Journal archives for February 2020

February 16, 2020

White Wagtail in Austin 2020-02-09

On Saturday, 2/8/2020, Janet Davis and Jeff Osborne found a White Wagtail on the Colorado river in Roy Guerrero Park in southeast Austin. This species had never been found in Texas before, and as the word got out to the birding community, birders raced to the location to try and see the wagtail for themselves.

I was able to chase this bird late Saturday afternoon 2/9/2020. Almost as exciting as seeing the bird was experiencing the camaraderie of fellow birders also trying to see it. Figuring out where to park was easy: an area along the trail was full of cars with a few people standing around with binoculars, cameras, and tripods. They told me the bird was being seen from a spot about a mile down the trail, so I set off at a fast pace in the direction they indicated. It was a little after 4 PM on a wet and unseasonably warm overcast day. Luckily rain had subsided for the afternoon.

As I walked I met a couple people on their way back who reassured me I was on the right path. A little before 4:30 I found the group watching the bird. I smiled and took a couple iPhone photos:

Group watching White Wagtail

Group watching White Wagtail

I joined them and within 3 or 4 minutes I was seeing a White Wagtail in my spotting scope. A lifer without having to leave Austin! To me, the bird looked like and acted like a big fancy American Pipit, bobbing its longer black and white tail as it walked around on a rocky island in the riverbed. Indeed, this species is related to our local pipits and two were foraging with it on the rocks. It was so far away and blended in with the rocks so well that finding the bird was difficult. We were constantly helping each other locate it via describing land marks. And those with spotting scopes shared them often.

A tall, lean, heavily bearded young man called me by name and introduced himself as Christian Walker, a fellow central Texas birder I hadn't seen since he was a teenager. Now he was in his late 20s! After watching the bird and enjoying the group of birders for about 30 minutes I started preparing to leave when Austin-area birder Wendy Harte showed up. I started trying to find the wagtail for her when Christian almost casually mentioned it had left with the two pipits. We first thought he was joking but Christian was the only one alert enough to observe the wagtail and two pipits fly off downriver. He even heard their flight call notes. I started the walk back to my car, and Christian and Wendy went off to try and find the wagtail again.

Because of the long distance to the bird and poor light that day, my photos were terrible. The best turned out to be this digiscoped photo taken with my iPhone through my spotting scope:

White Wagtail - 1 - 2

You can at least see its black bib.

Attached is my iNaturalist observation with a couple more equally poor photos, and my eBird list is here.

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

Posted on February 16, 2020 18:05 by mikaelb mikaelb | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 18, 2020

Nalle Bunny Run 2020-02-15

On Saturday February 15, 2020 eight people joined me for the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve. I was happy to see so many people on the walk; we haven't had this many people in a long time. We spent a little over 2 hours walking around the preserve and here are a few highlights.

Except for Northern Cardinals, the birds were few and far between. We could almost always hear a cardinal singing, and it wasn't too hard to see one if we tried. I estimated we heard or saw at least 20 individuals. On the sandy prairie area down by the water we got to see an American Kestrel twice, once when it landed in the top of a cypress tree near us, and later when it called repeatedly and seemed to catch up with us to land nearby and give us another look. Here it is on the cypress tree:

American Kestrel

Shortly after when we started back up the hill we got to see an Orange-crowned Warbler and two Ruby-crowned Kinglets foraging in low bushes next to the driveway. Most of the other birds we recorded were either heard-only or only briefly seen.

Probably the two most common shrubs on the property are Yaupon Holly and Agarita. Some of the female Yaupon Holly bushes were just beautiful with their bright red berries and here's one we encountered on the west half of the preserve in the parkland habitat type:

Yaupon Holly

We are having an early spring this year, and I noticed a couple Agarita bushes were starting to bloom. But I was surprised when we found one bush covered in open yellow flowers. I was happy the group got to see this event that usually only happens for a week or two in March. And look, you can just see the Penneybacker Bridge in the background:

Blooming Agarita - 1 - 2

Here's our complete eBird list.

And here are the same photos on Flickr.

Posted on February 18, 2020 21:17 by mikaelb mikaelb | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment