Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Identification Milestone

I headed out to Bear Creek Park at lunch today for a little exercise and a quick bit of birding. I've been reading about the First Annual Rusty Blackbird Blitz, and thought I'd see if I could find the Rusty Blackbirds that have been reported at the park this week.

American Robin - 2/11/2009
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

The first thing I found was a whole horde of robins. They've been all over the Houston area for a week or more — a sure sign that spring is right around the corner. Several others made an appearance before a pair of the much sought after Rusty Blackbirds finally showed. Rounding out the small count for the half hour were an Eastern Bluebird, a few vultures and crows, and a pair of woodpeckers.

The first woodpecker I spotted was a Red-bellied Woodpecker. But soon after, my attention was drawn to a darker bird of similar size but much more aggression. It took me a little while to recognize what I was seeing.

Red-headed Woodpecker - 2/11/2009
Immature Red-headed Woodpecker
(Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

An immature Red-headed Woodpecker had staked its claim to a nearby tree and was busy venturing from trunk to ground and back catching bugs, grubs and tasty treats. Its brown head was just beginning to show hints of the bright red hood it will eventually flaunt.

Further evidence of its immaturity was demonstrated as it showed juvenile delinquent tendencies, repeatedly launching itself at its red-bellied cousin several trees away and finally driving the other woodpecker from the area.

But the highlight of my lunchtime excursion came from a pair of warblers that ventured down to the damp grass nearby, although it was not so much the sighting as the recognition of these two that got me so excited.

click image to enlarge
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronate)

I mean, sure, one of them was a "butterbutt." But I recognized it! First time I've ever been able to identify a warbler on my own, and in the field at that. Definitely a milestone worth celebrating!

The second one took a little more work and cross-checking between my Peterson and Sibley guides, but I'm pretty sure I nailed this one, too. If not, I trust someone will let me know and give me another lesson on warblers...

click image to enlarge
Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus)

I trust you will excuse the quality of these last two images, but I had to have some proof to share of my milestone.


Kallen305 said...

Love the warbler photos. I am hoping to see some this summer. There are so many different types of warblers that I can't imagine being able to identify them on my own without the help of my numerous field guides, lots of pictures and help from fellow bloggers.

Great find!

KatDoc said...

You got it! Yellow-rumped and Pine Warblers, the two most likely winter warblers (at least, in Ohio. I don't know what ya'll have in TEX-as.) Good calls!

Don't you love it when you can feel your birding skills grow? It seems to me that I go along on a level plateau for ages, then suddenly, something clicks and I make a big leap to the next level.

Extremely jealous of your young Red-headed Woodpecker. They are so hard to find here.


Bevson said...

I, like Kathi, am green with envy over the Red-headed Woodpecker. They are few and far between here in NJ. So much so, that people travel for hours to see one.

Kyle said...

K- Thanks. I have to admit, beyond these two specific warblers I'm lost as well. Probably even WITH the help of the field guides. But I'll take a victory wherever I can find it. ;-)

Kathi- Woo-hoo!! See, I told ya you guys would learn me some birds one of these days! I considered doing the lifer dance (between spotting the lifer Rusties and the excitement of ID-ing the warblers), but reconsidered since there were two sheriff's deputies eating their lunch just a short space away... I was dancin' in my head, tho!

Bev- That is definitely one of the things I love about this area -- you can usually find a woodpecker or two without too much work. Red-headeds aren't as plentiful as red-bellied or downies around here, but it's not a "drive for hours" kind of thing.

Kyle said...

Heh. Just got an email from my "baby sis," who happens to understand me way too much: "You used 'immature woodpecker' and 'butterbutt' in the same blog, and I can't stop laughing! I kept thinking, is the woodpecker immature because it's young, or is that it's name because is makes faces at the other birds!"

I actually considered adding the picture I had where his tongue was sticking out (for the "further evidence of its immaturity" line), but it was a little too blurry. ;-)

Larry Jordan said...

Great captures of the "juvenile" Red-headed Woodpecker Kyle (I wouldn't know if it was immature or not without being there ;-)

Isn't it fun to continue to learn more and more about birds, what they look like, how they sound and their habits? I think it is one of the most interesting and exciting facets of birding.

Congrats on your newest found skills. Keep looking forward to more as they will definitely come.