. Except in our backyard, I don't normally spend much time watching Northern Cardinals. However, the other day at the college I just had to stop and watch a male Cardinal as he delicately picked food from a nearby tree.
. Wednesday at noon I decided to use my lunch hour to make a quick birding trip to Longenbaugh Road on the Katy prairie. As it takes almost 20 minutes to get there from the college, it left me only about 20 minutes for birding.
I started by spending ten minutes where Longenbaugh crosses Bear Creek. Although there were none of the Harris's Sparrows I was hoping to see, several Savannah Sparrows were present.
So, too, was a pair of White-crowned Sparrows.
An Eastern Phoebe and an Eastern Bluebird were perched nearby.
As is usual on Longenbaugh, I didn't have to look far to spot a Loggerhead Shrike.
While I photographing the Shrike, a flock of 200 Cedar Waxwings flew in. Most had the normal yellow-tipped tail.
However, at least one had the much lesson common orange-tipped tail.
After Longenbaugh, I had only a few minutes left for a drive over to Paul Rushing Park, where I was hoping to add Brown-headed Cowbird to my 2016 Harris County list.
As soon as I parked, I saw several Brown-headed Cowbirds mixed in with a large flock of Red-winged Blackbirds. They were too far off for photos, so I had to make do with a shot of a closer American Crow instead.
With two minutes left, I got lucky! A Long-billed Curlew appeared and landed only a short distance from where I was standing.
So, overall, not a bad little birding trip, considering that it lasted just 20 minutes. .
. One of the best things about going to work (on the CyFair campus) in the winter is that I get to see Cedar Waxwings almost every day. On sunny mornings they perch on the top of trees by the nature trail.
One bird that is always present everywhere on campus is the Northern Mockingbird. I'm so used to seeing them that I rarely give them a second glance. However, the other day I just had to stop to admire this one as it took advantage of the first rays of morning sunlight.
The campus has at least one resident Great Egret. It usually keeps well away from the main buildings when classes are in session. I get to work early, though, and so I often see it near the library. On Thursday morning it looked very pretty perched right by the cafeteria
On Friday, I arrived before sunrise and was surprised to see our Great Egret exploring an area that is being cleared of vegetation preparatory to the construction of a new building.
When the sun appeared, I noticed that our resident Great Blue Heron was hanging out right at the edge of the cleared area.
Given how antisocial Herons are, I was surprised to see that this one seemed totally unconcerned by the backhoe that was ripping up trees and bushes just 50 yards away from it.
As this bird has lived on the campus for years now, I suppose it has gotten used to all the habitat destruction and building/parking area construction work that goes on there. .
. On Saturday morning we made our first visit for months to Sheldon Lake.
A walk along the boardwalk turned up only a few Swamp Sparrows, all too quickly gone to photograph. As compensation, the garden near the first pond had a very obliging Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, which let me walk along beside it for several yards.
It turned out to be just the first of eight Gnatcatchers that we came across that morning.
The ponds on the south side were empty of birds except for a Tricolored Heron and a juvenile Little Blue Heron.
The trees along the trail had several small flocks of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings. The Waxwigs were feasting on berries.
There was only one bird in the north ponds but it was a good one: an American Bittern. It took me a while to notice it among the reeds.
Unfortunately, it stayed too far away for good photos.
On our way out of the park we came across our first Cattle Egret of the year.
Before heading home we drove down to the boat launch at the south end of Pineland Road, where I did a quick walk along the bank in search of Anhingas. There was one but it was too far away for photos. Luckily, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet was much closer and paused its flitting long enough for me to get a decent picture.
. While much of our attention over the past weeks has been focused on our winter visitors, we certainly haven't ignored our year-round residents. The colder weather this month has brought them to our feeders several times a day every day in January.
Among our favorites are a group of House Finches. One of the females has a growth on the top of her bill but seems otherwise to be healthy.
This male certainly seems to be in good condition.
As usual, our Carolina Wrens divide their time between eating at our feeders and rummaging through our plant containers.
This female Northern Cardinal has been visiting our backyard very frequently, sometimes alone and sometimes with her mate.
I've never seen the female make use of our birdbath but her mate regularly comes down to bathe in it.
While House Sparrows have been a little less of a nuisance lately, they still tend to show up en masse every now and then, scaring away some of our other birds and emptying our seed feeders.
So far this year White-winged Doves have been visiting only in ones and twos, as opposed to descending in their usual hordes.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker occasionally turns up in our trees and at our feeders but rarely stays long. Our Downy Woodpeckers (below) visit much more often and hang around longer.
Blue Jays disappeared from our yards for several months last year. Luckily, they reappeared in the fall and several now pop in frequently to take peanuts and to drink from the birdbath.
Northern Mockingbirds used to be daily visitors to our yards. Then, like the Blue Jays, they vanished for months.So we are very pleased that two Mockingbirds are now regularly flying in to eat from our suet feeders.
Apart from the birds above, our most reliable visitors are Carolina Chickadees. Unfortunately, I haven't managed to get any photos of these delightful birds so far this year.Nor have I managed to get a recent picture of the Cooper's Hawk that lives on our block and sometimes flies down to perch on our fences. .