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.