Painted Buntings and Nesting Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

Some weekend mornings it’s tempting to stay home and relax, but it can be on those days when the greatest surprises await.

I dragged myself to my favorite Pearsall Park this morning on a cloudy, slightly-sprinkly day. The clouds and cooler temperatures were a welcome break from the blistering heat of late.

Painting bunting at pearsall park

Some weekend mornings it’s tempting to stay home and relax, but it can be on those days when the greatest surprises await.

I dragged myself to my favorite Pearsall Park this morning on a cloudy, slightly-sprinkly day. The clouds and cooler temperatures were a welcome break from the blistering heat of late.

Making my way through the fields and down the hill to the river, I started to see and hear many kinds of birds. A power line flanks the walking path that leads to the river. The long power lines provide plenty of perching space for all kinds of birds. Noisy European Starlings hung around the wires next to the poles at the top of the hill. Further down, I started to see numerous Scissor-tailed Flycatchers line the wires and fly around hunting for food. One flycatcher’s behavior caught my eye as I watched it fly up to a spot next to a pole. With my binocular’s I discovered it had built a small nest there! It was bringing food or other materials for its nest as I stood there and watched. I continued on and discovered a second flycatcher nest, this time with much more activity around it.

Nesting scissor-tailed flycatchers

Progressing through the final third of the path leading to the river, I arrived where trees and shrubs began flanking both sides of the path. Using Merlin, I scanned the soundscape to see what species it picked up. It repeatedly was picking up the song of the Painted Bunting (which sounds like a House Finch). This put me on alert to see if I could spot it high in the trees. Moments later, ahead of me I saw a red bird land on a small branch just above the ground. I assumed it was a Cardinal but wanted to double check. Upon holding up my binoculars I could clearly see the many colors of the Painted Bunting!

I quickly readied my camera and found myself scrambling to get the settings tuned just right. I snapped a bunch of dark poor photos of it when it suddenly flew. A brief moment of disappointment turned into a rush of delight as I watched it fly even closer onto a branch with perfect lighting right in front of me. This time I was ready and took some lovely photos of it.

backside of male painted bunting
frontside of male painted bunting
Painting bunting at pearsall park

I reached and strolled along the river path seeing and hearing many familiar favorites such as Black-crested Titmice, White-eyed Vireos, and Brown-headed Cowbirds. The echoes of mooing started as I rounded a curve in the path. Pearsall Park sits adjacent to private farmland and occasionally the cows wander to the edge of the property next to the walking path. I looked at the cows and noticed medium-sized white birds all around them on the ground. These Cattle Egrets were the first ones I’ve gotten a closeup look at. I never thought about their name before, and just thought it was an arbitrary name and not that they actually hung out with cattle regularly!

I reached the end of the path and on my way back my ears were assaulted with the loud song of a nearby Carolina Wren. I turned and looked in the direction of the song and spotted it singing from the twigs.

All-in-all I saw 24 individual species in only 1 hour 40 minutes.

BONUS: We went to Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, Texas and I saw my first Summer Tanager. It’s funny because the first time I heard this bird was yesterday in New Braunfels, Texas. But today was the very first day I actually got to see it with my own eyes. Here is a photo and audio clip i got of it:

Today’s checklist:

SpeciesTotal
Black-bellied Whistling Duck4
Mourning Dove3
Killdeer1
Cattle Egret20
Black Vulture3
Red-shouldered Hawk1
Eastern Phoebe2
Western Kingbird2
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher9
White-eyed Vireo5
Loggerhead Shrike1
Carolina Chickadee5
Black-crested Titmouse2
Barn Swallow1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher1
Carolina Wren12
European Starling10
Northern Mockingbird8
House Sparrow2
House Finch10
Brown-headed Cowbird5
Great-tailed Grackle15
Northern Cardina20
Painted Bunting3
Species Total24