A Kingfisher, a Sandpiper, a Killdeer, and a Coopers Hawk….

All of them walked into a bar.

The bartender said, “What it this, a joke?”

Okay, so I have a hard time getting started on writing these posts.  I admit it.  But the above mentioned birds are the ones that Ann and I saw Friday morning on a drive around Middle Concho and Spring Creek Parks.  The water is still low there, down about 24 inches.  However there is hope that it will rise a bit soon, as water may flow again from Twin Buttes Reservoir.  Behind that dam, water is being pumped from the south pool, which is higher, to the lower south pool.  The south pool is where the gates are that release water downstream to Lake Nasworthy and these parks.

First up, we spotted a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquatus) on a wire over the river, but before I could get set up for a shot, it flew to the other bank and perched in a tree. With the help of my Noodle on the window sill, I was able to train my Canon EOS 7D and 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter on it.  As the bird was quite tiny anyway, from that distance, and I couldn’t crop it as tight as I would have liked..  This image is the result.

Belted Kingfisher in tree

Driving further on, we came upon a small inlet that was nearly dry, but there was a Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) grazing in it.

Solitary Sandpiper

Sandpipers are one of my least favorite shorebirds to try and identify.  When we first spotted it, my first immediate thought was Greater Yellowlegs.  But then after getting several images, and consulting my Stokes Guide to birds of North America, I felt comfortable IDing it as the Solitary Sandpiper.

In the same area were a couple of Killdeers (Charadrius vociferus).  One was an adult, the other a juvenile.  The adult was nearer the open water.

Killdeer – juvenile

Killdeer – adult

Just before we decided to call it a day, we glanced toward a grassy picnic area, and there was a hawk in the shadows, walking in the grass.  He was about seventy-five feet away.  I got the camera and 500mm lens up on the Noodle and window sill again and snapped a few images before it flew off.  As I mentioned, the bird was in the shadows, but there was a bright background making exposure difficult.  I really wasn’t able to get a true identification as a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) until I got it in the computer and was able to brighten the exposure.

Cooper’s Hawk

Click on any image to enjoy enlargements.

Sandpipers – Shorebirds of of West Texas

In west Texas. when sandpipers are mentioned, it brings to mind little birds pecking around in the desert.  At least, that to the un-informed.  Meaning the non-birder.   Well, we out here do have rivers, albeit small in comparison of the giants waterways of the mid-west and the east.  We also have lakes, albeit all man-made, with the lone exception of Caddo Lake in east Texas.

Sandpipers are little skitterish little birds that scamper along the shorelines feeding in the shallow water.  There are many other shore birds besides the sandpipers but we’ll get into those another day.  The problem with these species is that all resemble one another, making identification difficult.  I have six photographs here, and I dearly hope that I haven’t got them mixed up or mis-identified.  It was good practice for me to write this.

First we have the Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus).  8.5 inches, weight 2 oz.  Wingspan 18 in. Long legs and a slightly drooping bill.

Stilt Sandpiper


Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca).  Similar to the sandpipes but a little larger.  14 inches, weight 6 oz. and 28 in. wingspan.  They forage after small fish, and bob their when alarmed.  It has a slghtly upturned bill.

Greater Yellowlegs


The Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) is smaller than the yelowlegs.  8.5 in.  1.8 oz and 22 inch wingspan.  It has a distinctive spectacle eye-ring.

Solitary Sandpiper


The Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) is a tiny thing weighing less than an ounce.  6.5 inches tall with a wingspan of only 14 inches.  Has a bit mor rufous color.

Western Sandpiper


The Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) 7.5 inches, 8 oz., and 26 inch wingspan.   It is a little larger and heavier, and has striking markings when seen in flight.

Spotted Sandpiper


And last and certainly the least is the Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla).  Only 6 inches tall, weighs .7 oz, and has wingspan of only 13 inches.  Has small head, thin pointed bill, and crouching posture.

Least Sandpiper


I hope you enjoyed these pictures of some of our popular sandpiper type birds.  More shorebirds will follow in another post.  Click on any photo to see an enlargement.