Sunday, August 3, 2014

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Eight folks got up early and enjoyed an unseasonably cool morning with me on Lake Creek Trail. Things started a bit slow but we observed 36 species during the almost three hours we spent on the trail.  August is an interesting time to look for birds. Many birds are molting and can have unusual appearances, south-bound migration has started, and even non-migratory species can be wandering outside of their usual ranges. We found examples of all three of these phenomena this morning. An early highlight was briefly hearing a an Upland Sandpiper fly overhead, a southbound migrating shorebird that uses grassland habitat. This time of year they can be heard flying over in the mornings and evenings if you know what to listen for.

From the footbridge we got to see a male Northern Cardinal that had molted all but one of its crest feathers. Despite its weird appearance, it sang from an obvious perch as usual. Here's a photo:

Northern Cardinal

Molting is a major yearly event that birds usually experience after breeding in late summer. Northern Cardinal is the only species I know of that often loses all of its head feathers at once during its molt.

Downstream from the footbridge as we were looking in the creek bed, this Ladder-backed Woodpecker appeared on a utility pole right beside us. We watched at close range while it worked on excavating a nesting or roosting cavity.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

In the creek bed we found a few different kinds of water birds, some migrating and some not. There was a group of south-bound Least Sandpipers about the same size as the group I posted about last weekend. There were also many Killdeer, a year-round resident species that occurs in higher numbers this time of year as the year-round residents are joined by south-bound migrants. We briefly saw and heard a Solitary Sandpiper. And there were 4 Snowy Egrets foraging and chasing each other.

The most exciting species in the creek bed was a single Tricolored Heron. This is a coastal species, but every summer (usually late in the summer) wandering juveniles can be found inland including in the Austin area. This one was the first I've seen on Lake Creek this summer, and I was excited to be able to show the group this bird. It might be the only species whose juvenile plumage I prefer to its adult plumage. I love the rusty brown color which it loses in its adult plumage. Here's a photo I took this morning:

Tricolored Heron

Here's our complete bird list for the morning. And here are all the photos I took, which include a couple dragonflies and additional birds.

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