Monday, September 16, 2013

You Might Be a Birder If...

I've struggled about referring to myself as a "birder." And, by the way, there is a huge difference between being a birdwatcher and being a birder. Entire articles have been written about the differences and some true birders take exception to being called birdwatchers!

But you might be a birder if you get up at 5:00 a.m. to go on a birding field trip. I did that last Friday. Along with a busload of people with binoculars, scopes, cameras, and guide books, I headed out to Fennessey Ranch in Bayside, TX. The ranch offers 3,500 acres of land for birding. I had seen many photographs of the various birds and other critters on the ranch but this cool morning was not as productive. We saw some great birds but I was not able to get photographs of some of the best ones.

Green Jay (photo from Creative Commons)
Black Vulture
The most exciting bird we saw at Fennessey was the green jay. We saw several, or maybe it was the same bird flying back and forth. He rarely stopped long enough to focus a camera (photo from Wikipedia, licensed under Creative Commons). This was exciting because the green jay usually remains in the Mexico and South America, although it is starting to show up in Brownsville and the tip of Texas. More commonly we saw a lot of vultures, turkey vultures and black vultures. I actually kind of like vultures. They clean up dead things so disease doesn't spread. The black vultures is considered almost dapper compared to his companion, the turkey vulture, who is lanky and less elegant in flight. Both vultures were sitting on water tanks, poles, and towers around the ranch and about two dozen were circling over something that was dead or dying.

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers
We saw a number of golden-fronted woodpeckers. The light was all wrong so this is not the best photograph but take my word for it. This beautiful bird is found only in the brushland and open wooded areas of Texas and Oklahoma so it was a great catch for the trip. Less rare but still new for my photo collection was the killdeer. Killdeer are a shorebird, one of the most familiar, but they spend a lot of time away from the beach. If threatened while nesting they may feign a broken wing to lure predators away from the nests.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
You might be a birder if you spend the day going from house to house looking at hummingbirds. During the Rockport HummerBird Festival people with great gardens and lots of feeders. Jim and I visited about eight homes plus a park and a hospice. The hummers were staying up north a little later so there were not the swarms but quality is more important than quantity. Many of the hummers were quite happy to pose and do acrobatics for the photographers. I got some ideas for more plantings to attract more birds at our house as well. But the best part of hopping around to hummer homes was the reports from other birders.

Calliope Hummingbird
You might be a birder if you drop everything to run out to a location where a calliope hummingbird was spotted. Why all the excitement for this little guy? (He is a male juvenile.) Calliopes are
rare in South Texas (and most of the US). They are the smallest bird north of Mexico and are generally only found in the mountains, preferring to be in areas above 11,000 feet, from El Paso west and north. This little guy liked to pose, and valiantly defended his magnolia tree, returning to the same spot over and over, making it pretty easy for photographers to get some good shots.

Double-crested Cormorant
You might be a birder if you get excited and pull over and back up when you see birds on a golf course. In addition to the "normal" herons, ibis, roseate spoonbills, I was thrilled to see this double-crested cormorant "posing." Cormorants are a common sight in beach areas but I loved watching this one standing by the water feature, looking like he was conducting an orchestra. They pose because their wings don't have the waterproofing properties of most water birds. When the cormorant is out of the water it must dry its wings out. The double-crested is the most common cormorant in North America and the one mostly likely to be seen at freshwater spots.

Finally, you might be a birder if you plan to spend your birthday birding. The best present I could get today is finding a painted bunting.

1 comment:

  1. Update: No painted bunting for my birthday but I did get to see a green heron and an Eastern Wood Pewee. So, not a bad day all in all.