Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Great Morning with Kites

DickcisselsThis morning was special. After months of birding in t-shirt-soaking weather, today when I started birding at the Parmer Village model homes it was 70 degrees. It got into the low 80s by the time I was done and I found 42 species of birds. Fall migrants were prevalent! By the Parmer Lane bridge several small groups of Eastern Kingbirds flew by, and I found 1 Wilson's Warbler. Upstream by the first dam in the creek there was a mixed flock of birds feeding on seeds in the tall vegetation along side the trail. About half of them were Dickcissels. I got this poor photo of 2 of them that temporarily flew to the top of a tree.

Mixed in with the Dickcissels were 1 Yellow Warbler and 1 Clay-colored Sparrow, the first native sparrow I've seen in the neighborhood this fall. Closer to the creek a very small bird flew out of the woods, across the creek bed, and disappeared into the trees on the other side. It was mostly black with red highlights, and could only have been a male American Redstart. A few moments later several larger birds with yellow-orange tails flew across in the same direction. Hearing their call notes and finally getting quick looks at a couple of them, I realized they were Baltimore Orioles.

A few minutes later I saw a small raptor high in the sky and identified it as a Mississippi Kite. This was the first of 431 Mississippi Kites I counted that passed over me from about 8:45 until 9:30. I counted four hundred and thirty one hawks this morning. Mississippi Kites are one of a few species of raptors that migrate in large flocks. Groups of anywhere from 5 or 10 to 60 or 70 quietly passed overhead on their way south. It was amazing to see. Sometimes one would alter its course to catch a dragonfly in its talons and then eat it on the wing. Mississippi Kites breed in many of the southern states but their winter range is largely unknown. Only a few winter observations have been recorded in Argentina and Paraguay. I got a few photos, but they don't really convey what it's like to see these birds passing through.

Mississippi Kites - 1

Mississippi Kites - 2

Mississippi Kites - 3

Across the creek near Saddlebrook Trail I went into the woods to look for more songbird migrants. By the small creek that drains from Anderson Mill Road I was pishing and suddenly realized 3 first-year Mourning Warblers were 10-12 feet in front of me, foraging and responding to my pishes. I got this photo, much better than the one I posted here last week.

Mourning Warbler - 2

In the past few years Labor Day weekend has been a great birding weekend in the Austin area. It looks like this year is no exception. And it was such a treat to find these birds in such cool weather this morning. I hope it lasts!

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