Saturday, July 18, 2009

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson's Hawk is very common in the panhandle, as it is in its breeding grounds and summer home. This hawk feeds on small mammals such as mice, voles, and ground squirrels. Also on its menu are small birds and large insects such as grasshoppers and crickets. As such, they may be a party to rescuing crops from outbreaks of these insects. Swainson's Hawk is slightly less bulky than the Red-Tailed Hawk, and can be mistaken for the Red-Tail. The first things you might notice are its dark hood, and its white underside and white wings with a dark trailing edge (flight feathers).

The business end of the Swainson's Hawk.

Here, a Western Kingbird urges a Swainson's Hawk to move along.

The typical "V" of its wings as it soars above. The dark flight feathers and his hood are clearly seen in this shot.

A Swainson's Hawk soars above two others, perched in adjacent trees.

This one seems to have a "hangnail". Or would that be a "hangfeather"?


Monday, July 13, 2009

Mississippi Kite

I can't help it. Mississippi Kites are one of my favorite birds, and they are a challenge to photograph. This one landed in a nearby tree, and was nice enough to stick around for a photo shoot. These show their mask, eyes, and coloring more clearly than some of my other shots.

See more of my Mississippi Kite shots and information HERE.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Turkey Vulture

Another trip to Palo Duro Canyon today gave us another treat shortly before sunset. Hundreds - literally hundreds of turkey vultures were amassing at the lower end of the park to roost in trees. Wave after wave of vultures arrived for a good hour anyhow. It was the most amazing thing I've seen in the bird world.

Everybody knows Turkey Vultures - the big black birds soaring high overhead, searching for carrion to make a meal of. Their red heads are just a bit on the ugly side, somewhat resembling a turkey's. Hence the name.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Gambel's Quail

This is a first sighting for me - seen in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The Gambel's Quail is about the size of a robin, and has a plume coming from his forehead that makes this quail readily identifiable. We saw this one standing watch for his mate and a brood of chicks they were raising together.

Gambel's Quail usually forages for seeds, buds and shoots, cacti, fruit, and will occasionally eat insects. They nest on the ground under cover of shrubs or grass.


Bullock's Oriole

Shelley and I were spending the morning in Palo Duro Canyon today. At one point, this Oriole caught our attention when it flew through our field of view. Its bright orange coloring was ablaze in the morning sun, making it impossible to ignore. After entertaining us with fly-bys several times, it landed in the top of a nearby tree.

The Bullock's Oriole builds an elaborate hanging pouch nest that provides both shelter and protection. This nest is often the only evidence of this bird being there, seen hanging in a bare tree in the fall. This oriole is common in the western half of Texas. It eats caterpillars, wasps, beetles, and will also feed on fruit and nectar.


Western Kingbird

This Western Kingbird was nice enough to pose for me so I could get a good series of his portraits.

(Click for a larger view.)

See more of my photos and info on the Western Kingbird HERE.