Spring in Hutchinson County

It’s been incredibly dry and windy here this year.  We’re already several inches behind the norm and we only get an average of 20 inches a year, though it’s been a while since we hit that mark.  The wind is rarely less than 20 mph and there have been hundreds (or so it seems) of days with it over 30.  The worst was a few weeks ago when we had 5 days out of a couple weeks that had winds over 50 mph with gusts well over 60.  The sky looked like photos from the Dust Bowl on those days.  So far no really bad range fires, though.

On the days that the wind is calmer I go birding.  Here’s a few pictures of birds from around Hutchinson County.  These were all taken in the last few weeks.

I’m fortunate to have a job that leaves lots of free time (3-5 days off a week!) and I spend a great deal of that time birding at lakes, ponds, farmlands and canyons around the Texas panhandle.  There is an astounding number of  species (at least it is to me-I thought we had sparrows and mockingbirds before taking up birding) that live here year round, or spend summers or winters here, or travel through here in fall and winter.  I once went through one of my bird guides and made a list of birds that could be found in Hutchinson County in one season or another (some were considered to be very, very rare, but I counted them anyway) and it was over 300 birds.  I’m getting close to 200 different species on my life list (3 years this summer), nearly all of them seen in Hutchinson, Potter, Randall,  Carson, Moore or Hansford County (all except Randall are adjacent to Hutchinson. Randall is where Palo Duro Canyon is.)  The others were on trips to Aransas County on the Texas Gulf coast one February and to southwestern Missouri last April (19 birds.)

I love the changing of seasons.  The birds you see here in summer and winter are cool, but by the time spring and fall get here I’m ready to see something different.  I look forward to the first warblers and flycatchers of spring, and the return of the kingbirds and summer hawks, the winter eagles and harriers, and the migrating waders and waterfowl.  The spring birds are beautiful in their courting attire.

Enough talk, here’s the birds.

White-crowned Sparrow

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Blue-winged Teal.  These were at Palo Duro Reservoir in Hansford Co.

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Great Horned Owlet spreads its wings. They are growing amazingly fast

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Here’s one of the owlets with mom.

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Siblings

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Red-shafted Northern Flicker at Jim’s Lake.

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Rock Wren

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American Kestrel at the City Park in Fritch.

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Canvasback (juvenile, I think)

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Ash-throated Flycatcher

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Belted Kingfisher, another photo from Jim’s Lake.Belted-Kingfisher-38-1024x712

Common Loon dressed to impress

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Snowy Egret (remember those yellow rain boots we used to wear when we were kids? You remember the 60s, right?)

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Ruddy Duck.  A series of a very photogenic male and two females that posed for me at Spring Canyon.  This is one of the females.

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The male.  The total package-blue bill, mahogany body, black hoodie.

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The happy couple.

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