Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 1 (Day 121) - Very good Austin birds, ready for West Texas!

My legs felt much better today than yesterday, and I expect this trend to continue tomorrow. I did do a bit of light riding around Austin as I chased down a few high quality species this morning. The first target was Golden-cheeked warbler in Barton Creek Park just outside of Austin. Cullen's house, where we had the BBQ last night, actually backs up to Barton Creek, so he helped shepherd me to the the areas that he thought would be the most productive. Accompanied by two of his dogs, we descended into the wooded park with high hopes at around 7:00am this morning. We soon heard a singing male Golden-cheek. Despite its continual singing, we were not able to get a look at it. Cullen had to leave so as to head off to work, but I figured that I could wait this bird out as he made the rounds of his territory. It took me another 35 minutes of hard listening and several silhouetted views of the bird before I could get a decent look (#343). I have only seen this bird once before, so this was a really special find. I did manage a few shots of him. This endangered warbler breeds only in Texas, and has suffered greatly from the destruction of its preferred wooded habitats over the years. The population seems to have stabilized for the moment, but it will take continued conservation efforts to ensure its survival moving forward. On this same walk, I was able to hear both Bewick's wren (#341) and Canyon wren (#342). It was a very successful morning!

Golden-cheeked warbler - through a 
narrow window in the trees!

Cropped from above

Black-crested titmouse in zero light

Cullen in the house! err.....outside the house!

During the later part of the morning, I decided to follow up a lead on a Ringed kingfisher that has been kicking around the eastern edge of Austin. Ringed kingfisher is the largest of 3 the North American kingfishers, and it is normally found south of here in the Rio Grande Valley. The only time I have seen this species before was in Salineno, TX in 2008. This is a classic Rio Grande Valley species that I should find in that area in December. However, as my lead was very solid, I decided to try to knock this bird out today so that I do not have to chase it down in December. I biked over to Roy Guerrero Park where the bird has been observed along the Colorado River. It took me a short time to formulate a search plan, but I figured I would station myself on some high bluffs over the river and wait for the bird to flyby. As I walked out to the bluff edge, a brightly colored male went rocketing by at eye level (#344). He kept going down the river, but did perch just long enough for me to grab a single record shot - whew!

Ringed kingfisher - note huge bill and solid rufous chest

Kingfisher habitat along the Colorado river

Today was clearly a rousing success. I did not make any miles towards Arizona but I was able to did 2 very high quality birds to the year's total. I also cut in half the birds for which I mush search in Junction; I need only find the Black-capped vireo since the warbler is already ticked. 

I decided to lay low this afternoon and keep the legs fresh for the elevation climb I will face tomorrow. I took a slight detour through downtown Austin after the kingfisher to check out the town. Austin is one of the hippest places in the country to live right now, and, given the number of bars and restaurants downtown, it is easy to see why. I found Austin to be very bike friendly. It was very easy to move about even the busiest streets without issues. My detour also took me past the state capitol. It is a very unique reddish building that is vaguely reminiscent of the Capital in Washington DC.

I will be staying one last night with my friend Barry before I hit the road early tomorrow. I have 2 destination options for tomorrow. The first is Johnson City about 45 miles west of Austin. The second is Fredericksburg 30 miles beyond Johnson City. I will have to do a fair amount of climbing to reach either spot. Ausitn is around 500' in elevation, Johnson City is around 1,200' and Fredericksburg is about 1,700'. I do not yet have any real idea of what a climb of 500', 1500', or (later in the year) 5,000' feet will feel like. I am going to be very cautious at the outset, and then get more aggressive once I know what my legs can handle. Westward ho!

Barry and I in his yard. 


  1. Good luck with the climb, Dorian, and congrats on the awesome birds today! I've been working on ways to save resources ever since you issued the challenge in your blog. I have definitely been reusing and recycling more, and cutting back on usage of paper towels and cups! Thanks for the inspiration.

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