Spotted Owls

Spotted Owls
adapted from my photo of 2008

Sunday, January 31, 2010

From NC coastal area to Raleigh

This morning a few of us did a seawatch for awhile from the hotel after we packed up, killing time to allow the sun to come up and melt off some of the ice from the roads between Atlantic Beach and Raleigh. Then we got the word that the three Sandhill Cranes that have been wintering in the area had been spotted in one of their known dawn/dusk locations. We raced over there, but the cranes had flown north somewhere. They were relocated by Ricky Davis, giving some of us our first crane sighting for the state. Then we headed back to Raleigh, relieved that the roads were not as bad as we had heard. I'm really glad I had a chance to be back in NC for awhile, but I do hope that the planes are not too delayed by all the snow and ice that is still in the area and that I make it home tomorrow.

Friday, January 29, 2010

NC Birding

It looks like we're in for a nasty rainy, super-windy day tomorrow, so I may be holed up with the rest of the CBC group in the Atlantic Beach hotel, trying to entertain ourselves. Today was cold and windy, but we did get some great birds on the CBC field trip to the Croatan NF area, including Bachman's Sparrow, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatches. In the New Bern area we found a Eurasian Wigeon among zillions of other ducks, and at Fort Macon State Park we found a very wind-blown Purple Sandpiper. Tonight we have a program on NC folk stories, and tomorrow night is my talk on my ABA big year. We head back to Raleigh on Sunday, where hopefully all the forecast ice pellets/snow/freezing rain or whatever will have been cleared so we can drive and I can catch my plane on Monday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

North Carolina pelagic

Today I went out on a special Brian Patteson pelagic trip out of Hatteras for attendees of the Carolina Bird Club meeting. It was a small group of birders who braved very cold weather, but at least no rain. The sea was pretty good too. Highlights were some 4000-plus Northern Gannets, Red Phalaropes, an Iceland Gull, many Razorbills, a Parasitic Jaeger (but no Great Skua), Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Brant back near shore.

Monday, January 25, 2010

North Carolina bound

I spent the day working my way through tons of client and Texas Ornithological Society matters, plus packing my bags for NC. Tomorrow morning I fly to Raleigh, where my birding friend Lena will pick me up and we'll head for the Outer Banks. Wednesday is a pelagic trip, and then we'll go to Atlantic Beach for the Carolina Bird Club's winter meeting. It will be great to see some of my birding pals from NC, where I lived for 21 years before moving to Texas, and of course, I'm looking forward to seeing Carolina birds.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Village Creek Drying Beds, etc.

Today I birded Village Creek Drying Beds (Arlington, TX) with an out-of-town visiting birder and our Fort Worth Audubon field trip chair. Highlights included about 13 Wilson's Snipe all together on one of the few suitable areas, a female Common Goldeneye, and zillions of other ducks (N. Shovelers, N. Pintails, Gadwalls, Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teal, Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Mallards) plus a small flock of Canada Geese. We checked out the Monk Parakeet colony in Fort Worth, stopped by our house to see our Rufous Hummingbird, and then checked out the spillway area at Bryant-Irvin/20. There in addition to the usual supply of wintering ducks and Ring-billed Gulls was a lone wintering Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (I recall that there was one there last winter too).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In between

Being in-between birding trips is much less fun when I'm not doing a big year. The in-between lasts so long! Of course it does give me time to do laundry, finish client projects, watch my backyard Rufous Hummingbird, relax sometimes. My next birding trip will be in North Carolina. I fly there on Tuesday (1/26) to go on a pelagic trip, bird the Outer Banks with a friend, attend the Carolina Bird Club weekend meeting and go on their field trips, and give their banquet speech Saturday night (1/30). Between then and now, I may get to do some birding with an out-of-town visitor who wants to see some Texas birds.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Still home

A non-birding day, working at home. But I did take time to watch the Rufous Hummingbird in our yard, snapping at insects and sipping sugar-water. Even though it was quite warm out, the American Goldfinches filled up all the 70 or so nyjer perches nearly all day. An Orange-crowned Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet periodically visited the suet feeder and the nut feeder.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I am back home and delighted to see that my Rufous Hummingbird is still here. Also in the yard this morning were/are many American Goldfinches, Cedar Waxwings, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, plus the usuals. It's time to do some between-birding work.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bentsen State Park

Today I had no TOS responsibilities and needed to head home, but I went to Bentsen State Park for most of the morning before heading out. I was delighted to see two of my goal birds (missing the Allen's Hummingbird in spite of about three hours of feeder-watching). What I did see was a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, which someone else found. The owl finder came tell us about the owl(I was watching another set of feeders for the Rose-throated Becard). The owl was high in a tree and easily seen if you knew just exactly where to look, and almost impossible to find if you did not. When I returned to the becard spot, it was not too long before the becard returned. It is apparently a young male with the pinkest throat I have ever seen on one (having not seen a full adult male). Although I did not see it feed today, its habit is to feed from a peanut butter feeder, which seems very strange.

I am posting a picture of the Rose-throated Becard and another of the Tropical Parula seen yesterday (because yesterday my computer just ceased operating and I gave up).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Warblering in the Valley

Today I was the leader for the "Weslaco Rocks" field trip as part of the TOS meeting, going to Estero Llano Grande (E), the Valley Nature Center, and Frontera Audubon (F), all in Weslaco (TX). Highlights for me were a Black-throated Gray Warbler and a Yellow-throated Warbler (E), and Nashville and Wilson's Warblers and a Tropical Parula (F). I'm hoping to post a picture of the Tropical Parula. In between actual birding, part of this field trip was my talk at the Valley Nature Center on my ABA Big Year in 2008, primarily attended by about 50 winter Texans, who were a great audience with lots of interest and good questions about what it's like to do a big year. It's been a great TOS meeting with about 220 registrants, pretty good weather and many good birds. There will be a few field trips tomorrow for people who do not need to head home right away. My plans are to go to Bentsen State Park to look for the Rose-throated Becard, which was refound today after a couple of days of being absent. Then I'll start the 9+ hour drive back to Fort Worth.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Birding Bentsen SP and Anzalduas again

Erik Breden and I led a trip to Bentsen State Park and Anzalduas County Park today. The weather was cloudy much of the day but almost no rain!! With such good weather we had talked about going to a couple of additional areas, but we spent quite a bit of time haunting the two spots at Bentsen where the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron had been seen, but had no sightings (it's now been three days since a sighting). Birding was quite good for the regulars there (Clay-colored Thrush, Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, etc.)plus Least Grebe, Nashville Warbler. At Anzalduas there were even more warblers than yesterday (Black-and-white, Black-throated Gray, Black-throated Green, Palm, Pine, Yellow-rumped)plus Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Green Kingfisher, Lesser Goldfinch. I'm looking forward to birding Weslaco tomorrow. This has been a great TOS meeting so far!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Down in the Valley

Starting just before 5:00 AM I drove to the Lower Rio Grande Valley today (with my detour it was a trip of about 530 miles). As I was about to zoom past Choke Canyon State Park, I realized that it would be really dumb not to go look for the Northern Jacana that has been seen there regularly for weeks. So I went, and I was delighted to see it poking around at the edge of 75 Acre Lake at the Calliham Unit of the park. It was a very busy bird, often flying a short hop to another patch of sedgy-stuff, picking at the water for awhile and then flying a short hop again. There were quite a few birders there, most of whom were also on their way to the TOS meeting in Weslaco. There was also an active non-quite adult male Vermilion Flycatcher and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

After that I drove like mad to the Valley, having decided to bird at Anzalduas County Park for the hour or so that was available before I needed to go to the TOS meeting. At Anzalduas highlights for me were a Gray Hawk (imm) and a Zone-tailed Hawk, both well seen and photographed, the usual Black Phoebe, and a Black-throated Green Warbler, as well as some of the usual species.

The TOS meeting is now underway, after registration tonight, hearing a great talk by Roy Rodriguez about NE Mexico and its birds, and getting instructions about the field trips that will happen tomorrow. The forecast is for up to 8 inches(!) of rain tomorrow, so things may be a bit different than planned.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Today my yard; tomorrow the Texas "Valley"

Today I was rewarded for sitting at my computer and working (and occasionally looking out the window) by the cheery sight of a male Spotted Towhee scratching around in the center of the backyard. It's only the second time in 10 years that I've seen one in the yard! The Rufous Hummingbird made a half-hearted attempt to shoo him away by diving to within one foot of his back.

Very early tomorrow I'll be on my way to the TOS (Texas Ornithological Society) meeting in Weslaco. Although there's rain forecast for part of it, at least it won't be as cold as it's been, and the birds will probably still be findable. I'm looking forward to birding down there, and of course hoping for rarities.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Warmth returns

It got to just over 50 degrees today, and our Rufous Hummingbird was able to spend time catching insects instead of coming so often to the sugar-water. The Orange-crowned Warbler was absent most of the day making life a lot easier for Rufie. And I was busy all day doing client work and getting a root canal done at the dentist. I am so looking forward to going to the Valley (Weslaco and surrounding areas) for the Texas Ornithological Society meeting (begins this Thursday)!! It's a great way to add new birds to the year list, and maybe some rarities, and to see longtime birding friends and meet new birding friends.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A calmer day

With the warming up today (about 50 degrees) our Rufous Hummingbird calmed down a little. Only once did I see her attack the Orange-crowned Warbler, and then she didn't really follow through with her previous zest. The yard was kept a bit quieter too by the Cooper's Hawk perched just above the bird bath, about 8 feet from the ground for at least an hour, after it made a few wild dashes through the yard to panic all of the White-winged Doves.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bathing in ice water

My Rufous Hummingbird was just now taking a bath in ice water!! This is the second time I've seen such a thing. Today, she landed on the edge of the ice in the birdbath, right next to the tiny drip of water that was keeping a small puddle of water open in the middle of the frozen birdbath. She flipped her wings around and splashed a bit of ice water in the air and then flew off. Of course she chased off a trespassing Carolina Chickadee before she settled in for her bath.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rufous Hummingbird continued

Today not only is the Rufous Hummingbird chasing and harassing the Orange-crowned Warbler, but now she's also dive-bombing a Carolina Chickadee that dared to sup at the water-reservoir/ant-trap on the hummingbird feeder. I've posted a picture here of the Rufous and the Orange-crowned last night in the red glow of the heat lamp finally at a moment of truce.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Feisty Rufous Hummingbird

My wintering Rufous Hummingbird showed her seriously feisty self today. Apparently an Orange-crowned Warbler has discovered that sugar-water is a good supplement to nuts from the nearby feeder, especially on a cold (22 degrees) day. And "Rufie" does not like it. Numerous times during the day, the warbler hopped on to one of the hummingbird feeders and drank with some effort through the narrow holes, and almost always it was attacked by Rufie. During one instance the warbler was knocked off a nearby branch by the dive-bombing Rufie. Mostly the warbler fended off the attacks with a wide-open bill and held her ground. Later today, as darkness began to fall and Rufie's efforts did not dislodge the warbler from the heated feeder (heat lamp), they finally came to a resolution and both drank deeply from the feeder at the same time, one on each side of the feeder. Tonight is expected to get down to 15 or 16 degrees, so they both need all the calorie intake that they can get.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Today was the first day of just exploring areas of Oklahoma to see what I might find. I started at Elmore City where Trumpeter Swans had been reported on the lake there. Although I no longer "need" these swans for the year (a good thing as it turned out since I did not find them at Elmore City), I thought the lake might yield a few new ducks, and it did. I saw about 25 Hooded Mergansers and two Ruddy Ducks, in addition to ducks I'd already seen in OK. There were flocks of Field Sparrows, a few Savannah Sparrows and a Lincoln's Sparrow, plus a Belted Kingfisher, and very vocal Yellow-rumped Warblers flitting about. I decided to go next to explore Lake Murray State Park, which was even birdier than I'd hoped. In addition to numerous Pied-billed Grebes, I saw a Horned Grebe and a couple of Common Loons diving, two perched Bald Eagles, two White-breasted Nuthatches and a Tufted Titmouse at a feeding station at a camp-site. Robins and Cedar Waxwings were plentiful (no Bohemians though). I did a little exploring of various Lake Texoma sites before heading home to Fort Worth where I expect to be for the next week or so. I was delighted to find that our Rufous Hummingbird was still around our yard when I returned, actively feeding, probably tanking up for the forecast very cold temperatures that will be arriving soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Drive across OK and hunt for swans

Today (1/5) after trying unsuccessfully for the owl (see last post), I drove across northern Oklahoma to the Garber area to look for the Trumpeter Swans that had been found a few days ago. Most of the ponds were nearly completely frozen over, and I found no swans - just many ducks and geese, mostly sitting on ice or out in the fields. I headed south to Norman to the Summit Lake subdivision, a site where swans had also been reported. This time I was more lucky and found 7 Trumpeter Swans (1 imm, 6 adults). I then explored the area around Lake Thunderbird to the east of Norman, where I added Wild Turkeys, Bonaparte's Gulls, American White Pelican, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Greater Roadrunner to my OK year-list. I ended the day at 74 species for the year in OK, as compared to 137 for Texas so far. For details on what birds I've seen so far, you can check my web-site (, which I should be able to get up-to-date shortly. Tomorrow I'll head south to home, birding along the way of course.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Oklahoma (Arnett) Christmas Bird Count

On Sunday (1/3) I drove from Fort Worth to Arnett, OK to participate in the CBC. Unfortunately I could not get the wifi to work in my room in Arnett so haven't been able to post until now, except to begin this post on my cell phone. I'm completing it now on 1/5. The CBC on 1/4 only had 7 participants, but we managed to put together quite a good list. Our team took a quick break outside the count circle to follow a rancher and find a Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Inside the circle were many Sandhill Cranes, American Goldfinches, Mountain Bluebirds, American Tree-Sparrows, a couple of Ferruginous Hawks, a Loggerhead and a Northern Shrike, Spotted Towhees, a Virginia Rail, and other more common birds. But the real highlight came at the end of the day when three of us saw two Great Gray Owls!! I know it's unbelievable, and I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't gotten a very good, clear view of one of the owls. Huge saucer-size facial disks, a huge, long gray body, with no brown. There really isn't any other possibility, but OK just doesn't get Great Gray Owls! Until now, apparently. (Note: The consensus as of 1/13 is they must have been Barred Owls, because who ever heard of a Great Gray Owl in Oklahoma?!!) I went back this morning to try to see it again, but had no luck. I sure hope someone else has a chance to go to the Arnett area again this winter. If so, please contact me and I'll give directions to the site.

Rufous Hummingbird

We returned home to Fort Worth last night. This morning, I saw a few new year-birds in our yard, including a most welcome sighting of our wintering Rufous Hummingbird. While we were gone on vacation for just over a week, it was mostly quite cold and she had to make it through some very wintery weather, so her little "tick-tick" in the back bushes was a very cheery sound! Now time to pack for Oklahoma.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Northern Wheatear

What an amazing bird, and so soon after the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron! It was very good timing that I heard about the wheatear that is in Bee County (TX) just before my husband and I were due to travel north from Rockport to Fort Worth today. While not directly on the route, the Amish farm where the wheatear had been found wasn't too far off the path. Unfortunately the bird vanished right before I got there, and it took awhile for it to return. When it did, however, the wheatear calmly went back to hopping about on the bricks where it had been previously seen, and allowed me a few photos before I needed to leave. This morning was also great with astounding views of Le Conte's and Grasshopper Sparrows on the Rockport CBC, birds that were up and visible without any tape playing or pishing or tromping through the grasses. So now I'm home, doing laundry and getting ready to go to Oklahoma tomorrow to participate in the Arnett Christmas Bird Count on Monday, the way I've decided to begin my exploratory year in OK.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year Big Day

Normally I start the New Year doing a "big day" in the Rockport, TX area with the "shrikes". That wasn't possible today due to the sudden and unexpected illness of one of the group, so I decided to try it on my own. Highlights of the 104 species seen were Burrowing Owl, American & Least Bitterns, Least Grebe, and Pacific Loon (pictures of all 5 species taken). Although a bit cold, it was a beautiful day to be out birding. Apparently those who went to Bentsten SP to start their New Year also had a wonderful day, with a very cooperative Bare-throated Tiger-Heron.

gold parties