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!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye to 2011, a very good year!

I'm alternately watching the New Year's celebrations on television and watching the Arroyo out my window. It's another half-hour until midnight, and I don't want to miss the last bird of the year--or the first of 2012. 

 Just now two Black Skimmers flew by, close to the water  near the opposite bank (skimming, of course), their white breasts and underwings reflecting in the water that is lit by fishing lights.  I'm trying to decide if I'll wait until daylight to look for the first bird of the year so that I can take a photo of it.  Last year a Buff-bellied Hummingbird had the honors and a Yellow-throated Warbler was a close second.  On January 1, 2010 (my first day of blogging)  an Altamira Oriole was the first bird of the year with a Great Kiskadee its runner-up.

I've been checking my 2011 Yard List and unless I've left something out, I count 214 birds seen in/from the yard this year.  That's 29 more than last year! I'll double check tomorrow and post the results then.

 This has indeed been a great year of birding in the yard.  A spectacular spring migration (29 species of warblers!) and an unusual number of first-time-ever birds boosted the list.  This fall/winter we've seen Northern Flickers, Sage Thrashers, a Brown Thrasher, and more Anna's Hummingbirds, all species that seldom migrate or winter here.

This bird, a Common Grackle, is anything but common here.  It was one more first-ever-yard-bird in this unusual winter.  Smaller than our Great-tailed Grackles, three of these guys showed up at the feeder in early December. 

White-crowned Sparrows are among the birds here in larger than usual  numbers this winter.

 Conversely, the familiar wintering Lincoln's and Savannah Sparrows are not.

 I'm especially happy that American Robins have stopped by this winter.  Growing up in Oklahoma, I thought this cheerful bird must be the most common yard bird everywhere--but here in South Texas it's a bird that often doesn't make the year's yard list. 

The most welcome visitors to our home on the Arroyo this winter are of course our family who were here for the holidays--our son and daughter and their families. I'm going to replace the usual bird photos in this post with family ones. Some of them were taken by my granddaughter Sadie.

Everyone likes the chair by the window.  More eyes on binoculars (how many pairs of the latter do you see in this picture?) means more birds are possible.  A few years ago our son spotted a Golden Eagle from the window. This visit's raptors were limited to kites, hawks, and ospreys--but who can complain about that?

It's never too early to start viewing birds from the window.  Jacey is the youngest at not quite two.  She follows the lead of her siblings, uncle, and grandmother as she looks out on the yard and river. (I'm not sure if her eyes are open or not!)

Our mild weather means the middle generation can teach grandchildren to fish from the dock even in the depth of winter.  Little Jacey Joy is a first time fisherman; Lily is getting really good at casting. )

Sadie continues to take photos of birds, cousins, and neighborhood cats

and Papa continues to take Sadie and the twins (and everyone else)  for boat rides on the river.

Among Sadie's best pictures are those of  Katie and Mitchell standing by to throw life buoys if needed.

Oldest grandson Caleb paddles a kayak while his younger siblings and cousins are out with Papa.
Second grandson Spencer usually catches the most fish and is proud of them all--no matter the size or attractiveness (or lack thereof). This, I think, is a sheepshead that hangs around the pilings of the dock.

 Picking up grapefruit from the yard instead of at the grocery store is a special treat to girls from Missouri.

 Night fishing from the dock is especially fun when the underwater lights draw in speckled trout.

Holidays are fun but exhausting if you try to fit boating, fishing, and playing with cousins into short winter days. 

So we are waving goodbye to 2011,  a very good year.  As minutes count down, I count our blessings--and the birds and grandchildren we welcomed into our yard and the Arroyo Colorado.

Postscript:  Here's the promised Yard List.  In 2011  we added eight  birds (Anna's Hummingbird, Bonaparte's Gull, Townsend's Warbler, Cape May Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Sage Thrasher, Common Grackle) to the total yard list (1996-present), making the count 274! (Our 2010 list can be found in a December '10 post here.) The 2012 list will be in the sidebar and I’ll update it during the year.  

Baughman Yard List: 2011
Arroyo City, Texas
214 Species of Birds
 Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Greater White-fronted Goose, Canada Goose, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Plain Chachalaca, Wild Turkey, Northern Bobwhite Quail, Pied-billed Grebe, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, White-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Harris's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Merlin, Aplomado Falcon, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Semipalmated  Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Laughing Gull, Franklin's Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Forster's Tern, Sandwich Tern, Least Tern, Black Tern, Black Skimmer, Eurasian Collared-Dove, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground-dove, White-tipped Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Greater Roadrunner, Groove-billed Ani, Barn Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Common Nighthawk, Common Pauraque, Chuck-will's-widow, Chimney Swift, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Anna's Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Ringed Kingfisher, Belted Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great-crested Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Couch's Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Cave Swallow, Barn Swallow, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Warbling Vireo , Red-eyed Vireo, Green Jay, Horned Lark, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Bewick's Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Hermit Thrush,  Clay-colored Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Long-billed Thrasher, Curve-billed Thrasher, Sage Thrasher, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Tennessee Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, American Redstart, Worm-eating Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Common Yellowthrush, Hooded Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Olive Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting, Dickcissel, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Western Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Bullock's Oriole, Altamira Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Arroyo Colorado

We may not have snowy Christmases in South Texas, but our holiday season brings its own joys. 
 Bougainvillea is at its most beautiful.

White-tailed Kites bask in the winter sun.

Green Jays stop by feeders to eat peanuts and citrus.

Monarch butterflies and colorful bougainvillea are as  bright as holiday ornaments. 

While we enjoy family and food and holiday traditions, we continue to marvel at the beauty around us.  

May your holidays be warm and wonderful!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Good Morning, December!

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to get a photo that captures a special moment just right.  This morning I was up at dawn doing a little window birding.  As the sun rose, bathing the river in a pinkish-golden glow, a gull  landed right in front of the dock and quickly scooped up a mullet. As it struggled to eat its prey,  captured sunlight gleamed from the underside of the gull's wings, reflecting the morning's light onto the ripples of its landing.

I didn't post to the blog during all of November, not because there wasn't fabulous birding here in the yard and elsewhere.  In fact, it was probably because there was.  We've added new yard birds for the year and for the life of the yard.  We experienced another great Rio Grande Birding Festival.  We saw life birds on short trips up the Valley.

I'll blog about all those this weekend in a November retrospective. But for now, enjoy this December morning's photos that capture sunrise on the Arroyo Colorado as viewed from my window.