Friday, February 24, 2012

Banded Mexican Jay, Big Bend National Park

(Photo via Mark Flippo of Birding Big Bend)

"A Mexican Jay near the Pinnacles campsites in the Chisos: note the silver band on the bird's left leg. In 1996-97 a graduate student came to BBNP to conduct research on Mexican jays and banded a number of birds, including some hatch year birds. Either he never completed his work or he didn't publish so there is no record of study results but an indirect benefit was the bands provided a datapoint... those few jays still flying aorund in the Chisos with bands on their legs are at least 15 years old. This jay is definitely a viejo..."

Photo and caption originally posted at Birding Big Bend's facebook page, thanks to Kym Flippo!

(Crossposted at I found a banded bird)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Birds hitting your windows?

The American Bird Conservancy has produced a fantastic new product: BirdTape.

Ultimately, windows kill more birds in the US than all other forms of human-related bird deaths (cats, cars, wind turbines, etc), combined. Indeed, it is speculated that many cat kills were stunned from hitting windows first. Many stunned birds who are lucky enough to escape cats still fly away and many die later of internal injuries.

Here's their instructional video:

Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of their collisions page!!

Considering that the Germans have been working on this for years because their sound barriers along highways tend to be glass, it has taken quite a while for the idea to spread. Here are a few pictures from my 2008 trip, starting with a shelter at a train station that was built before the idea caught on - but still has falcon silhouette stickers!

Apologies for the quality of these, they're both taken from inside moving trains. This second design would have been more bird friendly if the stripes were vertical instead of horizontal, but the aesthetic appeal would probably have been decreased. For all practical purposes, though, it will do its job far better than the few stickers on the shelter above!

For a reminder: most buildings have this problem to one degree or another. Here's a kindergarten/elementary school that uses bird stickers and big, bright paper cutouts to prevent bird/people window strikes.

And for grown-ups, here's the airport in Koln: the main building is huge glass panels without any visible sign of stickers or fritting or bird-friendly modifications. Yet the air vents near the parking lot are surrounded by glass panels as well, and they have designs that are about as effective as bird stickers (read: better than nothing, but not by much).

So if you have issues with your windows, don't waste your effort on band-aid fixes like one or two stickers per window - you will have bird prints between the stickers:

modo print

Related links:
Problems with Windows
10 Things You Can Do To Reduce Bird vs. Window Collisions
A window into the perils of migration
Seetrail links:
Tis the season; a bird is trying to get into my house
When birds hit windows

Another option: shade structures. A bit more expensive than tape.

Conclusion? My name is Heidi, and I am a window tourist.

(x-posted at Seetrail)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Winter Blues

Reakirt's Blue (Echinargus isola) is a tiny, tiny little butterfly. Contrary to the image below, it does sport a lot of blue. In this image, the coppery hints are a bit misleading, but even without those tones, it doesn't look quite like a 'normal' Reakirt's Blue. But what is normal, anyway?

Sneaking around to the sunny side - watch your shadow, you don't want to startle it - check out that band of white frosting, cobweb, lace, that continues below the black dots. There are five black dots, but the wings are being held up a bit, so only four are visible... but what fantastic, subtle, intricate details this tiny creature shows. A quick e-mail exchange with the brains of Texas Lep. Survey confirmed that this pattern is a "winter thing" and that works for us.

Winter blues. Perhaps that's not fitting. This photo was taken in early January.

It was hard to feel any sense of 'blue' because at the time, there was some celebrity birder-watching to be done! The Reakirt's Blue was loitering along a walkway that connected a certain well-birded parking lot to a certain Santa Elena Canyon, and I'd snuck away to see some early blooms while some of the state's most elusive birders combed the area for a certain flycatcher.

Right, so what does a summer Reakirt's look like, anyway?
Sideways and thirsty. But also distinctly less frosty!

(Via Matthew York, from Pollinators between rain events)

This entry includes photos from early Jan, was posted in March and backdated for Feb - apologies for any RSS feeds that were scrambled!

EDIT: It seems the 'winter' thing may not strictly be true, as similar markings exist on a Reakirt's photo (taken in Midland, TX, by Ryan Shaw) dated from June. Curious!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Big Bend National Park closures:

Here is what is actually closed in the park:

Conditions & Closures in the Park

Updated: February 6, 2012

Closures in High Chisos due to a recent mountain lion attack:
- Window Trail is closed
- Pinnacles, Boulder Meadow, and Juniper Flat campsites are closed

These closures will remain in effect until further notice.

EDIT (March):
The only remaining trail closures for spring/summer are for nesting Peregrine Falcons -

The areas closed to public entry from February 1 through May 31 are:

  • The Southeast Rim Trail and a portion of the Northeast Rim Trail from the Boot Canyon/Southeast Rim junction to a point just north of Campsite NE-4.
  • All Southeast Rim campsites as well as Northeast (NE) campsites 4 and 5 are closed during this period.
via NPS

Rare (for trans-Pecos) Sparrow continues at Gardens

Gage Gardens, that is, here in Marathon.

Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)

This large sparrow has been here pretty much all winter. CLICK HERE FOR FIRST POSTING.

It reminds me of winter months back in Central Texas. However, even in its normal winter range it can be fairly uncommon.

It is the only bird species that breeds exclusively in Canada, nowhere else.

Gage Gardens is located just south across the tracks from the Gage Hotel. When you cross the tracks south, turn left immediately and you will see it on your right.

Check the eastern seed feeders.

A beautiful bird to observe, and an excellent species to add to one's Brewster County list, hopefully it will stay for a good while longer.

Harris's Sparrow and year-round resident Curve-billed Thrasher (Taxostoma curvirostre)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

BBNP - Northern Parula. Time...after Time.

Northern Parula (Setophaga americana) (NOPA) is a wonderful little wood warbler that we occasionally see during migration out here. Generally an eastern traveler north and south, I last saw one, a female, up here in Marathon one Spring ago.

This species is one of our earliest migrants. Thus, it will go through its prealternate (full body) molt around Dec-January -ish. Months before other migrating warblers. The following photos give us an idea of molt and plumage progress. Progress through just a month's time.

By the way, this bird is over-wintering in the Rio Grande Village, Daniel's Ranch area, of Big Bend National Park. This is an excellent species and fairly rare to be in the area over these winter months. There are only "a handfull of winter records" of NOPA in the park.

This individual was first documented on 30 December 2011, by Brandon Percival of Pueblo West, CO.

Northern Parula, 30 December 2011. photo by Brandon Percival

photo by Brandon Percival

This photo shows a bird in what looks like 1st year or non-breeding plumage. A young male, perhaps.

The following three photos were taken on 8 January 2012, by Steve Collins of Lubbock, TX:

photo by Steve Collins

photo by Steve Collins

photo by Steve Collins

In just 9 days its plumage change is quite noticeable. The three above photos show a rufous patch beginning to appear on the yellow breast.

The rufous spots on either flank are beginning to show. That would make this bird a male.

The white arcs above and below the eyes are beginning to define, a change from the pale slightly blurry of the first photos in this post.

The white lores (between eye and base of bill) is beginning to seperate from the white eye-arcs.
When fully in male breeding plumage, this bird will lose those white lores generally.

Finally, some photos I took of this bird as it was high in the cottonwood canopies.
Photos taken on 31 January 2012, from the same location.

In just a month's time:

While the white lores are still apparent, this individual is showing far closer to breeding plumaged male. The orange and rufous, patch on the yellow breast has progressed. That patch has a thin dark band now separating it from the yellow throat and chin.

Prealternate molt nearly done. This single Northern Parula, wintering at BBNP, now just needs another parula to show up.

With the early molt of this species, at first I had thought there might have been an additional bird.

Go back and check out the first photos and compare with the last.