Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Frontera Audubon warbler-Black-throated Green

This Black-throated Green Warbler came in with several other warblers to bath in their water feature. SeEtta

American Redstart at Frontera Audubon Center


In addition to the Zone-tailed Hawk, there were some nice warblers wintering at Frontera Audubon Center in Weslaco,TX including this female American Redstart. In the top pic she fans her tail, a behavioral characteristic associated with this species. SeEtta

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Zone-tailed Hawk, down for a drink--appears there was just one hawk


These are photos I got of the juvenile Zone-tailed Hawk that I spotted at a pond day before yesterday. It was there to drink water--it drank about 8-10 times while I watched. Kind of surprising as I have never seen a hawk drinking water.

Clearly these photos show the most detail of any I have taken. They show that the hawk's right eye has something wrong with it that causes it to bulge. In looking at these photos I have realized that I was mistaken in thinking that there were two Zone-tailed Hawks. The bulging eye photographed at some angles of view gave the impression that the bird was a different hawk; now I believe there is only one Zone-tailed, a juvenile.

It is interesting that all that white on this hawk's chest was not evident in the other photos--distance from the bird and lighting conditions would have been involved. SeEtta

Friday, December 28, 2012

Zone-tailed Hawk, ?? more likely the same juvenile

[post note, 12/30: as noted in next post I now believe there has only been one Zone-tailed Hawk, a juvenile] As I noted in an earlier post, I found the juvenile Zone-tailed Hawk in the morning while we were doing the Christmas Bird Count at Frontera Audubon Center. That (yesterday) afternoon Pat Heirs, with whom I was doing this count, spotted this second Zone-tailed Hawk less than a quarter mile from where the juvenile had been perching. This bird was more distant so it was more of a challenge to identify it. Though we looked through my Zeis spotting scope we could not see, and I did not photograph, the wide white band (or additional smaller white bands found on females of this species) that is so diagnostic for Zone-tailed Hawks. However, as noted in Wheeler's Hawks of Western North America, "When perched, wingtips extend far beyond tertials..." The wings can obscure the white tail bands. Note that on middle pic there are some tree blurry tree leaves in front of bottom half of hawk that can distort the view)

This bird does show other field marks for adult Zone-tailed Hawk as noted in Hawks of Western North America: grayish black head, black bill, bright yellow cere, white lores and forehead,undersides of remiges grayish and barred (shows in bottom pic) and yellow legs. Birds of North America online adds the adults have a narrow white ring around their eyes and "narrow ring around eye, and narrow line along supraorbital ridge all whitish"--and this can be seen in the top photo (can be seen closer up by clicking on pic to enlarge it). And this hawk lacks the whitish undertail feathering with thin black bars as found on juveniles. Similar appearing Common Hawk (even rarer) can be ruled out because it has a short tail so the wings fall well short of tail tip on perched bird. SeEtta

Addendum: Please note that I have a super telephoto lens and camera set-up that gives me the equivalent of about 900 mm. Some photos were taken with this set-up and I digiscoped a few so I was not close to this hawk. It is important that birders and photographers not try to get close to this hawk as it is sensitive to disturbance. There are many birders who will want to see it so please don't risk flushing it as it may abandon it's roost. SeEtta

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Juv. Zone-tailed Hawk: interesting photos


The top pic gives a good view of the undertail feathers that in juvenile Zone-tailed Hawks is whitish with narrow black bands. The middle pic is even more interesting as the hawk is stretching it's right wing which allows unusual views of the underside of it's flight feathers that are whitish with black barring. The 'fingers' at the end of it's wing really extend far below it's tail.

The last pic is just fun--the hawk has it's foot stretched up to it's bill as it scratches an itch. SeEtta

Juvenile Zone-tailed Hawk


I found this juvenile Zone-tailed Hawk this morning while doing the Weslaco,TX Christmas Bird Count. This neotropical hawk is a regular visitor to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of TX.

After first finding it at 9:30 this morning, it flew off. I was very surprised to spot it again late this afternoon at 5 p.m. not far from where I saw it this morning. SeEtta

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guatemalan Leafwing, yet another tropical visitor

While I was focused on getting good photos of the Pavon Emperor butterfly yesterday, there was another butterfly feeding next to it. As I have enough trouble with butterflies that are intact, I didn't pay much attention to it. But Mike Richark, one of the skilled butterflyers who was helping me to see some of the fine butterflies at the National Butterfly Center realized this was not a less rare leafwing. Like the other tropical butterflies I have posted this one 'strays' to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas as this one has done, albeit without part of it's wings. (get a close-up view by clicking on this pic but please note there is a shadow of a branch that runs vertically across this pic) SeEtta

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Angled Leafwing, another tropical butterfly


Another tropical butterfly that strays into So Texas, this Angled Leafwing's range is from northern So. America north through Mexico according to Butterflies and Moths of North America. I saw my first of this species yesterday at the National Butterfly Center but wasn't able to get a photo. Today's nice sunshine allowed these nice photos--so nice all I did was crop them. Like all but the Malachite that I was able to id on my own, some friendly and skilled butterflyer's pointed this out to me. This butterfly's eyes are pretty cool and can be seen up close by clicking on the top pic. SeEtta

Pavon Emperor, other views


I thought this close up view of the wing of this male Pavon Emperor showed off it's iridescence. And the photo below demonstrates the importance of angle of view which provides the refraction of light that is necessary to show off it's color (or, as shown, not show the color). This is a phenomena also found with the plumage coloration on some birds. SeEtta

Pavon Emperor butterfly again today


Having been told by some of the experienced butterflyers that the forecast sun today would bring more great butterfly action I returned to the National Butterfly Center for an enjoyable Christmas morning (and a little bit of afternoon too). I was told that the Pavon Emperor had not yet been seen. Ah, beginner's luck (and the fact I spent a bunch of time with that butterfly yesterday), I refound it. And today's sunshine allowed me to get some great photos that showed the iridescent bluish purple found on males of this species--what a gorgeous butterfly it is! (note: I was careful to maintain the natural colors and did not enhance them). SeEtta

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pavon Emperor butterfly, another view

This gives a nice ventral view of this rare visiting butterfly. In this one it's proboscis is rolled back up. Interestingly there are two additional green appendages visible on both sides of it's head (or neck?) that can be seen in this pic. I searched the internet some but couldn't find anything about these. SeEtta

Pavon Emperor, rare tropical butterfly

I was very fortunate today to visit the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Tx when a rare tropical butterfly was being seen. I never heard who found this butterfly (apparently found here before today and refound today) whose range is from Bolivia in South America to northern Mexico according to Butterflies and Moths of North America. I am a rank novice who was the beneficiary of others who alerted me and others to this rare find and showed it to us. One more neat photo in next post.

It has a green proboscis which is shown in these pics. I'm sure that someone told me this is a male but it looks more like the photos of female Pavon Emperors. I will have to find that out to be sure. SeEtta

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lapland Longspurs in west Texas

(Note: I have delayed posting as I have traveled by car to So Texas and I don't like to post my absence until the people who will stay in my house while I am gone are there. They have now arrived so I feel comfortable putting out the info publicly)

I found very large numbers of Lapland Longspurs totally more than 300 northeast of Lubbock, TX. The close-up above is one of at least 200 Lapland Longspurs in several flocks in an agricultural field. The distinctive dark frame on the auriculars is easily seen in that photo.

The birds in the middle and bottom pics are from a playa, one of few that have any water in it. I also saw Sandhill Cranes and white-cheeked geese in addition to about a hundred Lapland Longspurs. SeEtta

Friday, December 14, 2012

White and dark geese


There are hundreds of both white geese (Snow and Ross's) that have been added to the thousands of dark geese (primarily Canada) in Pueblo County, CO. In the top photo there is a 'blue' goose (the blue phase) right in the center. Since it finally got quite cold, there is a limited amount of open water so I found that potpourri of geese and ducks all crowded into this pond. SeEtta

Handsome Prairie Falcon

This is one of two Prairie Falcons I found today in Otero County, Colorado. SeEtta

In memory of the Sandy Hook tragedy

I photographed this Bald Eagle in Otero County, Colorado this afternoon as I was listening to reports on the radio of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I would like to think those victims will soar on the wings of an eagle like this. SeEtta

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Swans, so graceful in flight


These are photos from yesterday afternoon when the Tundra Swans were disturbed by a greedy photographer--they were not at the pond today and I doubt they will return. The impact that this one person had on these swans is demonstrated by the fact I observed these swans when a train went by, sounding it's horn as it crossed the busy intersection very near the pond--they didn't fly off, they just swam to the side of the pond more distant.

I had to remember their exquisite beauty and gracefulness in the photos I took yesterday as they circled and circled, rising higher and higher, as they gained altitude as they flew away. SeEtta

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Swans flushed from pond by inconsiderate photographer


I drove down MacKenzie Ave in mid-afternoon as I wanted to check to see if any more swans had been added. I spotted the birds taking off from the water so I quickly turned into the drive across from the ponds to take these photos. All 10 swans circled as they rose higher and higher, appearing to be gaining altitude to take off from here.

I couldn't understand why they would leave at this time then I spotted a man with a camera that had been far back inside the private property on which he trespassed. He said he had flushed them but had gotten some very good photos. As can be seen by his camera in pic below, he only has a mediocre zoom lens and this guy is clearly an amateur photographer.  That sucks. I checked late this afternoon and they had not returned. Who knows how far these swans had traveled to find a pond where they could rest undisturbed. And the two that arrived today had little time to rest up. SeEtta

Tundra Swans added two more today



This morning I stopped across the road from the Valco Ponds where the Tundra Swans were. Due to warm temps and chinook (snow and ice eating) winds, the ice that had kept the swans closer to the road was gone and the swans were far back and difficult to see from the road. There looked to be more swans so I drove down the road looking for a better viewing location. That turned out to the the bridge over the Arkansas River. These pics were taken from the bridge looking northeast to the pond where there were now 10 swans, one of which was an immature.
The bottom pic is a tightly cropped photo showing the immature closer up. SeEtta

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk


In addition to the Tundra Swans, I was able to finally get a reasonably good pic of a Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk I have been seeing around Canon City for about a week. It has been extremely shy--flushes when I am less than 400 feet away and stay in my car and try to hide my car behind a tree or shrub. Though this looks similar to a Harlan's I posted about in Oct (referred to as the 'second Harlan's' I had around town at that time), this may be a different bird as the other seemed to have a little more streaking on it's breast (need closer photo to compare better). There is another Harlan's around also now-it has a very streaked chest. SeEtta

Tundra Swan close-up and stretching photos


The close-up photo above shows the field marks for Tundra Swan nicely including the small amount of yellow lores that many of these swans showed. Click on the photo to enlarge it for a very close-up view. And I enjoyed the photo below as the swan was stretching as it provides a view of much of the bird not usually visible when they are on the water. SeEtta

Tundra Swans in Canon City, more photos


Here are some closer photos of 7 of the swans. I was hiding behind vegetation and the group all swam closer so I got some closer pics including these. All appear to be adults. All of them showed field marks for Tundra Swans as identified by Sibley: "Tundra’s eye appears nearly separate from the bill";rounded borders (not pointed like Trumpeters), 'relatively short-necked and goose-like', showing 'curve at gape'. SeEtta

8 swans a swimmin


I found this group of Tundra Swans this morning in Canon City,CO. They reminded me of the song "8 Days of Christmas". Click on pic to enlarge.  More pics to follow. SeEtta

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Black Phoebe, a contrast in snow

Today I found a 1st winter Black Phoebe on the Canon City Riverwalk. It's predominately black plumage contrasts nicely with the several inches of snow we got today. Though Black Phoebes are associated with much warmer climates, all the way to central America, they do survive the winters here. In fact, the first Black Phoebe in this county, a bird I first found in the fall of 2005, stayed most of the winter and survived one of our coldest nights on record with a low of 18 below zero F. Even in that brutal cold there were some insects flying, amazing though that was at least to me at the time. SeEtta

Tracking Pacific Walrus: Expedition to the Shrinking Chukchi Sea Ice video

Gorgeous videography from USGS provides a different view of these large sea critters that are such caring mothers. SeEtta

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ladder-backed Woodpecker moved to decidous trees


Yesterday morning I returned to the Canon City Riverwalk to see if the interesting birds from the day before were still around. I did not locate the White-throated Sparrows but did refind the Ladder-backed Woodpecker. It was about 150 feet west of it's position the day before, and just off the trail; however, it was in some small trees/large shrubs between the trail and the irrigation canal that runs adjacent. It flew up to about 50-60 above the ground in a very large cottonwood tree for awhile then to the other side of the trail into some small deciduous trees on the hillside where I got these pics. It will be interesting to see if it works it's way into the sections of the hillside next to the trail that have tree cholla cactus. SeEtta

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

And a Townsend's Solitaire also on Canon City Riverwalk today


This Townsend's Solitaire was in between the Ladder-backed Woodpecker and the two White-throated Sparrows on the Canon City Riverwalk this morning--all were within 150 feet of each other and adjacent to the trail. At one point the Townsend's Solitaire flew to a small native juniper (only about 4 feet tall) on the dry hillside near the cholla cactus where the Ladder-backed was feeding. The Townsend's spent several minutes picking juniper berries off that tree. Then it flew into the tree in these photos and proceeded to sing. It's beak is parted in the top pic as it was singing when I took this photo.

I rarely see Townsend's Solitaire along the Canon City Riverwalk and they are seldom reported in there. I have seen more in town in the past few months and wonder again if they are moving into these less traditional areas looking for food due to the extended and severe drought conditions in juniper type habitats. SeEtta

Two White-throated Sparrows on Canon City Riverwalk


I also found two White-throated Sparrows on the Canon City Riverwalk this morning. Interestingly I saw the first only about 30 feet from where I last found a White-throated Sparrow on the Riverwalk several years ago. They stayed down and in messy vegetation making getting a reasonably good photo of them a challenge.

I spotted them when I first started down the trail then refound them a half hour later when I returned. They were moving together, usually within a foot or two of each other, adjacent to the trail. By the time I left they had moved about 50-60 feet down the trail. SeEtta