That's why all the avian action is staying pretty close to water sources these days--- like this Northern Kiskadee drinking from a bird bath that's just across the driveway from the Ebony tree where its nest is under construction. A copper dripping tube keeps water moving in this bath and attracts birds by sound as well as sight. (Moving water is key to busy baths. Some of our dripper systems are as simple a plastic jug with a hole in it suspended over a saucer.)
I've been a little worried that the Screech-owls' nesting in a box very close to this particular bird bath might deter the bathing, but it apparently hasn't. One bird or several are almost always there.
Except for a while yesterday morning when this bather took his turn:
A Cooper's Hawk always clears baths and feeders for awhile. Not long after his drink, the hawk managed to snag a Red-winged Blackbird out of the air, leaving only a feather or two settling in the dust of the driveway.
I actually don't begrudge the hawk a blackbird or two--we still have hundreds! I know many backyard watchers up north are still awaiting the Red-winged grain-devourers as early harbingers of spring, but I am really tired of them here. One or two seem always to be scouting for the moment I fill the feeders, and before I get back to the garage, a few hundred are in the yard. Their numbers are decreasing but not quick enough for me. I love them for their beauty and I love them two at a time, but I just can't afford to keep feeding the hordes. The third bird with the two red-winged raiders in the photo to the right is a Bronzed Cowbird. They have shown up in the yard this week, ready to pester the orioles as soon as nest-building begins.
The main water feature of the backyard is of course the Arroyo Colorado, a smaller river when it flows through Harlingen and a larger dredged shipping channel when its mixture of salt water and fresh water rises and falls with the tides as it passes our back yard. Herons, egrets, terns, night-herons, gulls, ospreys, pelicans, cormorants, and many other water birds follow the arroyo, wading along the edge and resting in the trees along the banks.
One of my favorite river birds is the Black-bellied Whistling Duck, the guy in the photo on the left. Early this morning a group of eighteen Black-bellied Whistling Ducks landed on our dock and the roof of our neighbor's, waiting to share a feeder with the blackbirds. They'll do this each morning and evening for a while. Then we'll have fewer at a time until the nearest nesting pair start bringing their large families back to the feeders.
Another favorite bird that is always on the arroyo is the Night Heron, mostly Black-crowned but sometimes Yellow-crowned.
First year night-herons are brown with large white spots.
The long neck of this young night-heron makes me think it might be a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron rather than a Black-crowned one, though I'm not sure. It just struck me as different, I took a photo, and later it occurred to me that maybe it was different, I think the spots are a little smaller, also, another field mark of the very similar BCNH.
Last week an adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron fished across the river. Adults are easy to tell apart, even when the YCNH is scrunching its neck down in a posture more like the BCNH.
If it weren't for the water that draws in the birds, we would probably not see many birds on these hot windy days. The wind is definitely keeping migrants from stopping by, though I have seen a couple of Hooded Warblers at the baths.
Hooded Orioles have paired up and like to bathe together. Here are a male and female in a Mexican Olive tree just prior to a dip in the water-filled saucer below the tree.
So that's the news of the week from our dry, hot, windy yard. I'll keep filling up the baths and turning on the drippers in the front yard and the river will keep flowing past the back. That will bring in the birds and all of us will be happy. Unless a hungry Cooper's Hawk snags another black bird. In the natural world not everybird can live happily everafter.