Journal archives for November 2016

22 November, 2016

Nalle Bunny Run Group Walk 2016-11-20

Twelve folks joined me Sunday morning for the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve. We were treated to a cold and clear morning, and ultimately we recorded 32 species of birds! Here are some highlights.

Before we even started walking, a mixed species flock of songbirds visited us by the gate. It included Black-crested Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, and a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Here's one of the kinglets, a recently returning winter resident. In this photo you can just see a little bit of its ruby crown:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

A little down the hill we encountered a couple more winter residents, a Pine Warbler which gave must of us pretty good looks, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet which was moving fast and was only seen by me. On the sandy prairie area near the northeast corner of the preserve, we were excited to see this Red-tailed Hawk:

Red-tailed Hawk

It finally flew west, and a beautiful male American Kestrel found it and spent the next half hour or so harassing the Red-tailed Hawk. I was never able to get a good shot of the kestrel.

Covering the rest of the sandy prairie we got glimpses of a few returning winter sparrows, like Song Sparrow and Lincoln's Sparrow. But we didn't get good looks at a sparrow until we encountered a small group of Chipping Sparrows back up the hill on the western part of the preserve. Here's one of them:

Chipping Sparrow

Here's our complete bird list.

Here are a few more photos.

And attached are the same photos as iNat observations. What a fun morning!

Posted on 22 November, 2016 00:15 by mikaelb mikaelb | 6 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

27 November, 2016

White-tailed Kite and White-tailed Hawk 2016-11-27

On my drive back from Port Aransas to Austin this morning, about 4 miles north of Goliad on Highway 183 I spotted a White-tailed Kite perched on a wire on the east side of the road. I don't get to see this striking south Texas bird very often so after I'd passed it I pulled over and turned around, hoping for another look and some photos.

The bird was still there when I returned. I got a few photos from the other side of the road and then drove a little further south, turned around again, and approached it with the sun behind me. I stopped and got out of the car, going behind the car to keep it between me and the bird, and took a few more photos. I decided to try approaching the bird closer on foot, but as soon as I got away from the car the bird took flight. It circled around over me and I took some in-flight photos.

As I was watching the flying kite, I saw that another bird was approaching from the northwest. It turned out to be another south Texas specialty, a White-tailed Hawk! I took some in-flight photos of the hawk and then, almost right over my head, the kite attacked it! Both birds were vocalizing and I got a few more in-flight photos of the kite making a pass at the hawk, and then escorting it off to the southwest.

Here's my complete photo sequence on Flickr:

Here's my favorite:
White-tailed Kite and White Tailed Hawk in flight - 3

I kept more photos of the flying White-tailed Hawk than I normally would have because you can see its head turning as it sees the approach of the kite.

Interestingly, this was 10-15 miles south of where I observed a White-tailed Kite on the same drive back in February 2015:

Posted on 27 November, 2016 22:08 by mikaelb mikaelb | 2 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

29 November, 2016

Shiloh Ranch 2016-11

A couple weeks ago I had a great opportunity to spend a long weekend on about 80 acres of private property in Mason County, TX on the Llano river. It was a chance to get away from the crowds and noise of Austin, and to disconnect from the internet for a couple days. I couldn't believe how quite it was. Minutes would go by without hearing an unnatural sound. There was only spotty cell phone coverage on top of a hill on the north end of the property. Ironically, I still hiked around the place with my iPhone in-hand, since I was using the eBird, iNaturalist, and Gaia GPS apps to record observations and track my location and distance traveled. (All three of these apps work well even where there's no cell phone coverage, with the phone in "airplane" mode.)

Mason County is far enough west to have some resident western songbird species that were a real treat for me to see. Rufous-crowned Sparrows were common on the southern part of the property that had lots of rocky hillsides sloping down towards the river. I got to re-learn their distinctive call note. I only got a couple quick looks at Pyrrhuloxia. And finding a couple Verdins was great fun. One Verdin was collecting Old Man's Beard, presumably for a nest, but it seems like not the right time of year for that? I was especially fond of the Black-throated Sparrows, which were common on the property. I couldn't resist keeping many photos of them.

A few rarities and fall migrants were all flyovers. Friday morning a late juvenile Swainson's Hawk and a Bald Eagle flew over me, both on their way south. And early in the afternoon I heard and then saw a group of about 50 Sandhill Cranes flying south. On Sunday morning by the river a Ringed Kingfisher flew over once upriver than again downriver.

Grassland birds included meadowlarks (I couldn't tell if they were eastern or western), Lark Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, and a single Grasshopper Sparrow I was able to coax out into view by playing a recording of its song.

A couple surprises were a Marsh Wren by the river and a Great Horned Owl on the north end of the property, both on Sunday morning.

I found three hanging vireo-type nests and I'm sure there were more. My guess is they were Bell's Vireo but maybe Black-capped is an option?

The most fun I had was late Sunday morning when at the edge of the woods on the northern half of the property I started imitating an Eastern Screech-Owl. It took a few minutes, but the birds finally made a great showing! These are the best photos at the end of the attached observations, starting with a Spotted Towhee and ending with a Field Sparrow.

I found 60 species of birds. Here are my eBird checklists:

The only mammals I directly observed were White-tailed Deer. But I found lots of Coyote tracks, and tracks from a single armadillo and Gray Fox.

And here are my photos on Flickr:

Attached are my iNaturalist observations.

Posted on 29 November, 2016 00:40 by mikaelb mikaelb | 103 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment