Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bulletin 180 - Texas summer birds

Summer is a slow time for birding, but baby birds can be interesting and are readily found.

I had a quick trip to Kerrville in the hill country of Texas. That is the location of 2 special birds, the Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, both of whom are endangered. I had only seen them each once before, but before I was doing photography.

We went to the Kerr Wildlife Management Center outside of the town of Hunt. Both birds can be found there.

The Golden-cheeked Warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) is a Texas specialty bird, as it only breeds in Texas and winters in Mexico. The male has a black throat, cap, and back. the bright yellow face has a black line through the eye. It superficially resembles the Black-throated Green Warbler, but the green is replaced by black. This bird was preening and pulled a small feather out which was stuck in his bill.

Golden-cheeked Warbler - male
He flew to a lower branch and I got another photo.

Golden-cheeked Warbler - male
I wasn't as lucky with the Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapillus). I found a pair of them, but they did their best to avoid any photographs. I finally got a single photo, but will need to go back. This vireo is IDed by the black head with white lores.

Black-capped Vireo
A pair of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) on the fence allowed close up photos. The distinctive pink bare skin head is the field mark. Although they look black at a distance, the body is brownish in the sunlight.

Turkey Vulture - adult
Back home in July, I made several trips to Anahuac NWR. This is one of the best spots to find the Least Bittern  (Ixobrychus exilis). I saw about 6 this trip and this one sat in the open for an extended period of time.

Least Bittern
Anahuac is also a great place to find Common Nighthawks  (Chordeiles minor) roosting on fence posts at eye level. Notice the primary wing feathers have no markings beyond the white patch. The Lesser Nighthawk I found in the spring has buffy spots all the way along the primary feathers.

Common Nighthawk
I found a very young rail, which is most likely a King Rail (Rallus elegans) in the marsh at Anahuac. Notice how gray he is. The primary feathers are just about 1/2 inch long starting to sprout. There was a pair of them walking around below the boardwalk. He appeared to be fully grown in size.

King Rail - juvenile
I went back the next week, and refound one of them. The wing feathers are now perhaps 2" long.

King Rail - juvenile
Common Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) downy chicks are black with red bills and a black ring around the bill. This one appears to have feet way too big for his size.

Common Moorhen - downy chick
I found a family with fully grown juveniles sitting up on some adult with 3 young.

Common Moorhen - family group

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2013 David McDonald

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