Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: mockingbirds

among rain lilies
a mockingbird

this strange midnight
music floats through the oaks
the lone mockingbird’s nocturnal

Project FeederWatch Week 9

This was another good weekend of feeder watching. The titmice thought so too, especially since they finally noticed the pinecone feeder.

Black-crested Titmouse on the pinecone feeder

Black-crested Titmouse on the pinecone feeder

I’ve been trying for a couple of years to attract American Goldfinches to the yard. They’re only here in winter and I’ve seen them along the trail by the creek, but never in the yard. I’ve moved my nyjer feeder from place to place with no luck until this weekend when a lone American Goldfinch graced my yard, though he preferred the regular tube feeder over the nyjer feeder. He showed up on both count days so I’m hoping he’ll tell his friends and come back. Hopefully, I’ll get a picture.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

The Chipping Sparrows showed up in record numbers for the year. I counted 19 at one point. I know that in late March and early April they’ll flock up and I’ll see 60 or 70 at a time in the weeks before they head north, but 19 is more than I expected at this point.

A Northern Mockingbird eyes the suet feeder

A Northern Mockingbird eyes the suet feeder

The suet feeder continues to be one of the most interesting feeders in terms of what it draws. Last summer it was dominated by Blue Jays and a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, but those don’t seem interested anymore, happily surrendering it to the mocker and the smaller birds.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet considers the suet feeder

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet considers the suet feeder

The Orange-crowned Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet also returned, which was expected since I had seen them most days since my last count. The above shot of the kinglet was taken through a dirty window, but I was surprised to have gotten anything considering how jumpy they are.

And, now, the official count for Week 9, which is probably my highest count at least in terms of number of species:

  • Northern Cardinal (1)
  • Chipping Sparrow (19)
  • Orange-crowned Warbler (1)
  • Black-crested Titmouse (2)
  • Carolina Chickadee (2)
  • Bewick’s Wren (2)
  • Carolina Wren (1)
  • American Goldfinch (1)
  • White-winged Dove (7)
  • Northern Mockingbird (1)
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1)
  • House Sparrow (4)
  • Mourning Dove (3)
  • Blue Jay (2)

Also, if you’re in Austin (or just interested), check out Mikael’s list of the 20 most common year-round resident backyard birds in the north Austin area.

Weekend Birds and Snake

The birds are singing a bit more and thus calling to be found. This mockingbird on one of the neighborhood trails especially so. He let me get pretty close before he took off, leaving me with perhaps my best mocker photo.

On Sunday R and I went to Hornsby Bend. On the river trail, we got a good look (and lousy shot) of this Crested Caracara perched high above the Colorado. We could hear, but not see, Blue Jays screeching at him from the nearby trees.

On the drive out, we had to stop for this Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, taking its time crossing the road.

After 20 years in Texas, this is the very first rattlesnake I’ve actually seen (heard lots of them, though). Strangely enough, the previous weekend, my brother was telling me he had just seen his first ever rattlesnake.

Halfway across the road, it stopped and started rattling. Not wanting to run over it and thus deprive the caracara or one of the many hawks swooping around the area of a tasty meal, I eased the car around it, but not before taking a few pictures.

Hopefully, it will be another 20 years before I see another one.

On the way out, with hawks screeching overhead, I spotted this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, one of my favorite birds. I took his picture, figuring this might be the last one I would see until April.

Of course, I’ve seen quite a few on the way to work the past few days, but they’ll be heading south soon.

Young Mockingbird

Last Friday, this little guy showed up in a small tree by the window. I knew he was a baby something, but R saw through that streaked breast right away and called him as a baby mockingbird. A few minutes later one of the adults showed up with a bug and fed it to him before flying away.

The young mocker sat in the bush, trying to stay balanced on the thin branches and chirping for another bug. Eventually, he fluttered over to the neighbor’s shrubs, which are thicker and offer better protection since, according to Kent Rylander’s Behavior of Texas Birds, mockingbirds leave the nest a week or so before they can really fly. The adults feed them and watch over them, chasing away jays, cats, and any other predators that may happen by.

Later, when walking the dogs, I saw the adult singing from a nearby tree while eliciting chirps from several sets of nearby bushes.

That afternoon, we watched as a pair of black-crested titmice led a family of newly-fledged youngsters around the yard, showing them where all the feeders are. I suppose it really was independence day.

And If that Mockingbird Don’t Ring

A few years ago we went camping up near Colorado Bend. All through the night we kept hearing what sounded like a cell phone ringing up in a tree above our camp site. We initially suspected it to be the mysterious birdus ringus loudus (commonly known as the central Texas greater telephone bird), but it was, of course, none other than mimus polyglottos, the northern mockingbird and our state’s rep among the avifauna.

I have mixed feelings about the fact that there are so many cell phones out on camping trips that birds are mimicing the sound, but still, that’s probably what made me start really paying attention to these ubiquitous little singers. Maybe he was just showing off anyway, thinking to himself, “I can play that… what else you got?” like a jazz musician at a jam session.

Lately, the ones around the neighborhood have begun the spring concert season, making mornings just that much more pleasant.

They can be ferocius little birds, too. I’ve seen them chasing hawks off their territory and people out of their parking lots. It’s hard to not admire such a fearless little animal who also manages to so eloquently grace the trees with his song.

Atticus was right: It is a sin to kill a mockingbird. And that from a finch, no less.

Great Backyard Bird Count – Day 3

Yesterday, I decided to do my Great Backyard Bird Count counting along the trail in our neighborhood. I left at 3:15. The weather was early-spring perfect, and a welcome treat after the previous day’s drizzle and rain.

I spotted a few mockingbirds, including this one:

Northern Mockingbird

I love listening to them sing; it’s like having all the other birds wrapped up in one. I guess they’re like the ipod of birds, set on permanent shuffle.

Often, I’ll follow a bird’s song only to find a mockingbird, but this time, there was a little chickadee bouncing in the tree. The number of dee’s in their call gives their assessment of any threat. I only rated one dee.

Carolina Chickadee

As I walked down the trail, I saw both turkey and black vultures spiraling overhead. I saw two hawks, but even with the binoculars, I couldn’t ID them as they were too far away. I suspect they were red-tails, though, since most of the hawks around here are.

At the bottom of the hill, the trail opens up into a kind of grassy meadow along the creek. A crow sat on the highest tree calling out to anyone who would listen. While studying the trees around the meadow, I saw a great blue heron glide past, slowly flapping its great wings.

Walking back up the hill, I heard a number of other birds chirping in the trees. I caught glimpses of chipping sparrows and even a blue jay, the first one I’ve seen since August.

Up near the trailhead, I ventured into a meadow where a small creek runs narrow and quiet beneath thick undergrowth. Looking up, I noticed a woodpecker clinging to the tree and apparently feeding or depositing something in a hole. He was either a golden-fronted or a red-bellied woodpecker, but he hopped into the hole before I could get close enough (even with binoculars) to figure out what he was.

I did get this shot of his head, as he sat there surveying the woods around him.

Mystery Woodpecker

It’s not enough to ID him for sure, though.

And, here are my “official” counts for the birds I could ID:

  • 2 Northern mockingbirds
  • 2 Turkey Vultures
  • 1 Carolina chickadee
  • 1 American crow
  • 1 Great blue heron
  • 1 Black-crested titmouse
  • 3 Black vultures
  • 2 Chipping sparrows
  • 1 Blue jay

To Watch a Mockingbird

While wandering around Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park, I caught this northern mockingbird doing its display routine from the top of a tree.

They like to jump up and immediately dive back to the perch in between songs. They seem to do it repeatedly, which is convenient if you’re trying to photograph the whole thing.

Three Bird Lunch

My classroom has no exterior windows and if I get busy, it’s easy to go a whole day with no idea of what the weather is like outside. This time of year, however, it’s beautiful and so, I’ve taken to going for walks around the building. It’s good to get out for some exercise and even more fun to see what kinds of wildlife I can identify. Today, I brought my camera.

I’ve been especially fascinated by the killdeer around the building. Initially, it was its call that caught my attention, and so I stopped to discover these noisy shorebirds that live nowhere near shore. Apparently their natural habitats are parking lots near fields and golf courses.

When I go for my walks, I always look forward to getting around to the west side of the building where they like to congregate in the drainage ditch, which this one discovered helps make him especially photogenic.

I see mockingbirds all the time, and today, I actually managed to get a picture of this one.

I’d like to try to get one displaying the white flashes on its wings, but that will take a bit of patience.

Finally, I saw this scissor-tailed flycatcher hanging out waiting to be photographed.

I’ve seen these birds all over the place around here, but I never knew what they were until today. The tip-off, of course, was when I saw one catch a fly in midair, his scissor-like tail streaming behind him. Now that I know what he is, I get to add him to my list.

In addition to the three I photographed, I also regularly see barn swallows, turkey vultures, white-winged doves, and some kind of hawk that I haven’t been able to name yet, although, I didn’t see him today.

It’s a funny thing walking around the building. Looking outward, I see birds, wild and free, filling me up with enough of the outdoors to go back in for the rest of the day, and all of it surrounding a building full of juvenile offenders. I wonder what they think about when they see the birds outside, or if they even notice them at all.

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