Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My County Year

So my county year has come to an end, wrapping up this morning with a trip to Commons Ford for Pine Siskin, a bird that had been driving me crazy this winter.  That bird puts me at 237 for Travis County in 2012, a number I feel quite good about.  I've taken some photos of the better birds I've seen in the county this year.

Calliope Hummingbird - found by Jake, this bird almost got me arrested.  Totally worth it to get the diagnostic pictures, though.  To my knowledge, this was the only one reported in the county this year.

Black-throated Sparrow - Saw a few of these birds this year, but it's one that I can never get sick of.  

Sage Thrasher - An irruptive species into Central Texas last winter, it took me awhile to track one down.

Verdin - Had this bird at Pace Bend, and it was cooperative enough to give me a quick pose.

Pyrrhuloxia - Not a crazy bird for the county, but certainly a sharp looking bird.

Cliff Swallows - I saw these hunkered down while on a hike with a friend.
I've been fortunate to put together an pretty great list of birds this year, mostly thanks to my good friend Kenny, who has been ridiculously generous in sharing his experience and time with me.  We've spent hours and hours looking for birds in every corner of the county, and I've come to realize that Travis County is fucking huge.

Golden-cheeked Warbler - I spent a morning at St. Edwards Park with these birds, a Central Texas specialty.

Food transfer between an adult and juvenile GCWAs.  Pretty amazing to watch.

Juvenile Golden-cheeked Warbler.
Black-capped Vireo - Shit picture, I'll admit.
As with any birding year, there are some easy birds that I couldn't find, and some ridiculous birds that I saw which I probably shouldn't have.  The best bird obviously has to be the Fork-tailed Flycatcher, but last winter provided county birders with some pretty great records.  Sage Thrashers and Green-tailed Towhees seemed to be everywhere, hummingbirds were present in good variety, and many other unexpected birds have somehow found their way into the county.  A quick list of some of my favorite county year birds: Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Least Bittern, Reddish Egret, Harris's Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Broad-tailed, Calliope, and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Vermilion and Brown-Crested Flycatchers, Couch's Kingbird, Verdin, Sage Thrasher, McCown's Longspur, Green-tailed Towhee, Black-throated Sparrow, Western Tanager, Rusty Blackbird, and Scott's Oriole.  In addition, Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler should make any Central Texas birder weak in the knees, no matter how many times you've seen them.

Fulvous Whistling-Ducks - I found this pair at Hornsby Bend.

Least Bittern - Again, shit picture, but it's not an easy bird to see, especially here in the county.

Couch's Kingbirds - A valley specialty that has become more and more regular in the county.  These were at Webberville Park.

Vermilion Flycatcher - There were a handful reported in the county this year, but this was the only one I got my eyes on.  And I had to drive up to pfucking Pflugerville for it.  

Buff-bellied Hummingbird -  at Platt Lane.

Scott's Oriole - Had to scour Western Travis County a few times for this bird, but I was pretty jazzed when it popped up.

Reddish Egret - This bird hung around Longhorn Dam for a bit.  Great bird for the county.
With just a week left in 2012, I'll be abandoning my beloved home county in favor of Valley birding, but this year has somehow managed to make me even more appreciative of how goddamned beautiful and amazing central Texas can be.

Great Egret

Sunday, December 23, 2012

End of the year county birding

With just over a week to go, I pissed around the county for a bit, seeing if I could pick up anything new.  I chased a couple of reports, but only managed to pick up Harris's Hawk.  No complaints, as there were two of them, and they're fucking badass.  Good bird for the county as well; I think more people would be stoked to chase them if there wasn't a certain flycatcher hanging around.

I have nothing to say about this bird. Just fucking look at it.  Goddamn.

These two birds are hanging out about 5 miles from the hoards of flycatcher chasers.  It's like our own little Austin birder secret that only we care about.
I chased a week old report of White-breasted Nuthatch with no luck, but I did score some stellar looks at a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a bird that is seemingly everywhere in the county this year.

Red-breasted Nuthatch perched like an actual passerine.

Ahh.  That's more like it.  Inverted like that scene in Top Gun.

Where's your white-breasted little friend?

Today may have been my last opportunity to add anything to my county year list; I'm heading to the valley next weekend, hoping to notch a few birds onto my Texas year list.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

CBCs, shitty photos, and THAT bird

First things first.  Yes, I saw it.  And it was fucking amazing.  It wasn't found by my group, but I chased it the next day, and finally saw it for about 2 minutes after two trips and three hours.  I didn't get a picture (who can put their bins down from a bird like that), but I plan to spend some more time with the bird in the near future.  With a Fork-tailed Flycatcher only fifteen minutes from my house, how can I not go look at it every free moment I get?

Buff-bellied Hummingbird in Travis County - not a CBC bird, but pretty badass for the county
Now... onto other subjects.  I did two CBCs this week, the Austin CBC on Saturday and the Balcones CBC on Monday.  Good times, good friends, blah blah blah.  Our area for the Austin CBC isn't the best in the world, but we turned up a couple out of season Green Herons, a Black-and-White Warbler, and my county Brown Thrasher, thanks to the persistence of my good friend Kenny.  The Balcones CBC was pretty great.  Me and my birding buddies, Jake and AJ, were joined by a nice couple who spends quite a bit of time on the property.  The majority of the day was spent bushwhacking through Hill Country scrub, and it was pretty damn productive.  We had 16 species of sparrows, including both expected ammodramus, Rufous-crowned, and an Eastern Towhee.  We also turned up a Verdin, which was a CBC record for the preserve.  Not bad.  I tried to fire off some photos during both counts, but the priority is counting, not shooting photos, so you'll have to cut me a break for the week.

Snowy Egret
Common Yellowthroat doing what it does best: pissing off dudes with cameras
Inca Doves never get old, and this dude gets filed under "OJO"
Red-tailed Hawk surveying from atop one of Austin's famous moonlight towers (remember the party in Dazed and Confused?  Yep.  Austin moonlight tower.) 
Sora- why such a beautiful bird feels the need to stay hidden 99.99% of the time baffles me

Spotted Towhee- fun bird to look at on the rare occasions that it shows itself
This is the ass/vent of a Great Horned Owl.  Other than the fact that it's an asshole, it's pretty magnificent, don't you think?

Black-and-White Warbler- Once again, Kenny pulls out a pretty damn good bird for the time of year.  He even called his shot less than an hour before this.

Le Conte's Sparrow- Shit picture of a good bird.  Jake led us in circling this bird so we all got great looks.  Pretty fun.

Grasshopper Sparrow doing the ammodramus thing (hiding)
Grasshopper Sparrow not giving a fuck

We found this vireo nest (I wouldn't have known what kind of nest, but Jake knows his shit)

So Black-capped Vireo nests on the property, which is awesome, but this could be a White-eyed Vireo nest (still pretty cool.)
Again, shit picture of a good bird.  This time Verdin.
The Balcones CBC dudes- Me, AJ, and Jake.  Super badass times.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

WInter birding

I've been out quite a bit lately, adding a few nice birds to my county list; Short-eared Owl, McCown's Longspur, Common Goldeneye, etc.  Although we're now nine days into December, winter is just coming to us in about an hour or so.  Fucking Texas.  Next weekend holds a couple CBCs and I'm toying with the idea of a quick trip to the valley in a couple weeks.  We'll see how it goes.  Until then, here are some pictures of what's been around town.

Common Goldeneye - Good bird for the county, and was pretty generous with the looks.  Beautiful fucking bird.

This dude hung around for a week or so.

Ring-necked Ducks - a study in contrast.  Can't get sick of looking at these.

Canvasback - I've yet to get a good shot of this bird.  I'm sure they're pretty docile, but they're so big, with that knobby bill, I can't help but imagine them beating the shit out of any other duck that gives them the ojo.

Northern Shoveler - This is one of about a thousand at Hornsby right now.

Ruddy Ducks - Always fun to look at, they're the most timid of the ducks I normally see.

Eared Grebe - There have been a few around the ponds, sometimes tricking wishful birders into calling one a Horned Grebe.

Wilson's Snipe - Many a redneck illegitimate pregnancy has come from hunting these fat fuckers.

Least Sandpiper - The yellowish legs are evident here, but are never a safe field mark at Hornsby.

Loggerhead Shrike - Maybe a ho-hum looking bird until you remember that it IMPALES motherfuckers on thorns and barbed wire fences.

Pine Warbler - Nice consolation after dipping on a Red-naped Sapsucker.

Lincoln's Sparrow- I don't know why, but I love this bird.  I think it's the color scheme and the partial streaking.

White-crowned Sparrow - Pretty bird, but not as nice consolation after dipping on a Buff-bellied Hummingbird.