Saturday, October 14, 2017

Species 226: Great Kiskadee!

I spent this morning birding Lake Creek Trail starting at the Braes Valley parking lot. I was hoping to find some newly returned winter species and maybe some southbound migrants. Things started pretty quiet, but I appreciated hearing and briefly seeing a House Wren, and then just briefly hearing a Brown Thrasher, both returning winter species. As I was almost within sight of the footbridge I was very surprised to start hearing the loud squeeze-toy-like call of a Great Kiskadee. This is a large dramatically colored member of the flycatcher family, and normally Austin is north of its mostly tropical range. A few have appeared around Austin over the years but I've never seen one on the trail, so I was excited at this possibility. But there were many Blue Jays in the area, and I had to be sure a Blue Jay wasn't making this sound.

I played some Great Kiskadee calls on my phone, and maybe reacting to this, the bird finally came closer and then flew over the trail briefly into view. I got this photo:

Great Kiskadee

These birds are larger than Blue Jays and their bills are huge. In addition to insects, they catch and eat anything small enough for them to subdue, including small reptiles and amphibians, and rarely other small birds!

Now that I was sure it was a kiskadee, I put out a message on the Austin Rare Bird Alert text network and called Stephen Mcdonald, longtime Lake Creek Trail birder who lives on Perthshire. By the time Stephen arrive the bird had crossed to the other side of the creek. Stephen followed it and after some bushwhacking through the woods, he found it and got a few more photos. Craig Browning and Barry Noret also arrived, but the bird was quiet and they were not able to see or hear it. We all left around noon.

This was my 226th species I've observed on Lake Creek Trail!

Other fun birds included a few Orange-crowned Warblers, a small group of Turkey Vultures migrating south, and my first Lincoln's Sparrow of the season which I found in the creek bed between the playing fields. I got this photo through the willow branches:

Lincoln's Sparrow

Here's my complete eBird list.
And here are a few more photos on Flickr.

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