Sunday, December 27, 2009

Front-yard birding

The other morning, I saw what I guessed was a Yellow-rumped Warbler, just getting some pale yellow splotches on the sides of his breast, making sharp "chip" sounds in the live oaks of our front yard. Now I'm not so sure; I was looking through Birding Mommy's Texas field guide (a Peterson's that I got her in February), and he didn't even list the YRWA at all; this book was written before the lumping of the Myrtle and the Audubon's warblers into the Yellow-rumped. Still--I think it was a Myrtle variety; the yellow spots on the streaky breast were just starting to get a bit pronounced. I couldn't see whether he had the butter-butt, though; he was just too high in the tree.

As another ID bit of info, he was doing that warbler thing where they rub the sides of their beaks on the branches, as though sharpening the beak on the branch. Do you know what I mean, or is that just some weird thing I've noticed and made into a warbler thing?

So I came inside and listened to the BirdJam and didn't hear a lot of chipping except at the end of the recording, and that chipping was rather less sharp and strong than what I heard in the yard. Still, when I looked at my field guides, I recognized the fall plumage of the YRWA right off. Do they make sharp chipping sounds, to the exclusion of their downward-slurring trill? Again, I wish I'd had my camera--I grabbed my binocs but not the camera, as the battery was pretty much dead on the camera. Dangit.

This morning I went outside and listened for the chipping, but I couldn't hear it. Instead, I heard the constant buzzy chatter and chick-a-deeing of some Black-crested Titmice and Carolina Chickadees. I managed to get some photos too, having charged the battery, although the birds were moving very quickly in the cool morning:

See the bird there? No? Come on, really? You can't see him? Okay, how about here?

Surely you see the birds in this one, right? Right?

Okay--I admit it: I took these pics by pointing my camera in the direction of the rapid movement, hoping I'd capture something. But if you can make out anything remotely bird-like in all those moss clumps and leaves, then you've got me beat. I could swear there was something there when I was snapping the pics, but I can't find anything now.

I did get lucky a couple of times, though:When I started snapping, he was on the roof; by the time the shutter opened a split-second later, this bird was on the wing. Honestly, I have no idea what it was. At the time, I remember thinking "Orange-crowned Warbler?" (they're almost as abundant down here as sparrows!) But looking at this pic, I really don't know.

I also saw this:I think it's a Black-crested Titmouse, though the photo doesn't capture much of his head. But I remember thinking it was when I was snapping, though I was snapping so fast (and it's been a long day since I took them) that I don't remember.

I thought this was a chickadee, but there's no black chin-strap:He's really tiny, and look at that needle-like beak. A warbler? A kinglet (also very common, the Ruby-crowned)? John? Hap? Patrick? Help me out here.

It's frustrating working with all these leaves and moss clusters on the trees, not to mention that I can either snap photos or look through my binocs and make careful IDs--never both. These guys just move too fast, and I'm way out of practice. It's been a long non-birding fall and winter so far, and I feel like my meager-at-best field skills have gone to pot.

On weekdays, I get up really early and I'm out the door by 7 a.m. I just wish I didn't have to get right into the car in order to be on time for work; it's a 25-mile drive to the temp job, and it takes me the better part of an hour to drive it each morning. That's one thing I've had to get used to again since moving back to a big city: traffic. I sure didn't miss it when I was living a whole eight minutes from my job in Bellefonte!

I was talking to my brother about some birds in his backyard; he lives south of here in Kingsville (the town where I went to college). He described what sounded to me like a whole mob of Great Kiskadees around his place. I can't be sure, though he was positive that's what he was seeing when I showed him the field guide. I've really got to take a weekend and drive down that way; I could check out his yard on Saturday morning, then head south about an hour and half to Harlingen. I want to try the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, in the hopes of seeing some Texas/Mexican specialties. Hard to believe that I could know the Valley so well yet not have a clue where this refuge actually is, but I lived down there a full 27 years ago and I wasn't a birder back then. I don't even know if the refuge existed back then; I don't think it did.

As always, I tend to make rather overblown plans with very little detail, and then they usually just fall apart. That's a life lesson I've learned since the whole California move fiasco, and I'm trying to change it. I just get very excited, you know? But I'm going to do some research on the TX Audubon Society Web site; if anyone has any tips about how to take a super-fast South Texas bird swing, please pass them along in the comments!

12 comments:

John said...

Your last photo is a gnatcatcher of some sort, probably Blue-gray.

I've seen warblers rub their bills on the sides of branches, but I don't think it's exclusively a warbler thing. I've seen sparrows do it, and possibly other birds.

Dr. Monkey said...

Heh, heh, heh, you said 'titmouse.'

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I agree with John, it
appears to be a gnatcatcher,
probably Blue-gray. I hope you
can get in some south TX birding
in while you are there, you'll
be glad you did. Take care.
Hap in New Hope

Anonymous said...

It is remarkable, very valuable information

dguzman said...

John--DUH--gnatcatcher! Thanks; blue-grays are common down here.

Dr. Monkey--hee hee!

Hap--I think it's gonna happen the last weekend in January! I'm getting really excited! Looking into campgrounds tonight.

dguzman said...

Anon-thanks?

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