Journal archives for August 2017

11 August, 2017

Port Aransas Charlie's Pasture 2017-08-11

This morning I birded the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North with preserve manager Colleen Simpson. Before Colleen arrived I walked the short Pioneer Trail and was impressed by how many Silver-leaf Sunflower plants have grown up in the recently burned areas since last time I was here back in May. They were full of Red-winged Blackbirds. Here's my eBird list from that trail:

And a short stationary eBird list from the pavilion:

Colleen and I walked the main boardwalk trail starting at the pavilion all the way out to the small loop with the observation tower on Salt Island. On the way there we saw a few Snowy Plovers, including on adult and chick running across the mud flats. This was the first time I've ever seen a chick! It was fun to watch but too distant and moving too fast for photos.

From the observation tower we were impressed by sheer numbers of mostly wading birds in the pond to the south and mudflats to the southwest. Hundreds of birds included most herons and egrets encountered here, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, and over 500 Black Terns.

Here's our eBird list:

And attached are a few iNaturalist observations.

Posted on 11 August, 2017 20:52 by mikaelb mikaelb | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

19 August, 2017

Nalle Bunny Run 2017-08-19

7 people joined me this morning at 8:00 for the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve in west Austin. In a little over 2 hours we covered about 1.1 miles, making a rough circuit of the property, looking and listening for birds and other wildlife. Here are some highlights.

The first and biggest highlight was finding this juvenile Great Horned Owl shortly after turning east onto the trail towards the spring. There are often owls in this section of the preserve, but I can only remember one other time when I spotted an owl before it spotted us and flew away. This one tolerated our watching it for a few minutes before flying across the trail and into the woods to the north. Look at those huge feet and talons!

Great Horned Owl

Down the hill in the oak-juniper woods we got to observe the presence of a mixed-species foraging flock of songbirds, mostly Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, and Black-crested Titmice. They were hard to see in the dense woods, but if you listened carefully you could hear their contact calls all around us. I talked a bit about Bird Language, and how we were experiencing base-line behavior of the birds quietly foraging while staying in ear-shot of each other.

Near the northeast corner of the preserve, right where the sandy prairie meets the oak-juniper woods, I spotted a dragonfly with green eyes and yellow stripes flying around. I've seen these flying around this area before, but I've never been able to photograph or identify one because they never landed for me. Today, this one landed! I was just as excited about this as I was about the owl! I'm 99% sure it's a Royal River Cruiser, a species I've never found before:

Royal River Cruiser - 1

On the sandy prairie area we found two more cool insects, first this orange and black velvet ant, a kind of flightless wasp. It was running around on the sand, digging little exploratory holes:

Velvet Ant - 1

And we found another dragonfly, this female Eastern Amberwing. It's the smallest dragonfly species in Texas, only about 1 inch long:

Eastern Amberwing

We only saw two south-bound migrating birds this morning, both female Orchard Orioles. Here's a distant photo I got of one of them. Orioles are in the blackbird family, and you can see this one's typical blackbird-like pointy bill:

Orchard Oriole

We ended up finding 24 species of birds. Here's our complete bird list on eBird.

And here are the same photos on Flickr.

Posted on 19 August, 2017 21:20 by mikaelb mikaelb | 5 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

21 August, 2017

Eclipse Birding 2017-08-21

Here's what the solar eclipse was like in Austin today (courtesy of

Local Type: Partial Solar Eclipse, in Austin
Begins: Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 11:41 am
Maximum: Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm 0.72 Magnitude
Ends: Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 2:39 pm
Duration: 2 hours, 58 minutes

As suggested by eBird, I recorded a few stationary bird checklists during this time as I watched the progress of the eclipse:

Since we didn't get total eclipse coverage in Austin, I did not observe any obvious reactions by the birds to the event. I think they only thing that might have been relevant was that it was a little cooler as more of the sun was covered.

But a few fun bird observations included south-bound swallows (a few I was able to recognize as Cliff Swallows but others were too high and fast for me to identify), a single Mississippi Kite soaring and drifting north, and two Yellow Warblers in my neighbor's live oak tree.

Eclipse 2017 - 2

Posted on 21 August, 2017 21:29 by mikaelb mikaelb | 1 comment | Leave a comment