Choices, warnings and surprises: All in a day of birding

What’s better than brisket on my breakfast tacos? Not much, except the fact that our neighborhood kisses the Balcones National Wildlife System. That’s better. Way better, in fact.

And it’s where you can pretty much be guaranteed to see the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler.

Well, yes, you’ve got a good chance of seeing it. But I’m afraid not here on today’s post. You see, as I’ve written before, if you’re a photographer (whether pro or hobbyist) you make choices when you bird. Should I take the photo? Or do I observe through my binoculars? For my first sighting of the warbler I chose the binoculars. The dense forest of juniper trees didn’t make for the best light, and combined with the uncooperative flitting of warblers it would have been impossible to get a decent snap. So binoculars it was and I got great looks at the warbler who popped out to give us great views for a good five minutes. You will have to take my word that I did see the warbler here at this marker.

Golden-cheeked Warbler marker

Balcones NWS is so close to my home, you can be assured that I’ll get that photo and post it on the site at some point. But for now let’s all agree that this rock marker is pretty cool and representative of my sighting.

To quote Indiana Jones, “I hate snakes.”

I’ve been learning all about snakes here in Texas. By “learn,” I mean I’m finding that they’re all over the place. At the local grocery store, next to the celebrity magazines and racks of gum it’s not uncommon to find a laminated fold out “field guide” with descriptions of the various snakes found in the area. And then I find out that our neighbor’s husband was playing golf in our neighborhood golf course and a water moccasin snake latched on to his calf and bit him. He’s fine. Turns out the water moccasin didn’t shoot any venom into his leg. (Sounds a bit like Russian Roulette to me.) Another neighbor a few blocks away found a coral snake on her back patio and her husband diced it up with an ax. So neighborhoods and golf courses are dangerous, which means birding in the reserve has me on pins and needles as well, especially when seeing signs like this.

Beware of Rattlesnakes

At least rattlesnakes give a warning, right? And it doesn’t stop with just snakes.

Just don’t fall, all right?

Raise your hand. Who has tripped or fallen because your eyes are pointed up while your walking? Come on, admit it, we all have. So, nice touch with all the signs to remind us all that while we’re looking in the sky there’s a chance we could fall off a cliff or get bit by a snake. Might I remind you that birding is pretty bad ass and sometimes risky.

Don't fall off the cliff

Okay, here’s the surprise of the day

I wasn’t expecting the Eastern Phoebe, but there he was, a juvenile, swooping for insects and returning to his same branch. Swoop, catch, return, repeat.

So there you go. Another day in Texas, another lifer.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher