Monday, April 14, 2014

Bulletin 195 - early migrants

I need to take a break from Panama as spring migration is underway along the Texas coast.

In the latter half of March, I had a new hummingbird species in my yard, and not one but 2 individuals, as the plumages were different. The Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) at 3.25 inches in length is the smallest bird in North America. Both birds were juvenile males starting to molt to adult plumage. The first one had a long single red feather on the left side of his throat. Notice that the wings project beyond the tail. This is the fifth species of hummer in my yard!

Calliope Hummingbird - juvenile male
He stayed around for about 10 days and was replaced by a second bird. Notice he has a few central feathers sprouting, but nothing on the left side of his throat.

Calliope Hummingbird - juvenile male
I spent some time on the coast the last 2 weekends and picked up some migrants. The Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina) is very common. The male has the black hood and yellow face. 
Hooded Warbler - male

The female has just the outline of the black hood, but is still easy to identify.

Hooded Warbler - female
A perennial nemesis bird for me was the Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica). It took several years before I saw one after starting photography, but this year, I have seen 2 already. Again, this black and white bird with bright yellow throat is an easy ID. The sexes are similar.

Yellow-throated Warbler

The Prothonotary Warbler (Prothonotaria citrea) is another favorite of mine. This bright yellow bird with a long bill and blue-gray wings is an easy ID. The sexes are similar, but the female is duller and has a more olive crown. This is the first one I am convinced is a male. This guy also gave us 10 minutes of photo enjoyment as he hung out at the drip at LaFitte's Cove.

Prothonotary Warbler - male
I also had my first beautiful male Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra).

Summer Tanager - male
I went to Bolivar Island twice last weekend attempting to see and photo a rare gull. I missed that gull both times, but did get some interesting photos of other birds. The most amazing was a pink plumaged gull. This is the Franklin's Gull (Larus pipixcan) in breeding plumage. Sibley's describes this bird as having a 'pink tinge'. Well this bird is not tinged, it is pink! The other ID mark is the white spots on wing tips.

Franklin's Gull - breeding

Here is one of the pair with Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls to show the contrast.

Franklin's Gull

The Least Tern (Sterna antillarum) at 9" long is the smallest tern. It is IDed by the yellow bill and white forehead.

Least Tern - breeding

On Bolivar Flats, the famous Houston Audubon shorebird location, I got photos of 2 small plovers. The Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is smaller at 6.25" in length.  It is IDed by the dark legs, thin bill, and black on forehead, behind eye and incomplete breastband. I had not noted the beige crown on this bird previously and it caught my eye in the field.

Snowy Plover - breeding

The slightly larger (7.25") Piping Plover (Charadrius melodius) has orange legs and bill. It has the black forehead and an almost complete breast band. However, the face is plain.

Piping Plover - breeding

An unusual sighting was an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) sitting on the ground. It was a very windy day and he might have been trying to get out of the elements.


Lastly, some of you may know that Galveston Bay had an oil spill about a month ago when a ship collided with a barge in the fog. There were some oiled birds rescued and cleaned, but this White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) must have not been senn or escaped capture to clean him. He was at the Bolivar ferry landing.

White Pelican - oiled

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

No comments: