Monday, April 6, 2015

Birding Clay CoHrunty

Lark sparrow courtesy of US National Park Service
via Wikimedia Commons
The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club held a field trip to one of its member's property on Saturday, April 4. Seven members took advantage of the opportunity to walk through Jenny Bechtold's property in Clay County. Although we didn't have an abundance of birds, it was a pleasant morning, and we did see some good birds. I completely forgot to take a picture while there, but I imagine readers of this blog will be OK with bird pictures instead.

We had an excellent look at a beautiful lark sparrow, as shown in the photo to the left. In addition to the lark sparrow, we had eastern meadowlark, house sparrow, northern bobwhite, double crested cormorant, eastern phoebe, white-winged dove, grasshopper sparrow, Lincoln's sparrow, European starling, turkey vulture, song sparrow, brown-headed cowbird, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird, cardinal, American crow, northern mockingbird, loggerhead and shrike. We heard more than one grasshopper sparrow, but as usual they stayed in the grass, so we didn't get a look at any. For those interested, I am including a photo of the grasshopper sparrow in hand. You don't often see these little guys, except when singing from a low shrub or tall grass, but their call is distinctive. We also sighted a coyote running across a neighboring field.
Grasshopper sparrow, photo courtesy of Pookie Fugglestein
via Wikimedia Commons

Jenny was disappointed by the lack of eastern bluebirds, which are common on her property. She advised me to take a different route back to HWY 287 upon departure. I did see an eastern bluebird as well as several mourning doves, a red-tailed hawk and junco on my way out, so it was a worthwhile detour.

Many thanks to Jenny and her husband for hosting us for this field trip and plying us with doughnuts, kolaches, juice and coffee. We had a great time.

Good birding!

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Amazing Hummingbirds" at Home and Garden Festival

Our annual Home and Garden Festival is this weekend, February 21 and 22, at the Multi-Purpose Event Center (MPEC).

On Sunday at 1:00 PM I'll be making a presentation, "Amazing Hummingbirds," in the main auditorium. I hope you can make it.

Wild Bird Rescue will also be participating in the Home and Garden Festival in the main exhibit hall.

Good birding!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meets Tonight

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meets tonight, February 17, at 7 PM at 5310 Southwest Parkway (The NALC building next to Wichita Valley nursery.)

The group will certainly review the results of the Great Backyard Bird Count and discuss interesting sightings by the members. Guests are always welcome.

Good birding!

Great Backyard Bird Count Highlights

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was February 13 - February 16. I was traveling on the 13th, so didn't have the opportunity to bird that day(airports don't try to attract birds.) However, I did take part in two group counts on Saturday and Sunday and did a solo count on Monday.

I was very happy to see 13 people join me for the GBBC at Lake Arrowhead State Park on Saturday. Since the Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist counted this as volunteer time, it did help our numbers, and we had several members there. We had some very experienced birders with the McKees and also some very new birders. Our new birders were able to add some life birds to their lists--that always makes for a great day.

It was really a beautiful morning. During our 2-hour walk, we saw several good birds. I am sure I captured all of the species we saw, although I may have missed some of the numbers. Our list:

Canada goose
White pelican  11
Double-crested cormorant   4
Killdeer    10
Greater yellowlegs  1
Great blue heron   1
Ring-billed gull   31
Mourning dove  2
Ladder-backed woodpecker   3
Red-bellied woodpecker   1
Golden-fronted woodpecker   1
Northern flicker  1
Roadrunner   1
Northern mockingbird    5
Bewick's wren    4
Northern cardinal  10
Eastern phoebe  2
Eastern bluebird   2
American crow  3
Red-winged blackbird  2
Western meadowlark  13
Meadowlark species   9
Brown-headed cowbird   5
White-crowned sparrow  8
Fox sparrow   1
Harris's sparrow   13
House finch  15
House sparrow   2

On the way home from Lake Arrowhead, I did see a red-tailed hawk and a couple of kestrels (just nice for me--they didn't count for the GBBC.)

GBBC participants at Wild Bird Rescue trying to locate
the ruby-crowned kinglets

On Sunday, we had a group count that started behind Wild Bird Rescue. However, with no water at that end of the lake, the birding was rather flat, so we moved to the Chat Trail in Lake Wichita Park. We spent an hour at Wild Bird Rescue and another 1 hr, 25 minutes on the Chat Trail.

At Wild Bird Rescue we counted:

Canada goose   2
Mallard duck   2
Ring-billed gull    9
Killdeer    1
White-winged dove   9
Eurasian collared dove   7
Northern harrier   1
Northern cardinal  2
American robin  1
Ruby-crowned kinglet   2
Blue jay   1
American crow   6
Great-tailed grackle   1
Red-winged blackbird   5
European starling    3
House sparrow   6

On the Chat Trail we had the following birds (and I am quite sure the cardinal numbers are low--they were everywhere!)

Canada goose   6
Mallard duck  18
Double-crested cormorant  10
Killdeer  7
Turkey vulture   1
Eurasian collared dove  2
Downy woodpecker   1
Ladder-backed woodpecker  1
Carolina wren   1
Northern mockingbird  2
Blue jay  3
Northern cardinal   13
Eastern phoebe   1
Yellow-rumped warbler  3
Orange-crowned warbler   1
Ruby-crowned kinglet  1
Cedar waxwing   8
American robin   30
Dark-eyed junco  1
White-crowned sparrow   5
Song sparrow   3
Lincoln's sparrow    1
Harris's sparrow  2
Red-winged blackbird    3
Brown-headed cowbird  2
Great-tailed grackle  5
American goldfinch   6
House finch   1

On Monday, I headed to Lucy Park for a count. The temperatures took a nose dive between Sunday and Monday, so I was fairly certain that I would be the Lone Ranger for this walk, and I was right. I've noticed that Texans don't like cold weather much (which here, means anything much below 50 degrees.) My thermometer read 26 degrees when I headed out the door. However, there was very little wind, so it was a fairly pleasant morning.

How do you like the new trail signs? I think they are great--many thanks to the Parks and Recreation Department.

I didn't take the entire route I normally take as Monday was a work day and I always feel like I am playing hooky. If the birding had been stupendous, I would have sucked it up, but it was average at best, so I kept my walk down to 1.25 hour.  The birds found included:

Northern shoveler  2
Mallard duck  28
Ring-billed gull  37
Rock pigeon   14
Mourning dove  1
Red-bellied woodpecker  2
Northern flicker   4
Brown creeper  1
Blue jay   6
Northern mockingbird   1
Northern cardinal  4
Ruby-crowned kinglet  1
Carolina chickadee  4
Tufted titmouse  1
Dark-eyed junco  12
American robin  43
Great-tailed grackle  17
Red-winged blackbird  22
House finch    5

Overall, a fairly good few days of birding. I'm already looking forward to next year's count.

Good birding!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count is February 13 - February 16. This is a great opportunity for new birdwatchers to learn more about the birds and is also an excellent way to introduce young people to birdwatching in a painless way.

Participation can be for as little as 15 minutes. The idea is to watch birds in your own backyard--literally or figuratively. Usually I make it a point to count all four days, but will be out of town on the 13th. However, I plan to count the other days. On Saturday and Sunday there are some special events to help people get involved.

On Saturday, Lake Arrowhead State Park will host the GBBC with their monthly bird walk. The walk starts at 8:00 AM. It usually lasts an hour--more if the participants want to bird longer. Meet at the firewood shed in the first campground to the left after you enter the park (take the second left and first right--the firewood shed will be on the left.) Look for a black pickup.

On Sunday, Wild Bird Rescue and the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist chapter will host a GBBC event out behind Wild Bird Rescue at 4611 Lake Shore Drive in Wichita Falls, TX. Again the count will start at 8:00 and will last as long as people want to count. This is a come-and-go, so you can stay for as long or short a time as you wish.

There are no group counts scheduled for Monday, February 16, however, I will be birding Lucy Park on my own and am making an open invitation to others who might want to take part. Meet at the main entrance to the park in that first parking area to the left as you enter the park at 8:00 if you are interested in taking part. This parking area is adjacent to the picnic tables and River Bend Nature Center. If you want to contact me ahead of time, email I expect I'll be birding for about 2 hours, if I follow my usual route.

Take advantage of the many opportunities to get outside and watch the birds this weekend!

By the way, this weekend is also the education weekend at Wild Bird Rescue. 10:00 AM on Saturday will be the hawk/owl program. A special program on "Birds in Love" will be Sunday at 1:00 PM on Sunday (at least one education bird will be present at this program as well.)

Good birding!

Friday, January 16, 2015

This Coming Week's Bird Events

The Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue is really happening Saturday, January 17. We had so many teams members drop out because they already had plans for the 10th, we needed to move it once again. But we are at full strength for Saturday and were even able to add a third team, so it should be a great day. The weather promises to be decent (it is January, after all!)

Next Tuesday, January 20, is the monthly meeting of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club at 7 PM at the NALC building at 5310 Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley nursery.) We'll be discussing the Great Backyard Bird Count coming up in February.

Do you know that another way to keep up with birding events in our area is to check out the bulletin board in Wild Birds Unlimited? Katherine Smith posts details in her store.

Good birding!

Birdy Weekend

A little slow getting to this post, but I wanted to post a summary of the birds last weekend.

Saturday, January 10, was the monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park. Jenny, June and Mike came. It was a chilly morning out at the Park--I was surprised so many came out. The morning started out with some good sightings, but then tapered off.  But for an hour walk, we did well on birds. I think we all enjoyed the eastern bluebirds most. We watched a flock of 10 - 12 for some time. Birds seen included: Canada goose, hooded merganser, bufflehead, white pelican, double-crested cormorant, ring-billed gull, ladder-backed woodpecker, northern mockingbird, cardinal, eastern bluebird, white-crowned sparrow, eastern meadowlark, junco, and red-winged blackbird.

On the way home, I noted an American kestrel on the wire.

On Sunday, I had Wild Bird Rescue, so while feeding the birds there, did see a few birds. A male ladder-backed woodpecker was calling and working hard at excavating the mulberry tree. I am hopeful that means he might decide to nest there. In addition, the feeders hosted dozens of goldfinch, house finch, house sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, red-winged blackbird, starling, Eurasian collared dove and white-winged dove. I did not see my Inca dove, which was disappointing.

Leaving Wild Bird Rescue, I decided I would check out the Nature Bluff as I haven't gotten there since a dirt trail was put in. Well, I still haven't had a chance to walk it--a construction sign greeted me when I arrived and the trail was torn up and muddy. If I had been birding with someone, I probably would have just struck out cross country, but the terrain is very uneven and my balance is very poor. Another day. The only birds I saw from the parking lot were a great-tailed grackle and a cardinal. So I decided to go to Lucy Park.

For the most part, local birders have written off Lucy Park since the city tore out all of the excellent habitat as an attempt at flood control. Although it is true that Lucy Park is not near the birding hotspot it was a few years ago, it is still as good or better than many of the other local places. If you don't remember it as it was, you can still have a decent morning birding. There are still a lot of nesting sites for cavity nesters, so it is still a good spot for woodpeckers and titmice. However, I noted a lot of the best trees for cavity nesters are marked for removal, so I expect the habitat decline to continue.
Pair of common goldeneye (you'll have to enlarge the pic--I am not good at
editing photos on my new computer yet.)

The highlight for me was a very shy pair of common goldeneye on the river. The list of birds there included: mallard, common goldeneye, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, northern flicker, white-winged dove, northern cardinal, blue jay, American robin, tufted titmouse, house finch, goldfinch, eastern phoebe, spotted towhee, junco, and song sparrow.

Although I didn't have a lot of time to bird this weekend, the time I had yielded some good birds and I had a good time. All in all, no complaints.

Good birding!