Friday, 14 June 2013

Terry Hershey Bike and Hike Trail, Houston, Texas, June 2013

The Terry Hershey Bike and Hike Trail (also known as the Buffalo Bayou Bike Trail) passes beneath Route 8 at its eastern end, opposite Briar Hill Drive, Houston (Google Earth ref; 29 45 46N 95 33 26W). It runs west for about 10 kms, but I only managed about half of that today before stopping to watch some Mississippi Kites hunting for flying insects along the bayou.



The paved trail follows the north bank of Buffalo Bayou, crossing over a couple of bridges that span incoming streams and under some main roads running north/south. On the north side of the trail are meadows and lightly wooded spots. I could hear plenty of Northern Cardinals, but none actually popped up to be counted. Blue Jays were heard more often than seen. Some of the meadows had been mown, but others had been specially allowed to grow with signs deploring the picking of wild flowers.

The first Mississippi Kite was seen as it perched in a dead tree by the trail bridge at Google Earth ref; 29 45 57.60N 95 35 5.39W. A second and third bird were gliding back and forth apparently keeping close to the course of the stream where they were catching flying insects. I took it that they were hunting for dragonflies, but closer inspection of the photos showed that the wings of the prey were much too short and blunt. One photo showed long antennae, so more likely, they were catching Katydids.

Usually, I would save a gallery-type post like this for 10,000 Birds, but they appear to be well catered for with at least two picture-rich posts, so I am keeping this one for Redgannet.

I took a lot of photos, but was generally disappointed considering the opportunities that I was given. 



One of the three was a young bird. It was showing its barred tail and patterned underside, indicating that it had been hatched during the previous year and was looking forward to its first full summer.

The dead tree here proved to be a productive spot, mind you, I stayed there for some time enjoying the kites. A Red-bellied Woodpecker made me look twice, the yellow staining on its face making me hope for something erstwhile unknown to science. A Great Crested Flycatcher dropped in and disputed perches with one of the Blue Jays that were keeping watch on the kites.

Further along the trail (beyond Dairy Ashford Rd.), I found two more kites gliding across the meadow and along the bayou, so I stopped and took even more pictures. I am guessing that these were different birds as the young individual was no longer present and Mississippi Kites are very tolerant of each other. They don’t defend territories and often nest in colonies so it would not be unreasonable to assume that there could be a few in the area. 
A fellow velocipedal Limey stopped to say “Hello” and told me that the kites are frequently seen along the bayou and that they breed south of the city. The kites I had been seeing today had returned recently and he had been seeing them regularly, which agrees with the eBird pattern of sightings for the area. 

I have had to delete a huge number of the shots. Mostly they were blurry and out of focus. Occasionally, the kites would power dive to catch an insect and I was unable to keep up with them. The contrast against a sunny sky was difficult to avoid, but that didn’t stop me enjoying the spectacle of the hunting birds as they caught prey and ate it on the wing. I still prefer to stop and see one bird well than have a long list at the end of the day.

Birds seen;
Great Blue Heron 1, Great Egret 2, Little Blue Heron 1, Cattle Egret 15, White Ibis 8, Turkey Vulture 8, Mississippi Kite 5, Cooper’s Hawk 3, White-winged Dove 8, Mourning Dove 7, Chimney Swift 35, Red-bellied Woodpecker 4, Pileated Woodpecker 1, Olive-sided Flycatcher 1, Great Crested Flycatcher 1, Loggerhead Shrike 2, Blue Jay 5, American Crow 1, Barn Swallow 8, American Robin 5, Northern Mockingbird 7, Great-tailed Grackle 30, House Sparrow 10.



For a previous post from Terry Hershey Bike and Hike Trail, follow the link below;
http://redgannet.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/terry-hershey-houston-jan-2013.html

Visit the dedicated USA Page for other posts from Houston including George Bush Park and Houston Arboretum.