Sunday, October 5, 2014

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

This morning 12 folks participated in this month's group bird walk. We started at the Braes Valley parking lot and spent about 2.5 hours finding 31 species of birds. The previous day's north winds supported an amazing flight of hawks over the neighborhood. (Here are some photos.) But this morning's winds were back to the usual southeast with overcast skies. We didn't see any migrating hawks, and things started out quite slow. But we ended up making a few exciting observations.

For the first half hour or so the birds were quiet. I was desperate to have something interesting to show the group when I spotted this Praying Mantis hanging upside-down on a ragweed plant:

Praying Mantis

Things finally started picking up as we approached the footbridge.
A few American Robins were seen, a Wilson's Warbler made a brief and mostly-hidden appearance, some swallows and Chimney Swifts appeared in the sky, and this female Ladder-backed Woodpecker landed right in front of us:

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Shortly after seeing the woodpecker, I heard a Cooper's Hawk vocalizing in the dense woods on the south side of the trail. I knew it was unrealistic to try and have the whole group enter the woods to see it, so I gathered everyone nearby and played a Cooper's Hawk recording on my iPhone. It only took a couple repetitions before two Cooper's Hawks flew out of the woods and over the group at close range. I assume this was the pair that has nested in these woods for the past couple summers.

At the footbridge we got to watch a Great Egret hunting, spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk on a light post, and eventually spotted two Brown Thrashers. But I was most excited when I saw a single kingbird perched at the top of a tree. Western Kingbirds have already left for the winter, so I thought this might be something different. It turned out to be a Couch's Kingbird, a bird that used to be limited to south Texas, but can now rarely be found in the Austin area year-round. It lacks the black tail and white outer tail feathers of the Western Kingbird, and has more extensive yellow on its breast and belly. We also heard its distinctive "breer" call. We realized there were two birds, and they practically escorted us half the way back to the parking lot. Here's a photo:

Couch's Kingbird - 3

This species has been reported on Lake Creek Trail before, but I had never seen one here. It was species number 220 on my personal neighborhood bird list!

Here's our complete eBird list. What a fun morning!

1 comment:

Susan Andres said...

Great find and photo!