Southwest Texas: Building the List

Vermilion Flycatcher

It was challenging for many reasons to get photographs on this day. The birds were far away. They were backlit. They were hiding behind branches of trees or leaves of cactus. It was somewhat cloudy. And yet I was surprised to finally go through all the pictures more thoroughly and find some images I didn’t know I had. Most of all, it is great to get a feel for the landscape where the birds and other creatures were.

Saving the big hike for the following day, we explored the low-lying areas along the Rio Grande.

White-winged Dove

Most of these birds we continued to see throughout the trip, like the Say’s Phoebe below. I like the cactus cover this bird was using.

Say’s Phoebe

Mexican Jays are stunning. I don’t think we ever saw more than two at one time. They were somewhat elusive.

Mexican Jay

We saw Roadrunners on occasion but not close enough or long enough to get really good pictures. Maybe we were too distracted by our search for less common species.

It must be West Texas – there’s a Greater Roadrunner!

Hearing and barely seeing a Bell’s Vireo is a big event where I come from, so witnessing their incessant chatter and then getting such great views was heaven for me.

I adore Ravens and tried to get photographs whenever I could.

Common Raven

We spent some time locating and then looking at this Tropical Parula. It was so far away I wasn’t at all sure I got a photograph so I was surprised to find a few that were in focus. So I guess it was good I was carrying around my monster lens most of the time, although by the end of the trip it was starting to fall apart…

This Turkey Vulture is actually kind of cute. Snazzy pink legs and face to match.

Turkey Vulture, posing

Vermillion Flycatchers were almost everywhere. I like the female’s subdued plumage.

I think Western Wood Pewee was a new bird for me.

Western Wood Pewee

I got only one distant fuzzy shot of the male Varied Bunting, bottom right.

We were privileged to have good, long looks at a perched Zone-Tailed Hawk. You can just barely see the trademark tail band tucked underneath the tips of its folded wings.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are beautiful. Without the monster lens I would not have captured this detail.

Swainson’s Hawk

The Gray Hawk is…well…very gray.

There were more Scott’s Orioles to be seen, but even though this one was quite far away, I love the vegetation it has decided to perch on.

Scott’s Oriole
The Rio Grande
Inca Dove
House Finch
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

The Cordilleran Flycatcher was a new bird for me. I wish I’d gotten a better photograph, but this at least gives me an idea in case I am lucky enough to see one again.

Cordilleran Flycatcher

The gray day didn’t do this Acorn Woodpecker justice, but I still think of The Joker.

Acorn Woodpecker
Some of the dramatic landscape surrounding the Zone-Tailed Hawk’s perch.

It will take me some time to process the rest of this trip’s pictures, but I get to savor my memories a little bit longer. In the meantime, we keep wondering when summer will arrive in the Chicago area. While I am glad it’s not hot, it’s been colder and wetter than I ever remember for mid-June. I hope your summer solstice is going well.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Common Potoo 02-23-2016-3934

The bird above is a sleeping Common Potoo, a nocturnal species. Now see if you can find the bird in the photo below.

Find the Potoo 02-23-2016-3922

How our guide ever saw the bird in the first place is beyond comprehension. But the same day, one of our net-tending participants found the practically invisible hummingbird nest below. The only way I could find the spot with my camera was to look for the orange leaf.

Hummer on Nest 02-23-2016-4173

The birds at the lodge feeders were much easier to spot. An Inca Dove and a Rufous-Naped Wren.

And birds in the hand, as always, were the easiest to see. Except you hardly ever see the whole hummingbird. Below, a Stripe-Throated Hermit and a Blue-Throated Goldentail.

Below, a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher on the left and a female Painted Bunting on the right.

The bird below found its way into my net. It is a Yellow-Billed Cacique.

The Ivory-Billed Woodcreeper below was on a tree near my net. Much more common than an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker!

Below, a Tropical Kingbird and another Black-Headed Trogon.

There is nothing new about a Turkey Vulture but it’s nice when you can see the field marks.

Turkey Vulture 02-23-2016-4217More photographs to come from my trip to Nicaragua. Below, one of many stunning overlooks.

Landscape 02-23-2016-4224

 

Return from Nicaragua

Turquoise-Browed Motmot 2-21-15-2433

Turquoise-Browed Motmot

I got back home late Sunday night, almost Monday morning, so I did not go to work on Monday but spent most of my day cleaning, buying groceries, doing laundry, catching up on the domestic situation that always changes when you live in an aviary.

It will take me a few days to go through all the photographs, but I wanted to share a few in the interim, before the snow melts and I get distracted by spring migration.

Rufous=and-white Wren 2-21-15-3328

Rufous-and-White Wren

Our Operation Rubythroat group in Nicaragua, which now has been named “NicaNetters ’16,” met at the airport in Managua on Saturday afternoon, and we loaded up into the bus with our gracious and capable driver Carlos and superb local guide Alejandro Cesar Lee to the Montibelli Private Natural Reserve which is outside of Ticuantepe.

The original plan for the trip was to band Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and other neotropical migrants, but before we left the States we had to accept an unforeseen change of itinerary, which meant that we would not be setting up nets in the usual fashion. But our surprise upon arrival was finding out that we would indeed be setting up mist nets at least for the three days we had at Montibelli: Alejandro had banding experience and it was worth a try. I was particularly happy for the participants who had not been on one of these expeditions before, so that they would have the experience of what it is like to do this sort of thing.

Of course whenever we set up mist nets we catch some of the local resident species too. Below is the Turquoise-Browed Motmot in the hand.

Now whenever I see a dove I am reminded of my Diamond Doves at home. We’ll get back to them in a later post. This is an Inca Dove.

Inca Dove 2-21-15-2394Our first day we caught the beautiful Rufous-Capped Warbler below.

And we also had one or two Cinnamon Hummingbirds, which are probably the most common hummingbird species in this region. Below is one I managed to capture out of the hand. I hope to find a better picture as I go through them.

Cinnamon Hummingbird 2-21-15-2455

Cinnamon Hummingbird

After our first morning of setting up nets and monitoring in the field, my roommate Kathy and I got back to our room after lunch for a short break from the midday heat. Not long after we were ready to relax, there was a knock on the door. Our next-door neighbor had the beautiful bird below right outside his window. This is a Black-Headed Trogon.

Black-Headed Trogon 2-21-15-3615I spent much of the trip trying to get a picture of the bird below that was not in the hand, but the species eluded me until the last couple days when a good number of them were hanging out at the hotel where we were staying. I will return to continue the story more chronologically as I go through more pictures. But I just could not resist sharing this White-Fronted Magpie-Jay with you. The tail goes on forever.White-Fronted Magpie Jay 2-26-15-4625It’s good to be back, and thanks for stopping by!