Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse

A little behind on my posting, but here we go! A couple of missed trips mean I likely won't clear 100 for January, but I came awfully close. Next weekend, I might be able to add up to 50 more species.

Last weekend,  a bike ride in Jesse Jones Park in Houston gave me two common woodland species that had evaded me up until then.

It was also neat to see my first Texas Brown Creeper, not new to my year list though. One of the neat things about this park was a small pond that, on first glance, did not seem to contain any life. Upon closer inspection though, I found many frogs and even a Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake. Cool!

These two species brought me up to a total of 91.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Active feeding!

Over the Christmas holidays, I took some photographs of feeding nuthatches and I thought I would share them with you so as to illustrate some of the effort that these little guys put into this common daily activity!

Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the way nuthatches feed perfectly, "an intense ball of energy" is exactly what they are!

When they start hacking away, usually their legs are the only part of their bodies not moving!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


When large metropolis' coincide with wildlife and nature, there is invariably accidents. These accidents usually end up with nature coming out on the losing end. Nature sometimes benefits as well though. Sometimes, nature can adapt to the hustle and bustle of human living and actually benefit and thrive from this. Such is the way with vultures.
The other day, I was walking along a bayou here in Houston when I spotted a black clump in the grass not too far ahead.
This clump was a group of black vultures, 6 in total, with 9 more hanging around in the surrounding area. This meant that they must have found a dead animal and that they were feasting on it. This animal was roadkill, an unfortunate victim of our hustling and bustling. As mentioned before though, some creatures, such as vultures, benefit from this. The black vultures didn't stick around very long and as soon as they saw me they flew away.
The black vulture does not have as good scent as the Turkey Vulture and tends, therefore, to follow Turkey vultures to carcasses where they proceed to drive the Turkey Vultures away from the meal. As soon as the Black Vultures saw me and flew away, the Turkey Vultures came in for their share.
When they came in, I started to creep closer and closer, not only for a better look, but also out of curiosity of what roadkill they were eating. While I moved somewhat stealthily closer, one vulture unfurled it's wings and gave me good looks at it's impressive 1.8 meter wingspan.
That wingspan is roughly 5 feet, 11 inches, which is well over half a foot taller than I am! I continued to crawl in closer until I was incredibly close.
I then found out what it was the vultures were eating...
And it was...
An opossum, as you might be able to tell by the foot in this photo. I feel bad for the poor guy... Some interesting bird behavior to see though, especially the hierarchy of vultures, where Black Vultures are not as skilled but are instead big bullies, chasing away Turkey Vultures from the food that the latter found.  I also took a photo in which I really saw why Turkey Vultures are called what they are
Doesn't he just look like a turkey!?!

Friday, January 13, 2012

80 and counting!!!

Well folks, I am at 80 and counting!!! And all this without more than 4 serious birding trips! I'm off to a good start! My goal was to be at least at 100 by the end of January; however, now, I think I will set a more difficult objective of 150.

January 7th really was a great day. I was hoping to get some of the trickier species in my neighborhood off the list and not only did a get some, I got them all!!! The following are tricky to find in my community and made the "tricky" list. They were: Snowy Egret, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Pine Warbler and Brown Thrasher. I got all of these with some great added bonuses I don't usually find around here including House Wren, Greater Yellowlegs and Carolina Chickadee.

The Greater Yellowlegs I found in a spot that usually doesn't have any birds, this day though, there was A Great and a Snowy Egret, a White Ibis, 2 Killdeer, a Great Blue Heron and the yellowlegs! Wild!

At a soccer game I added Peregrine Falcon and Orange-crowned Warbler and while traveling to another game I spotted White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Coot and Double-crested Cormorant.

I am now feeling really good about this and a trip to Galveston will hopefully help me out even more!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My not-so-Common Redpolls

My yard in southeast Calgary has gathered a fairly respectable list; about 90 species of birds have visited it in the last 10 years. The Common Redpoll is on this list, having been seen in my yard once in 2009 for all of about 10 seconds. For whatever reason, my community is not favored by redpolls. This year, though, they were everywhere, including my yard.
On December 23, I had a redpoll in my yard for almost half an hour. And not only was it in my yard, but it visited my feeders as well.
We have been seeing so many finches this winter likely because it is an irruption year; a year when food sources (such as catkins and cone crops for finches and lemmings for Snowy Owls) are hard come by on these birds' normal wintering grounds.
It's neat for me to be able to see birds I don't usually see in my backyard, such as the not-so-Common ( in my neighborhood) Redpoll.

Posted by Matthew Sim

Monday, January 2, 2012

Good Start

I've had a good start to the new Year and my Big Year, getting some species that could be tricky off my list on the first day, including Red and White-winged Crossbills, Rough-legged Hawk, Brown Creeper, Pine Grosbeak, Bohemian Waxwing and Boreal Chickadee. I flew in from Calgary to Houston today and proceeded to get some more common species off the list, Kestrel, vultures, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Egret, Mockingbird, American Pipit, Killdeer, etc.

On the mammal front, on the 1rst, I found Eastern Grey and Red Squirrel, Coyote and White-tailed Jackrabbit.

So far, so good!
This coming weekend my goal is to reach 70; might be tough, but we'll see!