Sunday, August 25, 2013

Loads of Odes

Summer birding in central Texas can be rough.  Sure, we've had a couple great birds this past week in Reddish Egret and Prairie Warbler, but for the most part, summer breeders have quieted down and some have already started heading back to the neotropics.  Migration hasn't really started yet, with the exception of some shorebirds.  Because of this, there has been a trend in recent summers amongst some central TX birders of getting into odes.  I get it.  Odes are pretty amazing when you can get a good look at them, and the identification aspect is pretty tough.  I've just barely started to stick my toe in the water when it comes to learning about these non birds, but seriously, they're pretty fucking cool.  ID help is courtesy of my buddy Sam.  I would have no idea what species most of these were.

Common Whitetail (f)

Eastern Pondhawk (m)
Four-Spotted Pennant (f)
Halloween Pennant 
Eastern Pondhawk (f) 
Wandering Glider
Broad-striped Forceptail
Roseate Skimmer
So, for real.  The variety in these things is pretty remarkable.  Also, they're vicious as shit.  Try it once.  Just watch one for awhile.  Remember when all the birds were just birds, until you figured out that they're all badass in their own way?  Same thing with odes.

A few more pictures; nothing too exciting except for the pair of Willets I found at Hornsby a couple weeks ago.  Willets are dirt common on the coast, but they're pretty hard to come by in Travis County.  Pretty excited to get my buddy Sam a county big year bird in exchange for all the ode ID help he's given me lately.

Willets - A county bird for me.
Cattle Egret
Snowy Egret
Eastern Hognose Snake - I almost stepped right on this thing. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

...and we're back.

Well.  It's been a fucking long time.  In the last two weeks, I've signed my house away, moved into a new place (19 yard birds in the first 24 hours), and seen fuck all.  It's only tonight, this hot and quiet Wednesday night, that I can finally sit down with a cup of tea and rest.  It's weird.  I was in that house for over 4 years; I was married when I moved in, settled down, all domestic like and not looking at birds.  Now I'm in this weird place, decidedly unmarried, and noticing the faint calls of Inca Doves out my window.  "No hope.  No hope."  Anybody who says they've got their life figured out is full of shit.  Just wait awhile; nothing stays the same.  And if it does, then you're fucking boring.  Shit comes at you from out of nowhere, and your whole life is made up of your reactions to these fucking bricks getting thrown at your head.  That said, here are some birds I've seen (relatively) recently.

Western Kingbird
A supplement to my last post with the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers nesting at my hospital.  A week later, I found these Western Kingbirds, who were beginning to hatch.  I actually found the nest on these dudes.
Superficially, they look much like the Scissor-taileds, but the white outer edges of the tail and the yellow belly are already apparent in these young birds.
Monk Parakeet - My favorite local non-native species.  Also the one I get asked about most by non birders.  "You're not going to believe this, but the other day, I saw some kind of green parrots in the neighborhood!"
You may remember from a previous post that AJ has been monitoring the Barn Owls at the old airport control tower for some time now.  He's invited me up to photograph the birds in an effort to help preserve their nesting room.  Well, they had one clutch several months ago, and the first bird from the second clutch hatched probably hours before we went up to check on them again.

Barn Owl - AJ has done an amazing job in taking care of these birds, and the developer of the property has been very accommodating as well.   This room has been set aside for the owls to nest in. 
The underside of a Barn Owl.  Fucking breathtaking, yeah? 
Here's the first hatchling.  Dude couldn't even hold its head up.
Seriously, this was the cutest fucking thing I've seen in my 34 years.
Other than the owl monitoring, the only birding I've done in the last month or so was to check out the Purple Martin roost (est. 400,000 birds) and look at a Peregrine Falcon on the UT tower.  

It took me way too long to finally get out and see the show.  Intense.  Nearly a half million birds all circling and calling before settling in to 3 or 4 trees in a mall parking lot for the night.  The trees are dripping with Purple Martins.
Purple Martins dotting the sky at dusk.
This Peregrine Falcon has been hanging out on the UT tower since the beginning of the year.  Its buffy orange chest and weak barring have been throwing us off, thinking that it may even have some strange variant sub-species DNA in it, possibly from a reintroduction program.  Or maybe it's just weird looking.
Peregrine Falcon, hanging out on a pretty impressive Texas landmark.
Fun story to end with: At my old house, I never had a very impressive yard list.  About a week after I moved out, I had to run down there to do some clean up work.  As I was leaving that morning, I added my last new yard bird to the house.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker.  Probably the best bird on the list.