Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bulletin 260 - Spring Migration

After last years pretty dismal migration, this year was spectacular. I actually was at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston for 2 days when we had fall outs and the trees were teeming with birds. These were Monday April 18 and Saturday April 30. What fun! 

I still had 2 birds to photograph despite 10 years of spring migrations. These were a male Golden-winged Warbler, and an adult Black-billed Cuckoo.

Here are a few highlights from 1/2 dozen trips to the coast.

The Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) is a beautiful bright yellow with blue-gray wings. This is the only 1 I saw this year and it was on the 18th.

Prothonotary Warbler

A Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) was practically at my feet in the open. This is unusual for this normally shy bird. The bold spots on his breast can be seen to be individual feathers.

Wood Thrush

My friend Martin Jackson from New York and his son Thomas from LA flew in for a day of birding and they hit the jackpot on the 30th. Martin especially wanted to see a Yellow-headed Blackbird. Well as you know, that is a western species and is rare here. Well as luck would have it we found a pair at Anahuac NWR. I didn't get any photos, but Martin saw both the male and female!

There were a pair of King Rails (Rallus elegans) in the open at Anahuac as well.

King Rail
We headed to High Island after lunch and on the way to the famous rookery, I found my Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) right overhead. He is gray with gold wing patch, gold cap and black facial pattern.

Golden-winged Warbler - male
Next we went to LaFitte's Cove to see if there were any late afternoon arrivals as a strong front with rain had come through and that may bring in a fall out. Well it sure did. When we arrived, we were told that both golden-winged and the cuckoo were in the woods.

Martin spotted the Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) in the canopy. It is IDed by the red eye, black bill, and long tail. This was the first one I had seen in the 10 years of doing photography.

Black-billed Cuckoo - adult
A short time later, another male Golden-winged Warbler flew into the drip. So 2 of them in one day. Most years, I don't see a single bird.

Golden-winged Warbler - male

At LaFitte's Cove on April 10th I had some interesting photos of a Great Egret hunting. This long legged wader can be found walking the trails in the woods and I always wondered what he was eating. Well that day I found out.

First he caught several lizards.

Great Egret with lizard
Later he tackled an 18" garter snake.

Great Egret with Garter Snake1
The snake wasn't excited about what the egret had in mind and he tried to grab onto a stick or anything when he was dropped. This stick however was broken and didn't help.

Great Egret with Garter Snake2
On a couple of occasions, the snake was able to get wrapped around the bill of the egret and he had to drop it once again.

Great Egret with Garter Snake3

Finally, the egret is making progress and gets the snakes head in his mouth and starts to swallow it, but the tail is flailing around and wraps around the neck of the egret and starts to choke him, so again he lets go and drops the snake.

Great Egret with Garter Snake4
After once more wrapping itself around the beak of the egret, the snake itself ends up tied up in knots, and the end is near as he can swallow it now.

Great Egret with Garter Snake5
And after more than 6 minutes, the egret completed the task.

Great Egret with Garter Snake6
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

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