Monday, September 1, 2014

Bulletin 205 - Summer birds

Summer tends to be the doldrums here in Southeast Texas - hot, humid and lots of biting insects. However, there are always a few good birds to find and photograph. It is also the time to see the babies and juveniles of our local nesting birds.

I had 2 notable birds at the house this summer. The first was the 14" Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississipiensis). I have seen them flying over the house 2-3 times in spring or fall migration in 18 years. However, in June and July, Lisa and I noticed a pair of adults flying low over the trees several times weekly. I was sure that they must have a nest close by. Sure enough in mid-August I found a juvenile in a pine tree on our property. One can see the wing-tips extending beyond the tail which is an ID mark for this long-winged raptor.

Mississippi Kite - juvenile

I went to Anahuac NWR several times over the summer to look for the marsh birds and waders. The baby Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) has a striped head. Here is an adult with baby.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck with duckling
This pair had 13 juveniles following behind!

Black-bellied Whistling Duck family
I found a nest of Green Herons (Butorides virescens). The 2 babies have a punk rock haircut.

Green Heron babies
I watched this Neotropic Cormorant catch a catfish in the canal and manipulate it around to swallow it. He was almost at my feet as I took this out the car window. He appears to be displaying his catch proudly.

Neotropic Cormorant with catch of the day

The Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica) is considered by many people to be the most beautiful bird in the USA. There seemed to be more of them this year than at any other time in 20 years. I saw 12 - 15 adults on each visit. Normally, the adults are seen singly, but on one trip, I saw a pair together and stopped to photograph them from the car, and to my amazement, they started copulating. It was all over in 5-10 seconds, so I was extremely lucky to get a photo.

Purple Gallinules copulating

Moments afterwards, the male preened the female's head and neck.

Purple Gallinules

With so many birds to see, I got the best photos I have ever taken of the adult. Here is one preening after taking a bath.

Purple Gallinule

And here is another on a yellow bush showing the beautiful colors of his head and neck. This is uncropped. He was so close, I couldn't get the whole bird in the photo.

Purple Gallinule

The babies are cute little black fuzzballs.

Purple Gallinule - chick

As they get bigger, they molt into the juvenile plumage of warm beige back and white underparts. Here is one partially molted with still fuzzy black on head and neck. The wing feathers are just starting to grow.

Purple Gallinule molting from chick to juvenile

And here is another close up. This is the first time I have seen these partially molted plumaged birds.

Purple Gallinule molting from chick to juvenile

The juvenile plumage is here and the wings show bluish tinge.

Purple Gallinule - juvenile

Last weekend at Anahuac, I found this light morph plumaged Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). He was sitting on a fence post eating his catch. This was my first photo ever of this species at eye-level, and my first of this color morph perched. What a beautiful bird. This bird is a migrant through east Texas.

Swainson's Hawk - light morph adult

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 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: