Monday, March 01, 2010

Bye-bye to Texas birds!

As I mentioned in my last post, I took my Texas last birding excursions yesterday, and though we didn't see a whole lot of birds (it was a bit chilly until well after sunrise), we had a good time.

The habitat around San Antonio looks pretty much like this:a lot of brush, low grasses, cactus, live oak, and mesquite. The sheer number of birds is impressive; we must've seen about 75 Yellow-rumps at Braunig Lake alone. We also went to the Friedrich Wilderness Area, known as the easiest place (not to mention my last chance) to see endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers.

A few of the many Northern Cardinals we saw still looked a little pink:but they were singing their hearts out, as were the Carolina Wrens:

It's been over a year since I saw one of these:Maybe that's why it took Mary's checking the fieldguide when we got home to convince me that this was a Chipping Sparrow; the red cap told me "Chipping," but I kept trying to make it into something more exotic. That's the trouble (at least for me) birding in such a birdy place as Texas: I know that on any given day, I could see just about anything, from Bare-throated Tiger Herons to Painted Buntings, from Golden-cheeked Warblers to Roseate Spoonbills. I've heard that Lincoln Sparrows aren't too rare down here, but all we saw yesterday was Chippings. I heard a couple of Song Sparrows and one White-throated Sparrow too.

At Braunig Lake we saw this Osprey hunting from way up high:Boy, there's just no mistaking those markings and that M-shaped wing posture.

We also saw what I had thought at the time was a Broad-winged Hawk, but commenters woke me from my fantasy and told me it's just a southern Red-tailed Hawk:

We did see some lifers on the trip, though we didn't even hear anything sounding like a Golden-cheeked Warbler or a Painted Bunting. Still, some good lifers! We saw this Spotted Towhee kicking up leaves and stuff in search of food:That's bird #234, and coming in at #235 was this tough-to-identify warbler:

My first instinct is just say "Orange-crowned Warbler" down here, because they're everywhere, and he does have that faint streakiness on his breast. But this guy's eye-ring made me look twice--and plenty more times too.

We saw one at Friedrich and then this one at Braunig; these were the best pics I was able to get. His smaller size (definitely not the larger not to mention rare Connecticut Warbler), eye-ring, lack of wingbars, olive-yellow coloring, and gray head had me pretty convinced that we had a Nashville, Connecticut, or MacGillivray's Warbler, but Nashvilles have a yellow throat. This guy (or female?) has the gray hood of a Connecticut, but he just didn't feel that big too me. That left me with MacGillivray's Warbler, and we are on the eastern edge of his spring migrating path--though it's a bit early per Peterson. Still--the eye-ring looks like it is "broken, fore and aft" rather than solid like the Connecticut's or Nashville's. What do you think? MacGillivray's? If so, what a find!

We also saw some nice wildflowers, like this Rose Vervaine: and this phlox of some sort:
It doesn't have that white center like the Drummondii.

We also saw this huge Live Oak; Mary is included for scale:This tree must be at least a couple hundred years old. It formed a beautiful shady canopy of branches, and we stayed under it for a few minutes, just appreciating all it's seen during its long life.

And so I bid a fond farewell to Texas and my dear family. I'll miss everyone a lot; it's been wonderful to hang with the 'rents and get to know them again. But I guess I'm just a rambler by nature, never content to stay "home" for too long. And if home is truly where the heart is, my heart is in Pennsylvania and I'll be glad to join her once again.


John said...

I think that hawk is actually a Red-tailed Hawk based on its shape. It also has the dark patagial marks on the leading edge of its wings and the dark commas near the base of the primaries that are very red-tail-like. But it may be a "Krider's" type – that form is much lighter than the typical red-tail and many lack belly bands.

The warbler looks like an Orange-crowned Warbler to me.

Good luck setting up again in Pennsylvania! It gives an opportunity to see some of the eastern birds you missed the last time.

KGMom said...

Safe travels to you.
And may the work gods smile on you, assuming that's something you'll be looking for.
Glad you & your heart are going to be together!

bunnygirl said...

Have a safe trip. Sorry you couldn't stay longer, but at least you'll miss the Texas summer.

Felicia said...

Glad your last birding trip down there was an enjoyable and productive one--looking forward to hearing about your Pennsylvania adventures!

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dguzman said...

John--you know, I remember you mentioning in another post that Red-tailed Hawks have the dark on the leading edges of the wings but it wasn't in the Peterson's, and my other guides were packed. When I was watching it, I thought it was a Red-tailed because the tail looked red with the sun shining through it. But it's so light and no belly band! And say it isn't so--OCWarbler???? Dangit!

KGMom--definitely need the work gods to smile on me! Thanks for the good wishes!

Bunnygirl--exactly--I'm leaving just before the unbearable heat begins.

Felicia--I plan to have a new adventure in PA every weekend!

Lisa said...

Safe trip home. I still think of you all the time when I'm watching the birds. I hope your move back to PA is smooth.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Ever listen to Randy Sparks and the New Christy Minstrels? Sing a lot of songs about you ramblin' sorts ...

J. "Kyron" Hanson said...

In Texas, an adult Red-tailed that has a red tail, but no belly band, is likely the subspecies B. j. fuertesi ("Fuertes" Red-tailed Hawk). South-central TX is filthy with Red-taileds in the winter. At least five subspecies are reasonably expected.

The warbler is an Orange-crowned. Again, in those parts (San Antonio) subspecies share winter ranges. This is one with a noticeably grayish-green hood and upperparts.

dguzman said...


Rabbits' Guy--I've always liked the Allman Bros.' "Ramblin' Man." Feels appropriate except for the "man" part!

Kyron--thank you for the TX info! I'm amazed at how many RTHAs I saw on my way out of Texas--I lost count at around 30.