Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Few Firsts for the Year

It was a beautiful breezy morning earlier and now it's a gorgeous early afternoon out on the patio as I write this. I spent all morning birding the neighborhood and had some nice first-of-the-year sightings. Walking down Stillforest I was looking at a couple Black-crested Titmice when thought I heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Just then 3 dogs started barking at me, making it very hard to listen for the tiny gnatcatcher's soft, raspy call. But a few minutes later I did see the bird. It was the first I've seen in the neighborhood this year. A few Blue-gray Gnatcatchers winter in the Austin area but seeing one this time of year in amongst the houses tells me this bird is probably a north-bound migrant. I expect to see many more in the coming weeks. Near Stillforest and Meadowheath I saw 2 Purple Martins (a male and a female). I've seen a few in other parts of town before now, but this was the first I've seen in the NASWC area this year. These birds are heading north right now as well. Some will stay here all summer and some are just passing through to summer further north.

When I got to the T&C playing fields I turned left and took the hike-and-bike trail into the flood plain property. From the footbridge I watched a nice flock of native sparrows including Lincoln's, Chipping, White-crowned, and Dark-eyed Juncos. Further down the trail I found a Field Sparrow too. On my way back near the small waterfall I heard a woodpecker which turned out to be a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. These are year-round residents in the Austin area but I rarely see them in the neighborhood. This was the first I've seen this year and I got the picture to the right. They sound very similar to the much more common Downy Woodpeckers in our neighborhood but I think I'm finally learning the difference. I crossed the creek nearby and walked downstream on the bank back towards the playing fields. In a patch of woods by the creek I found a male Spotted Towhee. These beautiful sparrows just live here in the winter, but I had not seen one since late December. So this was a first-of-year sighting too.

When I got back to the house I took a quick look across the street and got this picture on Charnwood. I thought it was nice how the sun lit up this tree's new leaves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the Downy Woodpecker listen for a definite downward whinny occurring at the end. I am not as familiar with Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, but listening to Cornell's recording of this species, its whinny sounds like it just trails off at the end.