Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter Storm

We had a big storm in the wee hours of the morning. It was not a snow and ice storm (although they do happen often enough over the winter). After several days of freezing temperatures, we had a very warm day yesterday, which warmed things up enough for a winter thunderstorm. We had a humdinger of an electrical storm early this morning. I got up and went around the house powering down and unplugging computers before going back to my snug bed.

We obviously got more bluster than rain. We needed the rain; it has been very dry here. Although we didn't get near the amount of rain one would think from all of the noise, we did get some. Enough to fill up the bird bath anyway. That's good news for the birds, and they are taking advantage of it. All morning there has been a steady stream of little birds bathing. No sooner does one set of little birds get out, then the next set jump in. The way they all throw water around in their exuberance, I doubt the water will last more than a few hours.

Good birding!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Synchronized Swimming

Did you ever have a morning when you just knew it was going to be a great day? I went out this morning to warm weather, sunshine and damp.

When I went up to Wild Bird Rescue to check the carriers for new arrivals and to feed the few birds we currently have at the center, I noticed several water spouts shooting up from the small cove at the end of our parking lot. That can mean only one thing--pelicans fishing!

I walked quietly down to the middle of the lot, where I could see the birds down in the water, but they were unlikely to notice me (I didn't want them to take off!). Sure enough, there were over 100 pelicans in a big cluster, beating the water with their wings (thus the water spraying up into the air) and dipping for fish. The picture above was taken by Bob Lindsay at Wild Bird Rescue on another morning. You can't see the water flying, but you can see the large mass of birds in the small cove on Lake Wichita.

It is fascinating to watch the birds fish in this manner. They herd the fish with the wing flapping, then dip their bills into the water to scoop up the fish. Then the group turns and pushes the fish to another part of of the cove by flapping their wings into the water. They then eat that group, turn and start again in another direction.
Good birding!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas with friends and family this holiday. I let the dogs out this morning and had four blue jays at the sunflower feeders in the back yard--a nice start to the day.

Good birding!

Northern Harrier Out My Window

This morning I looked out my kitchen window to watch my birds and a bird of prey zipped past low over the ground in the vacant lot next to my house. It was a northern harrier hard after something on the ground. I saw the bird go to the ground, but didn't see it come up--it was in the tall grass. A few little birds flushed out of the area.

I sometimes have a sharp-shinned hawk or occasionally a merlin after the birds that frequent my feeders. I always hope they get the house sparrows and not the pretty or less common birds. In this case, I don't know what the harrier was after--maybe a mouse or rat from the field.

Good birding!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Bird Count

Yesterday, as noted in the previous post, was the Christmas Bird Count in Wichita Falls.

The morning was beautiful with a glorious pink and blue sky, no wind, and a reasonable temperature (about 40 degrees). My group had the area around Lake Wichita, largely a walking route. Our species (in the order the species were first sighted):

Ring-billed gull: 836
Great-tailed grackle: 14
Blue jay: 13
Double-crested cormorant: 860
Goldfinch: 27
Mockingbird: 12
Red-winged blackbird: 304
Northern cardinal: 11
Sharp-shinned hawk: 1
Fox sparrow: 1
Mourning dove: 12
Great blue heron: 9
Least sandpiper: 10
Eastern meadowlark: 2
Meadowlark species: 22
Great egret: 1
Sparrow species: 6
American coot: 10
Northern shoveler: 5
Snowy egret: 1
Pied-billed grebe: 9
Killdeer: 2
Ruddy duck: 26
Greater yellowlegs: 1
Bufflehead: 13
House finch: 5
Bewick's wren: 6
Downy woodpecker: 1
Woodpecker species: 1
White-crowned sparrow: 26
Eurasian collared dove: 5
Song sparrow: 1
Robin: 8
Canada geese: 29
White pelican: 108
Eastern towhee: 6
European starling: 420
Slate-colored junco: 17
Ruby-crowned kinglet: 2
Belted kingfisher: 3
Inca dove: 6
Franklin's gulls: 3
Wood pigeon: 48
Blue-winged teal: 20
Green-winged teal: 8
Gull species: 25
Loggerhead shrike: 2
American kestrel: 3
House sparrow: 3
Northern Harrier: 1
Red-tailed hawk: 1

By the end of our count, the wind had kicked up and the temperature was dropping with the cold front coming through (lo 20's this AM). We had some birds we expected but didn't get, especially among the ducks, but overall a decent day.

We met at Jimmy Hoover's home for our annual Christmas Count spaghetti dinner to compile the results of the three teams. We cheated this year and bought dinner from the Olive Garden, but Earl Anderson brought his rum cake and the Hoovers supplied hot wassail, so not all traditions were jettisoned. The other two groups had a few species we didn't see, as expected, since the habitats differed. However, overall the number of species (72) and the number of individuals were all down from the norm. The Lucy Park team noted a lack of birds in Lucy Park this year. The Iowa Park team noted a lackluster result from Chaparral, which is normally a productive stop. But the Iowa Park team did get Sandhill cranes at the Lake Buffalo middle lake (the rest of the lake is outside the count circle).

But the Lake Wichita group had a good time. After all, a good day's birding is better than most anything else we could have been doing.

Good birding!

To Be a Newbie...

Yesterday the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count, helped by some of the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists. We divided our circle into 3 teams. My team had the Lake Wichita area. In addition to me, I had two new birders from the Texas Master Naturalists and one experienced but recently relocated birder.

I always enjoy birding with new people. When a person has been birding for a while, we sometimes don't pay as much attention to the common birds. But for a new birder, almost every bird is a lifer, which makes the bird exciting for them. Since they are also trying to learn field identification, you also have to think about what characteristics made you decide the bird you see a half mile away is a double-crested cormorant.

With a newly relocated birder, the joy is sharing the best birding spots. The Chat Trail...the tank...the spillway--these are all places local birders talk about, but when you are new to the area, you just don't know where to go. "What a neat place! I had no idea this was here!"

We walked a section of the City trail system and talked about future expansion plans (we can't wait!)

And we saw some birds--but that is for the next post. For the new birders in my group, the belted kingfisher was the favorite. We had one who posed for some time in between flights up and down the drainage ditch. The light was perfect for a good look and he called with each pass by, so they had a good chance to listen to his call. Another highlight was the flight of the white pelicans. We didn't get as close a look on those, but we had several sightings. They made it easy to count by flying in a long line past us. The masses of ring-billed gulls and double-crested cormorants right after sunrise were also impressive.

All in all a super day.

Good birding!

Monday, December 15, 2008

One Day, Sixty Degrees

Well, we certainly have had a change in the weather.

Yesterday the high was 85 degrees. Today, the high was in the mid-20's.

Needless to say, the birds cleaned out my feeders today.

Good birding!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I got up this morning to an overcast, calm, and cool morning. It felt a little like rain, although there was none in the forecast. However, by the time I left the house, the wind was blowing strongly. In fact, later in the day, we lost a dead tree in our front yard. At least it fell away from the house and not on the house.

Driving over to Lake Wichita, the wind was blowing strongly off the lake, pushing flocks of cormorants and black birds sideways. You wonder how the birds manage to get where they want to go when the wind is so strong. For the most part, the birds stay down low and stay in sheltered locations in shrubs, long grass and tree areas. There weren't a lot of flying birds today for the most part.

Good birding!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cold Snap

As frequently happens this time of year, the temperature can vary a lot in a short time. We had a cold front come through the other day, dropping the temperature 20+ degrees during the day.

At this time of the year, I feel sorry for the little birds. If you have ever had a small bird in hand, you know just how delicate they seem to be. Obviously, they aren't as delicate as they look, because they seem to do just fine. They do avoid the worst of the weather, but otherwise, seem to do very well. Feathers trap air and provide good insulation. But in order to maintain a high body temperature, they do need food--not always easily found in the winter.

We do have it better here than up north. What snow and ice we get usually don't last long, so food remains accessible. Insects may be active on warmer days. No wonder many birds from the far north travel here for their winter homes.

But because I wouldn't want to live outside in the winter cold, I feel compelled to put out food for the birds. And they do go through large amounts. Last Sunday I had 33 white-winged doves at one time. I need a part-time job.....

Good birding!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

White-winged Doves in Abundance

I looked out my dining room window earlier today to count birds for Project Feederwatch and had 22 white-winged doves. When I first moved to Wichita Falls, we rarely saw white-winged doves. A few years ago, Texas Parks and Wildlie asked Wild Bird Rescue to notify them any time we had a baby come in as there were few records of nesting in the area. Times have changed.

Both the white-winged dove and Eurasian collared dove populations have boomed in town over the past several years. They are by far the most numerous doves in town. They don't seem to care much for the rural life--mourning doves still predominate there. People who feed birds are beginning to get aggravated with the birds. Unlike other doves that feed on the ground on seed spilled by others from feeders, white-winged dove will land on the feeders themselves and stop other birds from eating. One would think that white-winged dove would be too big to sit on a tube feeder perch, but that is not the case--they are fairly agile for a large bird. And they love black-0il sunflower seed.

According to Bird of North American Online (one of my favorite internet sites), prior to 1980 white-winged doves were found primarily in the Rio Grande and since have expanded northward into Oklahoma (in fact, Wichita Falls is specifically listed as one of the expansion areas.)

They like pecan and live oak trees for nesting and usually have two broods a year (since they start in March and end in August/September in Wichita Falls, I would be surprised if some don't sneak in an extra one in this area, but I could not find any documented cases of that.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Winter is Here

October is usually a beautiful month in Wichita Falls, although by the end of the month, it can get a little nippy. But it is usually dry and sunny with perfect temperatures. November is when the temps and weather start turning a little more surly. So far, this month has been much like October. Aside from a couple of nippy days in the 30's at night, it has been warm, sunny and dry.

Last night a front moved in, bringing clouds, a little moisture and lower temps. This morning I went to Lake Wichita Park to do a little birdwatching, Temps in the 40's and some sparse showers. But the winter birds are definitely here. I stopped because Jimmy Hoover, a member of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club, mentioned the tank had been covered with ducks earlier in the week. I can't say it was covered today, but I did see Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, Mallard, American Coot, Bufflehead, and Pied-billed Grebe. Flying overhead were Double-crested Cormorants and White Pelicans.

Winter sparrows were abundant. Surprisingly, I did not see any White-crowned Sparrows, but did see Savannah Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and a Harris Sparrow. I was also fortunate to see a Common Yellowthroat. I also saw a flock of meadowlarks, which I don't often see in the park. My walk was rounded out by a mockingbird, juncos, robins, cardinals, blue jays, great-tailed grackles, eurasian collared doves and several Bewick's wrens.

Not bad for an hour's walk.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Woo Hoo! Four Days Off!!!!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love to cook and don't often have time to do it very much. So I enjoy spending the day in the kitchen, whipping up all of the traditional dishes my family loves.

I brought home some things to work on, but for the most part, I have four days off. On one of those days, I AM going to go birding. I understand all of the ducks are back, so it should be a good time to go to the tank in Lake Wichita Park. I volunteer at Wild Bird Rescue Friday, so that will probably be a good day.

This past week I was in Washington DC--I didn't see a single bird. It didn't help that I was in meetings from 7:30 AM - 9:00 PM, but one never knows. It was cold and snowed a little. My blood is thinning out since I've been in Texas.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Bird By Any Other Name

I saw my first Junco of the season yesterday. Others have told me the juncos were here, but I hadn't seen them. Whenever I see the junco, I think to myself "why junco?" This is a beautiful little bird better known as a snowbird in my youth (remember Ann Murray's song). How did we get from a pretty name to one that definitely isn't pretty and doesn't even tell the regular person anything about the bird?

Unlike many other fields of biology, ornithologists have been hard-nosed about standardizing bird names. Birds are called by the same name, regardless of where they are found. The American Ornithologist's Union (AOU) is the decisionmaking authority for naming. This has certainly helped ensure there is no confusion about which birds is under discussion (except for the constant back and forth splitting and clumping--but that's another issue). However, it has taken much of the color out of the hobby.

When I was growing up in Indiana, a sparrowhawk was a sharp-shinned hawk. Further south, the sparrowhawk was commonly an American kestrel. So it is easy to see how this could lead to confusion. However, I miss the common names snowbird, bulbat (common nighthawk), rain crow (yellow-billed cuckoo), etc.

So, although I write down "junco," I always think "snowbird."

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Not-so-Common, Common Pigeon

The Rock Pigeon arrived in North America in the 17th century with settlers who brought them from Europe, and are either much-loved or much hated, depending upon one's point of view. They have thrived alongside mankind in their urban habitats. The occur in a wide range of colors.

Pigeons are monogomous and pair for life. Their ideal nest site is a ledge under cover; hence, the populations under bridges and underpasses. Usually a nest consists of two eggs, although pigeons may overlap broods, by laying the next two eggs as the first two are hatching out. However, due to the number of feedings required and the brooding necessary to maintain body temperature, if something happens to one of the parents the first week after hatching, a single parent cannot feed both babies.

According to Birds of North America online, young begin hatching in February. However, at Wild Bird Rescue, we had a squab in January 2008. However, the same source does note some winter breeding. This is possible because pigeons do not feed insects to their young, but crop milk that they make from the seeds they eat.

Predators include hawks and falcons, racoons, opposums, great horned owls, crows and ravens.

Pigeons are known for their homing capabilities. They appear to rely on both the sun and magnetic fields to find their way.

These are fascinating birds that have fallen into disfavor due to the large flocks that tend ot congregate (and defecate) in urban areas.

Green Pigeon Update

I posted a blog entry some weeks ago about a green pigeon that had come in to Wild Bird Rescue. We can definitively say the bird was dyed. You can still see a little green on the tips of the wings still, but most of the rest of the feathers have molted and been replaced.
The good thing is that the bird's neurological symptoms are starting to subside. A few weeks ago, the bird's head was twisted sideways much of the time, especially when he was stressed. He was also still stumbling on occasion. He isn't 100% yet, but he is much better and may be releasable soon. I don't know why people do such things to their fellow creatures. If it wasn't for Wild Bird Rescue, this bird would definitely have died.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Project Feederwatch Begins

November 8 was the first day of Project Feederwatch, a citizen science project sponsored by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. I look forward to participating each year.

I confess I was a little behind the power curve this year. I had only black oil sunflower seed on hand and only put up one tube feeder. I was also committed to activities away from home most of the weekend, so had little time to watch. In spite of the fact I saw very few birds, all of the ones I did not see managed to clean out the feeder. I had 5 house sparrows, a blue jay and a white-winged dove.

My count period starts again this Saturday and I will be gone all morning again, but I will have up some additional feeders with a greater variety of food. I'll hope for better luck this weekend.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Master Naturalist Meeting

Each year Texas Master Naturalists (TMN) from throughout the state meet for three days at their annual meeting and advanced training. This year we were back at Mo Ranch, near Hunt, TX. I love it there. The facility is right on the Guadalupe River and is far from a sizeable town. One of the best things about the remote area is the stars. It has been a long time since I have been able to clearly see so many stars. I had forgotten just how awe inspiring it is to see the Milky Way. There were also meteors both nights we were there.

I did have some time to do a little bird watching in between various classes. I saw the following birds: canyon wren, Carolina wren, Carolina chickadee, northern cardinal, European starling, house finch, golden-fronted woodpecker, black tufted titmouse, Inca dove, black vulture, and turkey vulture. We did see a lot of butterflies and a fellow TMN member managed to finish her Monarch tagging for the season. But there were many other butterflies than Monarchs. We also saw deer and black squirrels. Driving back to Wichita Falls on Sunday, the highlights were lots of Eastern bluebirds and kestrels, as well as Swainson's and Red-tailed hawks.

As usual there were interesting classes. I participated in classes on beetles, Nature Trackers, and cactus moth infestation of the prickly pear cactus. And, as always, we came back with lots of ideas for more projects for our chapter. Not that we have enough time to do all of the projects we have now, but I guess there is always room for more. I think we all agreed we want to take part in monitoring invasive plant species, monitor prairie dog populations and watch for cactus moth infestation. The local chapter (Rolling Plains) won an award for our Horned Lizard DNA sampling project.

It was a great mini-vacation. I am already looking forward to next year.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Green Pigeon Saga Continues

I haven't worked at Wild Bird Rescue in a couple of weeks due to my schedule, but am working today. It is apparent that the bird was dyed, now that it is molting. The feathers coming in are white and possibly a brown color.

Although the pigeon is self-feeding, its head is twisted, and he is uncoordinated. We are wondering if he is continuing to ingest poison from the dye as he preens. We are hoping that once he finishes his molt and all of his feathers are dye-free, the poison will leave the pigeon's system. The question is whether there will be any permanent damage.

One has to wonder why a person would cause any animal to suffer just to change its color.

Misty Morning

I love the fall. I went to Wild Bird Rescue this morning, arriving shortly after sunrise. The cool air above the warm water meant there was a heavy mist rising from the surface of Lake Wichita. I could clearly hear an American Phoebe and a small flock of Canada Geese. When I came back out an hour later to fill the bird feeders, the mist was gone--the day warms quickly when the sun comes up.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Big Sit

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club sponsored the annual Big Sit Sunday at Lake Wichita, adjacent to Wild Bird Rescue. Most of us have participated in several Big Sit events over the years, although we did have a couple of new participants and one new birder, who was able to identify some lifers. That added a lot to the morning for all of us. It is always fun to have a new birder, who is excited by the common birds the more jaded of us don't pay enough attention to.

It was a beautiful sunrise, which quickly turned to steady high winds, leading to white caps on the lake. Shortly after sunrise, the red-winged blackbirds came up out of the reeds in clouds all around the lake. This is a sight only seen in the fall and winter. The birds begin with a loud chorus that builds up in volume. Then the group goes silent, and the flock starts pouring out. It is definitely a sight to see.

As always, there were some treats. First was a pair of Belted Kingfishers which flew by several times and frequently perched on easily visible branches. A Greater Yellowlegs flew directly over our heads and had the courtesy to call, making a positive ID much easier. A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers alighted on a tree just a few feet from our group, allowing a good view. An American Phoebe was also very cooperative, sitting on a post not far from us.

There were some things we expected, but didn't see. Most mornings the white pelicans fly in an undulating row over the lake. Although we saw 2 pelicans, it was not the show we expected. Recently a large group of Canada Geese have been flying past our overview in the morning. However, on Sunday, although we heard a couple of far off Canada Geese, we sited none.

We did have the usual high numbers of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, but we were not treated to the display we had some years ago.

We were able to watch the resident beaver going back and forth from the inlet out into the main lake, swimming right in front of us. The beaver cut dow the tree behind the spot we use for the Sit. I have put in an order for him to take down the tree that is right in front of our area. It was small the first year we had the Sit, but is now obstructing the view of the lake. So if he needs a tree, I suggest he go for that one.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Mailbox Bonanza

I haven't had much of an opportunity to get out to watch birds lately, so I am suffering from withdrawal. Sometimes I have to get my birding fix some other way. Yesterday was a bonanza in the mailbox.

First, TOS is running a special by sending extra copies of old annuals to members. I asked for copies. They arrived yesterday, so I spent the evening reading old articles. I also got my Project Feederwatch materials from Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology. I have been a feederwatcher for several years and always get excited when the materials come. Project Feederwatch is one of several citizen science projects sponsored by Cornell. The data helps researchers learn more about bird populations and ranges in the United States. I'm ready to do my part.

In Project Feederwatch, people watch birds during 2-day periods between mid-November and March, and record the numbers of birds of different species that come to their feeders. There are some birds which do not come to feeders, so not all birds are covered in this study. But it does include birds that prey on birds at the feeders, such as roadrunners, merlins, and sharp-shinned hawks.

Good birding!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chimney Swifts

This morning I stopped by Wild Bird Rescue on the way to work and was on the porch with Bob, the Executive Director, before leaving, watching the sun come up. The chimney swifts started coming out of the chimney swift tower.

Chimney swifts are some of my favorite birds and I lobbied hard to get a chimney swift tower built. Chimney swifts are declining in numbers across most of their range, probably because people now cap their chimneys. Although chimneys are not the only place these birds nest, they are an important nesting site. Chimney swifts also nest in hollow trees, cisterns, silos, and barns. Chimney swifts fly at all times they are not roosting. Once they leave the tower in the morning, they fly all day, capturing and eating insects on the wing.

Chimney swifts build a nest out of small twigs and saliva, which is the glue that holds the nest together and attaches the nest to the wall of the structure. Each tower has one nesting pair, although several birds may share the tower. The other birds that roost in the tower are unmated birds. It appears the unmated birds assist in the raising of the brood in the one nest. The young birds may cling to the side of the tower and exercise their wings. Once they fly out of the roost, the parents will not feed them again, although the young will continue to return to the roost at night.

The chimney swifts will be leaving soon for the Amazon Basin and I will be listening for their chittering call in the spring.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Recycling the Neighborhood

Out near the Lake Wichita Spillway there is an overpass that houses a lot of pigeons underneath year around and in the summer, hundreds of cliff swallows along the outside, under the overhang of the road. The cliff swallows have headed south, abandoning their nests for the year. As soon as the cliff swallows leave, the house sparrows move in. Last winter, almost every nest had house sparrows. So far this year, it appears to be about half. I am sure the nests provide better shelter than most of the places the house sparrows nested. The openings point down, which would keep the rain off and help make the shelter less accessible to predators. However, I do note that it appears the house sparrows gravitate toward nests that have some damage (and therefore, a wider opening)--at least at first.

I originally intended to check out the tank to see if any ducks were coming yet, but youth football season has started and the park was packed, so I headed toward the spillway. In a short walk along the biking/walking trail between the spillway and Southwest Parkway, I saw a great blue heron, American phoebe, killdeer, blue jays, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, starlings, barn swallows, chimney swifts, pigeons, house sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, and an immature red-bellied woodpecker. There was also an Empodonax flycatcher I was unable to clearly identify. As usual. I also heard a belted kingfisher, but did not find him. So nothing spectacular, but the weather was beautiful and since I only had 45 minutes to spend before I had to get back to Wild Bird Rescue, it was good.

Later in the morning, I did see a green heron at Wild Bird Rescue.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurray for Bird Clubs

I first went to a meeting of bird watchers when I lived in Virginia. It was a relatively large group (20 - 30) people. There I found people who shared my passion for birds--I could rhapsodize about a bird with people who actually understood. Most importantly, there were people who knew a lot more than me. I went on trips with them, and they helped me improve my identification skills. They showed me the good places to see birds. I had my first experience with bird banding. Birders generally are very helpful to amateurs, remembering that we have all been (and many remain) novices.

When I moved to Wichita Falls, I started looking for a bird club, worried there wouldn't be one in a smaller town. Wichita Falls does have its bird club, the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. This club is not exclusively birds, but that is the primary topic of discussion at meetings. The club is very small, which is unfortunate. All of the same good things happen here. People are friendly and helpful, regardless of experience. The members rotate preparing programs for the meetings and bringing snacks. Friendly people, interesting information, and food--what more could a person want in an organization?

I know we would love to have more people visit and take part. Meetings are the third Tuesday of each month at 7PM at the NALC building on Southwest Parkway (next door to Wichita Valley Nursery) in Wichita Falls.

I Love the Discovery Channel

I am not a big TV watcher overall; neither am I often able co-opt the remote control from my husband. But I did last night.

My husband and I watch football together. It is about the only thing we both like, so Monday Night Football is rather like "date night" for us. Anyway, last night the Cowboys were playing and neither of us is a Cowboy fan. I know that is sacriligious in Wichita Falls, but there it is. We root for whatever team is playing against them, if we watch them play at all. So my husband went back to the office to play on the computer and said he would check in periodically on the game. So I flipped over to the Discovery Channel.

A great show about cloning dinosaurs ala Jurassic Park. So what does that have to do with birds? Well, the discussion was that it would be easier to reverse engineer a bird than to piece together the small pieces of DNA available through fossils and other remnants of dinosaurs for cloning. They were showing the many similarities between birds and dinosaurs and how a modification to various control genes caused dinosaur characteristics to show in birds. Characteristics like longer tails and teeth. Overall, fascinating. You would think after watching the show for an hour I would have caught the name of the program, but I didn't.

We did end up watching most of the Cowboys/Eagles game. It was a very good game, although in the end, the wrong team won....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cool Stuff About Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are fascinating. They are probably the bird I get the most questions about and the bird I am asked to give the most presentations about. Since hummers seem to be on everyone's mind since they are present in large numbers right now, I thought it would be a good time to post a few interesting things about them.
- In flight, a hummingbird's heart rate exceeds 1200 beats per minute
- Hummingbirds can enter a state of stupor to survive cold weather, and their heart rate may drop to 50 beats a minute and they may not breath for long periods of time
- Hummingbirds are the only birds which can fly backwards
- Many ruby-throated hummingbirds cross 500 - 600 miles of open water
- Hummingbirds are polygamous and dad does not contribute to raising his babies

If you love hummingbirds, you should love spiders. Not only are small spiders prey for hummingbirds, but hummingbirds will pick small insects out of a spider's web and use spider silk to build their nests. Some larger spiders can eat hummingbirds, however. Other hummingbird predators include cats, shrikes, roadrunners, and large frogs.

If you have ever had a humimngbird in hand, you would be absolutely amazed that a bird so tiny is so hardy and resilient. Truly a miracle.

Hummingbirds on the Move!

Beverly McClure posted a comment to the last blog about the wrens, commenting on the increased numbers of hummingbirds in her yard over the past several days. I also received an email from a fellow volunteer at Wild Bird Rescue that she had 10 - 12 hummingbirds at her feeders this past week. It's that time; the hummers are on the move to their winter homes.

Here in Wichita Falls, we normally have 2 species of hummingbirds in the summer--the ruby-throated and the black-chinned. However, during fall migration other species may show up. So keep your cameras handy.

It is important to leave up your feeders during this time and leave your flowering plants (don't cut them down) so these little guys can tank up. Many of them fly over the Gulf of Mexico for several hundred miles without a stop and need the extra calories.

Please post if you have any interesting sitings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I have been told that wrens nesting in the yard is good luck. Anyone know the origin of that idea? Since I have a pair of Bewick's wrens nest in my yard every year, I am willing to believe the tale. We can all use a little more luck.

I enjoy watching these little birds. Talk about a Napoleonic complex--these guys have a lot of attitude crammed into a little body.

Although Carolina Wrens are common in this area, I have rarely heard them in my yard--I assumed because the Bewick's were keeping them out. I have occasionally had Carolina Wrens and Bewick's Wrens at the feeders in the winter, but most birds seem to get along better outside of breeding season. However, a couple of weeks ago, I started hearing Carolina Wrens when I went out back. I was hoping that did not mean they had run out the Bewicks. I worried for several days, but can now say I have seen and heard both types of wrens around the yard now, so apparently they can get along.

Other than the song, to me the best way to tell the two birds apart is the brighter color of the Carolina and the distinctive outside white feathers of the Bewick's. I don't know if it is an accurate observation, but it has also seemed to me that the Bewick's has a bit more of an attitude. Of course, all wrens display a lot of attitude, but it seems to me the little Bewick has it in spades.

There is some question whether the Carolina Wren and the Bewick's Wren may compete. If so, the Bewick's appears to be the one losing the competition as their numbers are in decline. There is documented impact of House Wrens on nesting of the Bewick's, but we don't have nesting House Wrens in our area, so is not an issue here.

I look forward to watching several more seasons of wrens fledging in the yard and giving me continuing good luck.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tricky Warbler

Fall warblers are notoriously difficult. Of course, it doesn't help that the little birds are in constant motion.

I was walking across the Midwestern State University campus when I saw a far off flash of orange-brown. Thinking there might be an oriole, I headed toward the bird. It wasn't an oriole--too small. Instead it was a warbler. You would think being more orange than yellow would simplify things. It might once I have a chance to sit down with my books, but not immediately--color is rarely definitive.

The little guy was flitting from branch to branch, gleaning the foliage and ducking behind every leaf he could find. He was well up in the tree, so my neck was cranked back in an unnatural position, and my binoculars were in the truck (after all, I was supposed to be at work, not watching birds--darn it!) I got a couple of reasonable, 5-second looks before he flew off, but was unable to make a certain ID.

So what's the point of posting if I don't know what I saw? Well, the point of the study of birds is to learn, not to know. If we knew all there was to know, then it wouldn't be fun any more (but it would be a whole lot less frustrating, I am sure!)

If I figure out what I was seeing, I will post a follow up later.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Improved Membership Bennies from TOS

The Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) has been working hard to make membership more attractive. Brad Lirette, the Membership Committee chair, has been pulling out all the stops to improve the value of TOS membership (in the interests of disclosure, I am a life member of TOS).

Recently, it was announced that TOS members could get their subscription to Birds of North America for $25 a year instead of $42 (of course, that happened right after I renewed this year--but next year will come around quickly enough). Also TOS members can also get 30% off books published by the Texas A&M University Press (and we've already established that one cannot have too many bird books!)

Thanks, Brad and TOS!

Getting Out the Winter Duds

(Note: photo courtesy of Lila Arnold)

The European Starlings are molting into their winter attire. In the summer, they appear predominantly brown--I think because so many are young birds (they have a very high survival rate). Right now they are an odd combination of winter and summer with speckled breasts and brown backs and wings. Soon they will be a glossy black with spots all over them.

The starling is a very successful introduced species. Today some 200 million starlings make their home in the United States from an original release of about 100 individuals in New York's Central Park in 1890 and 1891. This is not a good thing for our native cavity-nesters as starlings are intensely competitive for these nesting sites.

Although I think of starlings as year-around residents, many starlings do migrate. They tend to be associated with urban areas and agricultural crop land--areas with short vegetation. They avoid large areas of woodland or desert. They will eat almost anything. Although invertebrates (especially those which live in the soil) are their favorite food, they eat fruits and berries, seeds, garbage, and livestock and pet food. Their diet is almost exclusively invertebrates in the summer and more plant foods in the winter.

I was reading the account on starlings in Cornell University's Birds of North America ( and found it interesting that the digestive system of the starling changes with the change in diet:"The digestive system of starlings can respond to changes in diet to make more efficient use of a seasonally variable food supply. After switching to plant food, the gut lengthens, the gizzard becomes larger, and the intestinal villi lengthen (in Feare 1984). The rate of food passage through the gut also increases (Levey and Karasov 1989)."

I am always amazed what information you can find on Birds of North America--I didn't know that starlings cannot digest sucrose or that they prefer green nesting materials.

I don't care much for starlings, mostly because they are very aggressive in seeking cavities to nest and will evict many of our natve birds. Among them: wood ducks, buffleheads, woodpeckers, bluebirds, great crested flycatchers, purple martins, and tree swallows. Since there are many other small burds that use bluebird boxes to nest, I assume they would also interfere with them: wrens and chickadees for example. However, you have to admire their ability to be so successful in the scheme of things.

Unfortunately, there is not a good deterrent for starlings--they adapt fairly quickly. I don't often have any starlings in my yard, but I don't maintain a beautiful yard either. My neighbors have them; I see them as I drive by. But I rarely have any. Sometimes in the winter I will have one or two show at the feeder. But my yard has a lot of bushes, tall grass and trees and very little grass. There are good things about being the neighborhood yard pariah.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

It's All About the Birds

I used to think I was the only person who was distracted by bird sounds in the background of radio interviews and who nitpicked bird facts in movies. At least, my family and friends led me to think so. However, a few years ago, there was an article in one of the bird magazines where a well-known birder (I can't remember which one now) was relating how his family and friends didn't like watching certain movies with him because he would rant about the inaccuracies about birds. In this particular column, he was talking about Alfred Hitchcock's movie, The Birds. So now I know I'm normal.

I was listening to an interview on NPR in the truck this morning and it happened again. Obviously, the interview was taking place outside as a bird was singing in the background. It wasn't a bird I knew, so I was absorbed in trying to figure out what it was. However, the interview didn't include the location, and I didn't figure out the bird in the 30-second sound clip. Neither can I tell you who was being interviewed or what the discussion was about. It's all about the bird...

I also go nuts when there is incorrect information about birds given in movies. I was watching Charlie's Angels with my kids one evening and one of the clues was the song of a bird. We won't even go into how incorrect the information was. It wasn't a great movie to start with, but I was completely distracted by the fact they put bad bird facts in the movie. Heck, they would have someone who knew something check clothing, or historical facts, or hairdo's--why not a bird the plot of the movie depended upon? They could at least have used a real bird, with accurate information. One good thing least the birder in the movie was one of the heroines, not a complete geek.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Road Trip

Today my husband and I drove to Dallas, TX to pick up my son's car. He moved to Chicago and they elected to take only his wife's car. Since he did not sell the car before he left, we went to get it, and I drove it back. It is my habit on road trips (when my husband is driving) to take my binoculars and bird. I forgot my binoculars, which is nearly unheard of, but did see some birds on the way. My husband gets a kick out of me writing down the birds I see, especially as I keep track of the county I am in.

The Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) has a Texas Century Club, where members try to log at least 100 species in each of 100 Texas counties. There are 254 counties in Texas, only a few of which have many records on file. The goal is to encourage more birding in under-birded counties. Although birding along a highway is not easy and tends to be monotonous as we don't stop, I have meticulously kept lists of birds I see in each county we pass through. My problem is that I don't update them in ebird, which is the official repository for the information. TOS has added a link to the Century Club section on its web site ( It is easy to tell who the dedicated counters are.

Overall, I think this is a great idea. Now if I can just find someone to enter all of my lists.....

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Update on Green Pigeon

I really thought we would lose the green pigeon. He was losing weight daily. He wouldn't eat on his own and was throwing up a lot of what we were putting down his throat. He had terrible diarrhea. He acted as if he had been poisoned.

If he was dyed, it is possible the dye was the source of the poison. A local vet told us at Wild Bird Rescue that birds can absorb dye through the feathers. We couldn't find any trace of dye on the skin, so absorption through the feathers would be a source.

Yesterday I went by to check on him and he was starting to pick up some seed on his own and had gained a couple of grams from the day prior. This was great news as he had lost so much weight that he was in danger of having his internal organs shut down. He isn't out of the woods yet, but there is at least more hope.

Babies Are Flying the Coop!

I volunteer as a rehabilitator at Wild Bird Rescue. We recently released about 30 baby Mississippi Kites we have been backup feeding for the last week or so. They have been eating like little pigs. But we have also seen them catch and eat dragonflies in flight, which is what they are supposed to do. A couple of days ago, 20+ were coming in for breakfast. Yesterday, it was 4. The kites are moving out.

I came into my office yesterday and looked up--there were 25 - 30 kites circling. There was a good wind yesterday--remnants of Hurricane Gustof. That made it a good day to start migration. I could still hear a few kites calling this morning, so not all of them are gone. But it won't be long now.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bird Watchers Protested at Republican National Convention

I was watching what little there was of the RNC Convention yesterday on Fox News, my husband's favorite source of news (and we won't get into that domestic controversy here).

On an obviously slow convention news day the Britt Hume reported on a group (Good Conduct Society) at the RNC protesting bird watchers. Supposedly, bird watchers have a more active sex life and some bird watchers have a voyeuristic need to watch birds mate for "vicarious sexual gratification." This seems to be a non sequitur; it would seem if one had such a great sex life, you would not need to watch birds' mating habits for gratification. Maybe I have been going at things all wrong.....

Personally, I think this is a group of people having a good time, hoping to make the national spotlight for their 15 minutes of fame. Looks like it worked. thinks their sights are much higher--the Daily Show. In the meantime, check out their admittedly sparse website at The discussion board is hilarious. You don't need to work today, do you?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Texoma Water Garden Society

Thursday I had the pleasure of speaking to the Texoma Water Garden Society. I have thought about joining this group several times. There are several people I know and like in the club, and I have wanted a pond for years. But at present a pond is not in the cards, and I need another meeting to attend like I need another animal in the house. But they asked me to come talk to them about birds, so of course I said yes.

Initially, Marjorie asked me to talk about hummingbirds. Then she asked if I could also share some information about the Mississippi Kite.

The group meets in the backyards of its members, so everyone can see their ponds. The hosts this month had a beautiful yard. Everyone brought food. The group was gracious and had a lot of questions. Many have hummingbird feeders in their yards and flowering plants to attract these beautiful little birds, so were already interested in the topic--sure makes it easier on a speaker that way.

All in all, a great time for me. I didn't notice anyone dozing, so I assume my presentation was at least short enough to keep them from nodding off.

It's Not a Warbler, But It Will Do

Saturday morning there was a fallish hint, so I decided to hit the Chat Trail in Lake Wichita Park. If there is any stretch of the city trail system likely to yield good birds, it's the Chat Trail. It is a short gravel pathway (about 1/4 mile) that runs between the parking lot of the youth football fields and meets up with the main trail coming off the Lake Wichita dam, near the barrow pit. There is plenty of water (most of the time), some marshy area, and a small patch of deciduous woods. It is a well-known spot for warblers during migration season.

Well, I saw some decent birds, but not many and no fall visitors. I did see a Sainson's Hawk, a Great Horned Owl, a wild turkey, mallards, various doves, blue jays, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, and grackles. Not horrible, but not what I was looking for. I was feeling a little bummed about it and decided to check the barrow pit for waders. No waders, but as I was scanning the shoreline, 4 deer came out of the mesquite brush in the far side to move down to the water for a drink. One was a fawn, more than half the size of the does he was with. He kept trying to get the others in the group to play, charging at them and then springing back and running in a circle. You could tell Mom and the others in the group were more interested in keeping an eye out for possible predators. I got to watch them for a few minutes, before two bikers came across the bridge, talking to one another loudly and the deer jumped back into the brush. The bikers didn't have a chance to see them.

It is amazing to me how an animal the size of a deer can appear so suddenly and disappear just as quickly, especially in fairly open scrub/mesquite. It is also a wonder how so much wildlife can exist so closely to a fairly populated area. In Lake Wichita park, there are deer, beaver and bobcat as well as the more common raccoon, possum, armadillo, etc. I haven't seen coyote in Lake Wichita Park, but they are not all that far away. I have seen them near my house in town and along the highways near the edge of town. And last year a friend of mine had a porcupine in his yard.

So I didn't see any fall warblers, but sometimes it's OK not to get what you expect. Little surprises like the deer make wonderful memories.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Grackle Graveyard

I know a lot of people don't like blackbirds of any kind. After all, you can have too much of a good thing. However, I have a soft spot for the Great-tailed Grackle. The males are such an elegant bird with their glossy feathers and huge, beautiful tail. At least until late August, when they lose their breeding plumage in molt. Then they just look goofy.

I started seeing them look scraggly last week, but with all the rain, I did not see any "Grackle Graveyards." Today I did. Driving down the road, I was admiring one of the nicely planted medians in Wichita Falls and saw my first one of the year. Hundreds of grackle tail feathers, sticking straight up out of the grass, looking like tombstones dotting a cemetery. The grackles will be walking around for the next few weeks with no tails. They don't make as much noise, nor do they strut like usual without their tails. It is like they know they don't look as dignified as usual.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Musseling We Will Go

Sunday was hot. It is of course, summer in Texas, so that should come as no surprise. Other than being at home, soaking up the air conditioning, there is no better place to be than in the water. Even when that water registers 90 degrees on the thermometer.

I had planned a Nature Trackers Mussel Watch for Sunday at Lake Arrowhead State Park. I usually like to get up early to go, but had set a later time of 10 AM since my husband doesn't like to get up so early (not that he was planning to go--he just babysits the critters while I am gone). The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists conduct a number of Nature Tracker programs ( during the year. The primary one I am involved with is counting mussels in various waterways in our area. Sundays are not a good time to schedule these events as most of our members are dedicated church goers. However, between my schedule and the other chapter projects planned during the summer, there were few options left. And as it happened, I was the only one able to make it. But that was fine--it is easier to combine a mussel count with birdwatching by myself.

As it happened, it was a great day for mussels. There is one area at Lake Arrowhead that predictably had a high count and that is where I headed. Pink papershells, fragile papershells, giant floaters and Texas Lilliputs were in good number. Later, sorting shells on the tailgate of my pickup, where my thermometer was recording 120 degrees (who decided to make bed liners black, anyway?), I was less enthusiastic about the numbers to sort out.

I keep meaning to learn more of the freshwater invertebrates. There were a lot of them to see. But I had neglected to bring my freshwater invertebrate field guide (yes, they make them; yes, I am a geek for having one) and hand lens, so stuck to mussels and birds.

Birds were also good. The herons and egrets haven't yet headed south, so there were numbers of great egrets and snowy egrets. I also saw a green heron. But it is also obvious migration is underway. A few cormorant were sunning of the pier (soon there will be thousands). A few white-faced ibis and a reddish egret were wading near the shore, and a small flock of terns were fussing. Terns are difficult for me. I have the identification narrowed to two possibilities and need to get out my CD of bird calls to resolve the matter. A couple of peeps flew past, too fast for me to make a call on the little guys.

Overall, a great morning. My husband could tell I had a good time when I came home wet, covered with mud and with a red nose from the sun. Life just doesn't get any better.

Good birding!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Texas Birds Annual A Great Read

When I first joined the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS), I can say it wasn't for the publications. They were somewhat of a disappointment, when I got them. However, since Jack Eitnier took over as publications editor for TOS a couple of years ago, the quality has vastly improved.

I just received the newest copy of the Texas Birds Annual and it is a winner. Beautiful photos and a variety of interesting articles. I especially enjoyed "Swifts Over Houston" since I am a huge fan of chimney swifts and helped build a chimney swift tower at Wild Bird Rescue in Wichita Falls (OK, full disclosure: my husband actually did all of the actual construction--I just did some fetch and carry. My contribution was lobbying to get it built--hey, that's work!)

The article on the "Birder's Colony" brought back fond memories of my trip to the Rio Grande Birding Festival in November 2006, when I had a chance to visit the property, hosted by the Dewinds. Although the Dewinds no longer host the site, I was glad it remains open to visitors, maintained by the Valley Land Fund.

The publication is not yet available on the TOS website, but hopefully, some articles will be posted soon.

Good birding!

Texas Birds Annual Is Here

The Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) Texas Birds Annual came in the mail yesterday. Another great job by Jack Eitniear, the Editor. I can remember when I joined TOS some years ago that I was disappointed in the quality of the publications. Not so now. Since Mr. Eitniear took over publications, Texas Birds and the newsletter have improved vastly. Beautiful photos and clear articles by TOS members and others. The new Annual is not yet posted to the TOS website.

I love chimney swifts, so especially liked the "Swifts Over Houston" article. Also, the article on the "Birder's Colony" brought back good memories--I visited there during the Rio Grande Birding Festival in November 2006. As it turns out, this was the last year the Dewinds hosted visitors to this location. Although they no longer host visitors, I am glad the property is now maintained by the Valley Land Fund and remains open to visitors. A lot of other wonderful articles for casual or more dedicated birders.

Friday, August 22, 2008

More on the Green Pigeon

I got an email back from Cornell. Their first impression is that the bird was dyed (which was my first inclination, before I saw it in hand.) Looks like the only way to resolve this is to let the bird molt and see what color it is then. So we'll check in periodically on this puzzle.

Good birding!

Surprises Every Day

One just never knows what one may encounter in the world of birds from day to day.

I rehab wildlife at Wild Bird Rescue in Wichita Falls, TX. I got an email today from Bob, the Executive Director, with a picture of a green pigeon (shown left).
My initial thought was that someone had dyed the bird. However, I went to look and if it is a dye job, it is a very good one. The picture doesn't do the bird justice--it's coloring is beautiful. The underwings are white with a pale green near the leading edge of the wing, fading to a more pale color. We'll watch while the bird is recovering to see if any new feathers grow in and what color they are.
Cornell's Lab of Ornithology has a citizen science project on pigeon coloration (see So I sent them an email with a photo to see what they might think.
Good birding!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bulbats Mean Summer

I was coming out of the grocery after work and heard the distinctive call of the Common Nighthawk overhead. Since these crepuscular (fancy word for active at dawn and dusk) birds are only here in the summer, I always associate their calls with warm weather.

When I first moved here, I kept hearing people talk about "bulbats." I truly thought they were talking about big bats. But no, bulbat is the common name in this area for common nighthawks. Probably because many people think they fly like bats. Add that to the fact they are seen more at twilight, and one can understand where this name may have originated.

These birds feed on the wing; a bird that can't fly well is a dead bird. They cannot pick up food--they have a very delicate mouth that opens rather like seine which scoops insects out of the air. It is really interesting. The beak is so tiny, but when they open their mouths, the mouth looks bigger than their entire head. Although their common call is a scratchy screee noise, occasionally, you'll hear a louder "booming" noise when they dive. Although it is not extremely loud, this can be disconcerting when it is dark and you don't see the bird next to you.

Good birding!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can You Ever Have Too Much Bird Stuff?

Last night was our local bird club meeting. Invariably, someone has a new book, new optics, new field gear, or a new article from one of the magazines he/she subscribes to. The conversations almost always include laments that we have too much of whatever. But we don't seem to be able to help ourselves.

It's relatively easy to justify another field guide. After all, there is so much information that can't be included in a given guide, that each of them has slightly different information that will lead to an identification on a tough bird. But do we need 5 or 6 bird magazines? Do we need to be members of half a dozen organizations devoted to our hobby? Evidently, we do. Because we put up the money.

I am a relatively low tech birder. Mostly because I can't afford to replace anything that costs more than $50--at least, as many times as I would have to do it. I can be absolutely depended upon to drop, bump, forget, or otherwise break whatever expensive piece of technology I have. For Christmas last year, my husband was determined that I buy a new pair of binoculars because one pair of mine was stolen and the other pair had been super glued multiple times and still only had one usable side. So I searched and compared and finally bought a pair on for half price. Still $300. Guess what? I had them 3 months and bumped them on something and they now have a little bit of a blur on one side. So I am back to a monocular.

I absolutely can resist bird "pretties." If it has to be dusted, I can usually resist. I'd rather be out in the field than cleaning. However, when a person finds out I like birds, they seem compelled to give me bird stuff. If it has a bird on it, I must like it, right? I have been on the receiving end of more ugly bird stuff than any person should have to accept.

But if there is a new bird book out there, I have to have it--after all, you can never have too many bird books.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Indoor Bird Activities

Any birds out today will need water wings. It poured all night long. Many local roads are closed. So I am doing "indoor birding." My subscription to Birds of North America online was to expire today, so I took care of renewing. If you haven't looked at this resource, you should.

BNA is an on-line resource which replaced a very expensive series of books a few years back. I use it when I am preparing to make a presentation about birds, write an article, or just want to listen to the calls of a bird for identification. You can sign up at This is just one of the great resources available from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Since I am sure I will talk about other items at some point in the future, I won't now.

Today is also the monthly meeting of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. Although the group has programs on many nature-related topics, the favorite topic is birds. Tonight's program is on Birds on Coins. The group meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7 pm at the NALC building on Southwest Parkway in Wichita Falls, TX. Like many clubs, the group is small but dedicated. Guests are always welcome.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Seasons are 'a Changin'

There is something comforting about the regular passage of the seasons. The arrival and departure of the birds, the lengthening and shortening of daylight hours, and the blooming and passing of plants. Although the days have been shorter, the heat has been increasing. Why is that? I'm sure someone must have found an answer to that question before.

The dog days of summer have definitely been in full force the last few weeks. But last week we had some rain and the temperature moderated for a day or two. And it is raining again. Hi's today in the mid-80's! Hallelujah!

I think I have now been in this area too long. I was looking around yesterday, thinking things were looking nice and green. Ha! I can remember when I first moved here how washed out the greens looked. I am sure they still appear that way to someone who lives where green is really green. But where brown is the dominant color (especially in the summer), a little green can make quite the difference.

The birds are starting to move. The Purple Martins have gone. I haven't seen any Western Kingbirds in a few days, but I am sure that has been because I haven't been out much. They should still be hanging around for another few weeks.

I haven't seen any of the winter birds moving in yet, but it won't be long. This weekend I was puttering around and started thinking about cleaning out my feeders. Although I keep one or two up all year, it's a little early to put them all up, so I convinced myself to wait.

Good birding!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why A Charm of Finches?

I wanted to start a discussion of birds and birding for other fans of these interesting and beautiful creatures. However, the problem was coming up with a title. I am not all that original; everything I thought of had been taken. So I started looking at various bird-related websites and came across, which is a list of terms for groups of birds. Honestly, I just liked a "charm of finches," so there you have it.

I plan to use this space primarily to talk about birding in Texas. Birders know Texas is a hotspot for birds, but not all of us live in the tourist areas. I live in Wichita Falls, TX, which is almost on the Oklahoma border. When I moved here, I thought this was the worst place possible for birding. I was mistaken. So this blog will talk about the neat birds, overlooked birding spots, and the daily surprises and disappoinments of a regular birder. However, I do have the chance to travel around the state (and sometimes other places), so this won't be just about Wichita Falls. Hopefully, writing a blog will help get me out of the house and the office and in the field more often.

Good birding,