The great-tailed grackles are out in force here in the Brazos Valley of Texas, and it almost seems as if they outnumber the bluebonnets and other wildflowers blooming in spectacular clusters along the highways I drove from Houston airport to College Station.
What starlings are to many areas of the country, the great-tails are to this part of East-Central Texas. Quiscalus mexicanus is passim, that is, everywhere : strutting on street corners, chattering from the trees by strip malls, darting in and out of city parks. As I stepped out of my car at a Whataburger for an after-school milkshake break with our granddaughter, a female long-tail was in the grass about 10 feet from me while three males were jabbering in a tree nearby.
Having seen them in Houston a few years ago without realizing what they were, I knew this time I would see great-tailed grackles and add them to my life list. From scouting e-Bird listings for Brazos County and the Bryan-College Station metro area, I figured I’d also have a good shot at seeing barn swallows.
I had no idea how easy it would be. As I stepped out of the front door of my daughter’s home this afternoon, two barn swallows were poking around her front lawn. As quickly and quietly as I could, I pulled my camera out of the trunk of our rental car and was able to snap a few frames while others winged their way up and down the block.
Today’s other highlight was my first white-winged dove, which my wife and I spotted early in a short walk around delightful Gabbard Park, not far from the Texas A&M University campus. (I’ve had that Stevie Nicks song “Edge of Seventeen” — “just like the white-winged dove” — stuck in my head all day.)
Although the grackles eluded my lens all day (too fast, they, and too impatient, I), I was able to get a few decent shots of mallards at Gabbard Park.
I was puzzled to note that the heads of the two of the males were purple, not the usual green. I found one seemingly definitive report earlier today on the web (no pun intended!) that it’s breeding plumage for male mallards, but I can’t seem to finding anything conclusive as I write this post. More research needed!