Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Practiced Wink, Functional Cripple, Bottles and Kettles

After being incapable of seeing an Eastern Screech-Owl for most of my life, I am now adept. And let me tell you...seeing screech-owls is excellent. Not seeing them is the opposite of excellent. This Machine Nate knows this individual very well, which lurks next to an apartment complex in Austin.

With all this working, it's hard to go birding. This is no perpetual weekend. That leaves only a weekend to try to fit in both bourbon and birds, and as you have probably learned, those only work when practiced in a particular order. I seem to forget that...regularly. So, I have relatively little photographic evidence of birdlife in California from the past couple of months...although I do have documentation of that not-so-secret-secret Common Black Hawk (note the sparkling new, unhyphenated look that bird name) from Sonoma County, which year after year is ranked as one of the rarest birds seen within our fine, albeit crispy state.

Thus we return to the Collared Plover State....which is, arguably, a state of mind. However, you will not find a Collared Plover in this post. Texans will probably grow livid as they scroll through this post, with it's blatant and unapologetic chachalaca-stroking. To you people I say, tough shit. I have always told you that life is pain, and I don't intend on changing my tune anytime soon.

This screech-owl is one of several that can be seen Estero Llano Grande; specifically, this is the most crushable and least reliable of several there. This is probably the same individual I lifered with back in March. It came back out in May to say goodbye. That is a practiced wink to a #7 birder if I have ever seen one.

Before we get too deep into Texan material, I'd like to announce Officer Adam Searcy's birth into the Birdosphere. He has resurrected Don Mastwell's TPAD, which you may remember is anchored to happenings on vagrant-magnet Southeast Farallon Island. Although we don't know how long Officer Searcy intends to toil in the blog mines for (TPAD 1.0 lasted one year), you should check it out. Daily.  It is rumored that TPAD 2.0 will be more verbose than the first...for good or ill.

Pyrrhuloxias are are not easy to come by in my former Texan home county (Cameron) have to go upriver before they become atrociously abundant. Falcon State Park, TX.

Homely females have almost no aesthetic appeal compared to males...the red frontal blaze is lacking entirely, and she doesn't have much to make up for it. I don't even know what to say about this bird. At least it's not a cardinal. Falcon State Park.

Unlike Pyrrhuloxias, the sexes of Green Jays are equally resplendent. It continues to be a difficult bird for me to wrap my head around. I am really struggling here. How is being so crippling also so functional? And why aren't there more green birds? Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, TX.

Our temperate jays are just no match for subtropical/tropical jays in terms of facemelt capacity. I think Blue Jays are pretty sweet, but most people hate them due to their abundance. Such is life...familiarity breeds contempt. Laguna Atascosa.

Most birders love cuckoos, despite the fact that they make no attempt at melting anyone's face off. I am no different. They don't have to. This Yellow-billed Cuckoo was on South Padre Island, TX.

This Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a bit paler in the face and stronger in the eyering than the individual above. A function of gender? Age? Even #7 must ask questions...from time to time. South Padre Island.

Visit the Valley, and you may find Golden-fronted Woodpecker. However, they occupy a very specific niche; they are strictly found on old fence posts with cacti sprouting from the top. As long as there are aged cactus-topped fence posts, we can be sure that there will be Golden-fronted Woodpeckers for a long, long time. Old Isabel Road, Cameron County, TX.

I kid, of course. Golden-fronteds seem to be everywhere. This is a good thing. Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, Harlingen, TX. 

I got to see numerous Cassin's Sparrows this spring, which is a nice change from the usual number I see during any given year (zero). Though they strictly adhere to The Economy of Style, their flight displays make everything better. Old Isabel Road.

Many birders prefer the Black-throated Sparrow to all other sparrows. Can I blame them? They are truly eye-catching birds, which is a big relief considering they tend to occupy habitats lacking in flashy birds with much species diversity. In California they are at home in open desert habitats; this bird shared a brushcscape with birds like Painted Bunting and Northern Bobwhite. Falcon State Park.

I don't think I've posted an American Redstart yet this year. I was surprised I didn't see more of them down south. As most photographers have figured out already, despite their confiding habits male redstarts are kind of a pain to photograph because they don't look like they have eyes in a lot of lighting situations. South Padre Island, TX.

Here is a weird portrait. I'm not quite sure what is happening in this photo, although it turned out a bit crushy. So intense. South Padre Island.

The valley is sick with White-tipped Doves. They tend to walk around constantly and stay in the shade, so they can be more challenging than you think to get a deec image of. I like that the purple nape is visible here, even though the bird is in the shade. Photographed at Estero Llano Grande.

Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke Bottle. Coke bottle. Sabal Palm Sanctuary. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. Coke bottle. A pleasant sound to hear emanating from the southern woods.

Teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle (this is obviously a Carolina Wren) teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle. It was nice to revisit my wren friends of the east, although they were skulkier than I remember. I don't remember where this was photographed, sorry, but you may find relief in the facts that Carolina Wrens are extremely widespread in Texas and that you probably already have a better photo of one than this.

Jackrabbits? I'm a fan...especially in scenes that strike a nice balance between bucolic and pastoral. They are so fast that they can suck the wind right out of your lungs. Did you know jackrabbits grind their teeth? They do it both when they're stressed and when they are content, kind of like how a cat purrs. By the way, it is critical that you look at this. South Padre Island.


  1. I was lead to believe there would be Chachalacas in this post?

    At any rate, thanks for the crush fest. It made much of this weekend's birding seem paltry and pedestrian in comparison.
    That Redstart portrait should be used on inspirational propaganda for a number of things.

    1. Yes! The redstart shot is perfect...for promotional purposes only.

  2. Glad the GFNGF EASO showed. It disappeared not long after. Laurence can testify.

    1. It never recurred?

      I don't know how to feel about that--better or worse? Just angry, angry at the world.