January 11, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

 Back to the Birds Again

After getting settled in at Falcon Lake State Park, I took a short drive over to the Salineno Birding Area where I volunteered a couple winters ago to say hi to Lois and Merle and see what changes may have occurred over the the last couple of years.

Not much changed, still a premier spot to see lots of birds up close in comfort with a couple of knowledgeable hosts to help with identification. A few trees have drooped a bit more and that led to a relocation for the host’s fifth wheel and thus the seating area is now a bit farther away from the action, but the colorful orioles, kiskadees, and green jays are still there in abundance.

Falcon Lake State Park

I chose a campsite with water and electric only rather than one with full hookups since the full hookup section is more open and the sites are a little closer together than I like. My pull through site is surrounded by dense shrubs and trees providing nice privacy, but, more importantly, the same shrubs and trees provide cover and perches for my feathered friends.

I set out a hummingbird feeder, an oriole feeder, a couple of platform feeders, my old reliable fencepost for the lard/peanut butter/cornmeal concoction, then spread a little cracked corn and sunflower seed around the edges of my feeding area, sat back and waited to see who would arrive.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

It didn’t take long for two types of thrashers to come scooting out from the edge cover to grab some corn and scurry back to cover to eat.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

This thrashers seem quite reluctant to spent much time in the open, lurking just on the edge of the feeding area …

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

… then dashing out and grabbing a couple of kernels of corn before retreating to the shadows.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

 

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

This cute little guy is all but impossible to keep up with, constantly on the move with herky jerky action, hopping from bush to bush, bush to ground, up and down the feeders, just never standing still.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

 

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

The Olive Sparrow is one of the birds folks come here to add to their birding lists.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

He’s another bird of the edges like the thrashers, reluctant to leave the cover of the bushes on the edges of the feeding area.

 

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

There are a couple of pairs of Pyrhuloxia coming in regularly and this is the first time I have been able to get some nice close shots of these guys.

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

 

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

So far, these small Inca Doves are the only doves that have shown up here.

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

 

Orange Crowned Warbler
Orange Crowned Warbler

Lots of Orange -crowned Warblers coming in.

 

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

I was pleasantly surprised when this lone male Northern Bobwhite came strolling in right next to my chair and began feeding on cracked corn, seemingly oblivious to my presence.

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

A little unusual to see a lone Bobwhite, but I assume the rest of the flock must be somewhere near by and hope they will eventually all come in.

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

So far at least two pair of Northern Cardinals have made an appearance.

Female Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

 

Black Crested Titmouse
Black Crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmice come and grab their single seed and hop off to the bushes to break them open.

Black Crested Titmouse
Black Crested Titmouse

 

Green Jay
Green Jay

One of my all-time favorite birds, the colorful Green Jay, is here in abundance.

Green Jay
Green Jay

As you can see above, they are not shy about helping themselves to plenty of my offerings.

 

Female Great-tailed Grackle
Female Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackles arrive in large flocks, along with the ever present scourge of Red-winged Blackbirds. These pests I have to actively discourage to keep the food available for the birds I am looking to photograph. They do get to clean up the area ( along with the javelinas ) in late afternoon when I quit shooting for the day.

An Agility Test

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I put out an old two liter Coke bottle that I had crudely cut up to make a hanging feeder, more to show my presence than to actually have birds use it since the platform feeders are much, much easier to access.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

But here, a few birds have mastered the ability to land on this feeder and have unfettered access to some sunflower seeds without having to share with other birds.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Watching them land and then try to hang on as the feeder blows around in the stiff breeze is quite interesting.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

The weather here since my arrival has been absolutely perfect, sunny 70 degree days and clear starlit skies with night time temps in the lower 50’s. Not real sure how long I will stay here before heading up the coast to shoot Whooping Cranes and ducks, as well as check out the hurricane damage around Port Aransas and Lockport.

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November 18, 2015 Salineno, Texas

Kiskadee
Kiskadee

Settling in at Salineno

With all the grass pulling, brush clearing, and limb pruning done, I am now settling into the daily routine of filling feeding stations, greeting guests, and opening and closing the bird feeding station. Thankfully, the weather is beginning to turn more to my liking, fewer hot and humid days, a few more cool days and comfortably cool nights for sleeping.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle

The dogs are also settling in, Sam now feels she has a second home in Merle and Lois’s fifth wheel, that she visits several times a day to check on their cat. Sam also supervises Merle with the morning rounds of filling water features and feeding stations. She has also begun training sessions to become the official chachalaca escort dog, that is, escorting these destructive birds off the premises ( her training has a long way to go ). Jenny has been suffering a bit with the heat and her very advanced age is starting to really show, not much to her her day anymore but sleeping and eating, can’t even get a rise out of her anymore when a squirrel intrudes on the feeding station. Sad to see, but of course, inevitable.

Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler

I “work” on a two days on, two days off schedule with Merle and Lois. This leaves me with plenty of opportunities to get in a little bird photography.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

When one has the opportunity to observe an area such as this over several days, you get to know where to look for certain birds and what time of day the light is best for each part of the feeding area. You also pick up on each species likes and dislikes and can gradually learn to anticipate what each bird is apt to do in any given situation. As I am picking up on this, the chances of getting better images increases and I am hoping that by the end of my five month stay here, I should be able to accumulate some nice images.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

The orioles are, of course, the stars of the show here, for obvious reasons. The Audubon is often a life bird for visitors here and the Altamira is one of the largest and most brilliantly colored of all the orioles. Both visit the feeders regularly every day. The Hooded Oriole is usually a regular here also, but the male has not yet appeared and the more subdued colored female makes a few daily appearences.

White-winged Doves
White-winged Doves

When the White-winged doves arrive, they tend to come in in droves. There is a three foot diameter metal disk that is used as a tray feeder in the back of the yard and I am told that as many as twenty-four doves have been counted occupying the disk at one time. I count fifteen in this image so I guess that means there is room for at least another nine.

Great-tailed Grackle on the March
Great-tailed Grackle on the March

Male Great-tailed grackles arrived on the scene this week, first just one or two, and then a dozen or more. By the end of the week, a few females arrived. These rather large birds are often very vocal.

Kiskadee
Kiskadee

Great Kiskadees are also increasing in number and they are very entertaining to watch. From their perches in the branches above the feeders, this largest of the flycatchers will spot a bit of food on the ground, and swoop down to pick it off … but without ever touching down.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

My fascination with the colorful male Golden-fronted Woodpecker continues.

Green Jay
Green Jay

The gorgeous Green Jay numbers continue to climb with more than a dozen in here feeding almost all day long. If these birds weren’t so beautiful and entertaining to watch, we probably would consider them pests, as we do with the hordes of House Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds that descend on the feeders and pick them clean in short order.

Punk Green Jay
Punk Green Jay

This Green Jay has clearly adopted a ” Punk ” look.

Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail

And this Green Jay must have had an encounter with a predator, and managed to escape .. but without a tail. Doesn’t seem to bother him though, as he flies in and out with the others and seems not to miss it.

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

And he is not the only bird here who has had a near death experience as this little Inca Dove  has apparently also had a close encounter with someone that had him on their menu. In addition to losing his tail feathers, he also has lost some of his right wing.

Chachalaca
Chachalaca
Fox Squirrel
Fox Squirrel

One of the challenges of keeping the feeders full here are the two characters pictured above, the Plain Chachalaca and the Fox Squirrel. Both love the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal concoction we put out and of course don’t turn down the chance to steal cracked corn or sunflower seeds either. Both also steal the orange halves we put out on the branches to attract the orioles. Quite a balancing act to attempt to keep these guys at bay without disturbing the birds we are trying to attract.

A list of species seen here so far ( and we are only eighteen days in! )

( In years past the total number of sightings varies between 70 and 80. )

  1. Green jay
  2. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  3. Northern cardinal
  4. Olive Sparrow
  5. Altamira Oriole
  6. Audubon Oriole
  7. Inca Dove
  8. White-tipped Dove
  9. White-winged Dove
  10. House Sparrow
  11. Great Kiskadee
  12. Common Yellow-throat
  13. Osprey *
  14. Turkey Vulture *
  15. Crested Caracara *
  16. Northern Mockingbird
  17. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  18. Long-billed Thrasher
  19. Plain Chachalaca
  20. Black-crested Titmouse
  21. Hooded Oriole
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Great-tailed Grackle
  24. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  25. White Pelican *
  26. Bewick’s Wren
  27. Orange-crowned Warbler
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Lesser Goldfinch
  30. Ringed Kingfisher *
  31. Eastern Phoebe
  32. Verdin
  33. House Wren
  34. Blue-headed Vireo
  35. Pyrrhuloxia
  36. Gray Hawk *
  37. Couch’s Kingbird
  38. Black Phoebe
  39. Lincoln Sparrow
  40. Common Grackle
  41. Bronzed Cowbird
  42. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  43. White-crowned Sparrow
  44. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher *
  45. Snow Geese *
  46. White-fronted Geese *
  47. American Robin
  48. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  49. Eastern Screech Owl
  •  Denotes flyover

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March 27, 2014 S. Llano River State Park

Strutting Turkeys
Strutting Turkeys

Finally Some Strutting Tom Turkeys!

Awoke to the usual grey, solid overcast morning, but strangely enough, still no rain. Appears Texas is capable of experiencing an extended drought yet also never seeing the sun, in the winter at least. Was wakened from a sound sleep twice last night by the exceptionally vocal deer in the campground, they let out a vocalization like that of a screaming eagle, probably in response to some perceived threat.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Displaying turkey
Displaying turkey
Displaying turkey
Displaying turkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided to do a road trip north of the park but had my plans changed when I finally ran into some strutting Tom Turkeys on the park road. I had about five minutes with them before a motorhome scared them off the side of the road and sent them running out of range. I turned around and travelled the park road back and forth hoping to see them again, but no such luck.

Wild turkeys
Trouble ahead!
Retreating Turkey
Retreating Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my time with the turkeys, the sun came out and the temperature started to climb. I stopped at the office to check the forecast and it called for sunny skies and temps in the upper 80’s! With good weather finally here, I decided to stay in the park and do some shooting from the blinds.

Female cardinal bathing
Female cardinal bathing
Northern cardinal bathing
Northern cardinal bathing

These Northern Cardinals really put some effort into their baths.

Chipping sparrow bath
Chipping sparrow bath

As does the Chipping Sparrow.

Lark sparrow
Lark sparrow

The Lark Sparrow was a new bird for me.

Black capped vireo
Black capped vireo

As was this Black-capped Vireo, a federally endangered bird with a sharply declining population due to habitat loss and brown headed cowbird nest parasitism.

Lesser goldfinch
Lesser goldfinch

Another new bird for me was this Lesser Goldfinch, not yet quite displaying the vivid demarcation of yellow and black that will be visible in a few more weeks.

Carolina wren
Carolina wren

Yet another new bird for me was this Carolina Wren, darting in and out so fast as to be almost impossible to catch.

Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing

Also making an appearance at the water feature in the Acorn Blind was one of my favorite birds, the Cedar Waxwing.

Audubon warbler
Audubon warbler

Another bird showing up regularly was this Audubon Warbler.

Bathing Inca doves
Bathing Inca doves

I got a kick  out of this Inca Dove going submarine while it’s mate tried to figure out what it was doing.

Inca doves huddling for warmth
Inca dove

These Inca Doves have colorful red/orange wing feathers on the underside and topside of their wings that only show in flight – or if they are trying to dry themselves after a bath.

Inca doves huddling for warmth
Inca dove
Inca doves huddling for warmth
Inca dove

 

 

 

 

 

Serengetti in Texas
Serengetti in Texas

Along the park entrance road there is large high fenced enclosure that gets you to thinking you have arrived on the Serengeti Plains of Africa.

Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing

 

 

 

 

Lark sparrow
Lark sparrow

 

 

 

 

Another Neighbor From Hell

A very large motorhome pulled into the space next to me today. This space is at least 100 feet away but there is nothing between us but grass. A really nice, new 45’ Class A. Just a little after it got dark, I had made a drink after concluding a long conversation with my other next door neighbors, and was getting ready to go sit under the stars for a while. One of the nice things about this park is the absence of road or site lighting, you can really enjoy the night sky here when it is clear. Just as I was about to step out the door, a flash of light hit, that I assumed must be a car going through. It wasn’t. The new neighbor had turned on his outside spotlights, THREE high intensity spots on the driver’s side of the coach ( turns out there are three more on the passenger’s side too ), front, mid section, and back, all pointing directly out at the neighbor’s site. And when I say they were bright, I mean I could read a book on my sight, over 100 feet away, with the light from his unit. I went over and knocked on their door to see if I could get them to turn them off so I could sit outside and enjoy a gorgeous starry night, but even though their car was there and the TV was on, no one would answer the door. This was only about 7:30, so I don’t know what they were doing, but they wouldn’t answer the door for the campground host either a few minutes later when I enlisted his help to get the spotlights turned off. So, I had no choice but to go inside, pull all the shades and watch TV instead of the stars. About 9:30, they finally turned the lights off. About 11PM, just after I went to bed, they turned them back on. Nice folks!

December 15, 2013 Falcon Lake, Texas

Roadrunner portrait
Roadrunner portrait

Moved the blind to a new location this morning to try and get a better background, but that didn’t work out so well as the sun angle turned out to be wrong and the birds didn’t come. Moved back to the old position in the afternoon.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Green jay
Green jay
Northern cardinal
Northern cardinal
Roadrunner
Roadrunner

Spent 5 or 6 hours in the blind today, nice variety of birds after moving back to my previous location, quite a bit of action, including a quick passby by a roadrunner.

Green jay
Green jay
Brown thrasher acrobatics
Brown thrasher acrobatics

Pleasant way to spend a nice sunny day, relaxing in my rocking chair inside the blind, reading my Kindle whenever the bird action slows down.

White winged dove
White winged dove
Inca dove
Inca dove
Eurasian collared dove
Eurasian collared dove

Three different types of doves showed up today.

Curve-billed thrasher
Curve-billed thrasher
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Eurasian collared dove
Eurasian collared dove
PB&J breakfast for a green jay
PB&J breakfast for a green jay

Along with the usual cast  of characters.

Northern cardinal
Northern cardinal
Roadrunner
Roadrunner
Northern cardinal
Northern cardinal

 

 

 

 

 

Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay

 

 

 

 

 

Green jay
Green jay
Curve-billed thrasher
Curve-billed thrasher

 

 

 

 

 

Female great tailed grackle
Female great tailed grackle
Mystery ( to me ) bird
Mystery ( to me ) bird