Monday, December 24, 2012

Avenue A - Dec. 24, 2102

It was too perfect a day to just sit around, so we decided to take a morning birding walk along River Road and Avenue A here in San Antonio.

The area was the birdiest it's been in recent memory, giving us 27 species of birds. They were all in pockets of mixed flocks, and mostly where there was an abundance of berries and seed grasses.

I think our favorite birds of the day were a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches foraging near each other. There seems to be a larger number of these in the area this winter and I'm enjoying every encounter.

Also delightful was seeing a White-eyed Vireo and a Blue-headed Vireo. They're both very pretty birds and it's always a treat to see the former.

I took a few photographs by the levee area and am posting them below, followed by the day's list. (I know I took some photos of a Great Egret, but they seem to have disappeared sigh!) Enjoy!

Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

Red-tailed Hawk perched before being mobbed by Mockingbirds and Blue Jays.

Couch's Kingbird

Couch's Kingbird
The list:

Choke Canyon - Dec. 23, 2012

With a long weekend and beautiful weather, we decided it was time to take a trip down to Choke Canyon State Park. Our friends from New Jersey, Gordon and Nancy joined us.

It being the Sunday before Xmas, FM 99, usually busy with large semi trucks from the Eagle Ford oil projects, was empty enough to allow us some "old time" birding. Though not as birdy as in the past, it still gave us a good start to the day.

Disappointment hit when we reached the Choke Canyon reservoir areas near the intersection of 99 and 72. They are virtually dried up, with virtually no habitat for the usual ducks, shorebirds, kingfishers, cormorants, anhinga, etc.

However, the area wasn't totally devoid of interest. We saw a bird of prey in the distance, which I desperately wanted to turn into a Bat Falcon because of its bright coloration. It turned out to be a magnificently colored juvenile Northern Harrier, which became apparent when we saw its owl-like facial disks through the scope.

I also managed to get a great shot of a Double-crested Cormorant, certainly not an unusual bird for the area, but posed perfectly for me to use for one of my bird mugs at a future date. (Advertisement: You can find my pottery here.)

Birding in the park was good. The parking lot by the old swimming pool had a Vermilion Flycatcher on every tree, most of them fully feathered males.

The nearby Bird Trail was also active, with mixed flocks of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-crested Titmouse, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. At the back end of the trail, by the water pumping area, we had our "difficult" bird of the day. (You need at least one or your trip hasn't been worthwhile, say I.)

It was a Kingbird, but was much too light for it to easily be counted as a Couch's Kingbird, the most likely in the park this time of year. The three of us who saw it all agreed it was right for a Western Kingbird; but they aren't supposed to be there in December. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to photograph it, so it might well remain a conundrum, unless someone refinds the bird.

Once again, as in our past several visits, Olive Sparrows were nowhere to be seen. I wonder if the prolonged drought has affected their habitat that much?

As usual, butterflies caught our eye and I managed to get photos of two different species: 


I'm not sure what type of butterfly this is.
From there, we drove over to 75 Acre Lake, where there were interesting birds -- just on the opposite shores. However, with the scope, we were able to see well enough through the late morning heat shimmer to identify a good number of ducks, shorebirds, and a couple of Harris's Hawks.

The interesting birds here were four Black-winged Stilts past their season (though not as unlikely as that Kingbird!).

We also saw the good-sized Alligator that tends to inhabit this body of water.

After a quick drive through the RV area, with nothing of interest, we drove to the exit of the park and came upon about six Northern Bobwhite by the side of the road. Three flew off as we approached. The remaining three seems unbothered by my photographic efforts, the best of which I share below.

And, before the day's list, I leave you with one of the park's mammals, reaching young adulthood.

The list: