Mockingbird at Belmont

We don’t have a resident mockingbird near our house (the trees are too thick now that the neighborhood is 25+ years old), but I see them every time I got to Belmont. Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents in Maryland. They pick up ‘songs’ from their environment – most of the time other birdsongs but it can be any noise.

I got to Belmont early on a couple of field trip days to take pictures of a bird in the nature place space. It could have been the same bird both days…or not. The space is surrounded by a meadow so plenty of opportunity for the mockingbird to spot insects for a tasty snack or meal. There are plenty of trees and vines with small fruits that develop over the summer surrounding the meadow to feed the mockingbirds into fall and winter. This is prime habitat for the birds.

See the the mockingbird slide show below – the bird enjoying the morning…before the buses arrived.

Rookery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School

The rookery in the middle of Dallas – on the campus of UT Southwestern Medical School – is busy this time of year. I was there a little over a week ago and the egrets (mostly Great Egrets but some Snowy Egrets as well) were numerous and somewhat acclimated to people watching them. When we first arrived, there was a Great Egret on the ground retrieving a stick to enlarge the nest. And then we looked up in the trees and saw a lot of birds. I noticed the trees from the window of one of the nearby medical buildings where I’d taken my mother for a doctor’s appoint on a rainy day earlier in the week…and the birds were big enough to be noticeable from across the street. I’d worked in the area early in my career (about 45 years ago now!) and there had been lots of talk of cutting down the trees to expand the medical school; the protests back then saved the birds’ nesting area. The rookery has probably been there since the levies were built along the Trinity River and the trees cut down between the levies. The location of the rookery is not far outside the levies and has been active since the 1940s at least.

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There is a lot of bird interaction. I took this series that shows how spiky the feathers on the head can look. Were these Great Egrets having an argument over nest configuration?

Preening is also important for all the gorgeous breeding plumage.

There are Snowy Egrets around too – yellow around the eyes and yellow ‘socks’ on their feet. They are smaller than the Great Egrets but the distinctive features are easy to spot as well. They seemed relatively calmer than the bigger birds on the day I was there.

The Great Egrets provided the best portrait opportunities – with the tree and then zoomed in to almost fill the frame.

Sometimes they sit at the very top of the tree. Are they in sentinel mode when they do? Or maybe they are getting ready to fly out above the traffic and medical buildings and levy…to the river in search of fish for lunch. Soon the eggs will hatch, and the adults will be busy finding enough to feed the chicks.

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There is a small parking area on Campus (off UT Southwestern Drive) and a paved walkway back to a memorial area with a bench – perfect for people that want to enjoy the birds but not walk very far. There is also a loop mulch path that I’ll try next time I am in Dallas in the springtime. There are a lot of birds there from March through May…and some year-round residents. But the egrets – Great and Snow are the most numerous of the birds this time of year.

Through the window….a flicker

With the leaves falling off the trees, it’s easier to see and photograph birds. Last weekend a female Northern Flicker (yellow-shafted) flew into our maple and I managed to get my camera fast enough to take two pictures through my office window. My computer glasses do work so well through the camera viewfinder, so I relied on the camera to focus. The bird turned slightly to show off the red blaze on the back of the head.

I don’t see these birds as frequently as our resident cardinals although the flickers might be here all year. They are hard to spot in foliage and grasses. I’m always thrilled to see them around.

Birding through a Window – March 2018

I was out and about more during March than earlier in the year so I wasn’t around to see birds through my office window as much. I did catch the birds that seem to always bee around: the blue jays,

The cardinals,

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The mourning doves,

The juncos (they’ll be leaving for their nesting grounds in the north soon),

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The titmouse, and

The Carolina wren.

There are the ones I see less often – so continue to view them as special:

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the pileated woodpecker and

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The northern flicker.

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There seemed to be more flocks of birds in the yard and around the feeder/bath: cowbirds,


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Starlings, and

Robins of course (I always associate springtime and flocks of robins coming through…some staying for the season and others continuing northward).

All in all – a good number of birds around in March through high winds and snow….the swings of temperature. It’s been a wild weather month.

Cormorant at Conowingo

We didn’t see as many cormorants as eagles last weekend at Conowingo – but we saw one just as it caught a fish and then focus on swallowing it over the next 3-4 minutes. The fish was probably the maximize size the bird could swallow! But it finally did…letting the river move it downstream as it got the meal down. The last picture shows it moving upstream. Surely it wasn’t ready for another fish!

We didn’t see any Great Blue Herons last weekend. They are probably around but very focused on keeping their eggs warm. This is the time of year that both herons and eagles would be laying eggs and incubating them. I saw an article about one of the eaglets in a nest near Washington DC had already hatched.

I almost always take a picture of the Paulownia tree near the parking lot. The velvety buds have not opened yet. I noticed a larger tree near the water than I had not noticed before. It’s harder to photograph but I might try next time.

Birding through a window – August 2017

Last month, I posted about an America goldfinch that perched on the window frame outside my office. And it’s a goldfinch again for August’s ‘through a window’ post. This male is already in the process changing to winter plumage. He has patches of gray on his head and neck and there are tufts of feathers that the bird was moving around on both sides – like they itched. It was not exactly symmetrical but maybe molting never is.

As the leaf cover of the trees gets thinner, there is always less protection from predators so the drabber winter plumage helps the bird survive. No need for him to stand out when it’s not breeding season!