Local Birding: Resetting The Love

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” ~ Norman Maclean

Time to clean off the field lens, dust off the field guides, and charge the camera batteries. If you’ve been with us the past five years, you already know that we are exuberant bird ‘collectors.’ Each annual count resets January 1st, and every year we learn just a little more to make us better overall birders, stewards of our shared environment. Our second highest year since counting, we wrapped up 2018 with 286 different species — almost reaching a personal goal of 300.

Counting birds connects us to our world and environment in ways that going to school or church cannot. We learn much from being outdoors with other beings, learning their habits, knowing that we, like them, are intimately entwined with nature .. not removed from Her like we work so hard to do.

We always begin the exercise with immediate neighbors, those that call our house home all the year ’round. With woodland and water habitats right on our 1-acre property, we are a veritable eBird hotspot right where we live already. If the weather is inclement like it tends to be in Houston in January, we can (and do) tick them off through our windows of a warm and dry house.

It’s easy for us to get a few dozen species in just a couple of days as we enjoy our time off as a family.

1 Northern Cardinal
2 House Sparrow
3 Northern Mockingbird
4 Carolina Chickadee
5 Tufted Titmouse
6 Eastern Bluebird
7 Carolina Wren
8 Black-bellied Whistling Duck
9 House Finch
10 White Ibis
11 Black Vulture
12 Turkey Vulture
13 White-winged Dove
14 Great Blue Heron
15 Great Egret
16 Snowy Egret
17 Tri-colored Heron
18 Little Blue Heron
19 Double-crested Cormorant
20 Pied-billed Grebe
21 Pileated Woodpecker
22 Red-bellied Woodpecker
23 Downy Woodpecker
24 Anhinga
25 Common Grackle
26 American Crow
27 Blue Jay
28 Red-shouldered Hawk
29 Red-tailed Hawk
30 Wood Duck
31 Crested Caracara
32 Mottled Duck
33 Osprey
34 European Starling

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Year ’round Resident

To that start, we add all the winter residents which showed up in the last month or so, and stick around until spring, some of whom we have named, certain they are the same individuals year after year.

We apologize for our lack of name artistry, but when a name sticks, it sticks.

35 Chipping Sparrow – ‘Chip’
36 Dark-eyed Junco – ‘Charky’
37 Rufous Hummingbird – ‘Ruthie’
38 Ruby-crowned Kinglet – ‘Zippy’
39 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – ‘Buzz’
40 Wilson’s Warbler – ‘Tweety’
41 Yellow-rumped Warbler
42 Orange-crowned Warbler
43 Pine Warbler
44 Brown Pelican
45 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – ‘Sammy’
46 Red-winged Blackbird
47 Belted Kingfisher
48 Bald Eagle
49 Cooper’s Hawk
50 American Kestrel
51 Blue-winged Teal
52 Song Sparrow
53 Savannah Sparrow
54 American Goldfinch
55 Cedar Waxwing
56 Eastern Phoebe

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch
Texas Gulf Coast Winterer

Now then. We are halfway to the first 100 species, barely one week into the new year. Not too much work, huh?

To push us closer to the first 100 species by the end of the month, we head out to Brazos Bend State Park south of Houston. It hosts many wintering species that we can collect in the course of a few hours walking; it’s not unusual for anyone to log 50 different species of birds in a few hours.

Yesterday, it was sunny and cool and due to the Brazos River reaching flood stage yet again — closing the park for the week starting tomorrow — many people it seems chose to stay home instead.

(Hm .. feels like we’ve done this a few times before.)

The Mighty Brazos River
4 Feet From Bust

Aside from park volunteers and a few fellow birders and photographers, we had a quiet, beautiful park practically all to ourselves.

Trusting Anhinga
Unexpected Swim-up Visitor

[Email Readers: Above is a video embed. You’ll have to view it at the blog!]

57 Black-crowned Night-heron
58 Cattle Egret
59 Ring-necked Duck
60 Swamp Sparrow
61 Roseate Spoonbill
62 White-faced Ibis
63 Northern Harrier
64 American Coot
65 Common Gallinule
66 Tree Swallow
67 American Robin
68 Vermillion Flycatcher
69 House Wren
70 American Bittern

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis
Brazos Bend State Park Resident

Vermillion Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher
Winter Bird on Fire!

Add to all those a few surprise sightings, those that elicit high fives and fist bumps all around, the January list is very nearly complete. By the end of just one month, we should be a full 1/3 of the way to reaching our annual goal.

71 Bewick’s Wren (friend’s house)
72 White-breasted Nuthatch (friend’s house)
73 White-tailed Hawk (not seen since 2014!)
74 Northern Flicker (not see locally)
75 Wilson’s Snipe (flushed on a walk!)
76 Green Heron (not a ‘winterer’)
77 Purple Finch (Lifer!)

Purple Finch

Purple Finch Lifer!
Uncommon Gulf Coast Visitor

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17 thoughts on “Local Birding: Resetting The Love

  1. Gorgeous! I always keep your posts in a file so I can reference it after seeing birds I do not recognize! Love this warmer weather we have been having and hopefully that nasty white stuff will stay well North of us! 😉

    Like

    1. Oh, thanks for the confidence in my bird ID skills! I feel fortunate to have so many different species that drop in unexpectedly. Today it was a summer tanager. I wonder if she knows something about spring that I don’t; she’s not due here until April.

      We too are enjoying the unseasonably warm winter. I could get used to this!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a jaw dropping fabulous list! Congratulations to this awesome achievement. We live in a “Mecca of birdwatching” in North Norfolk and this coming Saturday our local Cley Bird Club has the annual Big Bird Day; every one goes out to see and register as many birds as possible. I’m new to birdwatching so I hope to join an experienced small group to learn more.

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    1. Am I correct in thinking Norfolk is not in America? Or are you on the east coast somewhere?

      Birding right you are is where you should start! If you’re like me, a handful of nuggets is never enough .. then you’ll start planning vacations around where the birds are most concentrated. (We do this. Such bird nerds.)

      However you do it, being outside is at least half the fun and exercise. Enjoy it, Dina! Nice having you here .. thanks for the nice comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One of these days I’m going to have to get out of my rut and get over to Brazos Bend. It feels so far away, but after I looked at the map again, I realized that if I took 1462 from Alvin, I’d not only land at Brazos Bend, I might be able to shorten my time to Nash Prairie.

    I’m not surprised it’s going to be closed this week. I went down to Brazoria and San Bernard yesterday, and the water levels were high everywhere, with a few closed roads. But! despite the birds being scattered everywhere, and mostly well beyond the reach of my lens, I did get photos of what I think was a female goldeneye, and a bufflehead.

    Without knowing what they were, I photographed some birds taking off, and when I looked at the photos last night, I decided they were white-fronted geese, or “specklebellies.” If I’d not heard callers on the Outdoor Show talking about them, I wouldn’t have known to use “specklebelly” as a search term, but those black and white markings are pretty distinct. Three birds I’ve never seen in one day was pretty exciting.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank for that, Linda. I had seen it when I read the entire post via email this morning. You are keen to point it out. I appreciate your reading prowess!

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    1. I have heard GWG called ‘specklebellies’ as well, but you know what? I’ve never seen one in flight .. only hidden in the grasses on the ground and difficult to make out without the aid of field lenses. The last couple of times, it was my keen-eye-sighted husband who found them for me. It’s fun learning these little bird factoids in the field! (My favorite borrowed term is ‘little brown job’ or LBJ when referring to an unknown sparrow species.)

      The goldeneye is pretty unmistakable. They (and the bufflehead) are difficult to find since they are both small AND they tend to be off by themselves. Glad you were able to photograph them! Even with a 600mm lens, this is the best I could do with the CGE we saw at Brazoria last year, as well as others: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50153353

      Could you do Brazos Bend during the week one morning? I would gladly meet you there for a few hours! Just need a few day’s notice for planning purposes. I will send you my cell number via email. And you are right .. 1462 from Alvin is an excellent route east.

      Liked by 2 people

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