Sunday, July 15, 2018

Roseate Spoonbill

On Tuesday morning July 10 Sue and Stephen Whitmer, longtime neighborhood residents and birders, found a Roseate Spoonbill on Lake Creek. Spoonbills are large pink coastal wading birds. When people see them down on the Texas coast, they often call them flamingos because of their color. During the summer, some juveniles wander inland, and one or two can usually be found at Granger Lake or other large bodies of water. But they don't usually find our little neighborhood creek! Sue and Stephen saw one here in 1996, and I saw one in about 2002 (both observations pre-date eBird). So this was only the third time we know of that anyone has seen a Roseate Spoonbill on Lake Creek.

I put the word out to the local birding community. It was upstream from the trail, actually visible from the Broadmeade Avenue bridge across the creek. Sue said it was hanging around with Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets. Craig Browning and Barry Noret were able to find the bird around lunch time. Steven McDonald looked for it at 3 PM but couldn't find it. Shortly before 6 PM Helen Mastrangelo saw the spoonbill in the distance downstream from the Broadmeade bridge. Jordy Keith and I arrived a little later and the three of us searched downstream for the bird for about two hours but we couldn't find it. (We did find a juvenile Tricolored Heron, a similarly coastal species that wanders inland during its first year. It's more common here than the spoonbill.)

On Wednesday morning neighborhood resident Michael Falgoust photographed the spoonbill by the last dam on the creek (where Saddlebrook Trail ends). I finally found the bird in the same area Thursday evening. I arrived at the last dam at about 6:30 PM to see three people fishing, one of them launching a kayak on that small pond! So I knew if the bird was still there it would soon be scared away. As I looked upstream, I saw a large pinkish bird flying towards me. It flew low almost right over me, and continued downstream where I saw it land in the tall vegetation in the creek bed almost all the way down to the Parmer Lane bridge. I decided to follow it.

Walking on the trail downstream, I started to see several Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets in the creek bed, closer than I thought the spoonbill had landed. So I went off trail through the tall grass to get closer to the creek bed and see if the spoonbill was still associating with the egrets. As I slowly approached I spotted a pale pinkish bird loafing in the shade. I found it! As I slowly moved to get an unobstructed view and then waited, it lifted its bill from under its wings and I got this photo:

Roseate Spoonbill - 2

Nearby was another juvenile Tricolored Heron:

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

On Sunday July 1, six people met me at 7:30 AM on the east end of Lake Creek Trail for the monthly bird walk. It was a breezy morning. That and partial cloud cover for the first half of the walk kept us from feeling too warm. Insects were already becoming active, and as I waited at the meeting spot this Western Kingbird hunted them over the pond, sometimes hovering over the aquatic plants:

Western Kingbird over Pond

We made our way upstream in the creek bed and as we approached the last dam on the creek, we started hearing a Painted Bunting singing. We got a brief look at it at the same location where Steven McDonald and I observed a female bringing food to a nest a few weeks ago. Last weekend I saw a whole Painted Bunting family there, both parents and four fledglings. This morning we only saw the singing male. We ended up getting two more good looks at it, and I got this mediocre photo:

Monday, June 4, 2018

Breeding Painted Buntings

Yesterday was the usual date of the monthly group walk, but I had to cancel it because of a planned software upgrade last weekend for work, and I didn't know if I'd still be working on it Sunday morning. Happily I was not, so I was free to go birding. I started at the Parmer Village end of Lake Creek Trail, and soon I was happy to hear a singing Painted Bunting. I followed the song towards the Parmer Lane bridge over Lake Creek, and finally was rewarded with this look at the bird peeking out from a cedar tree:

Painted Bunting in Juniper

You can see its blue head and red throat. What's hidden on this mature male is the red breast and belly, and green back of this mature male. This amazingly colorful bird calls most of Texas home in the spring and summer. But you usually have to get away from the city a bit to find them. I've always seen them in our neighborhood during spring (and sometimes fall) migration, but they are usually absent during the summer, preferring not to use neighborhoods for nesting.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Yesterday nearly 20 people joined me for the one-week-delayed monthly bird walk. We met at the Lake Creek Trail trail head at the end of Braes Valley at 8 AM. Early May is usually when spring bird migration peaks in central Texas and we were hoping to see some birds that we don't get to see at other times of the year. We had a promising start with 3 Mississippi Kites overhead on their way north. Here's a distant photo of one of them:

Mississippi Kite

The rest of the morning was full of lots of bird sounds, but mostly fleeting glimpses of the birds making them. Some of the migrating warblers we briefly spotted in the lush trees and low brush along the trail included Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, Canada Warbler, and Wilson's Warbler. A couple birds we only heard were Yellow-breasted Chat and Willow Flycatcher. I was excited to hear the flycatcher because it's almost impossible to identify without hearing it.

As often happens during these walks, many folks left early. So nearly two hours later, there were only about five of us back at the trail head. And that's when we spotted the most exciting bird of the morning: a male Cerulean Warbler. Keeping consistent with the rest of the morning, we only got quick glimpses of this bird, but I managed to get an identifiable photo:

Cerulean Warbler Male - 1

This was my 228th bird species on Lake Creek Trail. I reported it on the local rare bird alert network and a few more folks saw it that afternoon. They even reported it was singing!

Here's our complete bird list.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

About 15 people joined me on Easter morning today, to find birds and enjoy the beautiful weather on Lake Creek Trail. At 7:50 AM there were only 4 of us, but in the last 10 minutes everyone else showed up! Despite bird songs all around us, the birds were hard to see at first, partly because so many trees and shrubs have started to producing new leaves. We heard a song I didn't recognize and spent some frustrating time on the side trail to Holbrook Street trying to see a few small birds that mostly kept hidden in the dense vegetation. One turned out to be a Nashville Warbler, a north-bound migrant.

With the warming weather the dragonflies and damselflies are returning! It was fun to see a few Eastern Pondhawks, American Rubyspots, and a Common Whitetail on the trail. They will become very common in the coming weeks. Here's one of the pond hawks we saw:

Eastern Pondhawk male

Further down the trail we finally got a look at one of the White-eyed Vireos singing in the dense brush. And from the footbridge we saw even more. Helen Mastrangelo spotted a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Three Red-shouldered Hawks were vocalizing and flying back and forth over the creek tributary, one carrying a tree branch. We watched this first-year bird through a window in the trees, perched in a blooming Chinaberry tree:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

This morning about 10 people joined me at 8:00 AM at the pond in Parmer Village for my monthly group bird walk. We spent about 2 hours on Lake Creek Trail in intermittent light misty rain to see what birds we could find. Compared with last month, many more birds are singing, especially in the morning, and many start before dawn. This is a sign of spring as our year-round resident birds advertise their presence. As we walked this morning there was an almost constant background of songs from House Finches, Northern Mockingbirds, Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, Bewick's Wrens, and Carolina Chickadees.

We made our way upstream to the last dam on the creek, and while we were there two Crested Caracaras flew by. This is a dramatically patterned member of the falcon family that is extending its range north in Texas and is an uncommon bird for Lake Creek Trail. My photography was limited by the cloudy and wet conditions, but I was able to get this poor photo of one of them:

Crested Caracara

From the last dam we also saw a few wild ducks (Gadwall and Blue-winged Teal mostly), two Great Egrets, two Snowy Egrets, and one Great Blue Heron.

On our way upstream we spotted a single Ring-billed Gull that was probably on its way north. I got another poor photo of it:

Monday, February 5, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Nearly 20 people joined me this morning for the monthly group walk. We started on the west end of Lake Creek trail on a cold and extremely foggy morning. We started at 8:00 AM and by 9:00 the fog was nearly gone, but before it left we were treated to some beautiful scenes. Sometimes bright sun was shining through the fog and you could see the small droplets of water suspended in the air. Here's the view down Braes Valley before we got started, and that's Steven McDonald's truck arriving.

Foggy Morning

In the parking lot before 8:00 a few of us were treated to seeing 3 Eastern Bluebirds in the fog and a Cooper's Hawk fly in fast, landing in a nearby cottonwood tree.

Here's a cool photo Twyla Grace took of part of the group when we went down a side trail and found Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Song Sparrow: