Sunday, May 24, 2009

Flycatchers, Warblers and Sandpipers

Late Saturday afternoon there was heavy rain in the neighborhood for about an hour. During spring migration, a weather event like this causes birds heading north to stop and wait for the weather to improve. So in the spring it's always a good idea to check your favorite birding spot after a rainstorm, and I got out this morning and birded Lake Creek Trail for about 3 hours. It was a little strange because I forgot to bring my notepad and pen, so I couldn't record accurate numbers of all the species I saw. I'm so used to doing this that birding that trail without a notepad felt weird! But it was a nice break not counting every group of White-winged Doves or Common Grackles or Great-tailed Grackles that flew by.

I was most excited to find 4 White-rumped Sandpipers and 4 Pectoral Sandpipers on the creek. In the right habitat, both are common spring migrants in central Texas. And Pectoral Sandpipers are not too uncommon on our creek during the spring. But I have only seen White-rumped Sandpipers a handful of times in the neighborhood. My pictures don't do them justice. Their subtle silvery grey and white and black plumage is accented by just a few flecks of reddish brown. When they fly you can see their white rump. These are some of the farthest migrating birds in the western hemisphere, wintering in southern-most South America and breeding in the Canadian Arctic. I'm glad a few could stop and refuel on our creek. In the photo below, a Pectoral is on the left (with the yellow legs) and a White-rumped is resting on the right.

The woods along the creek was full of flycatchers, mostly Eastern Wood-Pewees and birds in the Empidonax genus (empids). This genus is infamous for being difficult to identify down to species. The easiest way is by the birds' songs, and a few were vocal this morning. So I was able to identify at least 2 Least Flycatchers, 1 Alder Flycatcher, and 1 Willow Flycatcher. I estimated I saw 8 or 10 empids all together.

In the same woods I found 6 species of warblers. There were at least 4 female American Redstarts foraging and flaring their tails in the willow trees, along with a Yellow Warbler. In the dense woods off the trail I found a female Canada Warbler. And back along the sidewalk In a narrow strip of woods by the creek I found a Wilson's Warbler, a beautiful Magnolia Warbler, and a singing male Mourning Warbler. What a fun morning!

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