Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tricolored Heron

I spent about 3 and a half hours birding the neighborhood this morning, covering most of the new Lake Creek Trail. Today I started in the East at the new Parmer Village DR Horton development and walked upstream with the rising sun behind me. At around 8:00 AM I arrived at the last dam on the creek and saw 8-10 Snowy Egrets and a single Great Egret. But beyond them, upstream past the next small dam and barely visible were a Little Blue Heron and a juvenile Tricolored Heron! Tricolored Herons are coastal birds, but during the summer a few wander inland (usually juvenile birds in my experience). On the Texas coast this is a common heron but I've only seen it a few times in the Austin area and this was the first time I've found one in our neighborhood.

Soon after I realized what it was I started a wide path upstream to try and get closer to the heron without scaring it away. But someone was out fishing on the creek and decided to head upstream at the same time, flushing the birds before I got there. I was still pleased to have found the bird but was unsatisfied with the look I got. Luckily, on my way back at around 10:15 I found the bird again near the same spot. This time I was closer and I was able to get these pictures. Tricolored Herons have varied hunting techniques, and sometimes they are very active. This one sure was. It was making short dashes around in the water and flapping its wings as it grabbed small fish with its bill.

This might be the only bird whose juvenile plumage is more attractive to me than its adult plumage. You can see the rusty brown color in the neck and wings in this shot, which it loses as an adult.

It was a fun morning. The Tricolored Heron was #185 on my neighborhood bird list, and in total I found 49 species this morning (very high for a summer bird walk here). Cloud cover lasted most of the morning, keeping things relatively cool and comfortable.

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