Big Bend National Park

Some time in 2016, I started throwing around  a rumor with my coworker that if we ever got done with the largest work project ever, we need to reward ourselves with a big trip. Well that trip came about April 10, 2017!!

BIG project getting done merits a BIG reward…where else but BIG Bend National Park?

Here is a chronological presentation of some of the wonders in flight which we observed:

The first subject: a Great-tailed Grackle at the Midland-Odessa airport!

Ferruginous Hawk hunting on the roadside

White-winged Dove (spotted just as we started up the Summit Trail of the Chisos Mountains portion of the park)

Rufous-crowned Sparrow (a little shy at first)

…but eventually he loosened up in song!

Mexican Jay (proud and loud, lots of them on the Summit Trail)

…another one, hiding (using the “I can’t see you, you can’t see me rule)…

…and another one. He did a bit better hiding, but he’s still in relatively plain sight, don’t you think? 😀

And a Black-crested Titmouse, a bird cute enough to hang as a Christmas tree ornament!

Brotttthhhhhher, where are you??

Western Kingbird (OK, so you can’t see the bird that well, but it is a very grand background)

Varied Bunting (ID-d by, you guessed it, sound)

Pyrrhuloxia (agreed to give us one glamour shot)

…but then it became bashful

Loggerhead Shrike (impales lizards and such on pointed sticks)

Scaled Quail (believe it or not, there is one in this picture)

…and here is the inset of his stylish crested head!

Black-throated Sparrow

Ash-throated Flycatcher (very inquisitive bird; beautiful too)

Say’s Phoebe, helping out with Border Patrol (that’s the building on the right)

…and a meditative end to a spectacular trip…with this lone White-winged Dove outside the hotel window.

And last but certainly not least, here are some of the vistas available to those hiking and driving through the park.

Thanks for reading (gazing, more like it!)

 

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An amazing day at home

I am generally too clumsy to claim any real bird-stalking prowess. So I am grateful to God for the amazing experiences just outside my window.

Just yesterday, I had the delight of seeing a beautiful, very shy bird in my yard. I have always moved too fast to get a picture and scared it away. This time, I moved very slowly and raised my camera when it was turned away from me. This is the rest of the story:

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I did not realize the tail was reddish like this.

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In side profile, see the characteristic “mustache”

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In North Carolina, the season is also a cue: Hermit Thrush is the lone winter thrush (unless you count in the American Robin–but no ID difficulties there!!).

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And at last, the dapper front spots and streaks

Visits like this are a good reminder for keeping my bird bath clean and watered! 🙂

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An amazing trip – Day 1

Here are some photographs from a May 2016 trip to Delaware (Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge). This trip was during migration.

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See just a field? Zoom in! There is a Horned Lark running about feeding.

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Now I recognize him! See the characteristic black mask and buff chin.

And we are just getting started. This was the evening before the actual day out. It was raining lightly, so I was pleased to see any birds.

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Purple Martins hanging out

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Incoming (from the right)

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And, once they’re done with the roof sauna, they can chill out on the windy highlands of their gourds.

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Common Yellowthroat

3_Cedar Waxwing.JPG

Cedar Waxwing

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Yellow Warbler (there were LOTS)

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Flycatcher (don’t know which one)

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Tree Swallow

7_Yellow Warbler singing.JPG

Yellow Warbler (singing “sweet-sweet-sweet-litt-le-more-sweet”)

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Peregrine Falcon (with captured shorebird)

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Snowy Egret (reminds me of grumpy old man)

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Black-necked Stilt

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Red-winged Blackbird

I captured the Red-winged Blackbird (and almost all of the marsh-bird photos) from my car. Bombay Hook has thirteen miles of road that winds through the marsh and forest.

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Common Grackle

14_Great Black-backed Gull (young) flying toward Eagle feasting on turtle.JPG

Great Black-backed Gull immature (foreground) Bald Eagle consuming tortoise (background)

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Gull and Semipalmated Plover (left background)

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Dunlin (these were quite abundant)

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Mixed crowd of Sanderling (little birds) and Dunlin (bigger black-bellied birds)

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Willet

19_Snowy Egret taking flight.JPG

Snowy Egret taking flight

20_Black-necked Stilt feeding.JPG

Black-necked Stilt foraging

21_Blue Grosbeak from gravel to grass closer.JPG

a Blue Grosbeak that let me follow him a ways

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Swainson’s Thrush? — looks more buff-colored than a Hermit Thrush

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Iceland Gull (exciting!)

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Great Egret (the wise old man)

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Sedge Wren (formerly called the Short-billed Marsh Wren)

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Another glossy Common Grackle

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Mallard and Bufflehead (“Dabble” and “Dive”)

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Diving Bufflehead

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Resurfacing Bufflehead

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Great Egret (wise man out for a stroll)

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Short-billed Dowitcher

35_Semipalmated Sandpiper.JPG

Semipalmated Sandpiper

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a more regal shot of the Red-winged Blackbird

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Great Black-backed Gull

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Glossy Ibis

40_Black-necked Stilt taking off.JPG

the Black-necked Stilts taking off (I’ve never seen anybody move so fast on stilts)

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Greater Yellowlegs

42_Blue Grosbeak chilling out.JPG

Blue Grosbeak

43_Great Blue Heron.JPG

Great Blue Heron

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Red-winged Blackbird (female)

And last but not least, the sneaky fox:

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Holiday Bird Sightings

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Tufted Titmouse checking out a birdhouse intended for Brown Nuthatches

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Eastern Phoebe

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The rightful Brown-headed Nuthatch owner (even if his head looks grey here)

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Showing his true colors now (*Brown*-headed Nuthatch)

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Hermit Thrush (front) and White-Throated Sparrow

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Hermit Thrush

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White-Throated Sparrow

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White-Throated Sparrow among the thirty-year old patio furniture forest

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White-throated Sparrow attacking the prey (what a nut!)

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Carolina Wren (an NC WREN!)

About this last one, I must say a little more.  Notice the NC specification (not just Carolina, but North Carolina Wren).  When I first got my car, I knew it would fit me perfectly to drive around with the license plate NC WREN.  I am a North Carolina resident, and I love the attitude of these birds.

 

They are vociferous for the right causes (I’m not sure I’ve ever heard bird books or birders call them a “bully bird”), and they are adaptable to the maximum extent.  So adaptable, in fact, that their flexibility in nesting habits–in our observations including old unused shoes and toolbags–and food supplies made them oust the House Wren as most common of its family.  One bird book captions the entry on this bird with a statement as such:

“Baskets, mailboxes, and even pockets of old overcoats provide nesting sites for Carolina Wrens.”

And though other birds in the family are confined to insect and spider diet, the Carolina Wren also dines on small fruit and seeds (Book of North American Birds, 242).

So I am very pleased when anyone recognizes the character behind the cryptic abbreviation.  I hope to use my voice fearlessly wherever it is necessary, and to adapt to an ever-changing and frightening world.

  1. Book of North American Birds. Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1990. Print.
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Dead or alive? Does it matter for a bird sighting?

Fox Sparrow

The rich chestnut color and enormous size of this sparrow distinguish it from others in the Carolinas.

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The question sounds cold, but sticks in my mind, because a Fox Sparrow is an interesting find, not endangered by any means, but not common either.  Certain birders have a sort of pride about stalking and then “pishing” or flushing out the object of their desire, thus validating the life-list item by their mastery of birding techniques.  Obviously this would not qualify by any of those standards.  (“Pishing” is a birder’s imitation of a commonly heard alarm call–think in particular the Tufted Titmouse.)

The most official criterion, though, is simply that one have a photo.  So this one does qualify by that requirement.  Reviewers would remark that the bird is obviously dead, so it would probably be marked as illegitimate.  See E-bird’s Data Quality Control Page for some more information on the evidence citizen science counts and maps expect.

The location is not totally unexpected (NC mountains), but who says that this bird couldn’t have been a late migrant who decided to stop for a bite to eat around our house, then took mortal offense at his challenging reflection?

So I have no firm answers really.  But I am thankful to have witnessed some of God’s beauty manifest in the birds, even in a sad context.

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More birds! Including my favorite, the Field Sparrow

I recently ventured out to a prairie region of McDowell Nature Preserve, hoping to find a few spring-enamored feathered characters.  Here is what I found:

Mockingbird

Mockingbird

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Wood Ducks (three)

Wood Ducks (three)

female Red-Winged Blackbird

female Red-Winged Blackbird

first Field Sparrow of the season

first Field Sparrow of the season

Here are a few older ones, but worthy of inclusion nonetheless:

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler (can you tell I like them, too?)

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch (treasure hunt!!)

God bless and have a good week.

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Five birds from McDowell Nature Preserve and a business park

I more readily identify the Cardinal with the grosbeak family when (s)he has his(her) crest laid flat like this.

I more readily identify the Cardinal with the grosbeak family when (s)he has his(her) crest laid flat like this.

Power line Doves

I took all five of these photos with a Nikon Coolpix L810 26x optical zoom

Ready Robin Shining Bluebird Singing Mockingbird

 

Happy birding, everyone!

 

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