Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bulletin 215 - Winter Birds #2 and coyote

Texas never cease to amaze me with the diversity of birds found here. In the previous winter bird bulletin, I had my first photos of a Mountain Plover. Well, this time I had to go inland a little most of the way to Austin, but a Mexican species showed up that had never before been in the USA.

The Striped Sparrow (Oriturus superciliosus) is a non-migratory resident in the mountains of Mexico. How it ended up in Texas is uncertain, but birders have been coming from all over USA and Canada to see it. It has been shy and tends to stay hidden in bushes, but I was lucky to see it within 10 minutes of arriving at the location. He is readily IDed by black mask and white line above

Striped Sparrow
On one trip to Anahuac NWR I saw 3 large birds lift off from a field near the highway. I saw one had a white tail, so I knew it was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). I stopped and turned around and went back. Fortunately they were still close to the road. I jumped out of the car and began taking photos. A subadult all brown eagle was chasing the adult who was carrying some prey. He actually caught up to the adult and I got a photo just as he grabbed on to the prey from under the adult. An extremely lucky capture and in focus too.

Bald Eagles
Another raptor found recently was a dark morph Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis). This bird is native to the southwest USA, but a few winter in Texas and east. I have only seen this bird about 5 times and all were the light morph. Sibley says that dark birds are about 9% of the population. I had joined the Louisiana bird list as perhaps some birds might show up in western Louisiana, that I would like to photo, and this was one of them.

Ferruginous Hawk - adult dark morph
Cameron Prairie NWR, LA

On a visit to Hermann Park in downtown Houston, I saw this really peculiar looking duck that I though was some kind of hybrid, although there was a pair that looked the same. They had a pair of babies with them. It turns out that this is an Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca).

Egyptian Goose
The babies are really cute - brown and white patterned.

Egyptian Goose - goslings
The term leucistic refers to a bird that has some abnormal white feathers. It is very rare to find a leucistic bird and I have photos of only 2 of them in 10 years. This is the second one. I saw this Great-tailed Grackle on the beach at Bolivar. As I was driving along the beach, the wind blew his long tail into the air and a flash of white caught my attention. He has 2 white feathers in his tail.

Great-tailed Grackle - leucistic
There has been a nest of Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) in Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge southeast of Houston for the past 3 years. I was just made aware of it this week and visited it to take some photos. The first in mid-afternoon has an adult in the nest with 2 babies visible.

Great Horned Owl on nest
 At sunset I went back and hoped that one of the parents would be out of the nest on a bare tree. Also, the warm sunlight at sunset really enhances the image. Well sure enough, one posed on a bare tree.
Great Horned Owl
And a short time later she flew to another tree and showed her other side. What a cooperative bird. All the photographers were impressed.
Great Horned Owl
Mammals are hard to find except deer and squirrels, so this coyote on Galveston was only my second time to see them on the island. This guy was very red and appeared to be as large as a German Shepherd dog. There used to be a red wolf in the southeast USA, but it was almost extirpated by the 70's. The last group were trapped and many were found to be coyote hybrids, but the few pure wolves were set up in a captive breeding program. Due to the color and size of this one, I suspect it has at least some wolf genes in it.

possible red wolf hybrid

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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1 comment:

Leslie Lim said...

I would like to share it with all my friends and hope they will like it too.