Bayou Birds

More bird action from Houston’s bayous and parks. (21 photos) Houston Heights Bird Sanctuary, Woodland Park Bird Sanctuary, Buffalo Bayou, Brays Bayou, and White Oak Bayou.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Buffalo Bayou is home to a large bat colony at the Waugh Street bridge and I got to watch a Red-shouldered Hawk trying repeatedly to snatch a bat from under there. It would swoop up to one of the narrow crevices where they nest, and then rebound as there is no perch. The hawk posed for me in a nearby tree in between attempts. It left empty-taloned as far as I could tell. I see red-shoulders here most every visit and believe this to be home territory for at least two.

Downy Woodpecker
Continue reading “Bayou Birds”

Recent Photos: Houston in January

Red-shouldered Hawk

There’s a variety of woodsy enclaves within Houston’s sprawling metropolitan car colony, including the Central Park of the South, Memorial Park, as well as a number of bayou parks. Little islands where the cars are not allowed and they have to sit in lots while their owners walk around pretending that nature still exists. I gravitate to these spaces and manage to find some wildlife to photograph as well.

Carolina Chickadee
Eastern Phoebe
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Red-vented Bulbul
Northern Cardinal
Red-eared Sliders

Due to the ceaseless work of bacteria and fungi, dead things gradually melt back into the biosphere which is cyclically alive, trees falling into the hungry mouth of tomorrow’s forest, like eggs laying chickens.

2020: My Year in Birds

Bird photographs from this year. (27 photos). I wanted to do a 2020 retrospective about something besides all the things that nobody ever wants to think about ever again, ever. And I think you know what I’m talking about.

On January 1st each year I reset my Year List and start counting bird sightings all over again. I went out that day and made a life-bird with this Couch’s Kingbird, seen at Corps Woods in Galveston. The photo here is from March, but I logged this bird repeatedly for over 3 months at this location. All photos Nikon Coolpix P900, in the Houston/Galveston area, Texas, US. Order is generally but not strictly chronological.

Couch’s Kingbird, Corps Woods, Galveston.
White-eyed Vireo, East End residential neighborhood, Galveston.
Savannah Sparrow, Seawall Blvd., Galveston.
Cattle Egret, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Carolina Wren, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Roseate Spoonbill and Neotropic Cormorant, 8 Mile Road, Galveston.
Red-shouldered Hawk, Kempner Park, Galveston
Osprey, Bolivar Lighthouse, Bolivar Peninsula.
Eastern Meadowlark, Apffel Park, Galveston
Snowy Egrets, 8 Mile Road, Galveston
White-tailed Kite, Settegast Rd. Galveston.
American Wigeon, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Eastern Kingbird, Artist Boat, Galveston.
Green-winged Teal, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Indigo Bunting, Corps Woods, Galveston.
Reddish Egret, East Beach, Galveston.
Spotted Sandpiper, White Oak Bayou, Houston.
Red-vented Bulbul, The Heights, Houston.
Great Blue Heron, Brays Bayou, Houston.
Brown Thrasher, Houston Arboretum
Wood Duck, Bray’s Bayou, Houston
American Goldfinch, Buffalo Bayou, Houston

Some Houston Birds

The Brown Thrasher was having a dust bath on the trail at Houston Arboretum, the rest were found at the bayous around town. Never caught such a low angle on a Great Blue Heron before.

Lite Birding, Houston | Galveston

A few bird photos from here in Houston and down in Galveston, where the mosquitoes, as Shakespeare famously put it, “come not single spies, but in battalions.” I have rarely seen the watery lowlands of Galveston so swarmed with them. Must be the recent rains. This is a Great Blue Heron, unmistakable large wader seen commonly everywhere in this part of the country.

I’ve misidentified this one as Solitary Sandpiper before, but it’s a Spotted Sandpiper in non-breeding form.

Cormorants down on White Oak Bayou. It looks like the cops have ordered them to raise their wings and don’t move. Well, they are black, and they weren’t doing anything but existing which is what passes for probable cause these days. A couple of Snowy Egrets in there too, both abiding by the law as far as anyone can tell. I could take this racial angle here and run with it, but I think I’ll just spare you and let it drop. I trust you get it. Black Lives Matter.

Low angle of morning sunshine at the bayou. There’s a busy paved trail for walkers, runners, and bikers not shown in the foreground. I literally had to wait for a gap in traffic to get this exposure.

Brother Rabbit is not like these other birds, indeed, what is he even doing here? Unlike country rabbits, this city boy could not have cared less about the people passing by a few yards away.

Not much bird action down in Galveston, which was the main reason I drove down, but I did get some banking done and had breakfast at Mi Abuelita’s so I can’t complain. A Black-bellied Whistling Duck and a White Ibis are #BFF at Lafitte’s Cove.

Some Mottled Ducks, same locale.

Caught this Reddish Egret at East Beach, fishing a big puddle remaining from our recent brush with the downgraded TS Beta. At the ship channel I noticed a large bird diving for fish and registered pelican but then I saw it had a forked tail. (Warning: this vehicle brakes suddenly for bird sightings.) It was a Magnificent Frigatebird that I was able to observe a few minutes at a range too distant for a photo attempt. At Corps Woods I found an unusually gregarious Brown Thrasher that repeatedly perched out in the open just long enough to almost get a photo, but no longer.

Birding

Cooper’s Hawk

Birding can be difficult to understand for the uninitiated. I have many times spoken excitedly with coworkers about a bird I’d seen that morning and sensed that they were feigning interest while quietly wishing I’d just hurry up and finish my story. (I do the same thing when people talk excitedly about their favorite team winning a game.) If you haven’t made the connection yourself, it is hard to see what the fuss is about.

There are two main types of birding: planned and unplanned. Unplanned is the best—it’s like getting an unexpected bonus. A third kind is a blend of the two, just noticing local bird-life as you go about your day, the no-big-deal birds because you see them all the time. This is still birding, but not the kind you write home about. So between the three, we are always either birding, or ready to be birding on short notice. Sometimes we eat and get some sleep.

I was taking a small bag of garbage out to the receptacle on the street the other morning and noticed a bird, startled by my presence, flush from the ground in the empty lot across the street. The lot there is cleared for new construction and I see doves, pigeons, and sparrows there all the time, but this bird was bigger so I stopped and focused. It was a hawk of some kind, with prey in its grip, flying straight into our property.

I went back in the gate and looked around, but could not spot it. Then a few minutes later I heard the Blue Jays start squawking and crying. This is reliable hawk-alert behavior for jays. They hate raptors and are fearless in their efforts to expel them from their territory. They will scream and dive-bomb a hawk until it gets fed up and leaves. This I have seen many times now. So I followed the noise and located the bird, halfway up an oak, perched on a thick branch and dining on its prey. I could see the striped tail and for sure had a Cooper’s Hawk up there.

On the rooftop.

This tree happens to be located next to the apartment building so I grabbed my camera and headed to the rooftop with the intention of sneaking up and getting a photo. There’s plenty of foliage between myself and the oak up there, but I did find a gap that afforded a nice view, without the hawk noticing me. The above photo is the result.

I watched for a while as the jays kept at it, the hawk ignoring them and picking away it is victim. I could not see what unlucky bird it was, but statistically most likely a White-winged Dove, the most plentiful hawk prey around here.

So there you have it: I was minding my own business, doing a mundane chore, and all of a sudden I’m birding. I know what you’re thinking and you are right: we birders are all nuts. What we do borders on the sort of compulsive behavior that some would think needs treatment. Maybe so, but as maladies go this one is pretty enjoyable.

Red-vented Bulbul

Exotic resident of the Heights, Houston, Texas, US.

I had caught glimpse of this bird several times since I moved here and was stumped on the ID. That white rump patch is distinct and not present on any other North American bird of this general size and shape. Not to mention the bright red below. Finally got a photo and tracked it down. Red-vented Bulbul is an Asian transplant, introduced and established in a number of countries around the world. In the US its range is limited to Houston, TX with highest concentrations in the neighborhood where I live now.

eBird reported sightings: that’s Houston, Texas buried under that cluster of map pins.

Having done web searches on its description and coming up with nothing, I fed the image above into Google Lens and it popped out the correct answer without so much a moment’s hesitation. Another handy bird ID tool.

African Blue Basil

The neighbors keep bees and they sure love that basil. It’s a really large bush covered in blossoms now, and bees.

Inca Dove

Lots of Incas around here.

Mannequin head scarecrow is now sporting a facer. Smart lad! I saw a Carolina Wren poking around at the rear opening to his hollow head.

Cardinal Rules

At the very break of dawn
they rouse us from our bed

Their calls addressed to everyone
awake, asleep or dead

You know us in the daylight
by our bright and piercing red

In the dark you know us
by the noise we make, instead

Dealing with thick stands of bamboo is a new birding experience for me. The property here is surrounded by them. Birds enjoy excellent protection within the maze of vertical shafts: no Sharpie is going to swoop in there, that’s for sure. No telephoto lens will penetrate either.

I hear cardinals all the time around here, but rarely see them. I was on the fourth floor, the roof of the stacks, when I caught this one, and still I’m aiming up its skirt as it sways on a bamboo pole some 20 feet above.

House Finch

They visit the sunflowers here every morning.

They’re awfully spooky for an urban population. I finally had to stake out the bush from the rooftop.

Crescent Pond

Mercifully cool early in the morning on July 4th.

Ever seduced by the cult of surfaces. Morning light is when they rally to recruit new members. The gallery of nobs above is a detail of a sculpture whose final appearance is still under development by the steady hand of time and weather.