Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fall Migrants and New Camera

I enjoyed a great morning of fall birding on Lake Creek Trail this morning! I started at the Braes Valley trailhead and soon ran into Barry Noret. We birded the trail for about 3.5 hours covering just over a mile and found 50 species of birds. The willow trees between the trailhead and the creek were hopping! We saw Yellow Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, Nashville Warblers, a Northern Parula, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-and-white Warbler, and a Warbling Vireo. Here's one of the Nashville Warblers.

Nashville Warbler

A little further down the trail we heard the metallic "chink" call-note of Blue Grosbeaks...
We found half a dozen of them in the tall grass near the end of Holbrook St. Several Dickcissels were mixed in with them. I have never encountered that many Blue Grosbeaks on the trail before. Here's a photo I got of a female. (I didn't see any mature males.) Notice the big heavy bill, and how the top edge of the bill makes a continuous straight line with the top of the forehead up to the bird's crown.

Blue Grosbeak

At the footbridge we were treated to a large mixed flog of Dickcissels and Clay-colored Sparrows. There were more of these species than I've ever encountered in the neighborhood as well, and they were allowing themselves to be seen much easier than usual. Dickcissels are grassland birds, and they breed in central Texas but I only see them in the neighborhood during migration. Clay-colored Sparrows only pass through central Texas during migration. Here are both species on a wire -- the smaller Clay-colored Sparrows on the left, and the larger Dickcissels on the right.

Clay-colored Sparrows and Dickcissels

The biggest surprise of the morning was in the tall grass in the creek bed right in the middle of the playing fields. We heard an unfamiliar chip note and patiently watched the grass until a Marsh Wren emerged! We've had a few of these winter in the marshy area by the Parmer bridge in years past, but this one was obviously just heading south and using whatever marsh-like habitat it could find. I managed to get this poor but identifiable photo.

Marsh Wren

We saw two migrating hawk species while we were on the parts of the trail that go through the playing fields -- an immature Mississippi Kite and a Broad-winged Hawk. We also had close encounters with a female Orchard Oriole and a bright male Yellow Warbler in the shrubs along the creek further downstream. Here's the Orchard Oriole. Can anyone identify the plant it's on?

Orchard Oriole Female - 2

And here's the Yellow Warbler. Both were probably my best two shots of the morning.

Yellow Warbler Male

If you're still reading this far down, thanks! I posted more photos than usual because I got a new camera! I finally replaced my old Panasonic DMC-FZ30 with a new Panasonic DMC-G3. It's a Micro Four Thirds camera, so it has a larger light sensor than the old FZ30 which is what they call a "compact super-zoom". But the light sensor isn't as large as the ones in most SLR cameras. So it'll get better photos than a compact camera, and zoom lenses are not as large and expensive as they are for SLR cameras. So far it's a great compromise. I have the equivalent of a 200-600 mm telephoto zoom lens for it and the whole thing is still small enough to throw over my shoulder every time I got out birding.

Here's the complete list of birds we recorded.

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