a bright gold wing patch. It has a yellow cap. The female has a plain face.

Golden-winged Warbler - female
The male has 2 black marks on his face. This photo from behind shows some black. These aren't the best photos, but I was ecstatic to finally get any photos of this tough bird.

Golden-winged Warbler - male
The Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis) is the later of the 2 waterthrushes to migrate. It is brown with breast streaks and a buffy eye stripe. The sexes are similar.

Northern Waterthrush
Magnolia Warblers (Setophaga magnolia) especially the male are dramatic with dark backs, wing bars, bright yellow breasts and black streaking on the breast. Here is one bathing in the drip puddle.

Magnolia Warbler
A tough to photo bird is the Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens). This large  (7.5") bird was once in the warbler family, but now is in a family by itself as ornithologists try to resolve where it belongs. It is normally secretive and stays well hidden. However, I got lucky and this bird popped out onto a bare branch. The bright yellow breast, olive brown back and black and white facial markings ID this bird. The sexes are similar.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Everyone's favorite is the male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris). I only saw 2 of them this spring, but this greenish female came to the drip.

Painted Bunting - female
I got another photo of a male Scarlet Tanager (Piranda olivacea) with a green hackberry seed in his mouth.

Scarlet Tanager - male
The 1st year male Summer Tanagers (Pirangra rubra) are greenish and molt into their all red color in the spring. Sometimes they have some weird patterns. Sibley says that the amount of each color can be quite variable. here is one that is almost all red, with just some green on the belly.

Summer Tanager - 1st year male
This one is really peculiar looking. He sort of looks like a green bird with a sunburn on his face.

Summer Tanager - 1st year male

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2013 David McDonald

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