Monday, February 23, 2009

A steady IV-drip of lifers, emphasis on the "drip"

Two birding trips, three lifers--it's been a steady, if slow, procession of lifers here in San Antonio. I have to give credit to my kid sister Mary, who's been my taxi driver and fellow bird spotter, btw. Her contributions to the bloggy will be detailed below.

Sunday afternoon, my mom, Mary, and my nieces Bronte and Lilia, and I went to McAllister Park, a hard-scrabble area of mesquite, live oak, and brush. We didn't see a whole lot of birds, but Lil spotted a lifer of her own: a nine-banded armadillo! Here she is, making the spot:I only got a decent photo of his badonkadonk, as we stalked him through the brush: By the way, I'll mention that everyone in our party mentioned the "armadillos have leprosy!" factoid that you Flockers who've met me already heard... PURE FACT, you Doubting Thomases.

On our way to the car, I heard a familiar sound--a Tufted Titmouse. Eager to see if I could find a Black-crested Titmouse, a morph found only in Texas, I started looking and snapping.Got him! They sound just like TUTIs, but that black crest distinguishes them and made the ABA split them off as their own species. (I'm sure it's more complicated and genetic than that, but hey--I'm beginning to bird, not expert to bird.)

This morning, Mary was a total trooper--she got up with me at 6:30 and we were on the road at 6:45, headed to Comanche Lookout Park in northeastern SA. Sadly, not a whole lot of bird action at this historic location. We saw and heard dozens of cardinals and mockers, and that was about it. We also saw this little tower at the top of the peak, the "lookout" part of the park: We left after climbing the hill, in search of birdier places.

Next stop: El Dorado (aka "Golden") Pond, which is in a residential area near a dammed up creek. Some interesting interaction of domestic muscovy ducks and the local kitteh population:
It looks like the kitteh is stalking, but he's actually just chewing on some grass. The ducks and the kittehs coexist in peace. We also saw this cute pup, who did us a favor and ate the rest of our greasy breakfast tacos, purchased at a Texas Cafe drivethru (the "cafe" was worse than the tacos!)-- He seemed hungry and even ate the tortillas! Isn't he cute? I wanted to take him home but I knew he'd never fit in my bag.

We went to the "pond" which was little more than a few puddles. Still, we found many more birds here than the Comanche place, perhaps because of the residential feeders and such. I saw my first lifer of the day:Inca dove! Found only in the border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California! Mary spotted these guys, which I had kinda brushed off as MODOs. One peek through the binocs proved me wrong, however, and we got a lifer!

We also saw another lifer, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker! I had time to see him, spot him through my binocs, and touch my camera; then he flew off. Dangit! No photos, but he was bee-yoo-tiful, his bright yellow-orange nape flashing in the morning sun. Wow. Probably my favorite woody now, at least until I see an IBWO...

The rest of the birds we saw were interesting, if not lifebirds. We saw a mated pair of Black Vultures who were extremely interested in having us document their romance! They're kissing! He tried to mount her, but some neighborhood dogs started barking about fifty yards away and she got a little shy. They flew together into a nearby tree:
That's one intense gaze.

I think they were tiring of the papparazzi at this point: We saw some other birds, but try as I might, I can't figure out what they are! Here's the first one, a duck who was much larger than the mallards nearby:
There's some definite green on his head, but his back was very light buffy brown and rufous colors. Here's another one, though he's facing away: Any ideas?

UPDATE! Another lifer, a Blue-headed Vireo! Thanks, my birdy pals!

Here are some more photos:

He very obligingly gave us a badonkadonk shot: Again, thanks to the commenters for the positive ID!

Until next time, I'll be watching A&E's Horatio Hornblower miniseries on DVD with my mom....


FranIAm said...

Delia - what an adventure. These photos!!

And those vultures- wow!!!

Glad you are having a good TX time!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Been through the Western books twice .. a warbler it seems, but which ....

John said...

I'm pretty sure that is a Blue-headed Vireo. My only hesitation is due to the presence of some similar-looking vireo species in Texas and the southwest. So maybe someone with more experience in that region can confirm.

I'll have to get down to Texas one of these days.

Susan Gets Native said...

John got to it first, but that bird said Vireo to me.

Love the Inca dove! So scaly.

*wishing Cincy was a big hub so you could have a nice long layover on your way back*

KatDoc said...

John beat me to it - Blue-headed Vireo. (In older field guides, you might see him called Solitary Vireo.) At least, that's my ID from an eastern US birder's perspective. When they split up the Solitary Vireo, they made it a little harder. Plumbeous & Cassin's Vireo, the western species, look very similar.

Key features: the bill is heavier than a warbler's, with maybe a tiny hook at the tip, the blue-gray head with the distinct white "spectacle" eyering, two white wing bars, and the contrasty yellow flanks and white belly.

Love the Inca Dove - I wanna see one!

I'll bet Lynne will be over the moon with the series on Black Vulture dating techniques.

Glad you're having fun,


Mel said...

Hola Delia,

The vultures are awesome!!! Great adventure!

Congrats on the lifers!!


Laurent said...

Great trip report! Blue headed Vireo for me too.

Maybe I missed it in some of your previous post, but could you tell us what kind of camera you are using?

Laurent from Michigan

Anonymous said...

You're not afraid of a little Hansen's disease are you?
Gotta love the dillo's anyway

Yep I wish it was still name Solitary Vireo...

Blue headed, Cassin's and Plumbeous Vireo complex.
You'll need to know this for Cali.

The duck might be a shoveler...look at the bill.

Mary was the Drum Major wasn't she?

catharus said...

Yeh, my thought is a BHVI

dguzman said...

Fran--I dreamed of you last night! G-rated, I assure you. We were roommates, trying to decide what to wear to go out. Crazy.

Rabbits' Guy--that is the question, isn't it? It's driving me mad.

John--VIREO! Last night, I was looking at the Solitary Vireo and wondering. And yes, you'll have to come to Texas--birds everywhere!

Susan--so I was right! And Katdoc below confirms it! YES--another lifer! And I too wish I was laying over in Cincy rather than Detroit.

Katdoc--thank you! I happened to flip open my old Stokes' guide (the only one I brought, as I gave my Peterson's eastern to Gretchen!) right to that page late last night. Bingo! And those Inca doves were cool.

Mel--hola, chica. Having fun?

Laurent--welcome! it's a Kodak EasyShare Z712IS. I like it a lot.

Lizard--got it. So it's Blue-Headed now. Gotta get the new Peterson's Eastern to go with my new Western!

Catharus--welcome, and thanks!

Lynne said...

Whoa- Delia!! You got some terrific pix! The kissing vultures almost made me pee my pant!s

Earl Cootie said...

I'm almost tempted to visit my parents in Texas when I think of all the lifers I'd see.

Great pics! I love those vultures. So handsome!

I adopted a young armadillo when I was a kid in Louisiana. I've never heard about this leprosy business. I guess I'll have to do a little research.

dguzman said...

Lynne--I knew you'd love it; I only wish they were TUVUs though!

Earl--I think you'd have developed symptoms by now!

Bubs said...

Sheesh, tell those buzzards to get a room.

Bubs said...

Sheesh, tell those buzzards to get a room.

Bubs said...

Sheesh, tell those buzzards to get a room.