Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hot Birding

It's 110 degrees in Austin as I write this. I don't know what the temperature was when I started birding Lake Creek Trail this morning at 7:30, but according to my car it was 100 when I finished at 10:45. It was very tempting to stay in bed this morning, but I sure am glad I didn't. The birding was great! I found 51 species including many fall migrants, and I got some pretty good photos. The first photo was near the Parmer Village drainage pond. This is one of the Loggerhead Shrikes that can often be found in this area. The photo shows off its heavy, hooked predatory bill quite well.

Loggerhead Shrike

Between the Parmer Village pond and the last dam on the creek, the tall grass in the creek bed had lots of south-bound migrating birds...
These included my first Eastern Wood-Pewee of the fall (near the Parmer Lane bridge), a Least Flycatcher, several Yellow Warblers, my first Wilson's Warbler of the fall, lots of Dickcissels, 3 Orchard Orioles, and 5 Blue Grosbeaks. The grosbeaks were a treat for me. I was able to observe their close relation to Northern Cardinal by their similar chip notes, heavy conical bills, and partial crests.

Upstream I ran into Barry Noret and we remarked on how numerous Yellow Warblers were this morning. Yellow Warbler is one of the most common spring and fall migrant warblers in central Texas, and they are all over the place right now. If you have a water feature in your yard, keep an eye out for these bright yellow visitors. Here's a great photo Barry got of a female Yellow Warbler this morning.

Yellow Warbler

We continued up the trail just a short ways and then stopped to bird a small group of trees at the eastern edge of the Town and Country playing fields. These trees were loaded with birds. They were mostly Yellow Warblers, but we also found another Wilson's Warbler, Eastern Phoebes, a Black-and-white Warbler, and a Canada Warbler. Here are photos I got of the last two species.

Black-and-white Warbler - 2

Canada Warbler

When we finally tore ourselves away from these trees and moved up the trail, I heard the flight call note of an Upland Sandpiper and we spotted it flying over the tree line. As we watched, it landed near the far northern edge of the soccer fields. We started walking towards it and got close enough to observe it's long neck and overall tall appearance. But it took flight again before we could get close enough for photographs, and it continued its way south. This distant look was the best look I've gotten of this species in the neighborhood. I usually only hear its flight call note as it passes high overhead.

The last surprise of the morning was further upstream. We were checking a few more trees and had found more Yellow Warblers, a few "empid" flycatchers, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Then a sleek bird flew by fast that turned out to be a female American Kestrel. These small exotic-looking falcons are winter residents in central Texas, and this was the first I've seen this fall. As we watched, it flew south over the playing fields and it dived at something on the ground at the south edge. It came up empty-taloned and continued its strong, direct flight south.

What a morning! Here's the complete list of birds I recorded. Don't let the heat discourage you -- the birds are coming through!


Unknown said...

Very beautiful photo Mikael!

Mikael Behrens said...

Thanks Lela!