Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ruby-crowned Kinglet!

I spent a couple hours on Lake Creek Trail this morning, starting at around 8:00 at the Braes Valley parking lot. I was happy to be out there for two reasons. First, I haven't birded the neighborhood in about three weeks and I've been getting reports of some very interesting fall migrants from the trail, like Bell's Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, Couch's Kingbird, and Vermilion Flycatcher. And second, the weather is finally cooling off!

One of the rewarding aspects of regularly birding a local patch is seeing the seasons change first-hand, by observing the change in resident bird species. This morning for the first time since last spring, I saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the trail. I strongly associate this small greenish bird with winter. During the winter months you can almost always hear its typewriter-like call within minutes of stepping outside. I got this photo which shows its wide white eye-ring, one of two of its distinctive field marks. (The other is a prominent pair of wing-bars.)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

It's impossible to say whether this kinglet is just passing through on its way further south, or if it's one of the individuals that winters in the neighborhood. Other south-bound migrants present on the trail this morning were Yellow, Nashville, and Wilson's Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and two American Kestrels. Here's one of the Wilson's Warblers. The angle of the photo doesn't show its black cap, but the olive green wing feathers and the brighter yellow over the eye help distinguish it from similar species like Yellow Warbler.

Wilson's Warbler

And below is one of the American Kestrels. Both were soaring high in the sky near about 20 Chimney Swifts. American Kestrel is a winter resident in central Texas but I haven't found many in the neighborhood in recent winters outside of migration. So I assume these two birds were on their way south. They're our smallest falcon and they're beautiful. Even this distant blurry shot shows its long red tail and long pointed wings.

American Kestrel

Here's my complete list from this morning. And here are a few more photos.

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