Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Birdwatching’

Texas Birding Trip: Birds of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

January 3, 2015 Leave a comment

In my last post, I wrote about Whooping Cranes and the trip I took to see them at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The Whooping Cranes were the highlight of that trip, but the refuge is home to many other bird species. Here are a few pictures of birds and other wildlife at the refuge:

pelicans

Brown and American White Pelicans

Both species of pelican that occur in North America were quite common in the area.  The smaller Brown Pelicans are coastal species and occur in the area year-round and breed there. American White Pelicans, however, are generally migratory, although there are populations in Texas and Mexico that do not migrate.

These two pelican species have different foraging styles. Brown Pelicans will dive for their food, and I frequently saw them dive straight into the water from the air. American White Pelicans do not dive like that and scoop prey from the water. They will also steal food from other species, especially cormorants.

more pelicans

Brown Pelicans and a Neotropical Cormorant

The above picture shows three adult and one juvenile Brown Pelican. The dark brown bird is the juvenile. Note also the white necks on the adults. Adult Brown Pelicans have white necks when they are not breeding, while during the breeding season, the backs of their necks will be dark brown.

The black bird in above picture is a Neotropical Cormorant. Cormorants are frequently seen in the company of pelicans and both Neotropical and Double-crested Cormorants occur on the south Texas coast. These two cormorant species are not always easy to differentiate, although the neotropicals are smaller, have shorter beaks, and have longer tails. The shape of the gular (throat) pouch also differs between the two species.

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

I actually took the above photo in Lethbridge, Alberta, but it shows one structural difference between breeding and non-breeding American White Pelicans. During the early breeding season, American White Pelicans develop a round, horny disk on the top mandible of the beak. This is lost after the breeding season.

pelicans_etc

Brown Pelicans,  Cormorant, Caspian Terns (with red beaks), and Gull-billed Tern (back left)

I managed to see quite a few “lifer” birds on the trip, as I’d never been to the east coast. A “lifer” would be a bird that I had never seen before. The Gull-billed Tern (seen in the above photo) and the Neotropical Cormorant were lifers for me. It’s always exciting to see a see a new species, and ever better for me if I can get a decent picture.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Osprey were very common, but I also managed to see a Peregrine Falcon. Peregrines are well-known for having the fastest dive speed among birds, as they can reach speeds of 320 km/hour during a dive. The species was considered endangered in the United States during the mid twentieth century, and population declines were largely due to the use of organochlorine pesticides (primarily DDT). These pesticides caused females to lay eggs with thin shells. The species has since made a recovery due to DDT bans and the release of captive-bred birds.

turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Shorebirds are abundant on the gulf coast during winter, as many species that breed further north overwinter there. Shown above is a Ruddy Turnstone. They spend the winters on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the USA and breed in the high Arctic. Their breeding plumage is much sharper than their winter plumage.

Willet

Willet

Willets (one is shown above) are medium shorebirds that overwinter on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and breed on the north Atlantic coast and inland in central Canada and the northwestern USA. They are rather plain shorebirds, but in flight, they are easy to recognize due to the sharp, black and white striped patterns they have on the undersides of their wings.

egret

Snowy Egret

Herons were also quite common, and the above photo shows a Snowy Egret (which is in the heron family).  Cattle Egrets, Great Egrets, and Reddish Egrets also occur in the area.

dolphin

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin

Dolphins were also quite common and often swam beside or behind the boat. I also saw several dolphins while on a boat trip off of South Padre Island.

curlews

Long-billed Curlew

I took the photo of the above bird (a Long-billed Curlew) in a field between Harlingen and Corpus Christi. A very large flock of curlews was foraging in the field. Long-billed Curlews often forage for worms in pastures and their long bills help them probe deep into mud. On coasts, where some birds overwinter, they will forage for shrimp and crabs and can often reach them in their mud burrows.

A Ferruginous Hawk and Sprague’s Pipit were also present alongside the curlews. These three species are declining in Canada (the Ferruginous Hawk is particularly scarce), so seeing all of them in one spot was quite thrilling for me.  I couldn’t get a decent picture of the hawk (it was too far away), but here’s a photo of one I took near Mountain View, Alberta.

ferr

Ferruginous Hawk

The Texas pictures were all taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 camera. It has a 60X zoom lens, so I didn’t have to get too close to the birds to get decent pictures.

Brazil Trip Part Five: Other Birds

July 30, 2009 2 comments

Today, I am going to share photos of  some of the “non-parrot” birds I saw in Brazil.

This first set of  photos is of birds  I saw in and around Pirenopolis, a town about 150 km from Brasilia. It was a nice town to visit.

A burrowing owl outside its den in a horse pasture. They were surprisingly common.

A burrowing owl outside its den in a horse pasture. They were surprisingly common.

Heron

Whistling Heron

A kingfisher.

A (ringed?) kingfisher. Kingfishers are one of my favorite bird types. They're very beautiful.

Red-legged Seriema. These were quite common in open areas, such as in cattle pastures.

Red-legged Seriema. These were quite common in open areas, such as in cattle pastures.

Toco Toucan eating palm fruits.

Toco Toucan eating palm fruits.

This next set of pictures was taken at the Parque das Nacoes Indigenas in Campo Grande, which was right across from the hotel I stayed at. This park is quite big and has a lot of birds, in addition to a herd of capybara. There are also museums around it and a restaurant.

Bittern

A Campo Flicker.

A Campo Flicker.

A Great Kiskadee. These guys are very common, both in the countryside and in cities. This guy was banging the heck out of that nut to get it open.

A Great Kiskadee. These guys are very common, both in the countryside and in cities. This guy was banging the heck out of that nut to break it into bite-sized pieces.

And now for bird pictures taken in the countryside of the southern Pantanal region.

Crested Caracara. They are very common in the Pantanal. They're pretty flexible and will scavenge but can also hunt.

Crested Caracara. They are very common in the Pantanal. They're pretty flexible and will scavenge but can also hunt. They're like a raptor crossed with a crow.

Chestnut-eared Aracari, a small species of toucan.

Chestnut-eared Aracari, a small species of toucan.

Rheas, South America's version of the ostrich.

Rheas, South America's version of the ostrich.

Screamers, screaming.

Screamers, screaming.

Guinea Fowl, a domestic bird that originated in sub-Saharan Africa. I just found it funny that they would chase the truck.

Guinea Fowl, a domestic bird that originated in sub-Saharan Africa. I just found it funny that they would chase the truck like this.

Wood Storks.

Wood Storks.

And finally, some Bare-faced Currasows I saw at a farm near Bonito:

The male.

The male.

A pair. The male is the black one.

A pair. The male is the black one.

The next post in this series will show pictures of the mammals I saw.

Related Posts:

Brazil Trip Part One: Yellow-chevroned Parakeets and Peach-fronted Conures

Brazil Trip Part Two: Nanday Conures and Blue-fronted Amazons

Brazil Trip Part Three: Quaker Parakeets

Brazil Trip Part Four: Hyacinth and Greewing Macaws, with a bonus Conure!

%d bloggers like this: