Birding in Burton

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Peacock – Burton, Texas January 2016

This past weekend I traveled to Burton,Texas to visit my sister. We had a lovely weekend doing sisterly things together and as usual I superimposed on my loved one my birdwatching passion. And my passionate flame was fanned by the revelation from one of her neighbors that they had spotted a Pileated Woodpecker hammering away at a dead pecan tree in their back yard.

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Pileated Woodpecker Photo captured from Cornell University Live Bird Cam on Sapsucker Pond

The only time I have seen one of these birds was courtesy of the Cornell Live Bird Cam in Ithaca New York. I keep one of the live bird cams open as my screen saver while I am working because it gives me a window to the outside world. The day he popped into view I almost fell out of my chair. He was one of the most beautiful birds I had ever seen and I found myself salivating with the desire to see one in person. Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpecker in North America.  Approximately 17-20 inches in length and with a wingspan of almost 30 inches, they are quite impressive to behold.

Then more recently, a friend of mine who is wintering in Alabama emailed me the news that she had spotted one in their area. So I was encouraged to know that when I visit her this coming April, I might be able to catch a glimpse of her Pileated Woodpecker.

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Cedar Waxwing – Burton, Texas – January 2016

So I was delighted to know that there was one living in Burton. My sister told me she had seen him many times during the summer when he was visiting her pear tree to help himself to its bounty. She didn’t realize how special he was to me. So I spent a large portion of Saturday scouting for this bird. I was successful only because he flew to a telephone pole across the street and began his clattering again. The neighbor managed to capture him on a cell phone camera but I was too late with my camera to capitalize on his appearance. But in the birding world, a visual sighting or being able to recognize a bird by its call counts. Do I want my own photo of this beautiful bird? Most definitely, so the game is still afoot.

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Red-Shouldered Hawk – Personal Photo GKennedy

Walking a few blocks around town I spied other species. Starlings, white wing doves, cardinals, blue jays, mockingbirds, red bellied woodpeckers, a ladderback female woodpecker, black vultures perching on the town’s water tower and the cedar waxwings had arrived and descended to begin their strip-mining operation of any berries in the area. A Red Shouldered Hawk sat high in a tree just behind my sister’s house. We later spotted him sitting on a neighbor’s fence with a squirrel running around on the ground perilously close.

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American White Pelicans – Lake Somerville, Texas January 2, 2016
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Belted Kingfisher – Lake Somerville, Texas – January 2, 2016

On Saturday morning we drove to Lake Somerville to see what birds we could find. I love the countryside during the winter months. The trees are stripped bare of their leaves and the tree branches are much like skeleton arms and fingers reaching for the sky. We were rewarded for our efforts when we came upon a large squadron of American White Pelicans, a Belted Kingfisher, Mallard Ducks, American Coots, Great Egrets, and a Black Crowned Night Heron lurking in a marshy area created by recent rains which caused the lake to move beyond its boundaries and invade surrounding forest.

 

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Black Vulture
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Male Cardinal – Burton, Texas – January 2, 2016
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Starling – Burton, Texas – January, 2016
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White Wing Dove
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Female Ladderback Woodpecker – Burton, Texas January 2016

So once again, I am reminded that birds are everywhere. And if you want more in your own backyard it is as easy as providing food and water for them and they in turn will reward you with much entertainment. So as the saying goes….”Build it and they will come!”

Happy bird searching!!!

Beaks and Feet – Roseate Spoonbill

Talk about a beak! Now this bird has a huge beak and its name gives us a hint as to its shape. Roseate Spoonbills are one of my favorite shorebirds and one that I seek each time I travel to beaches on the Gulf Coast. Their bills are “spoon” shaped, quite large and always makes me wonder how they ever manage to get food into the mouths of their young. But they do.

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Nesting Roseate Spoonbill – High Island, Texas – Personal Photo GKennedy

Spoonbills are easily identified not only by their bright pink and white colors but by their distinctive bill shape. The shape of their bills gives us a clue about how they feed. Like storks, they wade through the water swishing their beaks back and forth seeking minnows, small fish, crustaceans and plant life.

Spoonbill feet also give us valuable information about how they spend the majority of their time.

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Check out those feet!! – Personal Photo GKennedy

 

 

 

 

 

Their feet are adapted to enable them to wade in muddy waters where they spend a lot of time hunting for their food. They have three toes pointing forward and one pointed back and they are attached to semi-long legs. Think feet designed to support their weight so they don’t sink….. much like snowshoes ¬†distribute the weight of a human walking over snow.

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Roseate Spoonbills at The Rookery at High Island, Texas – Personal Photo GKennedy

One of my favorite times to observe these birds is in March and April at the Rookery in High Island. They join with other herons and egrets to build nests, lay their eggs and raise their young. I highly recommend a trip if you want to have an up close and personal view of these beautiful birds.

Happy bird searching!!!