Sunday, February 23, 2014

Of Kingfishers and Canyon Wrens

I'm caught wanting to write a post, but without having anything I really want to say.  That may be a good thing for you readers.  Whatever it is, it is.  And so here are birds.  Dig it.

Canyon Wren - singing its balls off.

Belted Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher - considerable difference in bill size from the Belted.
The rufous coloration coming all the way up to the white of the throat makes this bird a dude.
Little Blue Heron

Northern Rough-winged Swallows have arrived.

Also, I saw a Western Tanager today, but couldn't manage any photos.  Sick bird.

Monday, February 17, 2014

On Call Birding

On call birding kind of sucks.  On call life kind of sucks.  I don't take call too often, so it's not the end of the world or anything, but taking call fucks with your freedoms.  For instance, while I was pissing around Austin this weekend, my friends were successfully chasing a Slaty-backed Gull near Laredo.  And I was here, looking at Shovelers and Coots.  Anyways, enough of this complaining.  Call ended yesterday and Neutral Milk Hotel is happening tonight.  Things do not get better than this.  Here's some shit I saw around town this week.

Pied-billed Grebe - I feel that this is a very "grebe" looking pose.
Ring-necked Duck 
Great-tailed Grackle - Pictures of Grackles.  This is what being on call has lowered me too. 
Okay, so this is weird.  I'd never seen a Gadwall will purple in its head before.

Northern Shoveler
And a lady. 
White-winged Dove - Taken for granted in Texas, but the orbital ring and iris are pretty remarkable.  Used to be "accidental" in Travis county. 
Red-shouldered Hawk 
Rusty Blackbirds

The Rustys are one of the better birds in the county right now.  This is the third winter they've been at Hornsby.  I took a video of them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Roy G. Guerrero Park

Alright, I want to talk about a good birding spot in Austin, Roy G. Guerrero Park.  Why is it so good?  It's about 15 minutes from my house.  It can be birded in 20 minutes or 4 hours.  It has a history of turning up good stuff (recently Brown Pelican, Reddish Egret, Tricolored Heron, and Prairie Warbler, and I've heard that someone once had an American Dipper here many, many years ago).  It is the easiest and sometimes only place for certain birds (Ringed Kingfisher, Couch's Kingbird).  And, it's just got a lot of cool birds.  In the winter, there are a ton of ducks and waders, in migration there are good amounts of songbirds.  So, if there are any local birders that read this, go bird Roy G. Guerrero.  Find something cool and let me chase it.  Anyways, Sunday morning was spent at Roy G. Guerrero.  Here's some shit from there.

Belted Kingfisher - These birds are always flying up and down the river.  I also had a flyby of its much more sought after kin, Ringed Kingfisher.
Great Blue Heron
Lesser Scaup
Gadwall - Of note are the white inner secondaries on both birds and the chestnut patch on the lesser secondary coverts of the dude.  Dramatic.
Northern Pintail
The Downy Woodpeckers at Guerrero are notorious for sticking out their tongues.
Green-winged Teal
So, in Travis county, we get both Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants.  Guerrero is a good place to get looks at both species side by side.  Here's what to look for.  Double-crested is considerably larger, although that doesn't mean much when a single bird is flying over.  Neotropics have a longer tail, as long as their necks, so in flight, they look like a plus sign, while Double-cresteds look like an upside down cross.  Neotropics have limited orange in their facial patterns, and they form a V at the gape of the mouth.  Double-cresteds have much more facial skin, and it usually includes the lores.  So, there you go.  Illustrations follow.

Here's a good look at the size difference between Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants.
Comparison of facial skin patterns - Neotropic is the near bird.
The proportional length between the tail an the neck are important.  Double-crested.
So, that's Guerrero.  Also, there are lots of homeless camps.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Vagrant, A Hybrid, and Other Stuff

And here we are again with our recurring random birds post.  No distinct narrative here, no musings on life and birds.  This post is just cool shit that I've seen around lately; shit that won't fit into its own post.  I think the idea of the potpourri post, if you will, is a good metaphor for a monthly cleansing.  Not necessarily like a juice cleanse or anything.  Maybe purging is a better term.  You know, you go to work, pay your bills, feed yourself, shit like that for a month.  You can easily get lost in the rut of that world.  But then, every once in while, you go out and tie one on.  Stay up way too late drinking with your buddies, and spend the next day recovering.  It can be great, brutal, or both at the same time.  But the next day, you get up, feel like death, and use that as a reason to get your shit together.  And then you're good for another month.  Regain perspective, remember what's important to you, rinse and repeat until the next time.  Maybe that's just me, or maybe it's a mid 30's thing.  No idea.  Anyways, I recognize that tying that concept into a post about random birds is quite a stretch, but I've got stream of consciousness thing going here, so that's how it's going to be.

And now...onto the birds.

American Bittern - Ah, who doesn't love this bird?  Rarely generous with the looks, this bird was an exception to the rule.
Easy bird for most who wanted it.  Spent about a week giving good looks in the evenings.
The last thing many a frog will ever see.
Burrowing Owl - life bird for Dude, who you may remember from the last post.

Ring-billed Gull - I don't understand what it was doing with its wings.  It looked very uncomfortable.
Ash-throated Flycatcher - weird overwintering bird.  Wasn't expecting a Myiarchus on my year list in January.
Short-eared Owl - shit picture of a cool bird. 
Great Horned Owl
This primary goal of this past weekend was to spend time with a couple of way back friends.  The Randangler and Vermicelli were in town, and as they are some of my closest and oldest friends, the evenings of Friday and Saturday were spent drinking whiskey and ruminating over the past and where our lives have taken us.  Birding was supposed to be taking a back seat this weekend, but what can be done when a Cape May Warbler shows up in your home county?  I summoned all the strength I had and hit Platt Lane with a substantial contingent of fellow local nerders.  Despite the remnants of blurred vision, the bird was seen by myself and many others after 3 or 4 hours of bushwhacking.  A bonus prize was a Snow x Ross's Goose hybrid on the drying Dillo Dirt.

Cape May Warbler - an outstanding winter record.  No idea why the fuck this bird is here. 
Tons of nerds went looking for this bird.
I apologize for the graininess of these images.  I have failed you. 
Apparent Ross's x Snow Goose hybrid.

And, that's all I've got for now.  See you soon, nerds.