Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: coots

A Morning at Hornsby Bend

I left early this morning hoping that it wouldn’t be raining at Hornsby Bend, and despite a few quick showers on the toll road, it turned into a nice day with overcast skies and a steady cool breeze.

The egrets, herons and other waders I’d watched over the summer had all moved on, but the ponds were filled with ducks.

A clusterduck. Mostly Northern Shovelers.

A clusterduck, mostly Northern Shovelers

I saw hundreds of Northern Shovelers as well as a few Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Ducks, and some Lesser Scaup. Along with the ducks, there were numerous American Coot and even a couple of Least Grebes.

Northern Shovelers

Northern Shovelers

I drove along the ponds, studying the ducks. The male Northern Shovelers are transitioning into their breeding plumage, which they do in November, so some of their breasts were a bit streaky.

American Coots

American Coots

Other than the ducks, I saw some flocks of some kind of sparrows (I think) that I couldn’t ID and a single Red-winged blackbird, which surprised me after the huge flocks of them I had seen over the summer.

Eventually, I decided to hike down the river trail to the lookout over the Colorado. I could hear Northern Cardinals and Carolina Chickadees, though I didn’t see either.

River Trail

River Trail

Walking along the trail, I spotted a few Carolina Wrens and a Northern Mockingbird as well as small brown birds that darted about, defying easy identification.

I watched the sky for hawks and eagles, but saw only vultures, both Turkey and Black. When I reached the river, a Double-crested Cormorant noisily flapped off away from the bank.

I didn’t see many more birds, but the trees looked especially good. There are three amazing trees that I always have to stop and look at and today, I had all my gear so I took a few pictures.

These are some of my favorite trees in Austin.

Tree at Hornsby Bend

Tree at Hornsby Bend

Another tree at Hornsby Bend

Another tree at Hornsby Bend

Yet another tree at Hornsby Bend

Yet another tree at Hornsby Ben

Closer to the previous tree

Closer to the previous tree

After taking this last picture, the wind picked up along with the kawing of a crow. I listened and a few more crows picked up the cry. I watched the sky and saw 3 American Crows hurrying towards a spot behind the tree I had been photographing.

Assuming they were mobbing, I looked around for a hawk and sure enough, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a hawk’s silhouette as he swooped out of the tree and towards the river.

By the time I got back to the car, the wind had picked up and it looked about to rain so I called it a morning and a good one at that.

Visiting the Pond

Tonight was one of those perfect spring-in-Austin evenings when the air is cool, so unlike how it will be in a few months. Perfect for a trip down to the pond. I need to remember these nights when it’s 90 degrees three hours after dark. These are the days when there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Walking along, listening to the birds stake their evening claims, I noticed this tree that seemed to be reaching towards me in a way that made me stop to make sure it was just a tree. It was, and a nice one at that.

I walked along the trail to the dam and spent a little while watching barn swallows swoop out over the water, diving along the surface to grab insects before soaring back into the sky. Swallows are probably my favorite birds; they’re such graceful flyers and when I watch them, all grace and wonder, it isn’t long before I’m with them, oblivious to the ant mound I’m sitting on.

Less arresting than the aerobatics of the swallows, some ducks American Coots paddled slowly out in the middle of the pond, too far out to get a decent shot, so this one will have to do. I’m trying to figure out what these are, but they’re too far out for my zoom. I’ll have to go back with my binoculars this weekend.

These spring nights, when the sun sets so late, the air is cool and everywhere spring green trees and wildflowers make for perfect walking, perfect evenings, perfect…

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