Five folks braved the cold and wet weather yesterday morning for the monthly bird walk. We started at the Braes Valley parking lot at 8:00 and spent two hours on the trail. During April and May, birding can be extra good right after a front comes through with some rain because birds on their way north will stop at available patches of habitat to wait for more favorable conditions. We got to see this phenomenon yesterday. Songbird migrants we found in the woods along the trail included Nashville Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Lincoln's Sparrows, a Great Crested Flycatcher, many Cedar Waxwings, and the first Eastern Wood-Pewees I've seen this year. It was too wet to risk taking my camera with me, so here's a Nashville Warbler I photographed in the neighborhood back in 2009:
Some returning summer residents we found were Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, many Barn Swallows and a single Cliff Swallow, White-eyed Vireos, and a single male Bronzed Cowbird.
Bronzed Cowbirds used to only come as far north as the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. But over the years they've been extending their summer range further, and now a few can be found in Austin every summer. I've observed them on Lake Creek Trail now for several years. Here's a Bronzed Cowbird I photographed in the neighborhood back in 2010:
I've been birding this neighborhood for over seven years now, and I still find surprises. We had three yesterday morning. Early in the walk we saw about a dozen Cattle Egret flying upstream. These are common birds in central Texas but I've only seen them in our neighborhood a handful of times. Near the end of the walk we saw a bird across the creek singing at the top of a tree. A few of us glanced at it and assumed it was a Northern Mockingbird. But one of the group looked more closely and realized it was a Brown Thrasher. This is a bird that winters here in small numbers and is usually much more easily heard than seen. Sights of it are usually very brief as it quickly moves from one dense area of low brush to another. It was great seeing one out in the open and hearing it sing. Here's a Brown Thrasher I photographed in the same immediate area back in January. Maybe it's the same bird we saw yesterday!
The biggest surprise was midway through the walk. While we were on the footbridge we looked downstream and saw two ducks flying over the creek. They looked very long-necked and as they banked we saw the large white bars on the wings which identified them as Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. These are another example of a southern species expanding their range north. They've been in the Austin area for quite some time but I've never seen one in the neighborhood until now. That make species 218 on my neighborhood list!
Here's our complete bird list.