I was able to continue a favorite personal tradition today: going birding in the neighborhood on New Year's morning. Since I've been busy with year-end travel and Christmas Bird Counts, this was the first time I've birded our neighborhood in almost 3 weeks, so I was anxious to get out there and see what I could find. I spent about 3 hours birding parts of Broadmeade, Stillforest, Meadowheath, and Lake Creek Trail, and found 43 species...
Based on my personal experience and reports from other birders in central Texas, this year has been a very good year for several winter species that can be very hard to find most years, including Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers, and Pine Warblers. This morning I found all 3 of these birds on Broadmeade and Meadowheath. This has got to be the best winter for Golden-crowned Kinglets I have ever experienced as a birder. Between my house and Lake Creek Trail I found more Golden-crowned Kinglets than Ruby-crowned Kinglets (which are usually much more common). It seemed like every mixed-species foraging flock I encountered had a few Golden-crowns making their high-pitched calls.
Near Broadmeade and Barryknoll I was excited to see 2 Brown Creepers in the same tree -- the first time I've ever found more than one of these birds on a single outing in the neighborhood. It's always fun finding these small, brown, inconspicuous birds and watching their characteristic foraging style. They make their way up tree trunks and thick branches like a woodpecker, then fly down to the bottom of a nearby tree and do it again.
Where Stillforest ends at Meadowheath, I found a large mixed-species foraging flock and as I sorted through it a bright yellow bird popped out of the thick canopy in front of me. It was a beautiful male Pine Warbler. After many tries, I was able to get one mediocre photo of it (posted above).
A few minutes earlier I had heard several Blue Jays and Carolina Wrens scolding together. I tried to find the center of the area they were gathered and saw this Eastern Screech-Owl peeking out of an owl box deep in a large Live Oak's canopy.
I got a few more photos right from this same spot of 3 more winter neighborhood bird species. In order they are Blue headed Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. (The Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are the birds that make the horizontal rows of holes in tree trunks that you can find on many trees around here.)
It was a great start to 2011. Happy New Year!