Sunday, June 20, 2010

Young Birds

I spent about 3 hours birding the neighborhood this morning. June is a pretty slow month in central Texas, but there are still interesting birds out there to be found if you don't mind getting an early start and doing some sweating. In particular, it's a good time to see some of the results of the breeding season. Newly fledged birds are out and about, often still following their parents and begging for food. This morning I saw some neat young birds and a few other interesting things as well.

On Stillforest in a nice canopy of trees over someone's front yard I found 2 young Green Herons following one of their parents around. It looked like these birds were in the awkward stage of being out of the nest but unable to fly. They could hop around but still depended on their parents to bring them food. Several neighbors have told me stories about having Green Herons nesting in their yards, and sometimes dropping small fish in their driveways!

At the corner of Stillforest and Meadowheath I heard a commotion and saw several birds fly into the same tree. It turned out to be a juvenile Cooper's Hawk being chased by Common Grackles and European Starlings. Cooper's Hawks are year-round residents in our neighborhood, although they are much more common in the winter. They prey mostly on other birds, and they can fly low and fast through dense treetops to chase after them. They like to stay hidden in the canopy, so fleeting glimpses are usually the only looks you get. But the juvenile birds have not learned to be as sneaky as the adults, so they are often easier to see.

The young bird I was most excited to find was on Lake Creek Trail just north of the footbridge. As I crossed the bridge I heard the usual distinctive songs of Northern Cardinals and White-eyed Vireos. One of the vireos was singing right by the edge of the trail where I stood. Then I started hearing another warbler-like chip note. I got my binoculars on this new bird and was surprised to see a juvenile male Northern Parula. This is one of the few members of the extremely colorful and diverse Warbler family that breeds in central Texas. But it's likely this bird did not actually hatch in our neighborhood. Northern Parula's like to build their nests in hanging Spanish Moss, which I've never found here. I got this poor photo of the bird:

Another interesting sight was this small butterfly among the Mexican Hat wildflowers. Can someone identify it for me?

And this large Texas Spiny Lizard posed for me for a minute or two, right on the trail.

I found 43 species of birds this morning. Don't let the summer heat keep you inside!


Bill Dodd said...

Hey Mikael,
Cool that you saw the juvenile Northern Parula! The butterfly is, I believe, a Phaon Crescent.

Mikael Behrens said...

Yep, that looks like the one. Thanks Bill!