Tag Archives: All About Birds

~Friday’s Feathered Friend – Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher~

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

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Added to my Birding Life List on December 20, 2011

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Hobe Sound, Florida

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I linked to PrairieBirder: http://PrairieBirder.Wordpress.com

 

 

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

 

Such a tiny little bird, only 4.25 inches! It looks like a very small mockingbird.

`Male has bluish-gray upper parts and the female is more gray

`White eye ring

`Long black tail with white outer feathers

`Black bill

`Black legs

Lovely little bird (white eye ring)
The white eye ring gives this lovely little bird big facial expressions

 

The Blue-gray gnatcatcher feed entirely on insects, which it pursues actively through the foliage of tall trees. Catches insects in flight. May hover briefly above food before taking it in its bill.

Its nest is interesting, a small cup made up of plant fibers, down and decorated on the outside with bits of lichen. This lovely little bird can be spotted in woodlands, thickets and chaparral.

When breeding it is monogamous and is a solitary nester. Its eggs are incubated 13 days by both sexes, stays in nest for 10-12 days and fed by both sexes. They usually will have one brood per year maybe two in the far south.

**information above taken from Smithsonian handbooks, National Geographic Society, Birds of North America**

Breeding male I believe, bacause of black line on sides of crown.
Breeding male I believe, bacause of black line on sides of crown.

 

Conservation: neotropical migrant. Common victim of cowbird parasitism

Population: common, increasing with range expanding northeasterly

 

Neotropical Migrant – (noun) A bird that spends the summer in its breeding range in North America but migrates to Central or South America for its nonbreeding range in winter. The winter range may also include the Caribbean, and the general dividing line between breeding and nonbreeding ranges is the Tropic of Cancer at 23 degrees north latitude, though the entire range does not need to be either north or south of that division for the bird to be considered a neotropical migrant.

More than 200 species of birds are considered neotropical migrants, including at least a few species in most bird families. Many warblers,hummingbirds and shorebirds are neotropical migratory birds, as are some hawks and many other songbirds.

The exact distance and route of migration between breeding and nonbreeding ranges varies for each species, and migration time between the separate ranges may take anywhere from just a few weeks to several months. It is essential to conserve habitat not only in the birds’ different ranges, but also along principle migratory flyways so birds will have sufficient feeding and resting areas to successfully complete their journeys. (taken from the web, written by Melissa Mayntz.

 

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher  (long black tail with white outer feathers)
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (long black tail with white outer feathers)

 

I took these photos, on April 13, 2014, sitting in the coach with the window glass open and the screen pulled back; what a nice bird blind it made. This oak tree was not too far away and this little guy fluttered around catching insects for awhile. We were camped at South Llano River State Park in Junction, Texas.

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Enjoy Birdwatching!

It can be entertaining as well as educational!

~

 

 

~whimsical wednesday – cold birds~

I linked to Wild Bird Wednesday at http://paying-ready-attention-gallery.blogspot.com

"Are you going to come out here and fill this feeder for me? Its cold out here!"
“Are you going to come out here and fill this feeder for me? Its cold out here!”

We have had COLD temperatures the last several days; lows at night getting down into the teens, highs during the day hovering around the low fifties. Rain, hail, wind and snow all during the past few days. Spring?

With the temperatures getting down so low at night (19 degrees), I felt it necessary to try my best to make sure the birds were feed well during the day. We setup several feeding stations, even purchasing a couple of new feeders.

I am tired of the Squirrels, Coons, Deer and Bear getting into my bird feeders! The bears are the worse!

It would be nice if the other wildlife wouldn’t destroy the feeders, while trying to eat. We have been taking the feeders in at night, trying to minimize the damage, but that can be a real pain!

I looked out my kitchen window this morning and there was a rabbit, chowing down on the seed I threw out on the ground. So, I should add rabbits to my list above, but they don’t destroy the feeders. I love all the critters, but just don’t want them destroying our bird feeders.

Squirrel Proof? This is one of our new feeders. A deck mount. I  sure hope the critters can't reach this one, because it is a long way down1
Squirrel Proof? This is one of our new feeders. A deck mount. I sure hope the critters can’t reach this one, because it is a long way down if they fall.

 

Love this little feeder (not a sharp photo, because the wind was blowing)
Love this little feeder (not a sharp photo, because the wind was blowing hard)

I found the little feeder above at Wal-Mart. It is perfect for feeding the Orioles Oranges and Grape Jelly. They seem to love it also.

Bullock's Oriole
Bullock’s Oriole

 

Bullock's Oriole
Bullock’s Oriole

 

Dip, Dip, Dip
Dip, Dip, Dip

This Oriole feeder is one I purchased last year and I fill it with sugar water and a little of the Oriole orange colored mix, which turns the water an orange color. I also fill a Hummer feeder with the same liquid, which the Orioles seem to enjoy.

"Are you still watching me?"
“Are you still watching me?”

The photos below were taken from inside the house through the glass. I can’t seem to sneak up on these guys!

Western Tanager on a very cold MAY day
Western Tanager on a very cold MAY day

 

Black-headed Grosbeak (male)
Black-headed Grosbeak (male)
Sitting in the Sun
Sitting in the Sun

During the last couple of days we have had the following birds visit our yard:

1 – Western Tanager (male)

2 – Black-headed Grosbeaks (male and female)

3 – Lazuli Buntings (several pair)

4 – Morning Doves (several pair)

5 – Eurasian Collared Doves (several pair)

6 -House Finches (several pair)

7 – House Sparrows (several pair)

8 – Robins (several pair)

9 – Blue Jays (a family)

10 -Scrub Jays

11 -Black-capped Chickadees (several pair)

12 – Spotted Towhees

13 – Bullock’s Orioles (several males)

 

A nice list indeed!

Warmer days are headed our way, I hope!

 

 

~Friday’s Feathered Friend-Orchard Oriole~

This was my first sighting of the Orchard Oriole
This was my first sighting of the Orchard Oriole

 

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Added to my Birding Life List on April 13, 2014

South Llano State Park

Junction, Texas

~

 

Since a lot of birders are talking about the Orioles and their migration, I thought I would post my Friday’s Feathered Friend on the Orchard Oriole. It was fun seeing this bird for the first time a few weeks ago.

I will say, as everyone is pointing out, its time to put your Oriole feeders out; it is easy to do. Cut a few oranges in half and place some grape jelly in a dish and you might have a beautiful Oriole in your yard. Here in Colorful Colorado we have the Bullock’s Oriole.

Orchard Oriole
Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole:

Male:

`small Oriole  6-7.75 in length

`black-hood, back and wings

`burnt-orange underparts

`single-white wing bar

`white-edged flight feathers on wings

`chestnut underparts

`chestnut rump and shoulders

`black-tail with narrow white tips

Female:

`olive upperparts

`yellowish underparts

`dusky wings with two white wing bard

 

Their song sounds like this:

look here, what cheer, wee yo, what cheer, whip yo, what wheer

I happy bird I would say!

Population status: common to fairly common in open woodland, farmlands, scrub-mesquite, shade trees and orchards. Declining in parts of western range. They eat fruit and nectar.

Conservation: Neotropical migrant, Common host to cowbird parasitism (sad)

 

  • **information above taken from Smithsonian handbooks, Birds of North America**

 

~

Enjoy Birdwatching!

It can be entertaining as well as educational!

~

 

~Friday’s Feathered Friend – Killdeer~

 

Friday’s Feathered Friend

 

Killdeer Showy wings and tail
Killdeer
Showy wings and tail

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Killdeer added to my Birding Life List in April of 1986

(Loveland, CO)

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Killdeer: 

`largest of the ringed plovers and the only double-banded plover

`probably the most familiar shorebird in North America

`in the summer it is found across (almost) the entire continent south of the tundra

`two black bands across chest

`red eye ring

`slim black bill

`bright rufous-orange rump and upper tail coverts

`white underparts

`long-pointed wings with long white stripe

`loud cry sounding like, kill-dee or kill-deear

`monogamous, solitary nester, often returns to same mate and breeding site

`nests on open ground

`juveniles are similar in appearance, but have only one black band across the chest

  • **information above taken from Smithsonian handbooks, Birds of North America**

 

On April 10th we arrived in Kerrville, Texas staying for three nights at the Buckhorn Lake Resort. Howard and I were out walking the doggies and we heard then spotted a pair of Killdeer. After a few minutes of watching them we discovered they had three babies. These little guys were running all over the place and their parents were going crazy trying to keep track of them. I read that the babies feed themselves, but the parents tend to them. They will fly at around 25 days old.

I was so disappointed I didn’t have my camera with me. I ran back to the coach, picked up my camera and ran back to take a few shots of the babies. Well, I don’t know where they went, but I never did spot them again.

However, I did capture one of the parents faking injury to lure me away from the babies. It was amazing to watch this display. I had only seen this performed once before by a Nighthawk.

I didn’t want to disturb the family too much so I stayed well back from them.

Under behavior in one of my bird books it states the following about this fake injury display and it is very actuate.

Leads intruders away from nest and young with “broken wing” act, rapid calls, one or both wings dragging, tail spread, and often limping or listing to one side.

Killdeer, pretending to be hurt to lure me away from their young
Killdeer, pretending to be hurt to lure me away from young

 

"Come after me, can't you see I have a broken wing!"
“Come after me, can’t you see I have a broken wing!”

 

Tail spread with left wing dragging
Tail spread with left wing dragging

 

Notice the beautiful red eye ring
Notice the beautiful red eye ring

 

They are so well camouflaged
They are so well camouflaged

~

Enjoy Birdwatching!

It can be entertaining as well as educational!

~

 

~Friday’s Feathered Friend – The Boat-tailed Grackle~

 

Boat-tailed Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle

 

The Boat-tailed Grackle – brown or dull yellow eyes, long keel-shaped tail, black overall, iridescent purple on head and back, black legs and black bill.

~

Added to my Birding Life List on 04/10/93

(West Palm Beach, Florida)

~

 

The Boat-tailed Grackle is a very large, glossy black bird.

The Boat-tailed Grackle’s common name refers to its long tail, often held in a V-shape to form a “keel.”

Found along the coast from Texas to Long Island, this songbird prefers salt and brackish marshes, where it breeds in colonies and socializes in noisy flocks.

The Boat-tailed Grackle has been expanding its range northward since the 1940’s, probably due to milder winters north of the Carolinas.

The female is a light, warm brown with dark brown wings and tail. The female’s “ear” is darker brown under a pale eyebrow. The eyes of both sexes are yellowish.

 

Boat-tailed Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle

I photographed this beautiful bird while visiting the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge this past week.

What a beautiful black bird
What a beautiful black bird

 

Just as I am! Every Friday you may participate in Feathers on Friday at Prairie Birder.

Here is Charlotte’s Blog web-site:

http://prairiebirder.wordpress.com

This is another great Blog to learn about Birds!

~

Enjoy Birdwatching!

It can be entertaining as well as educational!

~

 

Note:Some of my information for this post was taken from Field Guide to Birds of North America.

 

~Our visit to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge~

 

Goodbye Louisiana, Hello Texas!

We rolled into Beaumont, Texas last Thursday with the expectation of visiting a few birding areas located along the gulf. 

Friday morning we headed toward the little Texas town of Winnie. I had read **(see special note later in this post) that this area offered fabulous birding opportunities.  So, with our binoculars and cameras packed in the car, we set out.

High Island or Anahuac, which one to visit first?

We didn’t know which area(s) to visit first; the birding sanctuaries and rookeries around High Island, Texas or the Anahauc National Wildlife Refuge outside of Winnie.

We knew our time was limited and we only had two full days to fit in all in. Silly us, we should have scheduled more days in this location.

We turned off the interstate and headed south toward Winnie and High Island, and as we approached the turn-off to ANWF, we decided to head over to the High Island sanctuaries and rookeries first. 

We didn’t know if we could run by these rookeries, see what was there, and then zoom over to ANWF or what. Silly us!

Birders Welcome! Of course they are!

Once we reached the town of High Island and drove around for a few minutes, we realized we needed to ask for information. I guess it was just dumb luck that we were passing a motel and saw a sign stating “Birders Welcome”. 

We pulled into the motel and I ran in to ask the question, “where are the rookeries?”. The people were not only extremely friendly, they were also generous. Getting back into the car, with a map in hand, we set out to find the rookery.

After a few wrong turns we managed to find the Smith Oaks birding parking lot. When we pulled into the lot we were stunned, “look at all these cars”. We should have known we were not the only folks that wanted to visit the rookeries at the peak of breeding season. Silly us!

I will remember this event, with pure joy, for the rest of my life.

Okay, we will look around, hop back into the car and head to the next place. Not a chance, I could have stayed right there for days. Silly us!

Other than the rookery at Avery Island, I had never seen such a place. Hundreds of Egrets, Spoonbills and Cormorants flying, fighting, mating, snoozing and nesting. What a sight to behold!

Reluctantly, we finally got back into the car, in total amazement and me with lens envy, and headed over to another birding area called Boy Scout Woods. 

Wow, even more cars and people.

Unbeknown to us it turns out the Audubon Society of Houston’s annual spring birding event was in full swing. People from all over the United States and perhaps from outside the US attend this event each year.

We registered with the HAS, met some wonderful people, walked around in the woods and added one new bird to my life list! Number 360 the Louisiana Waterthrush. What a beautiful bird.

Here is their web-site if you would like to learn more: http://www.houstonaudubon.org/default.aspx/MenuItemID/194/MenuGroup/Sanctuaries.htm

Be sure, if interested, to read the High Island history page.

What a wonderful day!

We drove back to our coach in Beaumont tired, but extremely happy for this experience. It would have been nice to go back to High Island, but we knew we had to see Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

**Gay, a blogger friend from http://www.good-times-rollin.blogspot.com visited Aunahauc National Wildlife Refuge and wrote about the visit on her blog. Go take a look at her beautiful blog.

When visiting ANWR, Gay and Joe met with Judy from http://travels-with-emma.blogspot.com and spent the day touring this beautiful refuge. 

Judy is a volunteer at the refuge and writes about her experiences on her fabulous blog.

After reading both of these blogs about Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, I knew we needed to stop there. Also, Judy had visited the Smith Oaks Rookery and posted her gorgeous photos on her blog. 

The next morning, following our visit to High Island, we pulled into the refuge.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Their new Welcome Center
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Their new Welcome Center

 

As I entered the brand new Welcome Center, I was met by a person with a friendly face and kind eyes. As I glanced at her name tag, conformation was made, but I already knew that I was about to meet Judy!

Howard and I were lucky that she was there that day; it made our visit to ANWF even more special!

It was a thrill to meet a fellow blogger, birder and nature lover. She showed us the ANWF maps, told us what we might see and gave us a few suggestions on where to go. So off we went to explore!

Other, than the day being cloudy and very windy, hubby and I had a wonderful time! The refuge is beautiful! 

Thank you Judy, it was a great pleasure to meet you. 

Perhaps, one day down the line we will meet again.

Next year, we know where to stay.

No more Silly Us! Next year we will stay a lot closer and a lot longer in order to experience these areas of Texas.

Until next year!

Here are some of the 37 species of birds we saw at ANWF. I will post, in a separate blog, the photos from High Island.

Northern Shoveler
Northern Shoveler
Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Green Heron
Green Heron
Tricolored Heron
Tricolored Heron
Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt
Fulvous Whistling Duck
Fulvous Whistling Duck

 

"Pay attention Sally" I am not sure what these are: American Black Duck or Mottled Duck
“Pay attention Sally”
I am not sure what these are: American Black Duck or Mottled Duck
"Do they have handicap access here at ANWR?" Eastern Kingbird
“Do they have handicap access here at ANWR?”
Eastern Kingbird
Savannah Sparrow I am not 100% sure of this ID
Savannah Sparrow
I am not 100% sure of this ID

 

In full view - Green Heron
In full view – Green Heron
White-tailed Hawk Far away and being chased by a blackbird
White-tailed Hawk
Far away and being chased by a blackbird

"I'am hiding from the big Hawk"

Red-winged Blackbird (female)
Red-winged Blackbird (female)
Maybe the White-tailed Hawk is being harassed by the ducks
Maybe the White-tailed Hawk is being harassed by the ducks

 

Greater Yellow Legs I am not sure about this ID
Greater Yellow Legs
I am not sure about this ID
Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull

 

 

~a salt dome, some pepper pods and a jungle ~

What does, a salt dome, pepper pods and a 200 acre jungle have in common? A trip to Avery Island, Louisiana, and a good time!

 

The salt dome extends eight miles beneath the earth’s surface and its protruding “island” part of the formation rising above the surface is Avery Island.

The pepper pods, obtained shortly after the Civil War, are special capsicum peppers. Seeds from these capsicum peppers, grown on the Island, are exported to Central and South America, where tabasco peppers are cultivated and harvested.

The 200 acre jungle is home to the world’s most beautiful sanctuaries for the preservation and study of flora and fauna. Edward McIlhenny, son of Tabasco sauce inventor Edmund McIlhenny, was a noted naturalist and explorer and decades ago he cultivated what is today called The Jungle Gardens of Avery Island.

Live Oaks and Lazy Lagoons
Live Oaks and Lazy Lagoons

It all began when Edmund McIlhenny cultivated a crop, invented a product over 125 years ago and founded a company on Avery Island.

 

As their current day brochure states. Much of the world knows about Tabasco pepper sauce.

McIlhenny Company
Tabasco Sauce Brand
Pepper Sauce!!

**I want to give credit for the information in this blog to the wonderful writers at Tabasco, I used their brochures in writing this blog.

I love our flag and here with it are the Louisiana State Flag and the Tabasco flag
The Tabasco Visitors Center. I love our flag and here with it are the Louisiana State Flag and the Tabasco flag.

 

Wednesday, April 2nd we traveled to Avery Island to visit Tabasco. We always have to be conscience of the time we are away from the coach, because of our two beautiful four-legged friends. So when we drove to Avery Island we needed to make a decision on what we wanted to see as we only had time to visit one of two tours. Did we want to tour the Jungle Gardens or take the Tabasco plant tour? It was not a tough decision.

Tabasco factory tours
Tabasco factory tours

We decided to toured the Jungle Gardens. What beautiful grounds they have; we could have spent the entire day hiking around admiring these gorgeous gardens and taking photos!

A meandering road through The Jungle Gardens
A meandering road through The Jungle Gardens
Looking for UFO's or perhaps UFB's.
Looking for UFO’s or perhaps UFB’s.

The 200 acres of jungle gardens are home to a large collection of some 600 varieties of camellias, including some that McIlhenny developed, along with thousands of azaleas, acres of wildflowers, groves of evergreens, english hollies and wistaria vines, just to mention a few.

The 300 year old Cleveland Oak
The 300 year old Cleveland Oak
Have you ever driven through a Wisteria Arch?
Have you ever driven through a Wisteria Arch?

The jungle gardens are a birder’s paradise! We made the right decision in taking this tour.

Over one hundred years ago, Edward McIlhenny helped save a beautiful egret from extinction – the Snowy egret. In 1895 when the snowy was being hunted for its plumage, Edward, built an aviary on Avery Island, and then captured and raised eight wild snowy egrets.

 

For the love of this bird, it all started over 100 years ago. The beautiful Snowy Egret
For the love of this bird, it all started over 100 years ago. The beautiful Snowy Egret

After they had raised their hatches and were ready to migrate, he released them. The snowy egrets returned the next spring and every spring since.

Today this rookery is fondly called “Bird City” where some 20,000 Snowy Egrets, plus many other species of birds, return each spring to raise their young.

The Rookery
The Rookery
An Anhinga couple
An Anhinga couple
The Great Blue Heron enjoying The Jungle Gardens
The Great Blue Heron enjoying The Jungle Gardens

For the love of the Great Blue Heron:

 

 

Others also enjoy The Jungle Gardens:

A snoozing little guy!
A snoozing little guy!
Nature's ultimate camouflage design at work
Nature’s ultimate camouflage design at work
I Spy
I Spy

 

As the time for our departure from Avery Island approached, we stopped at the Tabasco Store to look around. We enjoyed a nice cool cup of homemade ice cream, of course made with Tabasco peppers, sampled some of their flavored sauces and even purchased a few items to bring home. It was another fun day spent in Cajun Country!

The Tabasco Country Store
The Tabasco Country Store

 

Side note:
On our way down to New Iberia, Louisiana and then out to Avery Island we stopped for lunch at a local place called Landry’s. They serve a different daily lunch to a huge number of hard working folks! The food was delicious!

On this drive we were impressed with the oil and gas related businesses we passed. Thousands of people employed in this industry in numerous small Louisiana towns. From, large oil companies, oil service and training companies, to local support businesses like Laudry’s all employing hard working people.

We should all thank these businesses that supply our oil and gas, and the folks that work in them. It made us happy to see the booming economy in this area, to know that America is rich in oil and gas and that Louisiana is employing lots of people to work in these industries.

~

We said farewell to Louisiana, for now, and drove to Beaumont, Texas!

While in Beaumont we enjoyed two full, wonderful days of birding. We met some nice folks from the Houston Audubon Society in High Island and it was a special treat meeting a fellow birder and blogger at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. More on meeting Judy and how we spent these exciting two days later.

We arrived this morning, April 6th, at Stephen F. Austin State Park and we will be here for several days. As I sit here typing I can even count the number of Northern Cardinals we are seeing, so many in one place!