Journal archives for February 2019

February 16, 2019

Nalle Bunny Run 2019-02-16

Twelve people joined me this morning for the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve. Despite record-setting high temperatures in the low 90s yesterday, this morning it was 42 degrees with a light north wind blowing when I arrived at around 8:15 AM, and it did not warm up much more all morning.

The group was lucky to see two very short-lived seasonal events on the preserve. The first was the presence of hundreds (maybe thousands) of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings in the air and in the trees. This time of year (late winter or early spring) robins and waxwings that have been wintering further south than central Texas have started moving north and join the robins and waxwings who were already here for the winter, creating huge flocks of these two species. We could almost constantly hear the robins, and large numbers flew overhead almost continuously. For my eBird list I estimated 1000 robins and 500 cedar waxwings but this could have been low. Photos really couldn't capture this phenomenon, but here's a shot of one robin and one waxwing perched together I took before the group arrived:

American Robin and Cedar Waxwing

The second event was the blooming of Agarita, one of the most common shrubs on the preserve. This prevalent native species is popular among people and wildlife for the sweet berries it produces. (Some people create jam out of them.) But its yellow flowers only bloom for a week or two once a year. We were lucky to catch the tail-end of this year's bloom!

Agarita in Bloom

Near the lake we spotted probably the same Merlin I've seen previously this winter, perched in a partially dead cottonwood it's been in before. As we gradually got closer to it I stared hearing Common Ravens, and then we saw the ravens chasing a Red-tailed Hawk. These three birds passed close by the Merlin which flew away from them and towards us, letting us walk almost right under its new perch where I got this photo:

Merlin - 1

Near the same spot we found a pile of feathers from a Ring-billed Gull, probably killed by a predator. And soon afterwards we saw about a dozen Ring-billed Gulls fly over us in a loose V formation.

Here's our complete bird list on eBird.

And here are a few more photos on Flickr.

See the attached observations or the photos on Flickr for photos of the gulls.

Posted on February 16, 2019 22:47 by mikaelb mikaelb | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 24, 2019

Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival 2019-02-19 thru 2019-02-24

I was fortunate again this year to participate in the Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival. This journal entry covers my time in Port Aransas from a few days before the festival to the last day of the festival.

On Tuesday 2/19 I birded around Port Aransas in cold, wet, overcast weather. My favorite observation was from the Wetlands Park. This stunning white-phase Reddish Egret came in close and was sporting amazing colors on its bill and lores:

Reddish Egret (White Phase)

On Wednesday 2/20 Ray Dillahunty and I scouted the Lamar area for the Birds of Lamar Peninsula field trips I led on Friday and Saturday. We had an amazing morning that included an early Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and a few close fly-overs by Whooping Cranes:

Whooping Crane - 2 - 1

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - 1 - 1

When we returned to Port Aransas we checked the Turnbull Birding Center and were treated to this stunning male Vermilion Flycatcher, which was seen there again on Sunday morning (2/24):

Vermilion Flycatcher

On Thursday afternoon I led my first field trip of the festival, a 1.5 hour bird and nature boat tour around ship channel. These short tours are always fun and I was disappointed I only got to lead one this year. Highlights included a first-year White-tailed Hawk, Northern Harriers talon-grappling, Common Loons, and these American Avocets with their bright blue legs:

American Avocets

Friday morning and Saturday afternoon I led field trips to the Lamar area. On both trips we were able to get good looks at Whooping Cranes, despite heavy fog on Friday morning. Very special thanks to Goose Island park ranger Sarah Nordlof for taking both groups into the newly acquired Big Tree Natural Area where Friday's group saw the early Scissor-tailed Flycatcher we saw on Wednesday, and Saturday's group got to see nine Whooping Cranes. Here's part of Friday's group walking through the fog:

First Lamar Field Trip

And here are some of the cranes that Saturday's group got to see there:

Whooping Cranes - 8 - 4

On Saturday morning I got to attend a bird walk led by field guide author and expert birder Richard Crossley. The walk was called "Learning to Look" and Richard presented a very well structured and passionate approach to observing birds in extreme detail, with and without optics. He emphatically explained that if you rely on gestalt bird identification (general impression, size, and shape) and cannot articulate what you are basing your identification on, then you are not really looking at the bird.

On Sunday morning I slept in, and did some casual birding later in the morning at Paradise Pond and the Turnbull Birding Center. I enjoyed seeing and sharing many of the common birds including this amazing Red-winged Blackbird:

Red-winged Blackbird

Here are a few more photos on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikael_behrens/albums/72157703502237352

Here's my eBird summary, and below are attached observations.
Can't wait for next year!

eBird Checklist Summary for: Feb 19, 2019 at 12:00 AM to Feb 24, 2019 at 11:59 PM

Number of Checklists: 11
Number of Taxa: 92

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Port Aransas - Beach Access Road 1
Date: Feb 19, 2019 at 9:18 AM
(2): Port Aransas- Charlie's Pasture South Boardwalk (off TX-361)
Date: Feb 19, 2019 at 10:15 AM
(3): Port Aransas Wetland Park (CTC 059)
Date: Feb 19, 2019 at 10:42 AM
(4): Port Aransas Jetty (CTC 058)
Date: Feb 21, 2019 at 8:02 AM
(5): Port Aransas Community Park
Date: Feb 21, 2019 at 9:37 AM
(6): Copano Bay State Fishing Pier (CTC 049)
Date: Feb 22, 2019 at 8:25 AM
(7): 4th Street, Lamar
Date: Feb 22, 2019 at 8:45 AM
(8): Copano Bay State Fishing Pier (CTC 049)
Date: Feb 23, 2019 at 1:57 PM
(9): 4th Street, Lamar
Date: Feb 23, 2019 at 2:06 PM
(10): Port Aransas--Holt Paradise Pond
Date: Feb 24, 2019 at 9:13 AM
(11): Port Aransas- Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Ctr. (CTC 057)
Date: Feb 24, 2019 at 10:14 AM

44 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck -- (7),(9)
9 Blue-winged Teal -- (7),(11)
26 Northern Shoveler -- (3),(7),(9),(11)
1 Mallard -- (3)
6 Mottled Duck -- (3),(5)
30 Northern Pintail -- (2),(9),(11)
104 Green-winged Teal -- (11)
2 Lesser Scaup -- (5)
1 Red-breasted Merganser -- (8)
1 Ruddy Duck -- (11)
10 duck sp. -- (5)
5 Pied-billed Grebe -- (5),(7),(10)
20 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) -- (4)
2 Eurasian Collared-Dove -- (10)
2 Mourning Dove -- (7)
1 Common Gallinule (American) -- (11)
137 American Coot -- (5),(7),(9),(11)
12 Sandhill Crane -- (7),(9)
18 Whooping Crane -- (7),(9)
1 American Avocet -- (3)
7 American Oystercatcher -- (1),(4)
6 Black-bellied Plover -- (1),(5)
6 Piping Plover -- (1)
6 Killdeer -- (5),(9),(11)
2 Long-billed Curlew -- (2)
5 Ruddy Turnstone -- (1),(7)
52 Sanderling -- (1)
6 Dunlin -- (5)
17 Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher -- (3),(7),(9)
2 Wilson's Snipe -- (11)
1 Greater Yellowlegs -- (9)
45 Willet -- (1),(2),(4),(5),(9),(11)
6 Lesser Yellowlegs -- (5),(7),(11)
7 Bonaparte's Gull -- (4)
191 Laughing Gull -- (1),(3),(4),(5),(7),(8),(9),(10)
93 Ring-billed Gull -- (1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(7),(10),(11)
7 Herring Gull -- (1),(4),(7)
1 Lesser Black-backed Gull -- (1)
3 Gull-billed Tern -- (3),(5)
2 Caspian Tern -- (9)
17 Forster's Tern -- (1),(3),(9)
66 Royal Tern -- (1),(4)
3 Common Loon -- (6),(7),(8)
2 Anhinga -- (7),(9)
18 Neotropic Cormorant -- (3),(9)
56 Double-crested Cormorant -- (1),(4)
128 American White Pelican -- (3),(5),(6),(7),(8),(11)
156 Brown Pelican -- (1),(3),(4),(5),(6),(10)
6 Great Blue Heron -- (4),(5),(7),(9)
13 Great Egret -- (3),(4),(9)
78 Snowy Egret -- (3),(4),(5),(9)
2 Little Blue Heron -- (2),(9)
4 Tricolored Heron -- (9),(11)
21 Reddish Egret -- (3),(4),(5),(11)
41 White Ibis -- (2),(3),(5),(9),(11)
3 Glossy/White-faced Ibis -- (3),(9)
101 Roseate Spoonbill -- (3),(4),(5),(9),(11)
10 Black Vulture -- (7),(9)
8 Turkey Vulture -- (5),(7),(9),(11)
1 Osprey -- (5)
1 Northern Harrier -- (5)
1 Red-tailed Hawk -- (5)
1 owl sp. -- (5)
1 Crested Caracara -- (2)
2 American Kestrel -- (5),(7)
1 Peregrine Falcon -- (11)
2 Eastern Phoebe -- (7),(11)
1 Vermilion Flycatcher -- (11)
2 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher -- (7),(9)
2 Loggerhead Shrike -- (5),(11)
19 Purple Martin -- (5),(6),(7)
5 Tree Swallow -- (9)
1 Cliff Swallow -- (8)
7 Sedge Wren -- (2),(5)
1 Carolina Wren -- (7)
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- (10)
3 Gray Catbird -- (5),(7)
9 Northern Mockingbird -- (5),(7),(11)
5 European Starling -- (10),(11)
1 American Pipit -- (11)
1 American Goldfinch -- (5)
1 Vesper Sparrow -- (7)
5 Savannah Sparrow -- (7)
20 Western/Eastern Meadowlark -- (7)
62 Red-winged Blackbird -- (7),(10),(11)
6 Brown-headed Cowbird -- (7),(10)
276 Great-tailed Grackle -- (1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(7),(9),(10),(11)
1 Orange-crowned Warbler -- (10)
1 Common Yellowthroat -- (5)
26 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) -- (5),(7),(10),(11)
4 Northern Cardinal -- (7)
3 House Sparrow -- (6)

Posted on February 24, 2019 23:08 by mikaelb mikaelb | 35 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment