Thursday, December 18, 2014

Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue

The Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue fundraiser is scheduled for January 1.

This is the 4th Big Day. Teams of birdwatchers will be scouring the countryside, trying to find as many species of birds possible within our Big Day time frame.

Typically a Big Day is 24 hours, but by agreement, we have always opted for a 12-hour window, from 6 AM - 6 PM. Teams map their own routes to try to cover as many different habitats as possible and as much area as possible, hitting all of the known birdy spots in the area.

Although it is possible to get 100 species at this time of year, the record for a single team on the Big Day has been 98 species. Weather plays a big part. We have a tendency to get significant winds, which is not something that helps when you are trying to hear the birds.

If you want to participate, you are welcome to form a team of your own, or contact me at txbirds@gmail.com and I will be happy to add you to a team. Although it is helpful if you are a birder, it isn't necessary. We're trying to find as many species as we can, but Wild Bird Rescue also has a mission to educate the public about wild birds, so we welcome novices as well. Besides, more spotters and people to help record species can't hurt.

Can't bird that day? Why not sponsor a team with a donation (Team #1! Team #1!)? You can drop off a check at Wild Bird Rescue or mail one to them at 4611 Lake Shore Dr, Wichita Falls, TX 76310. You can also donate on line at the website. Be sure to indicate Big Day in the memo line of your check or in the comments of your online donation. Or if you contact me at txbirds@gmail.com, I will come to you to pick up your donation if you are in Wichita Falls.

Regardless of the number of birds we find, we'll have a great time and (I hope) raise some money for this worthy organization.

Good birding!

Flat Day at Lake Arrowhead State Park

Eastern Phoebe, Photo by Andy Reago and
Chrissy McClarren
Wikimedia Commons
Our monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park on December 13 wasn't one of our better months in terms of the birds seen, but hey, a bad morning birding is better than a great morning doing most anything else.

Walk regular, June, came as well as Mike, who has participated the last few months. This month we also had a newcomer, Sharon. It is always extra nice to have people relatively new to birdwatching along as almost any bird is going to be a good bird. We did have a few decent birds, most notably very good views of an eastern phoebe. These often appear fairly drab little birds, but in the right light like we had on Saturday, they are really very pretty.

I was hoping for a lot of ducks so we could work on duck identification, but that didn't work out for us. The only ducks we saw were gadwall. But we did see a nice raft of white pelicans on the water, although further away than I would have liked.

Here's the list of our birds for the morning: Canada goose, gadwall, double crested cormorant, white pelican, ring-billed gull, killdeer, great blue heron, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, yellow-shafted northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, mockingbird, eastern bluebird, cardinal, Bewick's wren, eastern phoebe, brown-headed cowbird, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird, junco, eastern meadowlark goldfinch, house finch.

The walk next month will be January 10, 8:00 AM.

Good birding!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas Bird Count Coming Up

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club has scheduled the annual Christmas Bird Count for Saturday, December 20. Our club has participated in the count since 1972.

As usual, we have divided the count circle into 3 sections, with a team leader responsible for each section. The sections are: Lake Wichita, Lucy Park and Wichita Falls, and Iowa Park. If you are interested in participating for part or all day, contact Terry McKee at dgm59@aol.com. She is the overall coordinator and the team leader for the Lucy Park area. I will be organizing the Lake Wichita section. If you would like to take part in that area, contact me at txbirds@gmail.com. Jimmy Hoover will be once again heading up the Iowa Park area. You can take part for an hour or all day. You can even sign up to watch your feeders at home if you are in the count area.

We'll be getting together the evening of the 20th for our annual count potluck. You don't have to participate in the count during the day to come to the supper and listen to the tallies. Always a lot of fun.

Good birding!

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Facebook Page

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club now has a Facebook page! If you are interested in local birding events, like "North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club."

Good Birding!

Good to Be Home!

I am not even going to try to explain why I haven't been posting. Mostly because I haven't been birding, and I haven't been home.

I got home late Saturday to the lovely rain and Sunday decided I was going to get out and see some birds. There has sure been a lot of change since I was last out. The summer birds are all gone and many of our winter birds have arrived. I wasn't able to spend a lot of time out, but I did hit a couple of spots and had some good birds.

Crestview Pond
I stopped by Crestview Memorial Park in hopes of some winter ducks, and I got a few. The last time I was at Crestview, this little pond was very low. The smaller pond in the back was completely dry. There was some water in the back and this pond was about 80% full. And there were some winter ducks: mallards, ring-necked ducks, gadwall and wigeon. I was surprised to see a roadrunner--the first one I have seen in this cemetery. The white-crowned sparrows were numerous, as usual in the winter. I got my first ruby-crowned kinglet of the season.

I then made a short stop at Lake Wichita Park for a trip down the Chat Trail and the barrow pit. The barrow pit has been dry for a couple of months, but had some water in it Sunday morning. No birds, but some water, at least. I didn't have time to actually go to Lake Wichita--hopefully over the Thanksgiving weekend. However, driving past the spillway area, there was a flooded spot where there were two northern shovelers.
Barrow pit--some water!

I did see a few good birds. The drainage ditch that runs adjacent to the chat trail was full and for the first time in many months, there was a belted kingfisher hunting. I also saw my first goldfinch of the season mixed in with some house finches along the trail.

Since it was my day at Wild Bird Rescue, I stopped by the Center to care for my charges. There was a fair sized flock of yellow-rumped warblers in one of the trees and an Inca dove out front (I stopped by this morning and there was a flock of a half dozen Inca doves in the front flower bed.)

Overall, a fairly good two hours. Here is a complete list of my birds: mallard, ring-necked duck, gadwall, American wigeon, northern shoveler, Canada goose, pied-billed grebe, ring-billed gull, killdeer, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, Inca dove, downy woodpecker, belted kingfisher, roadrunner, blue jay, northern cardinal, yellow-rumped warbler, ruby-crowned kinglet, northern mockingbird, American robin, spotted towhee, house finch, American goldfinch, meadowlark sp., great-tailed grackle, European starling, white-crowned sparrow, house sparrow.

Good birding!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On the (Chat) Trail After a Chat!

Yellow-breasted chat. Photo courtesy of Jim Conrad, Wikimedia
Commons.
This afternoon I was heading back to the house with the very serious intention of shoveling some work off my desk so I can leave for the Rockport Hummingbird Festival tomorrow morning with a clear conscience. I was just a few blocks from my house and sitting at the red light on the corner of Fairway Blvd and Southwest Parkway when I get a text from fellow birder, Rick Folkening. He said he had stopped at the Chat Trail in Lake Wichita Park that morning and had seen some good birds, to include a yellow-breasted chat. What to do?

One could argue that I should have been responsible and headed home, but that's not what happened. I convinced myself that a short detour wouldn't be a horrible thing. After all, Lake Wichita Park is just off Fairway Blvd, right?

Yes, I know the Chat Trail is "closed" due to the temporary water reuse project, but there is no better place to bird in Wichita Falls during migration season. It was hot and humid and not the best time of day for birding (11:45 AM), but I decided to go for it. I spent about 45 minutes walking down to the bridge and back on the trail and did indeed pick up some good birds to include the yellow-breasted chat, which was cooperative enough to sit right out in the open for a couple of minutes to give me a very good view.

I didn't see all of the birds Rick saw, but I did see three 1st winter blue grosbeaks, which were a complete surprise. As noted in another blog post, I saw two blue grosbeaks at Lake Arrowhead last month and was very excited. I definitely did not expect to see any on the chat trail, although it is great habitat for them. I tried to turn them into house finches, which I frequently see along this trail, but it didn't work.

Other birds seen in this short stop: red-tailed hawk, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, chimney swift, barn swallow, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, blue jay, yellow warbler, Baltimore oriole, Carolina wren, robin, eastern kingbird and eastern phoebe. Well worth the stop.

So yes, tonight I am stressing about what I didn't get done today, but I did see some extremely good birds, so I'll get over it. After all, it was "only" 45 minutes.

Thanks, Rick! Appreciate the text.

Good birding!

Book Review: The Passenger Pigeon

I recently received "The Passenger Pigeon" by Errol Fuller from Princeton University Press. September 1, 2014 was the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha the passenger pigeon, the last of her species, so it is a timely reminder of just how tenuous life can be for a species, regardless of how numerous they might be.
This hardback book is beautifully illustrated. Mr. Fuller has put together a complete natural history of the passenger pigeon drawing upon historical illustrations, photographs, specimens, poems, ornithological journal articles and historical accounts. Do you know where the term "stool pigeon" originated? You'll know after reading the sad story in this book.

Many of the same factors that affect birds today were part of the reasons for the demise of the passenger pigeon, so the story resonates.  

Not a joyful book by any means but nonetheless, an important story for anyone who cares about birds and their future.

The Passenger Pigeon is available from Princeton University Press for $29.95. It is also available from Amazon.com for $22.15 (and don't forget, you can help Wild Bird Rescue, Inc., by logging in to Amazon through the smileamazon.com URL and designating Wild Bird Rescue as your charity.)

Good birding!