Sunday, August 3, 2008

NASWC Bird Walk

There were 6 of us who braved the summer heat this morning for the August NASWC Bird Walk. We were supposed to have cloudy conditions for half the morning but it was completely clear. Even so, there was a nice breeze and things didn't get too hot if we stayed in the shade. The birding was interesting and fun. We found 42 species and here are the highlights:
  • Before everyone arrived, we briefly heard and then saw a male Orchard Oriole which perched obviously and then flew right over us. This is my first summer record of one in the neighborhood. But after looking at my records I'm wondering, could this bird have been an early south-bound migrant?
  • The juvenile Turkey Vulture pictured above was near the Lake Creek Trail footbridge and let us get pretty close. In the picture you can see daylight through its nostrils. Turkey Vultures are one of the few birds with a well-developed sense of smell.
  • We saw a cormorant flying in the distance, and this time of year by far the most likely species is Neotropic Cormorant, a first for my NASWC bird list!
  • From the Lake Creek Trail footbridge we saw at least 4 Western Kingbirds. I got this picture of one of them. Surprisingly absent were Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. I have seen very few on the T&C playing fields this summer.
  • Also from the footbridge and nearby we saw at least 5 Painted Buntings in and around the creek bed. This was the easiest time I've ever had viewing Painted Buntings in the neighborhood. And there were more here than I've ever seen before during the summer. I can't resist posting this poor photo I took of 2 of them:
  • Near the last dam on Lake Creek we found an empidonax flycatcher in the woods which we finally figured out was a Least Flycatcher, the first south-bound migrating songbird I've seen this year.
  • On our way back we found a single Lark Sparrow foraging at the edge of the soccer fields. This is one of the few native sparrows that can be found in the Austin area during the summer. (Most are only here in the winter.) It is also my first summer record of one in the NASWC area.
I used to bird very little in the summer, thinking it was the least interesting time of year and there were few birds to be found. But my summer birding in the neighborhood has shown me that that's just not the case!


Annie in Austin said...

Orchard oriole!
Mikael, I've seen this bird at our fountain a few times during the past three weeks. We're having major camera problems so I have no photograph, but the fountain is just a couple of feet outside our breakfast room window - both my husband and I have had a chance to see it up close.

Thanks for the link with the photo of the female Orchard Oriole...wonder if she's out there, too?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Mikael Behrens said...

Great! I'm glad I the link helped you identify Orchard Orioles in your yard. This species is a summer resident here, but not usually in our neighborhoods. The birds we are seeing now are fall migrants.