Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Cold and Windy Morning

I took Monday off to deal with some hailstorm-related house issues, and to bird Lake Creek Trail. It was even colder than the NASWC Bird Walk on Sunday, but there were a few interesting birds around. I spent a couple hours finding 50 species and even got a couple pretty good pictures. This one is of a male Yellow-rumped Warbler that is showing the black mask and bright white eye-ring of its breeding plumage. These birds are one of the only winter resident warblers in central Texas and they will be heading north soon. So it's nice to see them in fresh breeding plumage before they go.

Despite being exposed to the cold north wind, there were a few interesting birds on the creek, including a few Solitary Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers. And I was pleased to find a single Green Heron, a summer-resident bird on our neighborhood creek and the first one I've seen this year. These birds nest in some of our more densely treed yards. Sometimes you can hear their strange noises just walking down Broadmeade.

At the downstream edge of the playing fields is a spot on the creek where I usually find a few ducks and shorebirds. Today there were also lots of Barn Swallows flying over the creek here. And this time I saw 2 Northern Rough-winged Swallows with them -- a very unusual bird in the neighborhood. But the biggest surprise came while I was counting Blue-winged Teal, the only duck I saw that morning. I looked towards the woods and saw this Virginia Opossum slowly walking towards me. I got this picture and soon after I think the possum saw me and slowly turned around and ambled back the way it came.

A little further downstream I was back on the trail and came to a spot that's usually pretty birdy. There were many Lincoln's Sparrows, which are peaking in numbers in the Austin area right now on their way north. But I was excited to find this male Spotted Towhee as well. It's a large member of the sparrow family and very dramatically colored. Usually they stick to the dense underbrush so they can be hard to see. This one was uncharacteristically out in the open and I was able to get this picture, the best I've gotten of this species so far.


Little Mama said...

That Towhee is beautiful, I've never seen one before! I need to start taking the kids on hikes in your neighborhood. My son loves the birdies! We've been seeing a lot of blue jays over in our area the last couple of weeks and several scissor-tailed flycatchers (we LOVE those)!

Moria said...

Wow. Great picture. What kind of camera do you use? I'm thinking of getting a good birding camera. Any suggestions?

Mikael Behrens said...

Thanks! You can never have enough zoom for bird photography. But big zoom lenses on SLR cameras are very expensive and very bulky. So I have settled for a compact camera. The pictures are not as bright and sharp as an SLR, but there are many "super-zoom" compact cameras available and they are getting better and better.

I recommend finding a super-zoom compact camera with a manual focus ring. Auto-focus often picks the wrong thing to focus on when you're pointing at a bird behind several layers of branches. And most manual focus modes on compact cameras are not fast enough to use. I have an old Panasonic FZ30. Fuji Film makes a similar camera that I'm curious about. And now Canon has a 24x zoom compact camera with a dial on the back for controlling manual focusing, which I would really like to try out. (Although I've read that the dial is not a very good control.)

I hope that helps. My method for getting decent bird photos is to take lots and lots and lots of pictures, and keep very very few. :)

Moria said...

Oh awesome. I was thinking of getting an SLR and taking a photography class. But I may look into the compact camera manual zoom thing. Thanks!