Sunday, September 7, 2014

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

This morning's group walk was the best in years! The weather was cool, overcast, and breezy, and south-bound migrating birds were out in force. Fourteen people enjoyed over three hours on the trail and we totaled up 44 species of birds, including a couple unexpected rarities. We met at the Parmer Village pond, and just as we were starting this juvenile Little Blue Heron flew in and started hunting on our edge of the pond:

Little Blue Heron

We made our way upstream by the creek bed and things were pretty quiet until we got close to the last dam. Further down the trail I started seeing Baltimore Orioles flying out of the woods, and we stopped to watch them.
I saw that there were a few Orchard Orioles mixed in with the Baltimores, and I decided to skip the dam where we usually spend some time and lead the group closer to the orioles. It was the right call! Further down the trail everyone in the group enjoyed great looks at brilliant male Baltimore Orioles as they foraged in the woods between the trail and the creek. It was a real treat to see these bright orange and black birds that only pass through central Texas during migration. And we saw them here and there all morning. Most of the birds stayed hidden or partially hidden in the leaves, so photographing them was difficult. Finally on our way back to the cars, one male stayed out in the open long enough and I took this poor photo with my iPhone through my spotting scope:

Baltimore Oriole

The stretch of Lake Creek Trail between the eastern edge of the soccer fields and the first low water crossing proved to be very birdy. Just before we reached the soccer fields we had the biggest surprise of the morning. A large bird emerged flying over the creek and then landing in a dead tree turned out to be a Black-crowned Night-Heron. Later on our way back I got this decent photo of it, showing its red eye:

Black-crowned Night-Heron

A little further down the trail we heard and then saw an Upland Sandpiper flying high overhead. The batting cages by the baseball field had several songbirds catching insects in the netting, including a Yellow Warbler, a Wilson's Warbler, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and an Eastern Phoebe. Other birds in the woods between the creek and the trail included Yellow Warblers, heard-only White-eyed Vireos, more orioles, and two birds I could not immediately identify. In the same loose group there was a sparrow with an eye-ring and a vireo with a yellow belly that didn't quite match White-eyed. I was able to get photos of both. The vireo turned out to be a Bell's Vireo, a southwestern migratory species that can be difficult to identify when it's not singing its distinctive song. The yellow belly and thin dark line through the eye help distinguish it visually. Here's my photo:

Bell's Vireo

The sparrow is still a mystery, but my best guess so far is that it's a juvenile Cassin's Sparrow which would be unexpected this time of year. Other possibilities include juvenile Field Sparrow or Grasshopper Sparrow. I'll update this post when I find out for sure what it is. Here's one of the poor photos I got of it:

Cassin's Sparrow - 6

A few more highlights included flycatchers. There were several empidonax flycatchers around which I believe were Least Flycatchers. And when we stopped by the last dam on the creek on our way back we briefly saw a Great Crested Flycatcher and an Olive-sided Flycatcher. What a morning! Here's our complete bird list. And here are my observations on iNaturalist including that unidentified sparrow and an interesting snake we found near the pond. Both will eventually be identified there.

1 comment:

Susan Andres said...

This afternoon at my house NE Austin, I saw 3 Yellow Warblers, one came down to drink at our waterfall.