Saturday, January 31, 2009



Today is Annie’s ninth birthday.



Today's challenge


The picture the size I meant to send it.  This probably fits computer screens better.

Today's challenge


Can you find the hawk in this picture?


Friday, January 30, 2009



Travel day.  Brazos Bend to Rockport.  Stopped for annual inspection stickers on the coach and the Jeep.  A stop in Aransas Pass to top off the fuel.  Across the channel on the ferry, and we’re home.  Gulf Waters.  Good to be back.



Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Brazos Bend


We’re very careful about walking near any water.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Brazos Bend


Another walk at Elm Lake.  Found the reported Tropical Parula in the live oak tree.  Not a life-bird, but only the second time we’ve ever seen it, so a very good bird to get.


No shortage of Spanish moss here.



Brazos Bend



Monday, January 26, 2009

Brazos Bend


A very birdy place.  Nothing unusual for us, but lots to look at.  Nothing unusual except for that rusty blackbird that’s reported to be over on the other side of Elm Lake.  Haven’t seen that one before.  Took a walk around the lake.  Got him!  Lifer!  Number 488, Rusty Blackbird.


Took a loop around the park in the dark tonight.  Got possums, armadillos, bunny rabbits, white tailed deer, and lots of scary noises.


Here is a gator pic.  Can you find the gator in this picture?



Sunday, January 25, 2009



Travel day.  From north of Houston to south of Houston.  We’re at Brazos Bend State Park.  Ninety miles closer to Port Aransas.  No big cities left between here and there.


This is a favorite place.  We were last here two years ago.  Swarming with birds.  Swampy.  Most of the camp sites are back in the forest.  We got one out in the open so our satellite dishes can see the sky. 



Saturday, January 24, 2009






Here is one of the woodpeckers we found along the way.  Can you spot the woodpecker in this picture?



Friday, January 23, 2009

Life Bird!


Persistence pays.  We got the Red Cockaded Woodpecker.  Number 485 for us.  Funny thing, in the search for the woodpecker, we got two other lifers, the Bachman’s Sparrow, Number 486, and the Brown Headed Nuthatch, Number 487.  We’ve been looking for the nuthatch.  The Sparrow was a total surprise.


Birding doesn’t always work like you expect.  We went to the forest every day to look for each bird, the nuthatch and the woodpecker, in the appropriate habitat.  Today, while I was getting out of the car, coffee in one hand, car keys in the other, the brown headed nuthatch flew down and landed on a parking bumper post right next to the car.


After we gave up on the woodpecker, walking back to the car, we found one stuck to a tree about twenty feet away.  Persistence pays.


Thursday, January 22, 2009



A woodpecker walk in the forest each day.  The first day the forest was empty.  Today produced eighteen birds, including three woodpeckers.  No target bird yet though.  No red cockaded woodpecker.  No brown headed nuthatch.


The satellite work is done today.  Two more days to find the woodpecker and we move on regardless.




Tuesday, January 20, 2009



Reacquainted ourselves with the satellite guy (David).  He spent all afternoon on the roof.  The dish equipment is predictably corroded as a result of our life on the beach.  Every fitting he tries to fix comes apart in his hands.  He has applied a temporary fix (think duct tape).  The more permanent fix will take longer (think more parts).


Got an afternoon woodpecker walk again.  Got a really cool bird; a LeConte’s sparrow.  That’s not a bird we usually get on our own.  The only time we’ve ever seen him before was with professional help.


Here is a picture of the sparrow.  This is not my picture.  I got that good a look at him, but he is an elusive bird.  My look was brief.





We stayed home from work to watch the Inauguration.  Quite a moment.





Monday, January 19, 2009



A woodpecker walk in W. G. Jones Forest State Park.  Mature pine trees.  We got seven birds.  We got the largest woodpecker (Pileated), and the smallest (Downy), and a couple in between (Golden Fronted, Red Bellied)  Didn’t get the target bird, the Red Cockaded Woodpecker.  Maybe Monday.


So far we’ve gotten thirty birds at the RV Park and seven birds at the place we go birding.  Maybe we should have parked the motorhome in the G. W. Jones Forest, and driven to the RV Park for birding walks.


Found Hey Boy’s Barbeque.


Here’s a picture of the pipit.


Monday: Satellite dish repair guy.


Sunday, January 18, 2009


The campground.  Brother David should recognize this.






Haven’t seen this view lately.  Full travel mode in a rest stop along a Texas highway Saturday.





Saturday, January 17, 2009

Houston KOA North


Okay, we’re not actually in Conroe.  The Houston KOA North is in Montgomery, west of Conroe.  Nicely spaced sites.  Trails.  Duck ponds.  Little bridges.  Three hundred miles north of Port Aransas.


Took a walk around the RV park and got twenty different kinds of birds.  The highlight: twenty-five American pipits.  Tomorrow:  football.  Satellite dish repair; maybe.  Woodpecker birding; maybe.





Friday, January 16, 2009

Road trip


Standing at the jetty.  A hundred black skimmers, barely above the surface, making the morning flight out the channel.  Northern gannets circling way out in the distance; bodies and wings just flashing white.  Wingtips black.  The skimmers will fly along the surface, snagging their food.  The gannets circle high and dive like arrows fired from the sky for theirs.


Engaging, but we’ve been here for months.  Time to move.  We need some work done on the internet dish, and that takes a specialist.  The dish will still go up and down and point at the satellite for the internet, but it is also supposed to send down television signals.  The television signals have ceased.  We can watch TV on the Park cable, but that’s so primitive.  No DVR.  Can’t even pause it.


We’re headed for Houston.  The KOA Houston North in Conroe, Texas.  The Motosat repair guy will meet us there.  This is the same guy we used in 2007 for a fix.  He’s good.  We’ll stay a few extra days for a look around while we’re there.  We’ll be in different habitat from the coast.  Maybe we’ll pick up a different bird.  There is a rare woodpecker there.  One we don’t have on the life-list yet….


Tomorrow, travel day.





Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pine Flycatcher


This little bird looks a lot like a bunch of other little birds (I didn’t take this picture myself, but it is a picture of the bird in question, nonetheless).  I got the picture from a Wikipedia link.  The bird is an Empidonax Flycatcher for sure, but there are many different kinds of Empidonax Flycatchers.  There are two things that make this little bird significant to us.  First, this is reported to be a Pine Flycatcher, a bird never before seen in North America.  The reports have been pouring in since it was first spotted in December.  It has been in the same place ever since.  We drove to Choke Canyon State Park, a hundred miles away, to see it on Saturday.  We saw it but there is no way we, Judy or I, could determine which of the Empidonax Flycatchers this really is.  There is no agreement among the trained professionals yet either.  It looks mostly like a pine flycatcher, but not perfectly.  It sounds like a pine flycatcher and responded to a tape of the pine flycatcher.  But still, there is debate.  We won’t know whether to add this bird to our life-list until the issue is settled by the American Birding Association (ABA).  The ABA is the arbiter of all questions birding.  They have to determine that this is not a yellow-bellied, Acadian, Alder, Willow, Least, Hammond’s, Gray, Dusky, Pacific-slope, Cordilleran, or Buff-breasted Empidonax flycatcher.  There is talk of needing a DNA sample.  That causes me some concern; images in my head of darting him and chasing him with a jeep until the tranquilizer takes effect and he falls over, but I’m told all they need is one feather.  If the ABA determines this to be a legitimate sighting, they will add the bird to the North American Bird List, and we will add it to our life-list, which brings us to the second reason this bird is significant; our life-list.


We’ve been grinding away at our life-list for years.  We added 49 birds in 2006, 19 in 2007, and 24 in 2008.  Now we’re at 484.  485 if this sighting holds.  We need fifteen or sixteen more birds to get to 500.  We’re working hard on the Texas list.  We’ve seen all the “hard to miss” ones, all the “should see” ones, and all but three of the “may see” birds.  There are more birds yet to see in Texas, but they are either rare or very rare, and you have to be in the right spot at the right time of year.  The only way to get one is to wait for a sighting report, then dash to that spot and find the bird before it goes away (or stumble across one ourselves and tell everyone else about it).


500.  The great Taylor birding challenge.  Maybe in 2009…..


We’ll report back.



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gulf Waters

Some mornings are mistier than others.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Birding Center

Spoonbills in the sunset.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Port Aransas

Sunset at the Birding Center. The marsh boardwalk.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Our pond

A new visitor. A northern pintail.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

Look how narrow the fence slats are. Look how wide the shadows of those fence slats are.

What's wrong with this picture?

The shadow of the fence on the fence.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gulf Waters

Foggy in the morning, then warm yesterday. Cold and fifty today. January weather.

Things change. Pete and Kit left on Saturday for the Desert. Tom and Kathy left this morning for the Valley. There are still plenty of people in the Park, but it’s quiet and empty next to us now.

Things change. We reinvent our job each year. That’s how we got to the mobile practice. That’s how we got from there to the digital practice. Now we’re going to shift away from the digital audits and promote more digital reviews instead. Reviews are more fun to do and don’t require the direct involvement of the Denver Office, so there is no limit to how many we can do.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


A warm windy Saturday. A day-trip. Birding is a good excuse for a drive. We could go north to look for the lesser black backed gull at Port O’Connor, or south for the purple sandpiper on the South Padre Island Jetty (he’s still there). Last time we went south to the jetty for the sandpiper, it was too windy and waves were blowing across the rocks. Windy today. We went north to Port O’Connor.

The lesser black backed gull is not a normal bird for here. Word gets around when one is spotted. There is one in Port O’Connor eighty miles north, and one at the Corpus Christi Dump. The one at the dump is closer, but we decided we’d rather search for the one at Port O’Conner.

This gull stands out. He’s bigger than most of the gulls on the South Texas Coast. Spot a large gull and it’s either a herring gull or the gull we’re looking for. After an hour we found one large gull but it was a juvenile herring gull. We had to look up the details to make sure it wasn’t our gull. The next oversized gull we found, however, was definitely the lesser black backed gull.

An hour and a half north on Highway 35 past Rockport, Fulton, Holiday Beach, and Tivoli, then east past Seadrift to Port O’Connor. You can’t go to Port O’Connor on the way to anywhere else. You have to want to go there. It’s a dead-end at the end of the peninsula. Another hour and a half to find the gull. He was halfway between the fishing pier and the Port O’Connor jetty. By lunch we were back to civilization in Port Lavaca, at the bird sanctuary park, having lunch and a walk on the marsh boardwalk.

So we haven’t had a successful purple sandpiper search yet, but we did get a lifer today. The lesser black backed gull. One more for our life-list.

Friday, January 2, 2009

FW: Cold Inca Doves

Not my picture, but I wanted to forward it anyway because I like it so much.

From: Jon McIntyre []
Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 9:41 AM
To: Steve Taylor
Subject: Cold Inca Doves

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Three hundred fifty-six

That’s our 2008 bird list. That’s a pretty good year for us; the best ever. We weren’t after a big year, though. It just happened.

Twenty-four of those birds were lifers. We got birds in ten different states: AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, TX, UT, and WY.

We got some hard birds:
trumpeter swan
greater scaup
long tailed duck
masked duck
gray hawk
mountain plover
northern beardless tyrannulet
gray jay
California gnatcatcher
White throated robin
California thrasher
Sprague’s pipit
Tropical parula

We couldn’t just count on seeing any of those birds again this year. We’d have to make a serious effort to do that well again in 2009…

1black bellied whistling duck
2fulvous whistling duck
3greater white fronted goose
4snow goose
5ross's goose
6canada goose
7trumpeter swan
9american wigeon
11mottled duck
12blue winged teal
13cinnamon teal
14northern shoveler
15northern pintail
16green winged teal
19ring necked duck
20greater scaup
21lesser scaup
22surf scoter
23long tailed duck
25common goldeneye
26hooded merganser
27common merganser
28red breasted merganser
29masked duck
30ruddy duck
31plain chachalaca
32wild turkey
33scaled quail
34california quail
35gambel's quail
36northern bobwhite
37common loon
38least grebe
39pied billed grebe
40eared grebe
41western grebe
42clark's grebe
43american white pelican
44brown pelican
45neotropic cormorant
46double crested cormorant
48magnificent frigatebird
49great blue heron
50great egret
51snowy egret
52little blue heron
53tricolored heron
54reddish egret
55cattle egret
56green heron
57black crowned night heron
58yellow crowned night heron
59white ibis
60white faced ibis
61roseate spoonbill
62wood stork
63black vulture
64turkey vulture
66white tailed kite
67mississippi kite
68bald eagle
69northern harrier
70sharp shinned hawk
71cooper's hawk
72gray hawk
73harris's hawk
74red shouldered hawk
75broad winged hawk
76swainson's hawk
77white tailed hawk
78red tailed hawk
79ferruginous hawk
80golden eagle
81crested caracara
82american kestrel
84peregrine falcon
85prairie falcon
86clapper rail
87virginia rail
89common moorhen
90american coot
91sandhill crane
92whooping crane
93black bellied plover
94american golden plover
95snowy plover
96wilson's plover
97semipalmated plover
98piping plover
100mountain plover
101american oystercatcher
102black necked stilt
103american avocet
104greater yellowlegs
105lesser yellowlegs
106solitary sandpiper
108spotted sandpiper
109upland sandpiper
111long billed curlew
112marbled godwit
113ruddy turnstone
114red knot
116semipalmated sandpiper
117western sandpiper
118least sandpiper
119baird's sandpiper
120pectoral sandpiper
122stilt sandpiper
123short billed dowitcher
124long billed dowitcher
125wilson's snipe
126wilson's phalarope
127laughing gull
128franklin's gull
129bonaparte's gull
130heerman's gull
131ring billed gull
132california gull
133herring gull
134western gull
135gull billed tern
136caspian tern
137royal tern
138elegant tern
139sandwich tern
140common tern
141forster's tern
142least tern
143black tern
144black skimmer
145rock pigeon
146red billed pigeon
147eurasian collared dove
148white winged dove
149mourning dove
150inca dove
151common ground dove
152white tipped dove
153monk parakeet
154green parakeet
155red crowned parrot
156yellow billed cuckoo
157greater roadrunner
158groove billed ani
159eastern screech owl
160barred owl
161short eared owl
162lesser nighthawk
163common nighthawk
164common pauraque
165chuck will's widow
166chimney swift
167white throated swift
168broad billed hummingbird
169buff bellied hummingbird
170ruby throated humingbird
171anna's hummingbird
172broad tailed hummingbird
173rufous hummingbird
174allen's hummingbird
175ringed kingfisher
176belted kingfisher
177green kingfisher
178red headed woodpecker
179gila woodpecker
180golden fronted woopecker
181williamson's sapsucker
182yellow bellied sapsucker
183red naped sapsucker
184ladder backed woodpecker
185downy woodpecker
186hairy woodpecker
187northern flicker
188northern beardless tyrannulet
189western wood pewee
190eastern wood pewee
191yellow bellied flycatcher
192acadian flycatcher
193least flycatcher
194cordilleran flycatcher
195black phoebe
196eastern phoebe
197say's phoebe
198vermilion flycatcher
199ash throated flycatcher
200great crested flycatcher
201brown crested flycatcher
202great kiskadee
203couch's kingbird
204cassin's kingbird
205western kingbird
206eastern kingbird
207scissor tailed flycatcher
208loggerhead shrike
209white eyed vireo
210blue headed vireo
211warbling vireo
212philadelphia vireo
213red eyed vireo
214gray jay
215steller's jay
216blue jay
217green jay
218western scrub jay
219pinyon jay
220clark's nutcracker
221black billed magpie
222american crow
223chihuahuan raven
224common raven
225horned lark
226purple martin
227tree swallow
228violet green swallow
229northern rough winged swallow
230bank swallow
231cliff swallow
232cave swallow
233barn swallow
234carolina chickadee
235black capped chickadee
236mountain chickadee
237black crested titmouse
240red breasteed nuthatch
241white breasted nuthatch
242cactus wren
243rock wren
244carolina wren
245bewick's wren
246house wren
247sedge wren
248marsh wren
249american dipper
250ruby crowned kinglet
251blue gray gnatcatcher
252california gnatcatcher
253eastern bluebird
254western bluebird
255mountain bluebird
256townsend's solitaire
257swainson's thrush
258hermit thrush
259wood thrush
260clay colored robin
261white throated robin
262american robin
264gray catbird
265northern mockingbird
266sage thrasher
267brown thrasher
268long billed thrasher
269curve billed thrasher
270california thrasher
271european starling
272american pipit
273sprague's pipit
274cedar waxwing
275tennessee warbler
276orange crowned warbler
277nashville warbler
278virginia's warbler
279northern parula
280tropical parula
281yellow warbler
282magniolia warbler
283yellow rumped warbler
284black throated gray warbler
285black throated green warbler
286townsend's warbler
287blackburnian warbler
288yellow throated warbler
289pine warbler
290palm warbler
291blackpoll warbler
292black and white warbler
293american redstart
294prothonotary warbler
296northern waterthrush
297louisiana waterthrush
298kentucky warbler
299common yellowthroat
300hooded warbler
301wilson's warbler
302yellow breasted chat
303summer tanager
304scarlet tanager
305western tanager
306olive sparrow
307green tailed towhee
308spotted towhee
309canyon towhee
310california towhee
311cassin's sparrow
312botteri's sparrow
313chipping sparrow
314brewer's sparrow
315vesper sparrow
316lark sparrow
317black throated sparrow
318lark bunting
319savannah sparrow
320grasshopper sparrow
321song sparrow
322lincoln's sparrow
323swamp sparrow
324white crowned sparrow
325dark eyed junco
326mccown's longspur
327northern cardinal
329rose breasted grosbeak
330black headed grosbeak
331blue grosbeak
332indigo bunting
333painted bunting
334red winged blackbird
335eastern meadowlark
336western meadowlark
337yellow headed blackbird
338brewer's blackbird
339common grackle
340great tailed grackle
341bronzed cowbird
342brown headed cowbird
343orchard oriole
344hooded oriole
345bullock's oriole
346altamira oriole
347audubon's oriole
348baltimore oriole
349scott's oriole
350pine grosbeak
351house finch
352pine siskin
353lesser goldfinch
354american goldfinch
355evening grosbeak
356house sparrow