Desert bird report.

In addition to having a wonderful visit with old friends, I did see birdies while visiting Palm Desert last over the weekend.

Right outside our house there were 2 palm trees on an island in a large pond on the golf course.  Every night cormorants and egrets would come and roost.   They came late and left early.  I counted at least two dozen at one point.  This is a shot from one morning as the sun was rising.

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An American Kestrel visited me while I was drinking coffee one morning; he’s backlit by the rising sun.  This is the first picture I have ever gotten of one.

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A blue heron made an appearance.  There were a number of mallard ducks in the ponds at the golf course.  I saw a belted kingfisher flying away from the pond every night.  We had a couple of bewick’s wrens scolding us when were out on the patio.  We had many hummingbirds buzzing around.  A flock of Canada geese flew over us on the way to the airport.  There was a flock of unidentified colorful birds that stopped in a Joshua tree while we were in the park, but I didn’t get a good look.  I also saw a verdin, and a cactus wren;  both firsts for me.

 

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DOWO.

With the Cooper’s hawk flying through regularly, my backyard bird activity has dropped significantly.  But the resident Downy woodpeckers are not phased by it.  I have at least one male/female pair.  They frequent the feeder all day, every day.   This is a photo of a female downy woodpecker (DOWO) on the finch feeder.  They love to pick the sunflower chips out of the mix.  Downy’s are notoriously difficult to ID versus the similar looking, but larger, Hairy woodpecker species.  In this photo, though, you can see a couple of the markers that confirms it is a downy:  the relatively short beak, and the black flecks on the outer white tailfeathers.  Here’s a link to Audubon guidance on differentiating the two species.

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Second chance.

I was sitting on the back patio today when four beautiful warblers decided to take a bath in the fountain, about 10 feet away from me!   I was treated to a yellow warbler, two black-throated green warblers, and a mourning warbler.  I had my binoculars so I enjoyed a nice long look.  But of course, the camera was in the house.   After they had moved on, I went back in for my camera.   The earlier photo opp didn’t repeat, but I did get a shot or two of a beautiful yellow warbler that dropped down to the fountain for a drink.   Fall migration is on!

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Who’s here?

Keeto often asks us, “Who’s here?”   Well, this morning, when I opened up the blinds to look at the back yard, I was excited to see a flock of baltimore orioles in the bird bath/fountain that I put out in the spring.  There were many more in the trees above, taking turns bathing.   The orioles are currently migrating south for the winter.  In the spring, on their way north, I only got a moment’s glance at a single male baltimore oriole.  Today though, I got to enjoy them for about 15 minutes.   And then, poof, they were gone.   I hope they remember to stop here on their way back next spring.

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Messing with my mojo!

Since coming home from our road trip, I have noticed a marked decrease in my backyard birdie population.   I suspected a hawk was the reason.  And today, sure enough, while sitting out back I saw one swoop through the backyard scattering the few birds that were at the feeders.   Later in the day, the hawk flew in again and perched on an oak across from me for a few minutes.  It is huge.  I believe this is a juvenile Cooper’s hawk.   Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks, both accipiters, are very hard to distinguish from one another.   Based on field guidance I’ve read online (e.g., here, here, here and here), the overall size, head shape, tail shape, thick legs, and breast streaking lead me to lean towards a Cooper’s ID.  Either way, it’s a beautiful bird, but I wish it would find another yard to terrorize.  I miss my abundance of birdies.  

Sweaty betties.

I went birding and hiking today with my friend, Doray.  We started early, at Reimer’s Ranch Park, and then did the guided tour of the canyon and grotto at Westcave Preserve.  After that, we went back to Reimer’s to hike their River Trail.

Let me just say, “Whoo dogie, it was HOT!”   Whew!  100 degrees or so.  But it was beautiful, we did see lots of birdies, and we enjoyed a lovely day in our hill country.  Pretty good day.

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Bird on a wire.

We spent a fun weekend on the lake.  Sunday morning, I was greeted by 7 or 8 little barn swallows grooming themselves on the lifelines and jib sheets of the boat next to us.  I stole this shot of one in the morning sun.  It’s hard to get a good photo of these little ones because they usually dart around and never light on anything close by.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kite spotting.

While hiking at Pedernales Falls this week, I brought my camera along.  I wasn’t really birding, but I was keeping an eye out for them.  We saw a number of species of birds.  This one was a lifer for me – a mississippi kite.  I am really surprised this turned out, the bird was at least 200 feet away, way atop a dead, scraggly tree.  The sky was very overcast and the light was flat.   After severely cropping and adjusting the exposure, I like how this one turned out.  The kite is a cool looking bird.

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Hold still!

Scissor-tailed flycatcher, in motion.  They say the male’s tail is longer than the female’s, so I’m guessing this is a she.

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Taken at Commons Ford park.

Who’s watching who?

I really don’t have the intention of turning this photoblog into a birding blog, but since, for the time being, I’m spending lots of time looking for my feathered friends, bird moments are what you get.  🙂  But I will try to work some other subjects in.

I was watering plants out back this afternoon and heard some birds making a ruckus in one of the trees by the fence.  I walked over to find several birds squawking at a large shape sitting in the tree.  I’ve discovered hawks and crows in other similar situations, which quickly fly away after I walk under the tree.  I walked along the fence line to see if I could get a good look at what it was.  I saw our resident eastern screech-owl:

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He didn’t budge, other to turn his head from time to time.  I didn’t have my camera when I first saw him, so I walked back to the house to get it.  He was still sitting there when I got back.  I assume he has a nest he is guarding.  I’ve captured him on the infrared critter cam once or twice at night, but have never laid eyes on him before in person.   And he can say the same.

Colorful.

I was excited to see my first ever painted bunting this spring, and several others since then; all on different visits to Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park.   I haven’t captured a NatGeo-esque photo of one yet, but I was happy to get this one today, showing its beautiful colors on display.  If you would like to see your first one, too, check out the park.

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Tread carefully.

I spent Friday night and Saturday with friends that are participating in this weekend’s MS-150 bicycle ride from Houston to Austin.  After taking their luggage to the drop-off point at Tully Stadium at dawn, I spent the rest of Saturday exploring and birding in several parks outside of Houston with Doray.

While our friends were pedalling their hearts out on the 100-mile Day 1 of the two-day MS-150, we had a very fun day.  We visited Cullinan Park, Fiorenza Park and Bear Creek Pioneers Park.   I’m still going through my photos to figure out exactly what we spotted.

While walking on one of the trails at Cullinan Park, I nearly stepped on this snake.  I didn’t see him because I was looking up into the tree tops as I was walking, trying to spot birds.  I’m very thankful for good luck, my guardian angel, and cat-like reflexes 🙂 , because I have since learned that this is a venomous juvenile cottonmouth snake. 😮

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My day could have turned out very differently if I hadn’t been lucky.

Be careful out there, folks.