Thursday, September 26, 2019

Texas for never.

Last weekend Jacob and I flew down to Austin to enjoy their hottest September on record and attend the wedding of a recovering bird blogger.  We arrived on Friday afternoon and had an Uber driver take us to Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant (aka one of the best birding spots around).  Seagull Steve was flying in later than us and would meet us here with a rental car later.


He dropped as off at the spot on the map called "Bird Shelter."


The first thing I pulled my camera out for was an armadillo crossing the road.  Lifer mammal!  Photos from our first encounter were poor, but a couple hours later we watched one foraging in the leaf litter for a long time. 

Foraging technique:  plow face into leaf litter

 Chasing each other

The Wikipedia entry on nine-banded armadillo taught me quite a bit.  Most surprising (to me) was how quickly their range is expanding north/northeast, and they're even expected to expand to parts of New England. 

From the shaded shelter we decided to walk the river trail where there are lots of trees and shade, dragging our roller bag along with us.  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was hands down the most abundant bird.  The trail leads to what appeared to be a big indoor sewage pond greenhouse.


It was hotter and stinkier inside this building but the frogs did not seem to mind.  At the other end the trail continues to another pond and this one actually had a few birds.  Our only trip Wood Duck was here, along with some Blue-winged Teal, Killdeer, Least and Solitary Sandpipers, and turtles.

Solitary Sandpiper

At this point some crazy-looking clouds were rolling in and we felt some sprinkles so we began to walk quickly back to the shelter.  Back at the shelter the clouds passed and no storm ever came.  A jumping spider looked down on us from the ceiling.


A couple hummingbirds were fighting over the flowers outside the shelter and one sat still for pics:


We decided this was a Ruby-throated based on the tail extending well past the wingtips, but corrections are welcome.

Just as we noticed an oriole hopping around in a bush, Seagull Steve arrived with the rental car.  The oriole escaped unidentified (probably Orchard) and we escaped into the A/C.  With the car we were able to explore the other side of the ponds and found some more fun birds. 

Softshell turtle, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Wilson's Phalaropes

 After a bit more birding we headed off to our Airbnb in East Austin.  Birding resumed the next morning with Steve's friend Ryan at Roy Guerrero Colorado River Park. 

Early on Ryan gave a loud Barred Owl call since he had heard one here before.  A little while later we heard one call, then fly out of a tree across the river.


Pretty cool, though too fast for a decent photo.  We walked around some of the trails picking up several trip birds including Vermilion Flycatcher, Cave Swallow, Little Blue Heron, White-eyed Vireo, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. 

Pishing/pissing platform

In the ball fields near the parking lot were tons of Great-tailed Grackles mingling with starlings and Monk Parakeets.

This trip was full of bad photos. 

As we were driving out the exit we noticed kingbirds in the tree next to us, Couch's Kingbirds.  A lifer for Jacob!  We held up traffic for a minute, then headed back to Hornsby Bend where the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were waiting for us.


Jacob's camera hood acquired a very shiny jumping spider at one point.


Also around were tons of these bordered patch butterflies:


There were lots of distant shorebirds here which are my least favorite kind.  We ventured over to the river trail again but this time I managed a life bird!  Ryan spotted a Yellow-billed Cuckoo perched in a tree which promptly flushed when I tried to approach.  This happened a few times before it finally sat still long enough for me to see. 


Stoked!

Pipevine swallowtail

We called it quits in the late morning after I was completely soaked in sweat.  Complete checklist from Hornsby Bend here.

Sunday morning we checked out Barkley Meadows, just east of the airport.  Again, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were our constant companions.


A Least Flycatcher sat still for a second.


We had more trip birds in the area including Neotropic Cormorant, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Baltimore Oriole, and Crested Caracara.


There was a lump in a tree that I tried to turn into an owl, then decided it was a clump of leaves.  Now I see it was actually a bee hive.


Complete checklist from Barkley Meadows here.

After birding it was time to pack up and head out.  It was a fun but extremely hot and sweaty weekend with one life bird for me, three for Jacob, and a lot of weird medical/physical mishaps.  Oh yeah and a wedding.  Congrats to Nate!  Good times!!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Lincoln City shorebirds, etc.

A couple weeks ago Jacob brought our kayaks out to the new house, located less than a quarter mile from a boat launch on Devils Lake.  Our first time kayaking on the lake went well with a lovely sunrise and even a county bird. 


We kayaked south from Holmes Road Park and made it to Regatta Park before turning back north. 

Osprey

Someone's yard has a little peninsula with some trees and nice shrubs that happened to be packed with birds, mostly Yellow Warblers and Chestnut-backed Chickadees.  The warblers were flying down to the edge of the lake to drink and bathe.


As we paddled back into the boat ramp area we flushed a Spotted Sandpiper, a surprise county bird.


Later that day Jacob hung our new owl house on the edge of our property.



Hopefully a screech or saw-whet will stumble upon it!

We also took down most of the bird houses that were on the house when we bought it.  I was hoping some might be able to be cleaned and reused but none of them were designed to be opened with anything but a hammer.


We had seen a House Sparrow fly out of this red barn bird house many times but never saw babies.  I took a hammer to it and found the most nesting material ever.


And four eggs that never hatched.


We will be replacing the houses we took down with ones that can be opened and cleaned including a couple swallow houses (with oval openings to keep out the House Sparrows). 

Last week I went out there for one night to meet a guy about some HVAC ducting.  Amazingly he showed up in the first ten minutes of the two hour window so once he left I had plenty of time to go birding before heading home.  I decided to try for shorebirds near the D River Beach access. 

Perfect weather

There are some large puddles up on the beach away from the shore and one had a group of shorebirds.  I picked through them and found mostly Westerns but also a Sanderling and a Baird's County Bird Sandpiper!


I continued on up the beach and found more Sanderlings and a couple of Whimbrels.  As I approached some nice coastal rocks covered in birds I noticed one larger shorebird in the mix, a Marbled Godwit. 



A new bird for the future 5MR.  On the rocks were mostly gulls and cormorants but also a few Black Oystercatchers.


I realized at this spot that I really need to work on studying cormorants because I am terrible at distinguishing Pelagic and Brandt's. 

Pelagic...I think...
 
On the walk back I found the Whimbrels in a less foggy situation than earlier.


This gull had shoved a sea star in its mouth but seemed to be making little progress on digesting it:


On Friday I went back out to Lincoln City and after dropping the dogs off at the house I went over to the sewage ponds.  Someone was mowing so I had low expectations but thankfully the Red-necked Phalarope seen earlier in the week was still there. 


Another new one for the future 5MR!  Also around were a couple Leasts and a Western, but not much else.

On my way back I stopped at the D River Beach access because there had been reports that week of lots of Sooty Shearwaters and alcids.  Instead of those birds I first encountered this cormorant, reminding me I need to work on cormorant ID instead of looking for 5MR birds.

Um.  Wow.  I had no idea I was this bad at corm ID. 

Out on the water I found what looks like four Rhinoceros Auklets.


Yesterday Jacob and I did a little birding in the afternoon with stops at D River Beach, Salishan Nature Trail, and D River Open Space.  At the beach we found way more shearwaters, at least one Rhino Auklet, and tons of birds that my scope would not focus on. 

The tide was too high for shorebirds at the Salishan Nature Trail aside from some Whimbrels but we had a Black Phoebe (first one eBirded there) and a confiding Red Crossbill. 


At D River Open Space someone was being sketchy near our car so we didn't stay long.  Just enough time to spot a cormorant on a log.


Okay okay, I get it, I need to study cormorant ID.  In my brief internet research I found this helpful article by Dave Irons but I could use a lot more comparison photos.  Feel free to share any resources you might have on this topic!

Lincoln City has been fun lately and I'm up to 124 birds in the future 5MR.  Good times!!!!