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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!




Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blind Spot

Today was so lovely that I spent much of it outside.  It was just cool enough (high somewhere in the 70's) that I could sit in what is becoming one of my favorite spots:  a chair blind under the anacua tree beside the driveway.  It's a little folding lawn chair enclosed in a small attached tent with zip-out windows.  The birds can't see me--or if they do they are not alarmed--and I can get pictures of them at the birdbaths close by.  The Northern Mockingbird above was one of my first visitors. He's taking a break from defending the ripening fiddlewood berries on the shrubs near the deck.

Another bather was this stunning bird--a Yellow-throated Warbler that hung upside down on a branch of the oak tree and then flittered in to the terra cotta saucer-baths.   A common yard bird for us in the winter, it's nonetheless a special guest.



Green Jays are all over the yard, having had an apparently very successful nesting season.   Even noisier today than the Kiskadees, with buzzy croaks and snores and cheh-cheh-chehs, the jays ruled the yard.  The bather above looked unusual with its outer yellow tail feathers being the only ones in its tail! The jay below, messily eating the orange suet cake,  displays the blue/green tail that is typical. 
Green Jays don't seem to fly long distances.  They fly from tree to tree, landing near the bottom and hopping to higher branches. They follow one another, tails flashing yellow V's of those outer tail feathers,  and make a ruckus with their odd sounds.
Black-crested Titmouse



Other birds I saw at the baths from my "blind spot" included Carolina Wrens, Black-crested Titmice , a White-throated Sparrow, a Baltimore Oriole, Orange-crowned Warblers, an Ovenbird, Great-tailed Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Lesser Goldfinches, and lots and LOTS of House Sparrows.


Since the wind was relatively calm today, I could hear birds all around me as I sat in the blind.  Once, as  I played my Ibird Pro app to hear the call of a White-throated Sparrow, the sound of wings and feet on the camouflage tent fabric startled me.  I think it was the titmouse pictured above but I was "blind" in my blind, at least to what was going on over my head.

While I was trying to get a picture of the warbler I heard loud familiar calls clattering overhead.  It was a sound I knew I should know--but since it was out of place in that part of the yard, I couldn't quite figure out what it was.  To get a good look at the noisy mystery birds, I would have had to climb awkwardly out of the little chair/tent contraption I was in, a  move that would scare all the birds at the baths, so I remained where I was.

Later, when my neighbor told me he had seen five large Ringed Kingfishers flying over our yards south of the houses calling loudly their wild clattering rattle, I realized what I had heard.  We usually see this largest of our three species of kingfishers on the north side of the yards, along the river, in ones or twos, but today they were flying high in a group over the front yards. Later from the deck I took a photo of one of them. He's just a dot above the palms, but that shape is unmistakable.  I missed the parade of five of the chattering giant kingfishers, but I didn't miss their chatter! 


The most contant bird sound of the day was one that might be my favorite:  the resonant rolling call of the Sandhill Cranes as they fly overhead to the fields across the way.

When I wasn't in the blind, I was on the deck that overlooks the front yard, another favorite viewing spot, especially nice since it's attached to the upstairs of the house and is convenient for viewing birds before I'm even dressed for the day--pajama birding.  This morning I was rewarded for putting niger thistle in the finch feeder by a visit from American Goldfinchs and Pine Siskins.  The siskin is especially welcome since it is not often here and because it reminds me of bird-feeding in Oklahoma when my children were young.  Whenever it snowed, and the finches were thick around the feeders, my son would stand with arms outstretched and birdseed in his upturned palms, waiting for almost-tame-with-hunger pine siskins to eat from his hands.

A Carolina Wren serenaded me from the bougainvillea nearest the deck, the reddish-brown of his breast especially bright, maybe because of the morning sun and maybe because it echoed the deep apricot of the nearby blooms.


Out by the road a small brown bird with a white eye-ring called to an echoing bird in a brasil tree.  It was too far to see just what it was though its call was distinctive.  I'll figure out what it is and maybe post that later.  For now, I'm including its picture because the background, so different from the wren's blooming backdrop, looks almost like trees in winter in northern climates.  Of course, what it's actually perching in is not winter woods, but a brush-pile of dead branches.

Our trees are still green with foliage, but the winter of my imagination (where branches are bare and snowy Pine Siskins eat from a little boy's hand) can almost be seen in this picture.

8 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Wonderful series of bird photos, You must have had a great day for birding. I love the green jays and I hope to see one myself someday.

Arkansas Patti said...

Wonderful shots. I have never seen a Green Jay and will have to check to see if they come this way.
I really miss those lovely Sandhill Cranes and the sounds they make from soooooo very high in the air. They must not fly over Arkansas. They were residents in Florida and very amusing. The babies will melt your heart.

Wanda..... said...

The Green Jay is a beautiful bird that doesn't visit me, but the Carolina Wrens are my favorite little bird...your photo of one is lovely.

KaHolly said...

What a fortunate day you experienced! I haven't had much luck photographing the birds I've encountered the last few days, but they, none-the-less, brought me much joy. Thanks for sharing from your blind spot! Hope you can get a good photo of the kingfishers! ~karen

The Early Birder said...

Hi Kay. Another stunning array of visitors around your yard. Delighted to hear that the blind is paying its way. FAB.

Kay said...

Eileen, Patty, Wanda, Karen, and Frank: It's always so nice to read your comments! Thank you for stopping by to see what's going on in the yard!
Kay

Kelly said...

Oh my gosh! I want to live where you live!! What a spectacular array of birds...in December. We're frozen up here, and the sound of the 70s is wonderful!

KaHolly said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS, Kay!!