Monday, January 18, 2010

Finally, I go birding!

Great-tailed Grackles are EVERYWHERE here.

The weather finally cooperated with Birding Mommy and me today, and thanks to having the day off for Dr. King, we were able to go birding in Macallister Park. I've seen some good birds there before; it's where I saw my first Lesser Goldfinch, so in a pinch (for time) we went there before running some other errands.

There was still some leftover mist and drizzle blowing around, but it stopped soon after we arrived. We've had major flooding here in the last few days, and the evidence is clear in these low-lying water collection areas:At the bases of many trees, we saw these little fort-like collections of debris, wood, and trash (in this case a Coke bottle and a car tire). We had between 1.5 and 5.5 inches of rain the other da, and all that water just rushed over the little creek beds that lay dry and dormant for most of the year. One observation: That would be a perfect little wall to crouch behind, were there snow on the ground, for snowball fights!

Little danger of snow here, however. We wandered around the place for a little while, and we saw a lot of great little birds--though we were there kinda late (9:30ish). Here are a few photos of a beautiful Golden-fronted Woodpecker, a Texas specialty:

Backlighting was rough and she was rather fidgety, but I was thrilled to finally get a good long look through the binocs at this beautiful little lady (I'm guessing it's a lady because the males have a red cap, but it might well be a male still wearing fall color). When I saw my life one back in February, it was just a very quick glimpse--just enough for the ID. We watched this girl for a little while. She made a loud checking sound that I thought at first was a squirrel barking, but it turned out to be this bird--a nice surprise!

We also saw this flycatcher, which I think is an Eastern Phoebe--but then I'm terrible with flycatchers--who wouldn't cooperate and come closer OR turn around:

Once I got home with the field guides, I kept trying to make it into something cool like a Texas rarity (Ash-throated Flycatcher, etc.) but I think it's just a fall-yellow-splash-bellied Eastern Phoebe. He was very quiet, so there was no tell-tale song. Note the possessed-laser-beam-o'-death eye in the second pic. Eek.

Next, we headed into a more heavily wooded area. At first I was ready to give it up as a bad job, as we heard very few bird sounds. Then, I heard a little Carolina Wren tea-kettling, so we stopped and I began to pish in earnest: That was when the inundation began! We had a pair of Northern Cardinals, several Carolina Wrens, a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and a pair of these personal favorites: A nice little White-throated Sparrow, something I hadn't seen since leaving Pennsylvania.

And this teeny tiny little wren, which I think is a either a House Wren or a Winter Wren, based on the coloring, the eye stripe, and the tiny tiny size:
When you zoom in on his little face, you can definitely see a whitish stripe over his eye and some barring on his flanks (Winter Wren) but Peterson distinctly states that the Winter Wren is darker than the House Wren, and this little guy was rather light brown. Carolina Wrens are easy to ID with their rusty coloring and white eye-stripe; Bewick's Wrens are very pugnacious and their tails bob up and down more than the other wrens--not to mention the rather distinct songs of each wren. But this little guy... he was just so tiny, like a Ruby-crowned Kinglet; House Wrens are bigger. But now that I listen to the calls one after the other here at home (can you believe I forgot my phone with the BirdJam? groan...!), I'm thinking it was a plain old House Wren. Do you agree? Winter Wrens can be found down in these parts, but other than that eye-stripe, I just don't see it. Dangit.

Let me tell you, wrens go car-ay-zee when you pish them! I just started pishing, and very quickly I had Bewick's Wrens bobbing their tails at me, Carolina Wrens tea-kettling at me, and these sweet little House/Winter? Wrens very interested in who or what was making that noise, and Birding Mommy and I were just surrounded by spastic little birds all a-twitter with excitement. It made my day, my week, my month!

We saw a few other cool sights:


A dash of color on a drab day:

Some neat little moss or lichen:
Also an opportunity to read my palm.

I like this little buck's facial expression:
I'm getting so geeked up about the RGV birding trip at the end of the month. Mary's on a cruise with her husband right now, so there's no one to spend hours on the phone with, psychotically anal-retentive planning and discussing and re-discussing every second of the trip, dangit! But she'll be home soon, and before I know it it'll be time to go. I'm studying my RGV specialty bird list every night before bed, but what I'd really love is to just see some Sandhill Cranes.

28 comments:

Felicia said...

I'd say your flycatcher is an Eastern Phoebe! And you're so lucky to be going to the RGV; I'm hoping to make it down there someday!

Susan Gets Native said...

I would call your wren a House, because it just doesn't look like a Winter...Winters are damn nearly spherical and chocolate brown, with a tiny excuse for a tail.
LOVE the woodpecker...that's a pants-wetter!
Please knock over an ATM and come see me in New River.

Elizabeth said...

Wow! I had no idea that there were woodpeckers with yellow heads.

I looked up wrens in my guidebook, but they all look so similar. I'm always guessing at their identity.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, it looks like an
Eastern Phoebe to me too. As
far as the wren goes, Susan
pretty much said it all. This
looks like a House Wren to me.
Hap in New Hope (MN)

dguzman said...

Felicia--cool--thanks for the ID confirmation!

Susan--Thank you; I figured. Isn't that GFWO awesome? The camera doesn't do it justice; those golden feathers GLOW. Thanks for the tips on the Winter Wren; I've heard them but never seen them.

Elizabeth--I hear you on the wrens! Same with flycatchers, many sparrows, pretty much all shorebirds.... you get the idea.

Hap--thanks for the ID confirmation.

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WendyB said...

I'm always happy to see a cardinal!

John said...

I would agree with prior commenters that the flycatcher is an Eastern Phoebe and the wren is a House Wren. I think the tail is too long and the breast too gray for a Winter Wren.

dguzman said...

Anon--glad to help...

WendyB--hey, thanks for coming by the bloggy!

John--thanks for confirmation.

dAwN said...

i look forward to seeing the Golden fronted on our trip to Texas..getting excited!

dguzman said...

dAwN--they're all over the place here! Can't wait to see you guys when you get here.

dguzman said...

dAwN--they're all over the place here! Can't wait to see you guys when you get here.

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