I went to Austin last weekend to visit my sister and her new husband, and on Saturday Mary and I went to the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory. It was, in a word, aromatic, seeing as how the site is also a solid waste sewage treatment plant... but I saw some amazing birds!
Here's Mary, stylin' with my little scope:
Here are some of the birds we saw, starting off with the weird buggy eyes on this MODO:
I swore at first that it couldn't be a Mourning Dove--I mean, MODO eyes aren't that big and buggy and the eye ring is much smaller and more subdued! But I can't find any other dove it might be, based on all the other field markings. Is it possible that this dove has that House Finch eye disease? Look at how shaggy his head is. Poor little guy.
This poor American Kestrel was having a bad feather day:I don't think this pic captured it, but he looked like he was having a rough molt.
The butterfly migration is still in high gear, and I caught this beauty:
I love those silver spots on the wing undersides. I remember seeing lots of these when I was a kid in the Rio Grande Valley: Gulf Fritillary!
At one point, there was a huge dither among the many birders who were on the trails; someone had spotted a Red Phalarope in one of the big ponds, and the bird was posing for photos! Check out this rare lifer:
There was a guy there who went to every little crowd of birders gathered along the shore of the pond and said that this was "the bird of the year!" I don't know about that, but this bird is certainly a long way from his Arctic home and from his "southern oceans" wintering area. I would give anything to see one of these in breeding plumage. Apparently, the female phalaropes are the ones who do the searching for the mates, and they leave the males behind to take care of the nest--a matriarchy!
Later, I saw these Crested Caracaras, another lifer!
I have been able to really look at a lot of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers lately; they're everywhere down here:
Check out those salmony pink undercoverts. Even the tail feathers are that color, with black at the ends.
The butterflies were a constant presence:I kept seeing their movements and thinking, "BIRD!" and then it was just another butterfly. Monarchs, all kinds of Emperors (this one a Hackberry Emperor), and those American Snouts from my last post.
This swallowtail--Zebra Swallowtail?--put on quite a flying show:After watching him for a long time, I realized that his upper wing segments moved all the time, while the lower segments were more like rudders.
Look at this big fatty of a turtle; is it a Snapping Turtle?The ones in PA looked different.
Here's another lifer, an American Avocet:There were four of these guys, enjoying a marshy area at the head of one of the big ponds on the facility. It was a real thrill to see one of these, finally. I love that upturned bill.
Finally, there's this sparrow:I thought it was a Song Sparrow, but then I thought it wasn't because the center "hat-pin" spot isn't there, then I thought it couldn't be anything else -- finally, I realized I was probably over-thinking the whole thing. Is it a Song Sparrow or what?
Now that I'm working 8-5 during the week, it's harder to get birding trips in. I also don't really know if there are any birds around right now. I know the Gulf Coast is hopping, but I don't think I'm gonna get down there anytime soon. Still--I'd like to hit the Rockport/Aransas Wildlife Refuge area some weekend to see the wintering species. Of course, my shorebird ID skills are so lame that I don't know how much good it would do! I'd also love to head all the way down to Harlingen and look for those specialties that can only be found in the tip of the state. But there again, money and time and a problem. Maybe once I get regular paychecks, I'll be able to set aside a few bucks a week until I have enough for a winter trip.