I spent a little time at the playa north of Panhandle this week. It had been dry until the end of July but we had some nice rains and the farmers around it are watering the hell out of their corn and milo and now it has more water than I’ve seen in it for years. The birds are starting to gather, but still not in the huge flocks I expect to see later in the fall. Lots of American Avocets and White-faced Ibis and these two guys- a couple of juvenile Wilson’s Phalaropes, I think. Phalaropes are unusual because the females are actually the larger and more colorful and after laying the eggs head for South America to winter. The males, especially youngsters and non-breeding adults, are quite drab. Males incubate the eggs.
This is, I believe, an immature Swainson’s, but I wouldn’t put money on it, either. Identifying birds this time of year is a challenge for me, what with my inexperience,the birds are molting, and the differences between immature birds and adults (and with hawks there can be 3 or 4 or more variations in coloration.) Who am I kidding-identifying bird is a challenge for me all year long.
This one is pretty easy, though. It’s a Belted Kingfisher male and I was a little surprised to see him at the playa as there are no fish in it. I suspect he was travelling through. They will also eat amphibians, crustaceans, insects and small mammals and reptiles.
I made the hour long drive north to Palo Duro Reservoir last week also. That lake has benefited from the rains in late July and early August also, to the point that it is actually harder to get to the lake shore in a lot of places as it has flooded some of the roads. I did pick up a few good photos there though.
This is a female Yellow Warbler (once again, not really positive.) It was very small and quick and I felt luck to get this not-that-great shot. There were about half a dozen of them flitting through the trees around a small pond below the dam.
Here’s a young Mississippi Kite. I’ve seen groups of 10-15 kites circling around the hill that the hospital I work at sits on for the last week or so. I expect them to head south soon also. Like Swainson’s Hawks, kites travel to South America for the winter.
And finally, my favorite shots of the week. This is an immature Red-headed Woodpecker. He was with 2 other youngsters and a couple of adults foraging in the trees below the dam. He seems quite proud of that acorn he’s found.