Thursday, May 24, 2012

Humming Along in Texas

It's a challenge to sort through all the fantastic birds I saw in Texas, but sometimes, you have just have to start with small steps - or small birds. On the trip, I added two new hummingbirds to my life list: the buff-bellied hummingbird and the ruby-throated hummingbird.

The buff-bellied hummingbird is a south Texas specialty, and I saw my first one at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen; a wonderful urban birding oasis with 20 acres of gardens to explore for up close views of some fantastic species. The birds are so used to visitors, in fact, they don't seem to mind a bit of close interaction, and the buff-bellieds posed beautifully for me both times I visited the property.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is far more widespread and passes through south Texas in huge numbers during migration (and more than a few linger for breeding), but has been a nemesis for me ever since I became a birder. I grew up in the east and I clearly remember seeing hummingbirds at my grandmother's feeders, but because I wasn't a birder at that time and wasn't watching for field marks and good views, I was unable to add the bird to my very picky life list once I started counting. Fortunately, on the last day of my trip while we spent time at Estero Llano Grande State Park, a gorgeous male ruby-throat was staking out his territory near one of the feeding stations, and while I wasn't quite so close to get a good photo, there's no mistaking the glowing red gorget. Another lifer!

It is interesting how the smallest birds can be some of the most rewarding to see; not only these hummingbirds, but the black-chinned hummingbirds recently arrived at the feeders dangling off my deck. Now I just have to manage a photo of those beauties as well!

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