What a difference a few weeks make. At the end of July the sounds of begging nestlings and singing adults defending territories filled the early morning hours. Now all is quiet as our breeders are slipping out of the Big Country and heading south for the winter. I caught the juvenile Swainson’s hawk at the end of August looking skyward surely contemplating his forthcoming departure.
If you’re observant you’ll notice some summer regulars still hanging around. I nearly ran over this newly fledged Yellow-billed Cuckoo in a field at Dyess. Movement in the dense grass was suggestive of a small rodent but my curiosity got the better of me as I got out of the truck to see what exactly was in the grass.
After properly documenting its presence I came home and discovered the Yellow-billed Cuckoo has one of the shortest incubation periods, is one of our fastest growing nestlings, and occasionally pairs become intraspecific brood parasites. (They lay their eggs in other Yellow-billed Cuckoo nests.) More information on their behavior is included in the picture gallery.
Some migrants lurk in the undergrowth looking for fast food to fuel their fall journeys. Several warbler species, orioles, and flycatchers such as this Least Flycatcher
were found utilizing stands of giant ragweed and dense undergrowth. This type of habitat contains lots of pests that only a bird can appreciate. Speaking of pests, this photo came with several big red harvester ant hitchhikers embedded in the photographer’s jeans. As I was photographing the flycatcher the ants thought it appropriate to sample their host’s epidermis. I did what every dedicated birder would do; I slapped at the ants (oh yeah, it really hurt them, they had thick denim protecting them) and concentrated on holding the camera still at the same time. Only after the flycatcher flew off was I able to put down the camera and divert my total attention to removing the little red jerks.
To see other birds photographed at the end of August check out the Where Is Everyone Gallery. To check out other sightings of birds seen in late August check out the Sightings section. Lorie reports hundreds of Great Egrets and Cattle Egrets are being seen in our fields and pastures around Lake Fort Phantom. If you have other sightings not listed here, please let us know who’s showing up at your place; we’d love to hear from you.