A Year of Birds on the Brain

It’s Christmas day, and I am ridiculously excited about two of the presents I received – an audio CD of bird songs from Jason to learn how to identify species by ear, and a birding journal from my mom.  “It’s so funny that you got so into this bird thing,” he says, “considering you’re so scared of birds”.

I was scared of birds, potentially still am in the up-close and personal, and it is true that I never really cared for them before I got involved with Jason.  I reminded him of what changed that for me; an experience during our 2010 road trip in which we stopped at a wildlife refuge in Wyoming, and we saw a bird do something I didn’t know birds did – pretended to be injured in order to lure us away from what was probably her nest.  I was intrigued about this but didn’t even know what kind of bird that was to be able to describe it in a story form.  Later research would teach me that this bird was a Killdeer, and this is one of their identifying behaviors.

Also, Jason was mildly into birds, mostly birds of prey, and I indulged his interest and began to share it with him.  I am a lot more obsessive than he is, so when I latched on to this as an interest of ours, I became absorbed in learning all kinds of details.

Also, he pointed out, the thing that is remarkable about birds is that they are truly free.  I love the concept of freedom and that is probably what roped me in.  I always loved wild horses because of the the freedom they represented, but they are bound to the land, with restrictions on their roaming.  Fish are free, but bound to the water.   Birds know no master; land, sea or sky, and have no care about the constraints us humans have put on the earth.  Only the laws of nature restrict them.

So this year, I said I was going to keep a record of all the species we identified, as we got better at visual identification.  The rule was we were not going to go out of our way per se to find birds, but just keep track of the different species that we encountered on our normal path.   However, our paths did meander quite a bit this year.  Work sent me to Florida, Michigan, Illinois, and Georgia.  Recreational travel had us in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  We also visited some places in Texas that may or may not be outside our normal flight path.  Some birds we saw were unique to those places or ranges, so they might be birds we rarely or never see again.   This is a record of what we saw and where the first place is that I recorded seeing this species at this year, divided by type.

Ducks, Geese and Swans

Black Bellied Whistling Duck (Brazos Bend State Park)

Greater White-Fronted Goose (Paul Rushing Park)

Canada Goose (Michigan)

Muscovy Duck (neighborhood)Ducks

Wood Duck (San Marcos)

Gadwall  (Paul Rushing Park)

American Wigeon (Paul Rushing Park)

Mallard (neighborhood)

Mottled Duck (Florida)

Blue Winged Teal (Brazos Bend State Park)

Northern Shoveler (Florida)

Ring-Necked Duck (Hermann Park)

Lesser Scaup (Cross Creek Ranch – Polishing Pond)

Barrows Goldeneye (Montana – I think)

Hooded Merganser (Houston Zoo)hooded merganser

Partridges, Grouse, Turkeys and Kin

Wild Turkey (Florida)

New World Quail

Northern Bobwhite (Caprock Canyons State Park)


Common Loon (Plano)


Pied Billed Grebe (Brazos Bend State Park)


American White Pelican (Bishop Fiorenza Park reservoir)20141102-_DSC1162

Brown Pelican (Houston Zoo)


Neotropic Cormorant (Sylvan Rodriquez Park)

Double-Crested Cormorant (Florida)

Bitterns, Herons and Egrets

Great Blue Heron (ubiquitous)

Great Egret  (Bishop Fiorenza Park reservoir)

Snowy Egret (Brazos Bend State Park)

Little Blue Heron (Florida)

Tri-Colored Heron (Florida)

Cattle Egret (ubiquitous)

Green Heron (Bastrop)

Black-Crowned Night Heron (Cinco Ranch)

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron (Cinco Ranch)

Ibises and Spoonbills

White Ibis (Bishop Fiorenza Park reservoir)

Glossy Ibis (Cross Creek Ranch)

Roseatte Spoonbill (Cinco Ranch)


Black Vulture (Brazos Bend State Park)BB 8 vultures

Turkey Vulture (Brazos Bend State Park)

Hawks, Kites, Eagles and Kin

Osprey  (Florida)

Mississippi Kite (Cinco Ranch – Willow Fork Trail)

Bald Eagle (The Woodlands)

Coopers Hawk (Florida)

Red-shouldered Hawk (Addicks Reservoir)

Broad-Winged Hawk (Houston Arboretum)

Swainson’s Hawk (neighborhood)

White-Tailed Hawk (Katy Prairie)20140721-_DSC1133

Red-Tailed Hawk (ubiquitous)

Ferrunginous Hawk (Montana)

Caracaras and Falcons

Crested Caracara (Paul Rushing Park)

American Kestrel (Katy)

Rails and Coots

Clapper Rail (Galveston)

Common Moorhen (Cullinan Park)

American Coot (Cullinan Park)


Sandhill Crane (Florida)

Lapwings and Plovers
Killdeer (Brazos Bend State Park)

Stilts and Avocets

Black-necked Stilt (Cinco Ranch)

Sandpipers, Phalaropes and Kin

Lesser Yellowlegs (Sylvan Rodriquez Park)

Willet (Galveston)

Spotted Sandpiper  (Cinco Ranch)

Long-Billed Curlew (Paul Rushing Park)

Western Sandpiper (Cinco Ranch)

Long-Billed Dowitcher (Inks Lake Fish Hatchery)

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers and Kin

Laughing Gull (Galveston)

Ring Billed Gull (Plano)

California Gull (Montana – I think)

Black Skimmer (Galveston)

Pigeons and Doves

Rock Pigeon (Katy)pigeons

Eurasian Collared Dove (Katy)

White Winged Dove  (Katy)

Mourning Dove  (Katy)

Inca Dove (Riverside Park – Sugarland)

Common Ground-Dove (Burnet)

Cuckoos, Roadrunners and Allies

Greater Roadrunner (Oklahoma)

Typical Owls

Great Horned Owl  (neighborhood)

Nighthawks and Nightjars

Common Nighthawk (San Marcos)


White-throated Swift (Utah)


Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Sugarland)

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (Colorado)

Rufous Hummingbird (Idaho)


Belted Kingfisher (Spring Creek Nature Center)

Woodpeckers and Allies

Red-Headed Woodpecker (Bear Creek Park)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Brazos Bend State Park)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Brazos Bend State Park)

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker  (Spring Creek Nature Center)

Downy Woodpecker  (Cinco Ranch – Willow Fork Trail)

Tyrant Flycatchers

Eastern Phoebe  (Brazos Bend State Park)

Gray Kingbird (Florida)

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (Katy Park)


Loggerhead Shrike (Cinco Ranch)

Northern Shrike (Colorado)


Blue-headed Vireo (Sylvan Rodriquez Park)

Warbling Vireo (Colorado)

Jays and Crows

Blue Jay (ubiquitous)

Pinyon Jay (Utah)20140721-_DSC1134

Black-Billed Magpie (Colorado)

American Crow (Brazos Bend State Park)

Common Raven (Burnet)


Purple Martin (neighborhood)

Cliff Swallow (Michigan)

Barn Swallow  (Cinco Ranch)

Chickadees and Titmice

Carolina Chickadee (Brazos Bend State Park)

Tufted Titmouse (Brazos Bend State Park)

Black-Crested Titmouse (Burnet)


Brown-headed Nuthatch (Florida)


Carolina Wren (Katy Park)

House Wren (Oklahoma)


American Dipper (Montana)


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Brazos Bend State Park)

Old World Warblers and Gnatcatchers

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (Brazos Bend State Park)


Eastern Bluebird (Brazos Bend State Park)

Mountain Bluebirds (Utah)

Townsends Solitaire (Utah)

American Robin  (ubiquitous)

Mockingbirds, Catbirds and Thrashers

Northern Mockingbird   (ubiquitous)


European Starling (ubiquitous)


Cedar Waxwing (neighborhood)

New World Warblers

Yellow Rumped Warbler (Brazos Bend State Park)

Yellow Throated Warbler (Bastrop)


Scarlet Tanager (Rosharon)

New World Sparrows

Spotted Towhee (Utah)20140713-_DSC0874

Eastern Towhee (Houston)

Chipping Sparrow (George Bush Park)

Field Sparrow  (Paul Rushing Park)

Savannah Sparrow (George Bush Park)

Song Sparrow  (Cinco Ranch – Willow Fork Trail)

Dark-Eyed Junco (Arkansas)

Cardinals and Kin

Northern Cardinal  (ubiquitous)20141203-_DSC1189

Blue Grosbeak (Caprock Canyons State Park)

Blackbirds, Orioles and Kin

Red-Winged Blackbird  (ubiquitous)

Eastern Meadowlark (Florida)

Brewers Blackbird (Paul Rushing Park)

Common Grackle (ubiquitous)

Boat Tailed Grackle

Great Tailed Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird (Florida)

Old World Sparrows

House Sparrow (Sugarland)

That makes 134 recorded species for 2014.  I am sure there is a lot we missed.  Now, for next year, let’s see how many more we can find.  In 2015, we might even go out of our way for birds ;-).  It also appears, from the difficulty I had finding pictures for this entry, that we need to work on taking pictures of the birds we see.

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