Tag Archives: birdwatching

Little Blue Heron

I liked the light in these photos, taken at Laguna Madre Bay near Port Isabel, Texas on a cloudy day.

Laguna Madre Bay, Texas

Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas,

Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas,

Little Blue Heron, Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas,

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Filed under Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Texas birds

A Birding Expedition on Laguna Madre Bay

A highlight of my trip to South Texas for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival was a pontoon boat trip on Laguna Madre Bay with Scarlet Colley of the The South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Nature Center. We arrived at the dock in Port Isabel just at sunrise on a cloudy morning.

Laguna Madre Bay

Sunrise at Port Isabel

Six of us boarded the pontoon boat with Scarlet and Dan Jones, an excellent local birding guide.

As we cruised slowly around the harbor, Brown Pelicans seemed to be everywhere.

Laguna Madre Bay

Brown Pelican

Black-necked Stilts waded in the shallows.

Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas.

Black-necked Stilt

A Great Blue Heron was fishing in the harbor…

Laguna Madre Bay

Great Blue Heron

… and a Common Tern hunted overhead.

Laguna Madre Bay

Common Tern

Black Skimmers were resting on the sand bars, occasionally making forays out over the bay.

Laguna Madre Bay

Black Skimmer

Once we were out on the bay, we saw many wading birds:

Laguna Madre Bay

Little Blue Heron

Laguna Madre Bay

Whimbrel

Laguna Madre Bay

Marbled Godwit

Laguna Madre Bay

American Oystercatcher

I am always excited to see Roseate Spoonbills with their lovely pink color and prehistoric faces.

Laguna Madre Bay

Roseate Spoonbills

Laguna Madre Bay

Roseate Spoonbills fly overhead

There were groups of Red Knots feeding on the sand bars in the bay.

Laguna Madre Bay

Red Knots

As we headed farther out into the bay Rozzi, Scarlet’s dog, began to bark excitedly.

Laguna Madre Bay

Rozzi

We soon saw the cause of her excitement …

Laguna Madre Bay

Bottlenose Dolphin

… but I will save that for another post.

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Filed under Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Texas birds

Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

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Filed under Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico bird photography, New Mexico birds

A Popular Place for Finches

I have a finch feeder hanging outside of my living room windows. It is not an expensive feeder, and I have to replace it fairly often. The finches love it, especially in snowy weather.

Corrales birds, New Mexico birds, New Mexico bird photography.

Corrales birds, New Mexico birds, New Mexico bird photography.

Corrales birds, New Mexico birds, New Mexico bird photography.

You will note that I have taken these photos through a somewhat dirty window. It’s too cold to go outside and set up the blind. The weather station says 20 degrees F. outside.

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Filed under Corrales birds, New Mexico bird photography

Songbirds of South Padre Island

In preparation for my trip to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival I had signed up for a couple of birding trips. While I am not a fan of large bus birding I was excited about attending Better Birding with Jon Dunn, especially when I learned that the trip would be in a small van along with local knowledgeable birder Dan Jones.

We loaded into the vans early in the morning. I was amazed at how quickly Jon and Dan spotted birds, and how accurately they were able to accurately identify birds that to me looked like little more than distant dots.

Our first stop was the Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which is a very small area of six wooded lots in a residential area. South Padre Island is a crucial first landfall for birds making the arduous cross-Gulf migration from Southern Mexico and northern Central America. Especially after a spring storm, wooded lots on the island can produce a surprising number of warblers, tanagers, orioles and thrushes. We saw quite a few birds in this tiny area.

Northern Mockingbird, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Northern Mockingbird

Wood Thrush, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Wood Thrush

Hermit Thrush, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Hermit Thrush

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Yellow-rumped Warbler

When we arrived at the South Padre Island Convention Center, everyone was excited about the recent sighting of a Fox Sparrow, which was very unusual for the area. In fact, I believe that it was a record sighting for the island. I wondered if I should just give up and go back to the van. I have a very difficult time distinguishing various types of sparrows. They tend to all look like small brown birds to me. Jon and Dan were very happy and enthusiastic about the outing, and catching their enthusiasm I adjusted my attitude and happily accompanied them to see if I could recognize anything.

Jon Dunn points out a bird to interested birders, SPI Convention Center.

Jon Dunn points out a bird to interested birders.

I had no problem recognizing a number of birds:

Wilson's Warbler, SPI Convention Center

Wilson's Warbler

Eastern Phoebe, SPI Convention Center

Eastern Phoebe

Gray Catbird hiding in the understory, SPI Convention Center.

Gray Catbird hiding in the understory.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, SPI Convention Center

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another view, SPI Convention Center

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another view

I saw birds that were new to me as well.

And yes, there were sparrows. I consulted my notes, my books and my ebooks, and I still have a great deal of difficulty differentiating sparrows. Jon Dunn and Dan Jones were very patient in pointing out the differences among sparrows. Perhaps I am hopeless. I make the following identifications with great trepidation. Please feel free to offer corrections.

Savannah Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

Savannah Sparrow

Fox Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

The Fox Sparrow about which everyone was so excited.

Clay-colored Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

Clay-colored Sparrow

After a fun day of birding, I paused at the SPI Convention Center to admire a beautiful Monarch Butterfly.

Monarch Butterfly, SPI Convention Center

Monarch Butterfly

It was a lovely day, and it was a treat to go out with such knowledgeable and informative birders. I believe that I learned a little something about sparrow identification. The next day, however, would bring new challenges. I would go in search of shorebirds.

Those of you who know me know that I am not a “lister.” Because I was riding shotgun in the birding van, I was assigned to keep a list for the day, which you will see below. You will note that my post contains nothing about the shorebirds that we saw that day. Watch this space…

Birds seen November 11, 2011:

Amercan Kestrel
Neotropic Cormorant
Roseate Spoonbill
Great-tailed Grackle
Laughing Gull
Harris Hawk
Mourning Dove
Eastern Meadowlark
Loggerhead Shrike
Starling
Northern Mockingbird
Long-billed Thrasher
Red-tailed Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Aplomado Falcon
Long-billed Curlew
Peregrine Falcon
Osprey
Crested Caracara
Northern Mockingbird
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
White Ibis
White-winged Dove
Swamp Sparrow
Gray Catbird
House Sparrow
Dickcissel
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna’s Hummingbird
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Orange-crowned Warbler
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Eastern Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
House Wren
Northern Flicker
Bewick’s Wren
Great Kiskadee
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Painted Bunting
Pyrrhuloxia
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Wilson’s Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Orange-crowned Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Magnolia Warbler
Bewick’s Wren
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Gull-billed Tern
Forster’s Term
American White Pelican
Sanderling
Northern Harrier
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Royal Tern
Caspian Tern
Snowy Egret
White Ibis
Black-bellied Plover
Piping Plover
Semi-palmated Plover
Herring Gull
Rough-winged Swallow
Northern Pintail
Sandwich Tern
Little Blue Heron
Tri-colored Heron
American Oystercatcher
Willet
Ruddy Turnstone
Lesser Scaup
Redhead
Sedge Wren
Grasshopper Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Nashville Warbler
Western Meadowlark
Snowy Plover
Winter Wren
Green Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Field Sparrow
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Plain Chachalaca
Black-crested Titmouse
Green Jay
Least Grebe
American Coot
Ring-necked Duck
Gadwall
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ruddy Duck
Common Gallinule
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
American Wigeon
Anhinga
Turkey Vulture
Marbled Godwit
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Rock Pigeon
White-tailed Kite

115 species

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Filed under Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Texas birds

Crested Caracara

I am in Harlingen, Texas for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. It’s a wonderful event. The birding is fabulous, the area is uncrowded and the festival organizers are incredibly hospitable and helpful. If you have not attended this event you should definitely put it on your list. I will do some extensive blog posts when I return to New Mexico. For now I will do a few short posts featuring a few birds that I have seen. Today as I was driving back to San Benito, where I am staying, from Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge I saw two Crested Caracara flying over a field. One flew right by my rental car …

Crested Caracara near Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas.

Crested Caracara

… followed quickly by another Crested Caracara.

Crested Caracara near Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas.

Another Crested Caracara

The two birds engaged in a brief skirmish over the field …

Crested Caracara skirmish near Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas.

Crested Caracara skirmish.

… and then disappeared from view. I can’t wait to see more birds today!

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Filed under Texas birds

Bosque Bill is a Media Star!

This past weekend Bosque Bill and I decided to go to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. We had heard that the fall colors were beautiful and that winter migrants were beginning to arrive. We left town early and arrived at Bosque del Apache happily anticipating seeing gorgeous fall color and lovely birds.

When we arrived at the entrance, the attendant asked if we would like to have a copy of the new Habitat publication, which is the official yearly publication of Bosque del Apache that has maps and information about the wildlife refuge. I was trying to affix the pass to the windshield and handed the magazine to Bill without looking at it. Bill looked at the magazine and said, “That’s me!” And surely enough it was.

Earlier in the year Bill and I had taken a photo workshop at the wildlife refuge, and I had sent the some photos to the Executive Director of the Friends of the Bosque del Apache NWR. Imagine our surprise when we saw my photo of Bill right in the center of the cover.

Habitat, a publication of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

We were pleased to discover that this publication would be used at Bosque del Apache during all of 2012.

This is the original of the photo:

Bosque Bill and the Harris Hawk.

Bosque Bill and the Harris Hawk.

You might also enjoy reading the blog post about our day with the Harris Hawks, Bosque Bill and the Bird.

We had a lovely day at the wildlife refuge, enjoying the spectacular scenery and photographing birds.

Beautiful scenery at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Beautiful scenery at Bosque del Apache.

Snow Geese and Northern Pintails, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Snow Geese and Northern Pintails.

Later in the day, I was able to persuade Bill to pose with a copy of the magazine. You can see the man behind the camera!

Bosque Bill, media star

Bosque Bill, media star

We saw some lovely birds that day as well, which I will write about in a blog post later this week.

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Filed under Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico bird photography