Sunday, May 28, 2006


So all of Marc's buddies at LST have been wondering what he looks like -- so he asked me to post a picture! The pic below is my favorite -- only marred by the fact that he wasn't smiling.

He usually wears a red T-shirt (though sometimes blue, and sometimes gray), usually with "USA" or a flag, or something similar.

Here is another pic that shows him in a more natural state -- he has a wonderful smile (a little shaggy tho on this one)! Both pictures are from our birding trips... and yes the hat, though appropriately red -- is not "made in the USA".

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Osprey are fascinating birds. I have heard them called "Water Eagles" but my Sibley's book claims they are a unique species -- Pandion haliaetus.

We saw this osprey last winter on our trip to Rockport, Texas. We were able to watch it fly around for a while until it caught a fish.

Here's the "fish shot". On an earlier trip, I saw an Osprey dive into the water, fly back up about 30 feet, then shake off -- in the air -- like a dog. Unbelievable!

I work in Houston, and when I don't vanpool, I often take the Westpark Tollway. To the north of the tollway before you get to Beltway 8, there is a subdivision with huge homes and a "lake". I was surpised one day to see an Osprey perched on one of the light poles along the tollway. It was a bit confusing -- I know that Osprey like water and are most often seen around water, but there was a huge wall that hid the lake when I was inbound, so it took me a few trips to make sense of what I'd seen. It is sometimes amazing what birds you see in developed areas.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mockingbirds and Shrikes

The Northern Mockingbird is a very interesting bird that we may not "get to know" because mockingbirds are not "feeder birds" -- meaning they are not seed-eaters. However, they are very common and you can often see them in yards, or along the roadside on fence-posts and powerlines. (You can tell I spend a lot of time in the country!) And even if you haven't seen one, which is unlikely, you have certainly heard them! The mockingbird is a "mimic" bird and can recreate all sorts of sounds. Their song is usually in four parts. I once heard a mockingbird in the park-and-ride whose song included an engine that wouldn't start and the sound of a bus backing up (you know: beep-beep-beep-beep). The sounds were very accurate!

While these pictures show mockingbirds perched, they are very recognizable when flying because they have large white patches on their wings, which are not obvious when the bird is at rest. Cornell has a drawing of a mockingbird in flight (sorry I don't have a picture of my own), as well as a recording of a mockingbird's song.

Another bird similar in appearance to the mocking bird is the Northern Shrike. Shrikes like to catch lizards and hang them on barbed-wire, for later consumption. This picture, taken from below, does not show the similarity between these birds and the mockingbirds, however it does point out some of the differences. Both birds are gray on their upper sides, but the Shrike is somewhat smaller, has a larger head and has a prominent black stripe across the eyes.

I should also mention that I have never noticed a shrike in the city. But then, I wasn't as much of a birder when I lived in the city. ;-)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Year End - 2005

For several years, we have been making a trek to Rockport/Fulton, Texas, with the hope of seeing the endangered Whooping Cranes. This past year, we finally succeeded on a birding boat tour out of Fulton Harbor. We also went to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and saw a few "Whoopers" there -- all in all a successful birding trip.

We had some really good views of the whooping cranes, but they were very hard to photograph. At that time, I was still struggling with getting a good focus from my camera. Hmmm... actually, this was the first trip with more successful pictures -- but still not perfect! ;-)

The whoopers were not the only great birding sights on this trip. Above is an American Bittern.

And another exciting sight was a juvenile Greater Flamingo!

On the way back we were accompanied by dolphins -- they love riding the boat's wake.

For some reason, I'm particularly enamored of Brown Pelicans. Here are two of the many shots I have taken (on that trip -- not to mention other trips!).

And finally, my husband's favorite sea-bird. He likes to feed them -- I take pictures. ;-) More pictures soon...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

House Keeping

I've been a bit remiss at keeping up with posts of late. After all the problems I had trying to upload a photo that was WAY too big, I dropped back on my daily posting.

In the mean time, we've gotten some modern amenities at the cabin, so no more beating out the clothes on a stone at the creek! (just kidding) And a lot of changes at work have had me working and studying evenings and weekends the last week or so. So those two areas have kept me pretty busy. Hopefully, I'll be posting more regularly again.

For those of you who may want to follow the blog through an RSS aggregator and don't have an automatic tool to add a blog to your reader, I have added my site feed at the bottom of the right-hand navigator bar. Sorry, I don't have the little "RSS" graphic handy. ;-)

Brazos Bend - part 3

Before we leave Brazos Bend, I wanted to include some of the common birds we saw there. These are birds already on our birding "life list." Still worth sharing:

Two birds that are quite similar, the American Coot (top) and the Moorhen (above).

And a pair of Ibis -- glossy and white.

And finally -- not a bird, but the animal that Brazos Bend is most known for -- the American Aligator.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Brazos Bend - part 2

OK, so I'm trying to be creative, but Blogger is giving me fits. The formatting on their graphics placement is beyond basic, and I can't figure out how to reformat things (even using "edit html"). I think there must also be a limit on the number (or size/space) of photos that I can upload.

So today, I will share the photos of the Prothonotory warbler (ok, I had to re-size the image...). I saw one with binoculars, but did not realize we had a photo until we had left and were discussing the day. Here's the photo my husband took:

And here's the bird from the middle -- sorry, when you blow it up so much, it gets pretty grainy:

Monday, May 08, 2006

Brazos Bend

I would like to post pretty regularly on this blog, but I don't always have new pictures to share. However, I do have some previous pictures, so from time to time, I'll fill in with those. My office-mate at work is also a bird-lover and has been after me to make a trip to Brazos Bend state park which is a good location for a day-trip. I was further tempted by the lure of Anhingas, which I did not have on my life list.

So in April, we made the trip to Brazos Bend -- and I added 4 new birds to the list!

Here are two shots of Anhingas. They look similar to Cormorants, but have white on their wings. These are both males.
We did see a pair -- the female has a white head, neck and breast. They were definitely courting, but we were unable to get a good photo.

Here's another new bird on my list, a Green Heron. I loved this view of him hunting. He was totally frozen in place. Later we have a few shots from a different angle.










Another new bird that was a bit of a surprise was the blue winged teal. I should mention that the lakes there were really low and full of algae (or something floating in the water, as you can see here).

Another new bird was the solitary sandpiper:

I also saw what I thought was a Northern Waterthrush -- but I didn't get a picture.
I'll show you more pictures tomorrow!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Junior Titmice at the Feeder

Well, I promised you titmice! This has been a busy week -- our church had it's annual Sausage Dinner, and this is our first time since we officially transferred our membership from the (much bigger) church in Houston. So this year, instead of simply of attending, we worked -- peeling potatoes, and cooking and serving the day of the dinner. It was hard work, but good fellowship and a lot of fun.

That said, I wasn't sure if I'd get any pictures of titmice. The one shot I had gotten was not very flattering. Fortunately, they decided to cooperate -- even with me sitting on the porch only a few feet away from the feeder. So here's the gallery!

When I first went out, of course, the birds were a bit put off. Many of them flew to the yew tree to my left. You should have heard the fussing! You know, some birds are just like people! They just don't what their pictures taken! Seriously, I like this shot because it makes the titmouse look really formal in his grey suit with his crest up. Titmice are usually just so "cute" it's nice to see their serious side once in a while.

I was worried that the birds wouldn't cooperate, but it wasn't long before they started cautiously exploring the feeder and checking to see if I was going to try to catch them. Soon they calmed down and started flying over to the feeder.

I think most of the birds in these pictures are the newly fledged titmice, but they still will beg for food.

And if they don't get any, then they will fend for themselves.

What's funny is that my digital camera has a bit of latency. At one point, I aimed and focused on a titmouse, but when I pressed the button, I got a cardinal instead. A combination of slow camera and fast birds! The smaller birds were startled and a bit frightened of "Big Daddy" Redbird, but I think those titmice know no fear! In fact they sometimes play a game of hide and seek!

Of course, it's not just the junior titmice who are fearless -- the chickadees are right there with the titmice. They are even brave around the cardinals. And if they get "pushed out" of the feeder, they don't go off in a huff -- they go off in a PUFF! :-)

But even though the titmice are pretty brave, they can also be a bit shy -- I don't know if this is our previously injured little one, but there is one little one who seems a bit more subdued than the others, and we suspect that's the one who plans to never run into a window again!

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Tonight we had our first for-sure sighting of a Caracara of the season. While natives of Mexico, they are native up into our area of S.E. Texas, but for some reason we don't see much of them from about February until around May.

This picture of a caracara on a pole (sorry, it's pretty blurry) is about what they look like when we zoom by at 60 mph:

Here's a picture my husband took last fall. This bird was much more cooperative!

You can see why the bird books describe them as "unmistakable"!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Titmouse Fledglings

We have titmouse fledglings! I was hoping to get a picture of them (or of a titmouse at all), but I couldn't find any and haven't had a chance to get pictures yet... I'll try to get some over the weekend. However the babies have been flying into our window. Today one knocked himself out. My husband picked him up and placed him on the feeder (to protect him from the cat). Later he had flown away, so hopefully he's all right.

Snake Identification Update

Well, it appears that our snakes are Texas Rat Snakes (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri), though I haven't seen pictures of Texas Rat Snakes on the web that look just like ours. (We identified it through a book). Here is a good write-up on these snakes.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Another Snake!

Last night we found a snake on our driveway -- today another snake came to visit. He/She was on the front porch! This is definitely a different snake (bigger, and without the injuries), but it appears to be the same species.

I searched today, but was unable to identify these snakes (yet). Any help would be appreciated! The shot above shows the markings clearly. Here are the head and tail:


We got about the same number of pictures of this snake as the one last night. Then this snake got tired and crawled away across the porch, around the corner and under the slab. I guess it knows it's way around!

Monday, May 01, 2006


Well, I thought I had made my post for the day, and went out on the porch to enjoy the last of the day. I heard the Blue Jays squawking, which sometimes indicates that a hawk is nearby, so I went out on the driveway to look. And there was a snake stretched out across the drive. We picked him up to get some pictures (though I would have liked to photograph him on the drive!).

We're still trying to identify the snake. He had a damaged chin and one eye was foggy (maybe he's getting ready to molt?) These are the best pictures:

After we had photographed the poor guy about 20 times, we let him go back in the woods near the house.

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Tonight we drove into the big town of Katy for dinner. There are 5 restaurants that we go to there: Chinese, BBQ, Seafood and two Mexican. The one Mexican and Seafood restaurant that are owned by the same people were closed, so we ate at the other Mexican place to show our support for them being open! So now there are three restaurants we eat at in Katy.

On the way home we saw a pair of Yellow Crowned Night Herons on a power pole. Of course, I didn't have my camera. We've been seeing another heron-like bird closer to Brookshire, but have not been able to get a reliable identification on it. I'm still amazed at the types of birds I've seen on power poles -- herons, ducks, and of course all sorts of little "wire birds" and "insulator hawks".

Here is a Yellow Crowned Night Heron I photographed last year -- it's one of my best photos!