Saturday, March 19, 2011

Early Spring Birding

I spent over 3 hours birding the neighborhood this morning, something I haven't done in too long. And it was a joy to be out on this warm, breezy, partly cloudy day. Now is an interesting time to be birding since most of our winter resident species are still here but they're more active than they've been in the past few months. An example was this Song Sparrow I found near the footbridge on Lake Creek Trail. It was singing, which we don't get to hear very often in Texas:

Singing Song Sparrow

Just across the bridge I found one of the first spring migrants I've seen in the neighborhood -- a Gray Catbird. These relatives to Northern Mockingbirds are pretty common spring and fall migrants in central Texas, but their skulking habits make them hard to observe. I found a few other interesting birds in the woods between the footbridge and Braes Valley. A few Field Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows were on the edges of the trail. In the woods I got a brief look at a Hermit Thrush. After hearing a White-eyed Vireo most of the time I was there, I finally got a good look at it, along with a White-throated Sparrow.

The most exciting find in those woods was Cooper's Hawks. There have been 2 in these woods most of the winter, and they have been pretty vocal. They've been easy to hear but not easy to see. So I was happy when I was poking around off the trail and heard one, then looked over to see an adult male and a first-year bird. The adult retrieved a large piece of some kind of bird I presume it had killed. It stood on the partial carcass and picked at it while I took some photos. Here's the one that turned out best. Look at that orange eye!

Cooper's Hawk

After I crossed the footbridge again heading back home, I saw some large birds flying towards me and was thrilled to see 3 Crested Caracara fly right over my head! I've occasionally seen this species in the neighborhood, but only singly -- never 3 together. These exotic-looking hawks have been expanding their range northward for decades. In the past you'd have to travel to south Texas to find them but now they're becoming almost common in the Austin area. I got this photo of one of them.

Crested Caracara

What a fun morning!

No comments: