Wednesday, June 09, 2010

San Antonio birding, day 1, part 1--updated!

It was an overcast morning yesterday, threatening rain and then later delivering; still, sister Mary and I got up before the sun and hit the birding trail. Also along was our niece Olivia, her first time birding. She was skeptical, but you know how it goes: first they mock, rolling their eyes dramatically, saying, "yeah, I GUESS I'll come along." Then they yawn and say, "this is gonna be soooo booorrrring!" Then you get to your destination, and they see their first non-House Sparrow. In our case, Olivia's first bird was a Yellow-crowned Night Heron who was VERY used to human presence. That was it; she was hooked. We watched its movements, laughed at its brazen disregard for our presence.

Now she wants her own binocs. SNAP!

Our first stop was a new location for us, Live Oak City Park, on the northeastern side of San Antonio. It's a great park, with huge grassy expanses, a nice-sized "lake," and good trails. We all got soaked and mosquito-bitten, but we had a great time with the birds, toads, grasshoppers, butterflies, and moths. Our list for this location:

Muscovy Duck
Mallard, 5--One mallard was VERY blond; photos to follow
Blue-winged Teal, 2
duck sp., 2--One had a bluish bill but no stiff tail like a Ruddy, also had a whitish stripe down his forehead. Photos to follow.
Great Blue Heron, 1
Great Egret, 3--these birds were also used to humans all around
Little Blue Heron, 2-- one molting juvenile, white with a few blue streaks along his back. Photos below. The adult was all blue, no reddish neck or cresty feathers evident at all. However, the adult was on a small snag, watching the juvenile feed in the shallows.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, 1--Olivia's spark bird
Black Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk, 2--The first was being harassed in-flight by a Great-tailed Grackle, the second by a Northern Mockingbird. Poor raptors!
White-winged Dove
Inca Dove, 2--Pair attempting cloacal kiss on the road just at the entrance to the park! We all respectfully averted our eyes.
Chimney Swift, 5
hummingbird sp., 2--mystery species. VERY buffy, no evident green or red coloring at all. Birds were together, feeding and buzzing around. Juveniles?
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Couch's Kingbird, 1--ID'd by his call; photo below. LIFER!
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 3--it's ridiculous how common these guys are.
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin--nice!
Barn Swallow (thanks, Hap!)
Mexican Cliff Swallow (thanks, Hap and Curlygirl!)
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Cardinal
Dickcissel, 1--LIFER! Singing in a treetop just for me. Photo to follow.
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
House Sparrow
Sparrow spp.--too many to even ID. It was all I could do to handle the rest of the birds. Most looked like house sparrows, but I'd be willing to bet there were some others mixed in. Still, I just didn't have my sparrow-fu working yesterday.

Okay, now for the photos!

In the rear is the Muscovy Duck which I've decided, owing to the not-so-secretive behavior and his bright red knobby facial area, is probably just a domestic Muscovy, which means no lifer. Dangit. Apparently, the true "wild" Muscovy's knob would be "blackish to dark reddish;" it's "usually brighter red in domestic male"). So much for that. I guess I should've known a true wild Muscovy wouldn't be found at a city park in San Antonio, right? My field guide says that a "nest box program in northeastern Mexico helped spread of wild Muscovies to Rio Grande area..." (info courtesy of my National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America). Oh well. One of these days, I'll go birding in the Mexican jungles and see one of these guys for real.

Continuing with this same photograph, what do you think of the brownish duck in front? Note the white on the face and on the neck. For a second, I thought I had a female Wood Duck, but I quickly dismissed that notion based on the lack of prominence of that white ring around the eye. I'm guessing this duck is a mutt; no ducks in my guide have those white markings. What do you think?

Here's the brave little Yellow-crowned Night Heron, who came within ten feet of where I was standing and looking at swallows.

I finally saw a Dicksissel!

This was the only photo I got of the two buff-colored hummingbirds I saw:Juveniles? Lesbians?

Ah, the swallows. They were abundant and confusing! I think many of them were quite young, and I have no experience really studying or IDing them other than easy Tree and Barn Swallows, so I took about a million photos. The best shots I got were of these fellows and ladies sitting on a fence, being cool.I thought some of them were Cliff Swallows, some might be Cave Swallows.... uh.... UPDATE: Per Hap's and Curlygirl's comments, I checked out some more info on Cliff or Mexican Cliff Swallows, and I agree with them that the different-looking guy to the right of the post is a juvenile (Mexican) Cliff Swallow and the rest of these guys are just plain old Barn Swallows (though I didn't check their immigration status). So I don't think I got any lifers here.

Here's one in flight--I was lucky to get a camera on him at all. What the heck is this? I didn't see any banded tails in my field guide!

Here's one in isolation. Note the whitish on his back--young bird?

The whole gang, looking tough.

Just half of them, including one who is obviously aware of my presence.

The other half. Is that evidence of a gape I see on the the two on the right? And whitish. Like I said, juveniles, I suspect.

After a while, I think they got sick of me taking their picture:Do you mind????

Moving on:The girls.

Couch's Kingbird, ID'd based on its call. Lifer!

Blue-winged Teal male

The blond Mallard with his friend? Mate? Brother?

A juvie Little Blue Heron. His mom/dad was also around, but she flew before I got a pic.

Seriously. Cut it out.

So that was two lifers. I took tons of other photos of butterflies, etc., but this post is already straining at its seams.

I mean it. Beat it! Tell your story walkin'! OUT!


Beth said...

great lifers. I love the attitude on those swallows. So cute when they are annoyed.


Felicia said...

Hooray for you and Olivia! Good on you for introducing another young person to the joys of birding. And congratulations on your lifers!

Anonymous said...


Curlygirl715 said...

Not sure, but I'm leaning towards cliff swallows. These links may be helpful:

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Elizabeth said...

Fantastic shot of the heron.

I love swallows, they're my new favorite bird. At the Great Salt Lake birding festival, we saw Bank Swallows nesting. There was so much activity!

When we visited SLC last July, there was a stream with hundreds of swallows hunting for insects. Now that I have a better camera, I'm hoping to get some decent shots. They move so quickly.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just looking at your birding
the San Antonio area. I think all
the Mallards are "mutts". Really
nice Yellow-cr. Night Heron. Ah,
the swallows...the overhead shot
is an adult Barn Swallow. Almost
all the birds on the fence look
like juvenile Barns to me, except
one. The bird to the right of the
fence post is a juvenile Cliff or
Cave. I'm not familiar with Caves
but this could be the pale throat-
ed juv. Cliff as shown in Sibley.
Have fun seeing the "lifers".
Hap in New Hope

Susan Gets Native said...

I just choked on my tongue with your "lesbian hummingbird". OMG, D. You f***ing kill me.

dguzman said...

Beth--I like them a lot too, but they're sure hard to ID!

Felicia--it's always a great birdy experience to come to Texas, AND I get to see my family.

Anon--me too.

Curlygirl--oh thanks! I was feeling like that too--cliffs.

Elizabeth--almost every time I thought I'd caught a flyover in the lens, it would be just a wing or a tail right at the edge of the frame. Grrrr!

Hap--thank you! Their tails didn't look as forked as adult Barns, but I think you're probably right, also about the Cliff. I think a Bank would've been a real rarity.

Susan--hee hee hee!

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