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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!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Autumn in South Texas

Sometimes I take a picture that isn't really good photographically-speaking, but that I like so much I keep looking at it.  This is one of those.  It's of a late-season warbler--Yellow, I suppose, but in autumn Peterson's references to "Confusing Fall Warblers" still paralyze me.

I was adjusting a hose that dripped into a new water feature I had pieced together out of spare parts when this little guy flittered into the water about six feet from me.  I sat down and watched, snapping pictures.

What I like about the photo above is what makes it less than perfect--the focus is fuzzy, especially on the wings.  But when the bird was in the water, my eyes certainly couldn't focus on such fast-moving, flittery wings.  One foot is focused and one is not: he was shifting his weight like an excited child playing in a fountain.  So that is the wallpaper on my laptop right now:  a warbler looking precisely like it did for a while to my aging eyes on a really nice autumn afternoon.

Although it is still hot in the afternoons, temperatures usually reaching 90 or above, the birds finally know it's autumn even if we have trouble remembering this far south what autumn means to most of the country.
Wintering warblers such as Yellow-throated, Orange-crowned, and Black-throated Green (above) have arrived.  An early (and rarer) Townsend's spent a couple of days.
Ruby-crowned Kinglets (cheerfully busy little winter birds that, like warblers, don't generally pose for  pictures) seemed to fill the oak trees after a mild front blew in last week.
Indigo Buntings (which have been a little late showing up, not even appearing for the Big Sit) are here in fairly large numbers.  Some will stay the winter but most are already moving on.

Wintering sparrows have returned as well. 

 A Lincoln's sparrow enjoyed the new solar fountain.

Another sign of autumn here in the Rio Grande Valley are migrating Monarch butterflies, a few of which are passing through now on their way to Mexico.  This picture, like the one of the Yellow Warbler in the bath, shows unfocused wings that are fluttering too fast for my point-and-shoot camera.  I like the way the motion shows in the photographs. 

But the surest sign of autumn is the music that filled the air early yesterday morning, and again today, a rolling, liquid sound that I could hear even inside, even when the windows were shut and the air-conditioner was on--Sandhill Cranes in the hundreds calling as they returned to the warmth of south Texas, calling me outside to enjoy our version of autumn.

 This photo is also less than perfect--much less--but that's okay. The sun was just lighting a perfect fall morning, south Texas style, and hundreds of Sandhills filled the skies in waves of V's that just kept coming.   We may not have autumn leaves or even cool temperatures, but we do have subtle changes that are just as cherished.

Postscript:  Next Morning-- Again the waves of Sandhills called me outside. This time I made a video.


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

The way you describe the Sandhill Cranes makes me want to see a spectacle like that. No doubt about it being autumn here,even getting close to feeling like early winter.

KaHolly said...

Ahh, yes!! Soon I'll be returning to TX to hear/see those cranes again myself!! Great shots of your visitors. Our skies are pretty quiet now, but you still have to keep your eyes and ears open for the vagabonds! I've had a few delightful surprises the past few days.

Wanda..... said...

Sometimes it's the subtle things we most appreciate. The water and little warbler with his fluttering wings makes a wonderful photo!

Suz said...

what a slice of heaven you have there
So far I have seen the white crowned sparrow and more chickadees
The robins have all but moved on
theCooper's Hawk has moved in !!!

I know what you mean by old eyes
but you sure do an excellent job of spotting the feathered friends
and your photo of the splashing confused warbler :) is nice
love your blog

john said...

Love those photos. Especially the bathing Lincoln's Sparrow. Up here the snow has crept all the way down the mountains to the edge of town. It will be here in my neighborhood any day now.

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Marvin said...

I suppose the signs of the season are always present. You just have to be in tune with your place to recognize them all. I especially enjoy your photo of the sparrows in the fountain.

Dave said...

I was down your way for the RGVBF. What a wonderful place and so many great birds. Had a fabulous time. Hope to return next year.

Carole DeAngeli said...

You do have a paradise there. Wonderful photos and prose. I'll be back to read more.