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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Birds at Choke Canyon State Park

Coming back from Corpus Christi TX to Austin, I passed a sign on the Interstate that beckoned me to Choke Canyon State Park. Truth be told, I was more interested in taking a break from driving than anything else, but I thought it would be good to see a canyon and take some photos. How naive! As has been done in Austin and many areas of Texas, the canyon is long gone. It has been dammed up and is now a lake! Lots of boating, and some camping, but no canyon.



I had just about given up hope that there would be anything interesting at this park, when I drove past this sign and decided to at least take the walk and see what there was along the Bird Trail.

As it turned out, the trail was very short, but did allow me to try my hand at photographing a couple of the local birds.

Might be a Great Kiskadee? Mikael B. thinks it is a Vermilion Flycatcher female.

This one is a bit of a mystery, mainly because the branch hides it for the most part. Best I could do. WhatBirds tells me it might be a Yellow-breasted Chat, but I am not convinced. I will go with Mikael's note that it's an Orange-crowned Warbler. There were several warblers on the list that I pulled up, so it makes sense to me!


At the end of the walk, I saw a bright red bird perched in the scrubby trees beside the reservoir. I was much too far away to get a close up, and as usual I had not brought the tripod, so I began to walk slowly closer, and got this image as he flew to the live oak tree beside the parking lot. My birding buddy Mikael Behrens, who writes about and photographs birds in his blog Birding on Broadmeade, helped me identify this good-looking guy as a Vermillion Flycatcher. After Mikael helped me with the names, I went back to WhatBird.com and had better success with the Expert mode. He has also recommended a birding book, and I will pick it up soon.

Vermilion Flycatcher

I kept moving closer to the bird, trying to go fast enough to get a decent photo, yet slow enough to keep him from becoming too nervous, and got a few shots like the one above. I had to crop a lot out of the photo to get this "close up," but I think you can see generally what he looked like.

Canvasbacks

As I was moving along the path taking shots of the birds in the brush and trees, I kept hearing noises off to my right at the water's edge. Not having great luck with the tree birds, I moved toward the scrubby trees and bushes along the shore, and scared these three Canvasbacks out onto the water. There were many coots out there too, but these redheads were much more interesting.

There were several Turkey Vultures soaring overhead, so to make the day complete, I took several shots of them. I liked this one's wing markings. and he got closer than the others, so I include him here.

I am going to try my hand later at stitching together a panorama shot of the reservoir and boat launch area. I will add it to this post if it turns out ok. I hope you will come back and see if it's here. I am glad that you visited and promise to have more later.

Very best regards,

Mike Z

PS Thanks again Mikael, for your help identifying these birds. To all my buddies out there, please go by and check out Birding on Broadmeade. You won't be disappointed!

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