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billfromlaketravis
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If you live near a decent-sized body of water, look up during the winter. Had a bald eagle soaring over a neighborhood in Round Rock today. They aren't uncommon in Texas during the winter anymore, which may be news to some of you olds. They are one of the few species that was much more scarce a few decades ago.

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If you live near a decent-sized body of water, look up during the winter. Had a bald eagle soaring over a neighborhood in Round Rock today. They aren't uncommon in Texas during the winter anymore, which may be news to some of you olds. They are one of the few species that was much more scarce a few decades ago.

My pops loves to photograph bald eagles. He has been to many nests here in Texas. One was 2 miles from where I grew up in Cypress/Houston. I know of 4 nests in the Houston area. Amazing birds to see.
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Saw my 300th species in Travis county today. First county record of acorn woodpecker (the inspiration for woody woodpecker), way out in Pace Bend.

Next weekend, I leave for Mexico. Hopefully I'll be seeing toucans, motmots and other cool tropical shit I've never seen before.

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On 1/9/2023 at 10:10 PM, Patricio Swayze said:


My pops loves to photograph bald eagles. He has been to many nests here in Texas. One was 2 miles from where I grew up in Cypress/Houston. I know of 4 nests in the Houston area. Amazing birds to see.

Me too--know of several in the DC area, have photographed them mating and even raising their young on the river.  I love to hear them call out.  My best moment was taking a picture of several going after one another for a fish and checking the photo later and there were 6 in the frame.  I'll see if I can dig some up but I'm not you or Doug-O level by any stretch.  

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On 12/25/2022 at 5:08 PM, DougO said:

 

Good for some birds, but for more variety you need different seeds. I bought one of these feeders from tractor supply a few years ago when they were $30. Well worth it. Still undefeated vs squirrels, and has held up really well and going strong.

https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/stokes-select-squirrel-proof-cage-feeder?cid=Shopping-Bing-Product6806022-&msclkid=74e9adf9f64c1071dedace51210f258c&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Shopping - All Products&utm_term=4585375807245420&utm_content=All Products

 

I just bought it. If it doesn't work out, I will blame you. 

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On 12/25/2022 at 5:08 PM, DougO said:

 

Good for some birds, but for more variety you need different seeds. I bought one of these feeders from tractor supply a few years ago when they were $30. Well worth it. Still undefeated vs squirrels, and has held up really well and going strong.

https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/stokes-select-squirrel-proof-cage-feeder?cid=Shopping-Bing-Product6806022-&msclkid=74e9adf9f64c1071dedace51210f258c&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Shopping - All Products&utm_term=4585375807245420&utm_content=All Products

 

Can a cardinal get in there? They're my wife's favorite. 

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3 hours ago, billfromlaketravis said:

Can a cardinal get in there? They're my wife's favorite. 

No, I haven't seen any cardinals get in mine. But I have another feeder that is open that I keep the white safflower seed in, and they are all over that, along with house finches, titmice and chickadees. The latter three can have it both ways. Squirrel rarely show interest in the safflower seed, so they aren't hoarding it all up.

Cardinals also pick up a lot of spill from the others off the ground, and sometimes I will just toss a handful of seeds on the walk or a platform.

 

Edited by DougO
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Lately I've even had Ruby Crowned kinglet poking around the feeders daily, which is unusual here. I also have a hanging cylinder feeder with suet that it shares with an orange-crowned warbler. I tried hanging it off a fairly skinny branch and high enough that squirrels might not easily reach. It has only been out there for about a month and the squirrels haven't gobbled it up yet.

 

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By the way, what binoculars are people rocking these days? I’m in need of an upgrade. Partly for general birding and partly because we got a bluebird house and hung it from the perfect tree only to look back and realize it’s about 75 yards from our house! (Still no tenants yet - hoping in the Spring).

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My main binoculars are Nikon Prostaff 8x42 and 10x42, depending on the situation. But I have several pair that I like to keep handy. I keep a pair in the car at all times in case I see something. I keep a pair of old Nikon Nature 7x35 by the back patio door, and 10x42 on the window of an upstairs window that has a good view of a lot of trees and stuff where I often spot birds. I've been thinking about upgrading to Nikon Monarchs for serious birding ventures. I don't mess with a lot of other brands, and many are excellent, because Nikons focus in different directions that most others (which do it the wrong way, of course). 

I also keep a cheap pair of compact 8x32 in my gator for when I'm out on the property and have something to grab if I see things out there. My last pair was broken by some relative kids that went joy riding in the gator and somehow destroyed the binoculars. So I just bought a pair of Eyeskey 8x32 from Amazon for $50 to replace them and they seem really good for the money, very well built and nice and clear. 

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I've also bee considering trying a 12x binocular for some of the more wide open areas, like long stretches of shore and open water or distant ponds. They can be difficult to hold still most people don't use them. 

I also have a cheap 20-60 scope that I pull out on occasion, but I really don't like messing with the scopes. It's not bad, though, a low end Athlon I got for about $150, but I don't go much over 30x with it before it starts losing too much sharpness. Carrying a scope and tripod in the car is a bit of a pain.

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17 minutes ago, ohchaucer said:

Yeah those monarchs look nice. I have an 8x42 cheapo acculon pair that I’ll probably keep around but they are bulky and lots of blur.

I actually like looking through the old-school porro prism binoculars better. They match up better with my eyes for some reason. But the more compact roof prism is so much lighter for walking around, especially when I am also carrying have a camera with a very long lens.  The weight of heavy binos hanging on your neck can really wear on you.

Those old Nikon Action, similar to the current Acculon, are really good. I got both of my pair in pawn shops several years ago for pretty cheap. Nikon binoculars also have a lifetime warranty, regardless of whether you bought them new. One of mine fell on a hard floor and went wonky and I sent them in and they were returned perfectly fine, just for the shipping cost.

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I've got Nikon Monarch 5 10×42 and think they're great. I don't think you're going to get much higher quality unless you jump up to the $1,000+ really fancy stuff. Kind of like Doug, I've got a cheap scope but don't love scope birding, unless I'm targeting a specific rarity. I think its the Celestron Ultima 20-60. A lot of superglue has gone into holding the base of the scope and the cheap ass tripod together over the last 5 years, although that may be partially due to leaving it in the trunk occasionally during the summer. Whoops.

I think my next local adventure will be heading to Granger Lake for short-eared owl. Super cool bird, and apparently up to a dozen winter around there.

 

 

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1 hour ago, DougO said:

I actually like looking through the old-school porro prism binoculars better. They match up better with my eyes for some reason. But the more compact roof prism is so much lighter for walking around, especially when I am also carrying have a camera with a very long lens.  The weight of heavy binos hanging on your neck can really wear on you.

Those old Nikon Action, similar to the current Acculon, are really good. I got both of my pair in pawn shops several years ago for pretty cheap. Nikon binoculars also have a lifetime warranty, regardless of whether you bought them new. One of mine fell on a hard floor and went wonky and I sent them in and they were returned perfectly fine, just for the shipping cost.

The Nikon warranty is great. I was pretty sure my vision was turning to shit when I maxed out the diopter and still couldn't get a clear focus. I tested a new pair of the same model in a store and didn't have an issue, so I must have sat on them or dropped them and forgotten about it. Sent them to Nikon and got the eyepiece fixed in a week or two for just the cost of shipping. 

Celestron has also sent me scope replacement parts for free without any hassle.

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54 minutes ago, hookem2010 said:

The Nikon warranty is great. I was pretty sure my vision was turning to shit when I maxed out the diopter and still couldn't get a clear focus. I tested a new pair of the same model in a store and didn't have an issue, so I must have sat on them or dropped them and forgotten about it. Sent them to Nikon and got the eyepiece fixed in a week or two for just the cost of shipping. 

Celestron has also sent me scope replacement parts for free without any hassle.

Most of the leading binocular brands have some kind of lifetime coverage. I also had a pair of Athlon 8x32, their cheapest line, that I had gotten on sale a couple of years ago for $40. I dropped them form my back seat onto the Wal Mart parking lot and broke off an eyepiece and lenses and stuff fell out. I wrote them and asked if it would be worth it to have them repaired and they told me they had a lifetime warranty, even in case of dumb accident like mine.  A couple of weeks later they sent me back a brand new pair of their Argos line 8x42, like a $200 pair. And I gotta tell you, they may be sharper than any I have owned, really nice. My only complaint is they focus opposite of Nikons, so they kinda mess with my head a bit. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Athlon binoculars to anyone looking for some good glass. 

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Same--had a pair of bushels and lost an eyepiece and sent it to the company to replace the eyepiece and they sent me a new pair.  Think I sent the amount for the part but certainly not for a new version.  

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On 1/9/2023 at 8:39 PM, hookem2010 said:

If you live near a decent-sized body of water, look up during the winter. Had a bald eagle soaring over a neighborhood in Round Rock today. They aren't uncommon in Texas during the winter anymore, which may be news to some of you olds. They are one of the few species that was much more scarce a few decades ago.

This! I have been into birds my whole life, particularly raptors. This is my fourth decade in Austin. Came for UT. I distinctly remember noticing all we had were vultures soaring or red-tails above the Missouri-Pacific line. But since I'd say maybe around 2008 I started to see more. I saw my first Coopers, then Sharp-shinned, Red-shouldered, Great-Horned owl, Ferruginous, Bald Eagle, etc. I saw a white Goshawk in a tree in Dallas. No question. There is definitely some improvement in the diversity!

Saw my first wild Golden Eagle last week. I was in the southeast part of Colorado. A pair was sitting in the middle of the Comanche Wild Grassland on a telephone pole! As I was still far away I remember thinking "why are transformers there?". I knew they were too big to be Turkey vultures. I'd always thought they were roughly the same size for some reason. 100% Golden Eagle- Bucket list item. Anyway I don't know if they were a mated pair or one was just a juvenile still trying to suckle that teat. I have some pictures but they are from an iphone from the driver on a 2-lane highway. They ain't great.

BTW, I heard a talk from a Cooper's Hawk reseacher a few nights ago and he mentioned that the population of Golden Eagles is dwindling. The primary cause is they are simply being shot. Most all other raptors are thriving. I've been to two Falconry conventions, NAFA and Texas Hawking Association in the last month and will post some pics. I'm no Swayze or DougO, etc, but it is quite something to see a fully-stocked weathering yard next to a parking lot on the Texas Tech campus.

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On 12/25/2022 at 5:27 PM, Prepuce of Doom said:

It doesn't do shit against raccoons, but I have had good success against squirrels with the Brome line of products (double suet feeder and Squirrel Solution 200).

https://bromebirdcare.com/busterproducts/

https://bromebirdcare.com/squirrelsolution200/

 

I bought the 200. Could you suggest some binoculars in the $100 and under range?

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3 minutes ago, billfromlaketravis said:

I bought the 200. Could you suggest some binoculars in the $100 and under range?

I have the eyesight of the Six Million Dollar Man and do not require such things. At least I won't for another year or two - I feel like I might only be the $5,500,000 man right now compared to years past. 

But there's what appears to be good binocular talk upthread a bit. 

Edited by Prepuce of Doom
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3 hours ago, billfromlaketravis said:

I bought the 200. Could you suggest some binoculars in the $100 and under range?

You can get a pair of Nikon Prostaff for a little over $100. They just updated their line, the 3S series 10x42 are 100 at Adorama.

https://www.adorama.com/l/?searchinfo=nikon prostaff&sel=Item-Condition_New-Items

The Prostaff P3 are the newer models, around $140. I usually recommend 8x42, but there's not a huge difference and it also depends on the situation.

 

I have found some good deals at pawn shops but it's pretty rare to find decent deals on pawn shop stuff in recent years. 

 

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Just discovered this thread.

I’m not a massive birder like some here, more of an opportunist like Patricio Swayze.

I do, however, have an affinity for the California Condor.

I’ve been out to see them a few times and went to the release that is hosted by the Peregrine Fund last year.

Some photos.

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That last one and one of them above with the chick were really cool to see, since wild hatched condors are still extremely rare (but increasing!). That chick (1150) fledged about 2 months ago. The bird tagged R5 is the mother, and 19 is the father.

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Ok, this Central Texas raptor has me stumped.  Pictures are great, but the best I could get with the zoom on my phone.  I initially saw it flying with a red-shouldered or red-tailed hawk, but wasn't able to get in in-flight pics.


 
 

6c41ab1604154d6946df59b7dbab37dd.jpg311001da3e85f1730d41ff4f24722242.jpg

Edited by Jerry Callo
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I just got back from a Mexico trip and was able to escape for a morning to a guided tour near the Muyil ruins. It was my first ever guided tour and nobody else signed up, so I was 1-on-1 with the guide, which was great (minus the additional cost).

We saw 80 species in about 5 hours, which is tough to do when you're birding in the the forest/forest edges the entire time and not around a large body of water. Unfortunately, I'm not a photographer, but we saw some incredible stuff including 2 species of motmot, 2 trogon species, aracari (mini-toucan), 3 parrot species, 4 oriole species, 3 hummingbird species and a crazy looking bird called a royal flycatcher.

The guide, Miguel, was incredible. He finds things by ear that I would never even notice and spent 10 years in the states, so speaks great English. I'd recommend Amar Aves birding to anyone visiting the Yucatan with an interest in birds or other wildlife.

Also, here's a ferruginous pygmy-owl from the resort.

Screenshot_20230124-114445_Photos.jpg

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Attwater prairie chicken refuge is a great spot, as Swayze mentioned. There are some spots in the Katy prairie, if it hasn't all been developed, like chain of lakes park. Brazos Bend SP is great, easy to see large birds. Cullinan park in sugar land is also good. Edith L Moore in late April-early May is the place to go for spring migration.

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Got my wife one of those digital camera bird feeders for Xmas, and I’m loving it as much as she is. We don’t get a huge variety beyond the usual backyard birds. Lots of goldfinches, tufted titmouse, whitewing dove, cardinals, etc. It’s pretty cool to be able to watch em moving around up close, though.
Some of todays visitors:
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And as a hunter, I’ve always enjoyed watching birds come in close as I was hidden. Had an Eastern Bluebird try to join me in the deer blind this year, hovering annoyed outside the window. Have seen lots of raptor activity.

Cedar waxwings are already getting drunk this year. Two days ago, had dozens gorging on berries around the house, shithammered and flying into our windows. No big strikes this year, but last year we had a group hauling ass, right into some big windows. Killed 7. Dumbasses. And we even put up marking tape on a lot of our windows to make them visible. But drunk birds don’t care.

But one of the coolest bird encounters ever was on a fishing trip in Patagonia 25 yrs ago. Great trout fishing in the boonies. Told the guide I thought Andean Condors were awesome birds. We spotted a couple soaring, and we all thought that was pretty cool. But on our last day, we fished till late. We’re driving back on gravel roads through canyons, the guide jams on the brakes and the car slides to a halt. He points to the cliff beside us. We got out of the car, and spent the next 15 minutes watching dozens of giant Andean Condors glide in to their roost, right above us. Even our fishing guide was awestruck.
TLDR; birds are f’n cool.

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Attwater prairie chicken refuge is a great spot, as Swayze mentioned. There are some spots in the Katy prairie, if it hasn't all been developed, like chain of lakes park. Brazos Bend SP is great, easy to see large birds. Cullinan park in sugar land is also good. Edith L Moore in late April-early May is the place to go for spring migration.

I go out to the Katy Prairie a lot to look for snakes. I think the best place is the gravel section of Hebert Rd. I usually pass the entrance to the Katy prairie preserve then turn around at the next intersection, and just go back and forth). The raptors I have seen out there are:

Great Horned Owls
Barred Owls
Various hawks (fed shouldered, red tailed, white tailed, swainson’s)
Mississippi kites
Cara caras
Vultures and buzzards
Bald Eagle (only once, but there is a nest on someone’s property)
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I've seen the eagles at Warren ranch lake. It's open to the public, but requires a scope or high-powered camera. I think I mentioned in maybe the photo thread that I saw 2 white-tailed hawks dive-bombing a bald eagle flying through their territory along Longenbaugh Rd out there. The baldy would flip over and fend them off with its talons any time they attacked. It was pretty incredible to see.

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I've seen the eagles at Warren ranch lake. It's open to the public, but requires a scope or high-powered camera. I think I mentioned in maybe the photo thread that I saw 2 white-tailed hawks dive-bombing a bald eagle flying through their territory along Longenbaugh Rd out there. The baldy would flip over and fend them off with its talons any time they attacked. It was pretty incredible to see.

From what one of the ranch hands told me, the nest is near the golf course at Sandhill Farm.
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