Thursday, April 24, 2014

Brazos Bend State Park: Elm Lake Loop Trail

Finally!  Sunshine on the weekend!  The day started with a heavy fog, but it burned off early and gave way to beautiful blue sky.  I went to one of my favorite local birding spots.  Brazos Bend State Park is a photographer's dream.  I spent four hours taking 280 photographs while traveling 1.7 miles.  I may need to do a separate post for every trail of this site.

There were dozens of Black-bellied Whistling-ducks in the trees.  

I got my first good photographs of Least Sandpipers.  These are very similar in size and appearance to the Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers, but those both have black legs, not yellow.  

All that green stuff is duckweed.  It's supposed to be very nutritious for the birds with more protein than even soybeans.

The Little Blue Heron didn't care that I was photographing him.  Other places, birds fly away.  Here, they sometimes fly closer.

My first Green Heron of the year stood practically motionless as I took dozens of photos from several angles.

Sadly, the birds don't seem to recognize the alligators as dangerous, either.  I turned around to photograph some turtles, heard splashes, and turned around to see this one chomping.  I believe he got a Coot.  I enlarged the photo and think I can make out a foot and black feathers.  

This is the time of year the alligators bellow and try to attract mates, both frightening and delighting the kids.  It's a tough decision.  Do I look for migrants, nesting birds, or bellowing alligators?  Curses for whoever invented 40-hour work weeks!

Linking with:  Wild Bird Wednesday.

Date:  4/20/2014
Conditions:  Fog early, then sunny
Temp:  65 - 80 F
Species Identified (19):  White Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Common Moorhen, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, American Coot, Red-shouldered Hawk, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Anhinga, Pied-billed Grebe, Least Sandpiper, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Blue-winged Teal, American Crow, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, Northern Cardinal, Neotropic Cormorant        

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

McHale Park

I left Nassau Bay Park and waited by the bay at McHale Park until the rain let up a little.  

Most of the birds here were Laughing Gulls.  Preening...


...hanging upside down.  I've seen lots of ducks in this position, but I believe this a first for me when it comes to gulls.

The rainy weather didn't keep the sailors indoors.  I saw so many sailboats, I began to wonder if there was a regatta.  There were more than one with "USA" and a number printed on the sail.

How does he sit on the edge like that?  I don't see a PFD (life jacket), either.

When I uploaded the pictures, one had a gull that looked twice the size of the Laughing Gulls.  The photo is not sharp enough to publish, but clear enough to make an ID.  Judging by the size and color, I'm calling it a Herring Gull.  Another first for 2014, and possibly a lifer - I only recently started keeping track.

Linking With:  Water World Wednesday

Date of visit:  April 6, 2014
Time of day:  Mid Afternoon
Temp:  72
Conditions:  Rain, Periodic Downpours
Species Identified (4):  Laughing Gull, American Coot, Herring Gull, Great-tailed Grackle

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nassau Bay Park

An unpleasant pattern of beautiful days during the week and rain on the weekends has developed this year.  Waiting for perfect conditions to birdwatch is an exercise in futility.  Might as well grab my camera and see what I can find.  I visited three local parks and added three species to my list for 2014.  Nassau Bay Park was the first.

A pair of Mallards enjoyed a mud puddle created by the rain.  Can you believe this is the first time I've seen Mallards this year?

A red-eared slider climbed up the branch to catch what rays of sunshine he could between downpours.

The squirrel ran away with his nut(?) and pretended to bury it several times.  He'd look up to see if I was still watching, find another spot to dig, and repeat.

The domesticated geese are actually quite lovely - when they're not chasing me and pecking if I don't give them food.  I love that touch of orange around her eye.  Reminds me of bright sunny days.

The water just beads up on her feathers and rolls off her back.  I wish more than water would roll off of mine...  

I had to look at this one twice.  I had no doubt that it was a Ring-billed Gull when I photographed it, but when I uploaded the photo it didn't look quite right.  I've finally decided it's a 1st winter gull.

The rain was really coming down when I took this one.  I retreated to the car and headed for the next park.

I'm linking up with Saturday's Critters.  Take photos of your pets, farm animals, neighbor's cat,  or backyard birds and join the party.

Date of Visit:  April 6, 2014
Time of day:  Early afternoon
Temp:  72F
Conditions: Rain
Species Identified (15):  Rock Pigeon, Mallard, Great-tailed Grackle, American Coot, Northern Mockingbird, Great Egret, Tri-colored Heron, European Starling, Neotropic Cormorant, Northern Shoveler, Laughing Gull, American Crow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, House Sparrow, Ring-billed Gull

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

McAllister Park

If this doesn't convince folks to pick up after their pets, I don't know what will.  Eeeew.

I'm linking up with this week's Signs, Signs,   "a weekly meme of interesting, funny, ridiculous and unexplainable signs".

The sign and other photographs in this post were all taken at McAllister Park in San Antonio.  A couple of weeks ago, I headed to the Texas Hill Country for a group hike.  After four hours at Enchanted Rock, I was driving home and decided the day was too beautiful to waste.  Mid-afternoon may not be prime birding time, but it's rare to not find any birds.  If they didn't want to pose, I could find something else to photograph.  I picked a spot on the Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail and made a pit stop.         

In spite of being a little weary from my morning hike, I found myself wandering at least another four miles along the park's trails.  They were very wooded and didn't feel like a city park at all.  The playgrounds and soccer fields were crowded, but I only passed the occasional jogger or walker otherwise.

I noticed something about the people in this park.  Other places, people chase my birds away.  Here, they waited quietly until I got my photograph.  Then they proceeded down the trail without having frightened my subject or put themselves into the frame.  What a very pleasant surprise.  

The Northern Cardinals were happy to be photographed.  They seem to be active all day.  I'm not sure if there are more of them, or if they are easier to find with their bright colors and constant vocalizing.

I was reading a Facebook page for rare bird sightings and was surprised to see much excitement about a Cardinal found in Canada.  It's easy to forget that the birds I see every day are not so ordinary to others.  It's sad to read of the debate over whether it was an escaped caged bird or had migrated on it's own.  People cage these birds?  If it's not criminal (it is here in Texas), it should be.    

The males get all of the attention, but I think the female is quite lovely.

There were quite a few kites flying in the empty soccer fields.  I found Nemo!  

Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail - East
HOTE 090
Date of visit:  March 16, 2014
Time of day:  Mid-Late Afternoon
Temp:  65 deg F
Conditions:  Sunny with occasional wind gusts
Species Identified (5):  Northern Cardinal, Great-tailed Grackle, American Goldfinch, Black Vulture, Carolina Chickadee