Welcome to my world!

Backyard Birding in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas:
Surrounded by great birding destinations, our favorite patch is still the backyard (or the front), where we've seen more than 270 species of birds. Sit awhile, and watch the river and yard with us!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Summer Homes

Another favorite yard bird made it home for the summer.  Yesterday morning when I looked out in the yard, Brown-crested Flycatchers were up early checking out the nest box where they've nested for years. But today, they had claimed a different bird house very close to the deck.

The bird in the photo above looks pretty dapper, crest under control, but my husband usually remarks that these guys look like they are having a bad-hair day  In this photo that usually unruly crest looks pretty smooth, like it's had a good conditioning treatment.

All day (well, when I wasn't counting warblers and orioles--more on that later)  I watched the flycatchers building their nest.  They had large "beak-fulls" of grass and other plant material and worked at stuffing it into the house. (One time when cleaning out an old nest  I found a piece of snakeskin in it--but it appears they are building this one of dried grass and small twigs.)

I wonder if they chose their spot too quickly.  In the picture here you can see their house hanging from a fiddlewood shrub/tree (middle of photo) that is very close to the deck where I spend a lot of time.  I spent most of the day today walking in the yard and driveway,  looking at the fabulous migrants that were making rest-stops here, so I wasn't on the deck.  When I did sit out there briefly, I think the flycatchers were disturbed that I was so close.  If I'd thought they would use this box, I wouldn't have put it so close to the house. We'll see how it works out.

Nest update:  The Altamira Orioles' nest is completed, an amazing feat of engineering.  I am trying not to look at it too often, though that's hard since it's so fascinating.  It hangs down from one of our Live Oak trees over the driveway next door to the west.  The house there is for sale starting tomorrow (the neighbor's house, not the Altamira Oriole's) so there will probably start being a little more human activity that I hope won't upset the birds.  (I am nervous about the house being for sale and hope that the new buyers will be bird-friendly. If I were wealthy I'd buy the beautiful lot and trees myself.)
The Curve-billed Thrashers have a nest in the yucca (Spanish Dagger) at the end of the driveway of the neighbors to our east.  I think theirs is completed.  I don't know if there are eggs yet and of course I won't get close enough to look.  Both birds are always close by.
The Kiskadee nest in the Ebony tree is complete.  It is just a tree or two away from the Altamira Oriole's nest.
After reporting on several suspected nest sites for the Black-crested Titmice  I can now say that I have no idea where they are actually nesting!
We have two pairs of Hooded Orioles that appear to be building nests in the Palm trees though I'm not sure which ones.  I still see them visiting all of them.  I think one pair is building in a tree near the road and one in a tree on the river side of the house.

Today was an absolutely wonderful day for watching migrants.  In fact, it was an eight-warbler, four-oriole day!  The Mexican Olive tree is in full bloom and is filled with orioles.  I had worried that the orioles wouldn't stop by this year since our Bottlebrush trees bloomed a month ago, but the Mexican Olives make up for the faded Bottlebrushes!

Here are Orchard Orioles feeding on the blooms.  The first one is a first year male.  Note its green head, black face, and the two spots of red on its breast. The yellow will be replaced by brick red in the adult and the head will be all black.  The photo of the adult Orchard Oriole doesn't show off the bird so much as the Mexican Olive tree (Anacahuita) with its white funnel-shaped flowers and soft velvety leaves.
 The female Hooded and Orchard Orioles look very much alike.  I use "context clues" to tell me which is which.  For example, the one that is eating from the olive tree was probably an Orchard Oriole because that's where the Orchard Orioles were.  The second female oriole photo is most likely a Hooded.  She was in the Retama tree near the Palm where they are nesting. She is interested in nesting and checking out the palm trees; the female Orchards are interested in eating for a day or two before resuming migration.

I was hoping today would be a five oriole day, but the Bullock's Oriole we saw Thursday was not still around.  So Altamira, Hooded, Orchard, and Baltimore graced the yard today.  But I'll take a four-oriole day any time!

What can be more fabulous than a four-oriole day?  An eight-warbler day! 

Before we left town last Thursday we had seen very few migrating warblers in the yard.  I knew from Texbirds, however, that birders were seeing them on the Island,  so when we returned home on Sunday evening, I  headed for the yard.  By the time I reached the end of the drive, a  Kentucky Warbler had flown in for a bath  and a Blue-winged Warbler flitted across the driveway.  A good omen, I thought.

But yesterday, no warblers!  It was a good day in lots of other ways (we added nonwarblers to the 2010 yard list:  Chimney Swifts and Common Nighthawks flew over the yard; a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, black and white tail streaming, flew into the smaller brasil tree, home perhaps for the summer; and the  Brown-Crested Flycatchers arrived to start their summer work of raising a family.)

 Today more than made up for the warblerless frustration of yesterday.  We had eight warbler species by the time the afternoon was over.  Of course most were too high in the trees or too skitterish to capture in photos, but I can see them each clearly in my mind's photos (which are never out of focus or underexposed).

A Northern Parula flitted into the fiddlewood behind one of the birdbaths.  Its green back and yellow breast with that reddish band made  a colorful spot in the cloudy grayness of the morning.  A Yellow-throated Warbler popped up in my binoculars as I was scanning  a palm leaf for a Hooded Oriole. A Black and White Warbler scurried up and down the tallest oak tree in the front-yard bird garden, along with a Cerulean Warbler that I thought for awhile was another black and white.  It was high in the tree, silhouetted against an overcast but brightening sky.  (That's it in the photo to the right.  Too bad its cerulean blue back isn't showing, but the white belly and throat with the side stripes and neckband are nice.)   A  Worm-eating Warbler  scurried around in the leaves by the saucer bath and then across the driveway.  A Yellow Warbler and a Blue-winged Warbler busily searched for insects in a tangle of Esperanza and Mexican Caesalpinia trees in the bird garden. A Canada Warbler skittered in the tree tops.

By the time the day was drawing to a close, the skies had cleared.  Look how the evening sun illuminates the crests of the Cedar Waxwings.  Someone farther north is waiting for them to return to nest in their summer home.


KaHolly said...

Oh, my! It would be difficult to find the time to do anything else living where YOU live, birder's paradise! Terrific post, as always, with simply marvelous pictures. I love it when I see you've posted!! ~karen

Kay said...

Thanks, Karen!
I do seem to spend a lot of time outside or at the window these days. I'm so glad to know you're out there reading my posts.

The Early Birder said...

HI Kay. Just catching up with all your recent yard and migration activity. I agree with Karen that you enjoy a birdwatchers dream location. Thanks for sharing. FAB.

Kay said...

thanks, FAB! I'm glad you stopped by!

eileeninmd said...

Gee, I m really envious! Lucky you to see all the warblers and the wonderful orioles. And the orioles nest is cool, it will be wonderful to watch their progress. Great photos and I loved your post.