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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Identifying Things With Wings

Many of the birds that come to the birdbath fountain are common ones, not mysterious: the Blue Jays in my blog header, pairs of nesting Cardinals, omnipresent Mockingbirds, the English Sparrows who have taken over neighbors' Purple Martin houses, hoards of White-winged Doves, noisy Grackles and the most welcome Chickadees.

Robins were my companions when I gardened in Illinois, waiting for me to throw a grub their way, but we went a decade after moving to Texas without seeing a single one. What a thrill when they began to visit our Austin garden: Annieinaustin, american robin
House finches flew in-and-out of a huge blue spruce at my friend Ruth's house near Chicago, but they didn't come to our Illinois houses. They're regular visitors at this house. Annieinaustin, house finch pair
We saw waxwings 30-years ago at house #2 in Illinois - that house had a berry-covered Mountain Ash tree and a row of large, berry-covered junipers. Cedar waxwings began to stop here a couple of years ago. Annieinaustin, Cedar waxwings

Goldfinches (think it's lesser goldfinch?) didn't come to our previous Austin house, but they come here. Titmice and hummingbirds come here too, but are usually too fast for my camera. Annieinaustin, goldfinch pair,rosemary

Local birder Mikael Behrens has a wonderful website- Birding on Broadmeade. The people who go with him on birdwalks find themselves checking many species off their lists without ever leaving NW Austin - even Bluebirds and Caracaras! Birding along Mikael's magic creek sounds like fun if you're able to walk & look through binoculars at the same time.

Birdwatching takes practice and study, but it's probably necessary to have good vision in the first place. When the description tells me to notice if there is "a black smudge below the second wing bar" - it's a lost cause - I can't discern that even when the bird is right outside the breakfast room window and a bird book is in my hand. But even if being a true birder is beyond me, when something more exotic than the usual White-winged doves and Mockingbirds show up on the next Great Backyard Bird Count, it would be great to turn in the correct identities.

Mikael also uses the birds' songs to help identify them, but only certain voices can be heard through my windows - like grackles, jays and mockingbirds. Outside you can hear the calls of a chickadee, wren, cardinal or titmouse and it's easy to tell when a flock of cedar waxwings is in a neighboring yard.

Last year we had what I think was a male Yellow Rumped Warbler and it looks like another (or the same one) is here now, looking like a wet, real-life version of an Angry Bird through the breakfast room window! Hope this one is right, Mikael:Annieinaustin, angry yellow-rumped warbler

Could this be the female Yellow-Rumped Warbler? Annieinaustin, could be yellow-rumped warblerHere's the back of this bird Annieinaustin, maybe Yellow-rumped warblerA similar bird was around in January, so maybe they're not just passing through.Annieinaustin, psble YR warbler January

In March I took a photo of the male yellow-rumped warbler, perched on an herb trough at right, waiting a turn to bathe. Reflection from the water spoiled the image of the bird at left, but at the time I thought it might be a Nashville warbler.Annieinaustin, 2 warblers March
I'm not sure if the same bird was here yesterday, but with those white eye-rings it looks a lot like the Nashville warbler from last year- Annieinaustin, maybe Nashville Warbler

Could the bird with white eye-rings at top left in this trio also be a Nashville warbler ... or maybe the same one, rumpled and wet? As to the other two - any chance the one at right is a Ruby Crowned Kinglet? Annieinaustin 3 birds, one Nashville warbler

Here's another shot of the trio. Did I get anything right? Annieinaustin, maybe Nashville warbler w 2 birds

Insects with wings can be confusing, too - this is some kind of Swallowtail butterfly on the Carolina Jessamine but which one? Annieinaustin swallowtail on carolina jessamine

A few days ago a mammal with wings rested for a short time on the wall in the Secret Garden - my guess on this is a Little Brown Bat. Some sites suggest a full moon can throw off the bat's normal schedule... my hope is that a night of eating mosquitoes made the bat too full to fly straight home. Annieinaustin prob Little brown batThanks for any input ... there is some video footage of the little birds hopping around on the fountain - it can go up on YouTube once they have names.


  1. I have nearly all the same birds. Except for that adorable rumpled one! How cute is he? I too enjoy the Boradmeade blog. I know that area a little and if I was sharp enough to discern those small details I'd go, but usually unless its red, or yellow or blue...to me it's a finch! Though I do have a woodpecker who frequents my feeders.

    My pond is a huge attractor, too. Last week I saw a hummingbird in front of the falling water drinking. It was so wonderful. This is why I love Austin! Or is it the humidity and constant drought...hmmm? :)


  2. A BAT in your garden -- now that's something unique. I often see them flying around but never parking to make a portrait possible.

  3. We have the ruby crowned kinglets...they are so cute! They are quite small compared to our other regulars and can be identified by behavior if you are uncertain...they often hover a bit in an unusual way. I love birds and agree...it is not easy for aging eyes to make out a lot of the marks they talk about. I'm impressed with the large variety you have!

  4. I let out an audible gasp at the last picture. LOL.

  5. The bat is amazing. We put up a bat house late last year...yes a $50 bat house...what can I say? The yellow-rumped warbler looks like the ones we have here. Had one during the winter months but have not seen them recently.

  6. Bats, what fun! We see them flying in the evening, but I've only once found one asleep during the day (under the eaves of the garage).

    Your butterfly looks the same as my Easter Tiger Swallowtails, but according to one range map I looked at, you're on the western edge of their range.

    I'm not good at all at warbler ID, but I'm pretty sure the yellow-rump is correct. But I don't think the suspected kinglet is a kinglet - the bill and body shape just don't look right to me. I'll check my warbler book later today unless someone else has ID'd them before I get to it.

  7. Your photos are amazing - and your collection of birds is precious. I haven't even seen a robin here, though I do have most of the rest of them. I don't get wax wings either, but we have a bunch of scrub jays (instead of blue jays) they don't have the white stripes like the common blue jay - they are all blue - and mean! They all clearly love your beautiful fountain. Happy Earth Day.

  8. OK, now with warbler book in hand, how about Orange-crowned Warbler for the rightmost bird of the trio? My book says "short, dusky eyeline; pale indistinct eyebrow; faint narrow broken eyering; orange crown may be concealed or absent; yellowish-olive underparts with brighter yellow undertail coverts; faint streaks on sides of breast". There are a couple of photos online, one at Cornell's All About Birds site and one at whatbird.com, that look very similar to yours.

    I think the top left bird of the trio is almost certainly a male Nashville Warbler.

    Tomorrow morning I need to get out and find some warblers of my own ;-)

  9. Hi Annie, thanks for the kinds words! You're right about the Lesser Goldfinches and the Yellow-rumped Warblers. And the Nashville Warblers are the ones with the white eye-rings, gray heads, and bright yellow throat and breast and belly. The plainer warblers are Orange-crowned Warblers, with the faint streaking on the breast and sometimes the yellowish partial eye-ring. Neat bat photo!

  10. Wow. I have never seen a bat up close. I notice such a difference in the bird population here and Memphis. No mockingbirds here. ! Happy Easter!

  11. I"m too novice to be able to identify your birds Annie, but what great photos. I love the little birdbath/fountain they are in. How amazing to see a snoozing bat too - wow!

  12. Aren't birds sometimes the hardest to identify? We had a our many bird books out yesterday trying to confirm the sighting of a white eyed vireo. I hear his call all the time and then a bird came into the garden, which had the greenish underbelly and a white eyebrow. It was just a flash but still can't identify. If you want a definite confirmation then send the photos to the local Audubon soc. They are very good at replying. I have sent them sound videos before and they have identified the bird for me. You have a wonderful little birdbath for bird watching.

  13. What a delightful party is going on at your place. I can name most of the birds that stop by my feeder, but, none have been as delightful as your visitors! I need to set up the camera near the birdbath~That appears to be where the action happens. I do like the rumpled bird photo. gail

  14. I'm so glad you got those identified. I'm going to study your photos so I'll get better aquainted with the Nashville Warbler especially. Love that bubbler fountain. I think I need one. :-)

  15. I think you're doing great with capturing the birds! I don't know about you, but I've been far better at IDing birds if I have a camera in hand. Often it isn't until I'm looking at the image zoomed in on my computer alongside a bird ID website that I can be sure of what I was looking at. The bat is pretty incredible.

  16. This has been a good spring for unusual sightings in my yard too...I saw my first painted bunting last week and this morning an Oriole...according to the book and my limited knowledge, I think it was an Orchard Oriole. And over the past few weeks there are two quail calling my neck of the woods home. There is also a Chaparral cruising the back fence at times. He's big. Oh, and last week the night before the storms (wed. I think) there was a heron perched on the telephone lines above my stock tank pond...amazing!

  17. The rumpled yellow-rumped warbler photo is wonderful, Annie. Don't our feathered friends provide us with great entertainment?
    I participated in the GBBC too. It's a lot of fun.
    Lucky you to have waxwings stopping by!
    Your butterfly looks like our Tiger Swallowtail but it might be something very similiar since it's in Texas.
    I'm listening to a redwinged blackbird singing on the porch feeder at the moment, and we've had a redbellied woodpecker making the neatest sound as he feeds in the sugar maple :)

  18. Really useful blog.Good work keeping this updated!Thanks a lot!Movers Austin Texas


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