Whoops — time for a soft reboot!

I was hoping to make this a daily routine, but between the vast change in my job situation (lost my job, then gained a much better-paying one with more responsibility) and other things going on with my life, I ended up not keeping up on this like I’d hoped, instead slapping everything on Facebook and eBird.

The good thing is, I never stopped birding, and explored new (to me) regions including that great prize, the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Here were my life birds of 2014.  (According to eBird, anyway.  Some of those parrots aren’t really ABA-certified.)

  1. Le Conte’s Sparrow Ammodramus leconteii 4 Jan 2014 Davilla TX USA
  2. Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus 16 Mar 2014 Laredo TX USA
  3. Green Jay Cyanocorax yncas 16 Mar 2014 Laredo TX USA
  4. White-collared Seedeater Sporophila torqueola 16 Mar 2014 Laredo TX USA
  5. Olive Sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus 16 Mar 2014 Laredo TX USA
  6. White-tailed Hawk Geranoaetus albicaudatus 26 Apr 2014 Corpus Christi TX USA
  7. Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana 2 May 2014 Webberville TX USA
  8. Sabine’s Gull Xema sabini 11 May 2014 Corpus Christi TX USA
  9. Black-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus erythrophthalmus 11 May 2014 Corpus Christi TX USA
  10. Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula 11 May 2014 Weslaco TX USA
  11. Green Parakeet Aratinga holochlora 11 May 2014 Weslaco TX USA
  12. White-tipped Dove Leptoptila verrauxi 11 May 2014 Weslaco TX USA
  13. Clay-colored Thrush Turdus grayi 11 May 2014 Weslaco TX USA
  14. Crimson-collared Grosbeak Rhodothraupis celaeno 11 May 2014 Weslaco TX USA
  15. Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis 11 May 2014 Encino TX USA
  16. Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica 14 May 2014 Hutto TX USA
  17. Red-crowned Parrot Amazona viridigenalis 28 Jun 2014 Orange CA USA
  18. Lilac-crowned Parrot Amazona finschi 28 Jun 2014 Orange CA USA
  19. Pacific Loon Gavia pacifica 28 Jun 2014 San Diego CA USA
  20. Green Violetear Colibri thalassinus 1 Jul 2014 La Vernia TX USA
  21. Collared Plover Charadrius collaris 3 Aug 2014 Hargill TX USA
  22. Aplomado Falcon Falco femoralis 3 Aug 2014 Los Fresnos TX USA
  23. Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 10 Aug 2014 Corpus Christi TX USA
  24. Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus 29 Nov 2014 Weslaco TX USA
  25. Tropical Parula Setophaga pitiayumi 29 Nov 2014 McAllen TX USA
  26. Chestnut-collared Longspur Calcarius ornatus 6 Dec 2014 Arch NM USA
  27. Common Crane Grus grus 7 Dec 2014 Bula TX USA

I Walk in the Rain

Nope, no angst here!  But definitely a gray day, with very few birds to show for the short effort on the trail.  Halfway through the walk, a cold drizzle started, and I rushed to get in the office building before things got too miserable.

We’re expecting snow overnight, so I may not be able to hit the trail at all tomorrow.  We’ll see.

Total species: 13

The Return of Jack Frost

A colder morning today, back at freezing point first thing.  Forecast calls for sleet and up to two inches of snow overnight tonight which will not bode well for tomorrow’s birding — and since Austin doesn’t have snow often enough to employ snowplows, possibly not so good for going into work, either.  Having grown up in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and lived in Orlando, it’s not like I get much practice driving in the snow, though at least Kimi (being a New Yorker) knows what to do.

As if to presage the coming cold, a couple of normally northerly birds popped up on the trail today amid the usual goldfinches — tiny, streaky, yellow wing-bars, oh hi there Pine Siskin!  Strangely, we have no pine trees here …  but that’s a nice new state and county bird all the same.

Also on the trail today was a lone Canyon Wren, a relative rarity for this area, only occasionally heard or seen.  

Total birds: 26

Year birds: (137 > 139) Canyon WrenPine Siskin

Statistics: Texas (274 > 275); Travis (244 > 245)

Just Another Day

Back on the workplace trail today for a quick mile jog in the cedars.   Thank you, Sudafed. Nothing new there, but I did snag a new year bird in the morning, as the usual Double-crested Cormorants flying over the Colorado River were joined by a pair of Neotropic Cormorants (easier to find here in summertime).

Hope this warm spell lasts …

Total species: 25

Year birds: (136 > 137Neotropic Cormorant

The World’s Oldest Young Birder? Part Two

TOS Sunday and another Young Birders outing.  I forgot to color my hair this morning, so I think they might be onto me.

Another great day of birding, which yielded four new Texas birds for me: Long-tailed Duck, Black-throated Sparrow, Western Grebe, and Red-throated Loon.   The first and last are amusing to me as I had previously seen them as lifers on the day after Hurricane Sandy, at Ashokan Reservoir in upstate New York.  To get them again in Texas, also on the same day, seems pretty unlikely, but yet there they were!

Our first stop was Inks Lake State Fish Hatchery in Burnet County, where a very out-of-place Long-tailed Duck (normally found on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the Great Lakes in winter) has been hanging out for the last month or so.  It doesn’t get much easier than walking out of the car and seeing the bird in the very nearest pond – life looks for many of the young birders in the party!  The bird life of the Inks Lake area has much more of a western feel than my home patch, with birds like VerdinBlack-throated Sparrow, and Pyrrhuloxia making an appearance.

Moving up to the western shore of Lake Buchanan in Llano County (a new life county for me!), which like so many of the larger Central Texas lakes is shrunken and desiccated from extended drought, we still caught some great birds, with notably high numbers of Horned Grebe and Western Grebe, as well as a Common Loon, with the flats giving us great instructional views of a Sprague’s Pipit foraging in the open.

After lunch, we took a drive up to Stillhouse Hollow Lake to chase a reported Red-throated Loon, never an easy bird in Texas.  We had been told “it was associating with coots”.  We walk up the mile and a quarter from the parking lot … to find almost two thousand American Coots.  Oops.  With scopes out, the young birders scanned the entirety of the reservoir over and over, scouring for just one bird.  Some diving ducks here, some grebes there, coots and coots and three Common Loons … the minutes start to pass in the afternoon sun.  Then, at last … “I got it!”  A pale back.  Upturned head and small bill.  It’s the bird!  Everyone scrambles to get brief looks in the scope before the loon dives … “It’s down!  Where’d it go?”  “There it is, to the left of the V-tree with the osprey!”  “It’s down again …” And then it pops up and starts preening and finally everyone can relax a bit and enjoy the bird, lifer to all but three of us.

All in all, a great, long day of birding – it’d only have been better if cedar fever hadn’t struck on the way back.  Darn you, pollen!

Back to work tomorrow.

Total species: 80

Year birds: (115 > 135Western Meadowlark, Wood Duck, Long-tailed Duck, American White Pelican, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Verdin, Bewick’s Wren, American Robin, Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Western Grebe, Rock Wren, Sprague’s Pipit, Lesser Goldfinch, Red-throated Loon, Eared Grebe, Bonaparte’s Gull, Forster’s Tern

Texas 270 > 274; Burnet 32 > 74 Bell 39 > 57, Llano 0 > 33

The World’s Oldest Young Birder?

In lieu of actually registering for events, I sort of ended up tagging along with the Young Birder crowd for the day, despite being old enough to be parents to at least half of them.  And mostly because I knew a lot of the folks there from Facebook.

This proved an excellent decision, not least because the young birders of Texas are talented, knowledgeable, and chock-full of energy — had I been by myself, I doubt I’d have had half the species total by the end of the day.  But also, I’d say we got pretty darn lucky — not many days where you’ll see multiple Burrowing, Great Horned, and Short-eared Owls all in broad daylight!

We ended up hitting three counties (Williamson, Bell, Travis) over today’s travels, starting near Granger Lake, continuing to Berry Springs Park in Georgetown, and then taking a trip down to Mueller Lake in Austin to attempt some stakeout birds.  We had some misses: Mountain Plover refused to show, and we couldn’t pull in Barn Owl or American Bittern from the Austin side-trip.  Still, the birds we DID find more than made up for it – highlights included two Short-eared Owls flushed from a bluestem prairie while searching for Le Conte’s Sparrow (also seen!); a Red-headed Woodpecker hammering on a massive, ancient Bur Oak; an immature Bald Eagle coming in low over Meadow Lake in Round Rock, and a high-flying Peregrine Falcon seen from the parking lot at Mueller Lake Park in Austin.

Lots more to report since there’s one more birding day before it’s back to nine-to-five!  To be updated in more detail later!

Total species: 84

Year birds:  (100 > 115Burrowing Owl, Wilson’s Snipe, Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Horned Lark, McCown’s Longspur, Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, House Wren, Winter Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Common Grackle, Belted Kingfisher, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon

Williamson (135 > 150), Bell (34 > 39)