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!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Berry Good Birding

 The Buff-bellied Hummingbird that became our first bird of the New Year yesterday morning had to get up early to beat this guy:  the little Yellow-throated Warbler that won the honors a few years ago.  Maybe his calendar is a day off--this morning he was the first bird I saw when I went out on the front deck.  The sun rose at 7:16 this morning--and this photo was taken less than four minutes later. Using the camera's flash, I was able to get a picture that shows both the bird and the interesting berries.

Black-crested Titmouse

 Gleaning insects from among the ripening berries of a Queen Palm tree beside the deck, the warbler looks even more picturesque than usual. I had taken a picture of the berries by themselves yesterday, but decided not to put it in my post.  It just lacked something

But today the birds were as attracted to the fruit as I was--me for the beauty of the green-turning-orange berries; the birds for little insects drawn to the sticky sweet fruits. Today's photos have the missing element--birds!

The  fruit will get more orange still as it continues to ripen.  Some berries attract birds for the fruit, some for the insects they lure.  This one will eventually attract the Golden-fronted Woodpeckers that eat the berries and maybe Green Jays and Grackles.  It'll be interesting to watch and see what other birds are drawn by the magnet.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

A Pine Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet lit briefly on the palm, too, but I wasn't quick enough to capture them in that pose.  I did get the warbler investigating a flowerpot.

That's the kinglet on the bath with the tiny yellow feet grasping the dripper hose.  I had never noticed  before that they wear "golden slippers"--in a much smaller size than Snowy Egrets of course.

The most exciting bird of the day was one I didn't see in the yard at all last year.  In fact, I've seen it only twice before--the Clay-colored Thrush.  (The last time I saw one, it was still called the Clay-colored Robin and was considered rare enough that it was on the state's rarities list.)  Though it remained in the yard, and the neighbor's yard, for quite a while this afternoon eating ripe red berries from the Brazilian Pepper tree, I didn't have my camera. (I was getting error messages and had to charge the batteries.) 

[Edited on Monday morning:  When I first went out to walk the driveway this morning, the Clay-colored cutie was right there on the bird bath.  Too early for good light, too late to remember a tripod, too far away for a flash, but I did the best I could.  The color shows fairly well--isn't it lovely? The interesting greenish bill is also apparent.  I intend to continue my paparazzi-like stalking throughout the day.]

Thinking it might be a White-throated Thrush (really rare, a Mexican bird that has shown up in the upper Valley this winter), I wasn't about to run in the house, change batteries on the camera, and miss the bird.  Trying to take pictures with my iphone resulted in one fuzzy blob and several pictures of leaves. I did get  a recording of its sort of cat-like call.  The color of a Clay-colored Thrush  is a soft distinctive brown, unlike any other bird really.  Its throat was whiter than I remembered and streaked, but no matter what,  I couldn't turn it into the White-throated Thrush.
Tomorrow I'll be stalking the elusive bird with camera in hand and hope to have a picture of the really pretty robin.

I'll finish with one more photo of a Buff-bellied Hummingbird, the early bird that was yesterday's New Year's baby, er..birdy.   This one was sitting in the same fiddlewood as yesterday making its soft little call (unusual because it has a typically loud call that I described yesterday).  Notice how its green throat is bluish?  Some field guides don't even mention that bluish throat.  Maybe they haven't seen it in the early morning sun along the banks of the Arroyo Colorado.


Arkansas Patti said...

I am always amazed at the different birds indigenous to different parts of the county. They always look so much more exotic compared to mine.
Lovely captures.

robin andrea said...

I'm glad you're posting these photos in winter, when we are not seeing any birds quite as amazing as the ones you are seeing. We have had for the past two days several kinglets and bushtits flitting about madly in the cedars.

I hope you get a photo of the clay-colored Thrush. I can't wait to see it!

Kay said...

Robin, I edited the post to include a fuzzy photo from this morning. You can see the shape and size (much like an American Robin) and the lovely subtle color.
I love everything about the land here and its natural inhabitants--but I'd love to see a Cardinal in the snow every now and then.
I saw bushtits in California once and think they are adorable birds. Like ittle puffballs.

Kay said...

One person's exotic is another's ho hum. Whenever we travel I get guide books that picture the native plants and animals. I love learning about all the different landscapes of our country and the world.
(Really, I could never think of my own landscape as ho hum. But you know what I mean)
Arkansas is a great place from the Ozarks to the Pine woods.

john said...

Here it is, after dark on Jan. 3. I have yet to see any birds this year in Alaska. I think I heard a chickadee this afternoon.

KaHolly said...

Those berries are bearing more than fruit! Lovely captures of all you visitors today. Count me among the envious, Kay. A big WOW for that hummingbird photo. ~karen

Kathiesbirds said...

As you probably already know and hear from others, many of the birds you see would be life birds for me. I definately need to take a trip to Texas! That buff-bellied is so sweet and reminds of the broad-billed hummingbirds I would see in Arizona.