Monday, January 21, 2019

Steven's Cool Birds

These days my neighbor Steven McDonald birds Lake Creek Trail more often than I do. He's even challenging himself to try and observe as many species of birds on Lake Creek Trail as possible during the calendar year of 2019. (Birders call this a "big year.") Lucky for us he's a great photographer as well as birder, and has recently found and photographed some really cool birds on the trail.

Central Texas is wintering ground for many species of wild ducks. A few of them can be found on Lake Creek right now and lately we've been seeing American Wigeons, Gadwalls, and Northern Shovelers. On January 13, Steven captured this amazing photo of two beautiful male American Wigeons vocalizing and making a courtship display for a female. (Learn more about this behavior here.)


Beautiful birds showing remarkable behavior right here in our neighborhood! (By the way, male American Wigeons do not sound like you'd think a duck should sound. When you get close enough, here's what they sound like.)

Central Texas is also an area where pairs of similar eastern and western bird species ranges overlap. One example of this is the southwestern Golden-fronted Woodpecker and the eastern Red-bellied Woodpecker. In west Austin there are places where both can be found, but in our neighborhood we almost exclusively have Red-bellied. Last year we started seeing an occasional Golden-fronted Woodpecker on the trail, and this year Steven found a male woodpecker which is a hybrid of the two! Here's a slightly fuzzy photo I got of this special bird this morning on Lake Creek Trail:

Golden-fronted × Red-bellied Woodpecker Hybrid - 1

Most of the visible attributes of this bird match Golden-fronted Woodpecker better than Red-bellied. See the red patch on the crown, separate from the color on the nape. But on a Golden-fronted woodpecker, that nape would be yellow. On this bird, it's almost as red as the crown. The belly on this bird is also slightly orange, different than the yellow belly of a Golden-fronted.

House Finch is a common and very vocal year-round songbird in central Texas. The males of this brownish gray streaky species look like someone splashed them with red paint. Purple Finch is a very similar looking species that only occurs in Texas during the winter, and normally you can only find it in far northeast Texas. But this winter birders have been finding them in Austin, and yesterday morning Steven found this female Purple Finch on Lake Creek Trail:

Purple Finch

She was eating ash tree seeds with a bunch of House Finches and American Goldfinches on the Town and Country property, near the footbridge between the small soccer fields and baseball fields.

You can find more of Steven's great photos from Lake Creek Trail and lots of other places on his Flickr photo stream here.


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing these photos. My dog was fascinated by the American Wigeon vocalizations!

Mikael Behrens said...

You're welcome, isn't it amazing what's happening all around us?

mikhealc said...

Very nice and informative Mikael!