Sunday, February 24, 2008

Anniversary Weekend Birding Trip -- Day 3

The third and last day of our trip was spent at the King Ranch near Kingsville. We took the half-day birding tour -- with a great bunch of birders and our guide Jim. This tour was mostly driving and viewing birds from the van, but when a special bird was sighted, we would get out to get a closer look. "Closer" in this case was a somewhat relative term, and binoculars were much more effective than a camera. I was not able to get as many "good" pictures as I would like, due to the tinted windows and distances -- but maybe that's a good thing. ;-)

I'll try to list the birds somewhat in the order that we saw them, though I've grouped common types where I don't have a photo. I've left a few common (to us) birds off the list like Mockingbirds and Loggerhead Shrikes. Birds listed with an asterisk (*) are new birds for our life list.

One of the first birds we saw were Crested Caracara, and Red Tail Hawks, which I did not photograph due to distance. We started off in search of the Masked Duck*, which I was able to get a view of through the spotting scope, but unable to get a photo.

We then saw a Harris Hawk* (note the white tip on the tail). We later saw another pair of Harris Hawks as well. This was really exciting. I had seen Harris Hawks at hawk demonstration shows, but never in the wild. We had some great hawk sightings on the trip in addition to the Harris'. We also saw a White-tailed hawk (which I've previously listed in our life list, but it may have been a mistake), and we saw a Ferruginous Hawk* -- that was really exciting!

We saw lots and lots of ducks including Blue Winged Teal, Green Winged Teal*, Cinnamon Teal*, Redheads, a Ring-Necked Duck* (very similar to a Scaup), Ruddy Ducks, Shovelers, literally hundreds of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a Fulvus Whistling Duck * (pictured along with a couple of American Coots), which was a new one for me, and Marc saw a Canvas-back, but I'm not sure I saw it myself.

We also saw several Grebes: Least*, Eared, and Pied-Bill (see previous posts for pictures of the Eared and Pied-bill), and a lot of the common wading birds, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tri-Colored Heron, White-faced Ibis, juvenile White Ibis (without their parents), Neotropic Cormorants, Anhinga, and Black-Necked Stilts. I was able to get this great photo of a Green Heron. I also saw a juvenile Green Heron -- it was a very pale version of the adult!

We saw all sorts of Blackbirds. One interesting specimen was the Bronzed Cowbird*. This bird is distin- guished by its red eye (not very visible here), and the ruff of feathers across it's neck that makes its head look wider. We also added the Brewer's Blackbird* to our list. I looked for the Yellow-headed blackbird, but did not see one. But with all the wonderful sightings we did have, I won't complain!

We saw a lot of Sparrows: Savannah Sparrow* (pictured), Olive Sparrow* and Lincoln's Sparrow* -- all three new for our list! We also saw a Song Sparrow*. There was some question whether or not we saw any Vesper Sparrows -- they look a lot like Savannah Sparrows. I think the sparrow I photographed at Anahuac was a Vesper Sparrow.

We also saw a rare ground bird, the Spragues Pipit*. This bird is tiny and really blends in with it's sur- roundings (as you can see in the photo). Along with the Pipit, we saw several Least Sandpipers* on the ground, and Common Snipes* (all flying away).

Next, we saw one of the birds I was hoping to see, the Pyrrhuloxia*! Unfortunately, he was in the shade. I tried brightening and adding contrast, but it "blew out" the background. Then I tried doing some selective editing. The result is awful, but I think you can see the bird pretty well. They are very similar to their cousins the Northern Cardinal, but mostly gray with red at the tip of the crest, around the wings and around the yellow bill.

We drove a bit further on and saw a Juvenile Great Horned Owl. GHO's are always such awesome birds -- even the young ones. This one still has it's "baby feathers", but it will grow up to be a skilled and silent hunter. What an awesome bird!

And then we saw the bird that I had really wanted to see -- the Green Jay*! We saw a lot of them (especially after our guide put some seeds in a feeder), but I had a difficult time getting a good photo. Here are a couple. This first one is the clearer shot, but it's from behind!
This second shot is not quite as clear, but it shows the bird's colors -- green back and wings, a blue head and black throat and yellow under-sides! You can tell this is a tropical bird. Our guide told us that with the changing climate, a lot of the Southern birds are being seen further North. The Green Jay was counted in San Antonio for the Christmas Bird Count this past year.

At the feeders where we saw the Green Jays, we also saw a Black Crested Titmouse -- I didn't get a picture again!

At one point, we saw some Turkeys. Our guide explained that this is a variation of the turkey, and it was some place in Mexico, but I can't remember the name. These are certainly attractive birds -- too bad we couldn't get the tom to display for us (I think that's him on the right)!

Finally, I'll finish up with a couple of flycatchers, though I should mention we also saw a family of Barn Owls, but the photos didn't come out. One of the specialty birds for South Texas is the Great Kiskadee* -- one of the largest of the flycatchers. All the other shots of this bird were blocked by branches -- so you can't see the black band across the eyes.

The other flycatcher, was the Vermillion Flycatcher*. This is one bird that really stands out! But like many other flycatchers, it's a pretty small bird. This photo turned out a bit fuzzy through the tinting of the window, and excessive cropping -- but it's colors still show through dramatically!

So, I may have missed a few of the birds on the list -- but all I can say is this trip was amazing! It was really exciting to see so many birds in one trip and be able to add so many to our life list. I listed 53 birds on the list, and close to 30 are new! What a great trip!


american woman said...

I am so jealous of ya'all. The green jay and the flycatchers put me over the top! hehe. Wonderful pictures of a wonderful trip. Thank you so much for sharing them.

Cliff said...

Hi Marc, I'm not a bird type but I feed a lot of them on the farm. We do have a lot of the red tails and turkeys. Right now if I step out on my front porch we can clearly hear the waterfowl carrying on down by the Missouri river. They are noisy all night. I have no idea if they ever sleep.
Nope, I've heard nothing from Lee. She used to write on two different blogs but I can only find the one that she last posted on in December. Thanks again for the visit.