Friday, April 17, 2009

So Texas & Crested Caracaras

Though I saw a few Crested Caracaras in the Uvalde area (at the edge of Texas Hill/River Country & the beginning of South Texas), the numbers I saw this afternoon as I drove into South Texas were impressive--about 30 in under 300 miles or about one for every 10 highway mile.

Crested Caracaras are quite distinctive in appearance, even in flight, as shown in these pics. Though their faces are usually only viewable with binoculars, their bright orange facial skin (ironically matching their legs) stands out.

Though they will take live prey, both invertebrate and vertebrates, they also eat carrion and are known to join vultures to chow down on some rotted delight. SeEtta

Best bird--Golden-cheekedWarbler

This bird will likely be the best bird of the trip because the Golden-cheeked Warbler is an Endangered Species and listed as 'one of the most at-risk species in North America' by the National Audubon Society. It's breeding range is restricted to fewer than 25 counties in Central Texas. The neatest part of seeing this Golden-cheeked Warbler was watching it go to a nest which is visible in the lower pic. This male bird stayed at the nest for a minute or so, possibly feeding a female on the nest or maybe doing some work on the nest (females do most of the building but males may assist)

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, "Golden-cheeked warblers are endangered because many tall juniper and oak woodlands have been cleared to build houses, roads, and stores. Some habitat was cleared to grow crops or grass for livestock. Other habitat areas were flooded when large lakes were built." SeEtta

Neal's Lodges on the Frio River


I had arranged to meet Bob Rasa, who leads tours around the famous Neal's Lodges on the Frio River in Concan, TX. Bob graciously offered to work me in to his schedule and I spent the day benefiting from his experience with the birds in this area. We birded around Neal's Lodges in the morning which is where I photographed this Black-throated Sparrow.
I also saw this Long-billed Thrasher at the Neal's. This species has a fairly limited range, mostly in Mexico but coming into south and central Texas. SeEtta

Black-belliedWhistlingDucks

I was surprised to see these (and several other small groups totaling around 20) Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flying over Lake Nasworthy in San Angelo,TX--this is West Texas and I think of these ducks as South Texas neotropical specialties. I don't recall seeing any here during earlier trips. But when I checked the range map in Sibley's "Field Guide to Birds", I found that they are also found in central plus northeast Texas with an even wider vagrancy range. I did read that they have expanded their range signicantly over the the past 39+ years--hey, maybe they will show up in Colorado some day. SeEtta

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Skulking wren

This Marsh Wren was behaving like Marsh Wrens do, skulking in the vegetation. This one was not technically in a marsh but rather in the reeds along the edge of Lake Nasworthy in San Angelo, Tx. There were also Black-crowned Night-Herons in the wider vegetative areas but I couldn't get a pic when one of them flew out nearby. SeEtta

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

I got to San Angelo,TX in time to get in an hour or so of birding at the Lake Nasworthy area on the west side of town. San Angelo is one of my favorite towns to stop in when traveling south in Texas and I really enjoy Lake Nasworthy, an area with a lot of human impacts (motor boating, expensive developments along most of the lake shore, invasive alien tamarisk) but with some public park areas, cattail wetlands and still some nice birds. The first birds I saw were Scissor-tailed Flycatchers including the two pictured here. They make sounds like squeaky-toys. I saw about 5-6 of them around the rambling parks. Note: their split tail can be separated by the bird which mimics the motion of a pair of scissors, thus the name. SeEtta

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bright Yellow-headed Blackbird

While birding in the lower Arkansas Valley of Colo yesterday I stopped at the Ordway Reservoir, a small fishing area where Yellow-headed Blackbirds breed in a small section of cattails. There were a few male Yellow-headed Blackbirds there engaged in boundary displays. On this dreary cool rainy day the brightness of their plumage striking. SeEtta

Nesting Bald Eagle & attentive mate

I have been monitoring this nesting female and have often seen her mate nearby. Last year their nest and nest tree was destroyed in severe winds. I found her still on the nest yesterday and her mate perched about 25 feet above her as shown in this pic (double-click on pic to enlarge it to see them better).Interestingly, at dusk I found both Bald Eagles in the nest--see bottom 2 pics (unfortunately the eagles were several hundred feet away and it was dusk). I don't know if perhaps the male was going to try to breed with her again or if he was going to enjoy a nest to spend the night. Another, though anthropomorphic explanation might be that he was being altruistic by staying in the nest with her as it was quite windy (I don't know if they would even remember the bad winds that destroyed their nest last year). At first I thought I had just caught him bringing her food but I watched for more than 10 minutes and he was still there. SeEtta