I spent about 4 hours birding the neighborhood this morning, starting at my house on Broadmeade, working my way to Lake Creek Trail at the end of Meadowheath, and then birding some ways in each direction. The find of the day was a beautiful male Hooded Warbler in the dense woods near the trail's footbridge. Shortly after crossing the bridge and entering the woods I started hearing a faint birdsong I did not recognize. I finally found the bird foraging in dense low brush surrounded by newly leafing out poison ivy. I carefully got a little closer and managed to get this poor photo through many branches in the overcast light:
Hooded Warblers are one of the earlier migrating songbirds that move through our area in the spring. (I've seen one in the neighborhood only once before, in early April 2008.) Wintering in eastern Mexico and central America, they breed in the eastern United States and southern Canada, in mature forests where dense shrub under stories can be found. During the winter they forage for insects and small spiders very low in the trees and sometimes on the ground. (This bird was foraging very low, and I had to wait in a full squat for awhile to get this photo.)
Long-time Williamson County birders Byron Stone and Tim Fennell also saw this bird; Byron thanks to the Travis County Area Texting Rare Bird Alert to which I posted this bird, and Tim because he was already on the trail looking for the Least Grebe (which has not been seen since I photographed it Friday afternoon).
I observed a few other north-bound migrants this morning. There was a male Black-and-white Warbler on Stillforest creeping along the tree trunks. Near the Hooded Warbler I saw my first Nashville Warbler of the season. And by the large baseball field I was excited to see a single Swainson's Hawk soaring by. On my way home on Hazelhurst I thought I heard a Black-throated Green Warbler faintly singing. (One was reported east of town this morning, but I couldn't quite be sure of my own observation.) Cedar Waxwings are quite numerous right now. I counted hundreds this morning and it was especially fun to see them drinking from the creek in large groups. And our winter resident Yellow-rumped Warblers are in various stages of plumage; some are in winter plumage, some are finally in their brilliant breeding plumage, but most are somewhere in between and looking quite disheveled. What a fun morning!