Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Warm and Breezy

I spent 3.5 hours on Lake Creek Trail this morning, starting at the Braes Valley parking lot. It was unseasonably warm with strong gusts of wind out of the southeast. Things started out slow but it turned into quite a birdy morning and I found 39 species. I took quite a few pictures but lost them because of a faulty SD card. So I'm relying on old photos for today's post. They're all still taken by me in the neighborhood -- just not this morning...

Along most of the trail where there were woods, there were many Yellow-rumped Warblers. This is our most common winter warbler and they have returned in force this season. In some places the tree canopy was alive with movement, and it was mostly these birds. I watched many of them eating poison ivy berries, an important food source for several bird species. Here's one eating a poison ivy berry on the trail on Thanksgiving Day 2009.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1

By the footbridge I was pleased to find the first American Goldfinches I've seen this season. These are similar to the slightly smaller Lesser Goldfinches that we have year-round. But the American Goldfinches lose most of their color in the winter, leaving a bit of yellow on the face and breast, and the black-and-white wings as ways to tell them from female Lessers. Here's a poor photo of one I took back in February of this year.

American Goldfinch

I was also excited to see Lincoln's Sparrows, a Song Sparrow, and a few Chipping Sparrows by the bridge -- all winter birds.

In the middle of the T&C playing fields I began hearing 3 very soft high-pitched notes coming from a few isolated trees. I followed the sounds to confirm that I was hearing 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets! These winter residents are very similar in appearance to our much more common winter resident Ruby-crowned Kinglets, but instead of having a big white eye-ring, they have stripes through their face and a bright yellow or orange stripe on top of their head. In central Texas Golden-crowned Kinglet numbers vary from year to year. Usually they are quite hard to find but this seems to be a good year for them. Birders in the Austin area are reporting them quite frequently. Here's a photo of one I took back in 2007.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

And here's the much more common Ruby-crowned Kinglet for comparison (photographed in March, 2008).

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

I continued downstream and eventually ended up at the last dam. I spent some time by a patch of very dense brush and was excited to find a single immature White-crowned Sparrow. This is a common winter resident in central Texas, but I don't have many records of them in the neighborhood.

A few minutes later an Osprey flew in and made a few passes over the creek. It's so fun to see these large beautiful hawks in the neighborhood because they hunt over the dammed sections of the creek which are pretty small. So sometimes you can get close views of them hovering over and diving into the water to capture fish. I didn't see this one catch anything, but here's my favorite Osprey photo which I took from this same spot in January 2009:

Osprey with Bass

More shameless self-promotion! If you enjoy my blog and maybe even consider it your favorite "Hyperlocal/Neighborhood Blog", please nominate it in that category for the Austin Blogger Awards.

Update: The nominations are done and now you can vote! My blog is in the "Hyperlocal" category on the last page of the survey at the link above. Thanks!

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