Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back to the Neighborhood

Yesterday morning I spent 4 hours birding the neighborhood, for the first time in about 2 weeks. I've been busy with work and 3 Christmas Bird Counts. The first the Port Aransas CBC (some pictures) on December 14 which was hampered by fog and mosquitos. The second was the Guadalupe River Delta CBC (some pictures) in Calhoun County which was cold and rainy. And on Saturday I participated in the Austin CBC. All were fun, but I was glad to get back home and enjoy Sunday's cool and clear weather on my familiar stomping grounds. I recorded 55 species of birds on our streets and trail.

I found the best bird of the morning early, on Stillforest. A lone Golden-crowned Kinglet was foraging and vocalizing in the trees. This species is very similar to our much more common winter resident Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but has a line through its eye and a bright yellow or orange stripe on its head. Most winters I only see 1 or 2 of these birds in the Austin area.

At the entrance to the Town and Country playing fields on Meadowheath I found this Orange-crowned Warbler foraging in a large ligustrum bush. These warblers are very common winter residents here and are similar in appearance and habits to the kinglets. But they don't have any wing bars, and only have a slight line through their eyes. Some of them, like this one, have a grayish head.

On the creek I was pleased to find 3 Greater Yellowlegs. In past winters there has always been a flock of 8-12 of these large shorebirds on our creek, but I had not seen any yet this season. Cedar Waxwings were present in good numbers -- I estimated I saw almost 100. This winter resident species has good and bad years. Sometimes we hardly see any at all.

I saw 4 species of hawks, all near the creek. One of our year-round resident Red-shouldered Hawks was by the last dam. The other 3 species we see here mostly just in the winter. Over different parts of the playing fields I found a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Cooper's Hawk, and an Osprey. In the winter it can been relatively easy to find an Osprey flying over our creek. They often hunt over the 3 dammed portions, and it can be lots of fun to see them dive into the water!

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