Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beaver Creek Breeding Bird Survey

Every year I say I won't wait until the last minute to run my breeding bird surveys and it seems every year, I do it. I had to have the Beaver Creek survey done by the 30th. That left today as the only non-workday to get it done.

My husband got up to go with me (early mornings are not his favorite time of day.) When I went out, I knew it was going to be absolutely miserable--already in the low 80's, very humid, and no breeze. Thankfully, Mother Nature helped us out. By the time we got out to the starting point at 5:45 AM, a weak cool front was coming through. It dropped the temperature down to 81 and kept it there the entire survey, stirred up a breeze, provided a couple of short, light showers and most importantly, got rid of a lot of the oppressive humidity. It's getting hot again this afternoon, but the survey was pleasant enough.

We saw a great horned owl early and later, the best siting of the day was a flock of orchard orioles. I have never seen a group of 7 at once before, but there they were. I was excited.

We didn't see any unusual birds, nor much other wildlife (except wild pigs and far off in the distance at one stop, some calling coyotes.)

After the end of the route, saw a couple of Swainson's hawks, a kestrel and turkey vultures (which were NOT seen during the survey.)

All in all, a great morning of birding. And happy 29th anniversary to my husband.

Good birding!

Houdini, the Duck

Well, I discovered that the little Black-bellied Whistling Duck can climb out of a playpen. I found him out wandering in another room and thought perhaps there was a hole that had developed in the playpen. I couldn't find one, so put him back and a little later, darned if he wasn't climbing up the sides. I've never seen a bird do that.

We received 3 more of these ducks from Burkburnett today.

Good birding!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's A Black-bellied Whistling Duck!

I had several responses from readers of the TEXBIRDS listserv and the unanimous consensus was that the little guy is a Black-bellied Whistling Duck. They are not common in this area, so I am hoping we have good success with the little guy.

Thanks to all my fellow birders on TEXBIRDS for the quick help.

Good birding!

What is This Duck

Excuse the horrible photos--good thing I don't make a living that way. Difficult to hold a wriggling duck and take a picture too. Anyway...Got a new baby duck today at Wild Bird Rescue. We have been getting dozens of mallards, but this little guy is not a mallard. I don't know what he is. I suppose he could be a domestic duck, but his markings are very distinctive, which I haven't previously seen with domestic ducks that have come it. The person who brought him in said he was in the middle of the road in Burkburnett, TX (northern Wichita County) and they were unable to locate mother or siblings. I took some pictures. They are a little blurry as the little guy doesn't like being photographed, but I hope they are clear enough. His legs and feet have a very distinctive greenish coloring.

Anyone have any ideas?

Good Birding!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Birding

I don't mind being out in the winter, but I truly hate the summer once temps get into the 90's, let alone over 100. Summer has definitely arrived, and I suppose it is about time, but I could jump right past summer and be happy. Even though morning temps are more moderate, 80's are still not much to get excited about.

My air conditioner is my friend. I try not to keep it too cool in the house (after all, then it is 100 degrees outside, 80 feels really cool.) My summer birding tends to tend more toward magazines and websites than binoculars and the field. Call me a wuss, but there you have it. One of these days, perhaps I'll be wealthy enough to high tail it someplace cooler for at least part of the summer and watch birds there.

Anyway, the point to my ramble is that I am catching up on my birding magazines (we won't talk about how many of them I subscribe to--I am sure there should be some legal limit for those of us who have no willpower whatsoever about these things.) There is a nice article on field notes in the Winging It newsletter from the American Birding Association (ABA.) I would provide a link as the article is on-line, but it is password protected for members only. If you are a member and just haven't checked on the June issue of Winging It, I would recommend the article.

If you are a more serious birder, then I would suggest membership in the ABA as they have some good birding ID quizzes that help sharpen your skills as well as some interesting articles and beautiful photos in their publications. They do orient their writings to a more scientific crowd however, so the writing style is definitely not Birdwatchers Digest--articles are more in-depth and focus a lot on research and more technical aspects of the hobby. They also cater to listers--those who keep meticulous records of their sitings.

Good birding!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sibley Nature Center E-Newsletter

I finally got around to looking at my May issue of El Despoblado and noted they picked up one of Bob Lindsay's blog entries. Bob is the Executive Director at Wild Bird Rescue and his entries about the nesting killdeer were some of my favorites as well.

Congratulations, Bob!

El Despoblado is published by the Sibley Nature Center is full of articles and pictures by local people on the flora and fauna of West Texas and eastern New Mexico. You can sign up for the newsletter on their website.

Good birding!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interesting Story on Texas Wind Farms and Birds/Bats

Thanks to Lila Arnold for this story.

Posted on Sun, Jun. 14, 2009

Texas wind farms deploy radar so birds, not feathers, can fly

McClatchy Newspapers

Wind on the Texas coast is tempting for energy companies. Unlike other parts of Texas - the nation's No. 1 wind energy state - the coast has breezes that blow consistently on summer days, when energy demand peaks. But there's risk, too.

Millions of birds funnel through the Texas coast before they head north along the Central Flyway, one of the great bird migration routes between South America and the Arctic. This was the first year that wind farms were operating there during the spring migration.

One study near the coastal wind farms in Kenedy County, near the Laguna Madre, found that at the peak of fall migration in 2007, 4,000 birds an hour passed in a one-kilometer-wide band.

The two companies that run the first wind farms on the coast, Iberdrola Renewables of Spain and Babcock & Brown of Australia, recognized the risk bad weather could bring. Most migrating birds fly high above the range of turbines, many of them at night. But they don't fly through clouds and storms, and when bad weather rolls in, migrating birds fly down to wait it out.

The two companies voluntarily installed radar developed for the military and NASA to prevent collisions with birds by aircraft and the space shuttle. It's the first time this radar has been used anywhere in the world to shut down wind turbines if a large number of birds is headed toward them.

Conservationists said it's a good step, but they're still concerned that the companies haven't given permission to outside groups to check for bird fatalities during the migration period in April and May. Legal efforts to block the wind farms on the coast failed last year, and the federal government and Texas, like most states, don't regulate wind farms.

"We want to support wind energy wherever it goes, but we want to make sure it's safe for wildlife," said Andrew Kasner, the director of bird conservation for Audubon Texas.

"Most of the neotropical migrating birds that use that part of the flyway are already low numbers," he said. "So any impact that has the potential to take hundreds of birds in one instance or more can really be a problem for some species."

Some of the neotropical migrants (those that live in the tropics of the Americas and West Indies) that pass through are ones conservationists worry about protecting - species such as warblers (blue-winged, golden-winged, cerulean), grassland birds such as LeConte's Sparrow and others such as the Painted Bunting. Among the many others are threatened or endangered shorebirds such as the Least Tern and species of concern, such as the Long-billed Curlew.

Wind turbines everywhere can be trouble for birds, "but so far, passerine (the largest order of birds) mortality has not been high enough at any one particular site to be necessarily significant to the populations, although there may be cumulative effects," Kasner said. "That's why the coast is a concern, because of the potential to have a foggy, stormy day when thousands are flying through there. They'll already be limited in their ability to maneuver and detect any danger in front of them."

Tall buildings, communications towers, electric lines, pesticides and cats kill far more birds than wind turbines do. A recent U.S. government study found that global warming already has had an impact on the abundance and distribution of birds and could lower some species' chances of survival.

Although conservation groups such as the National Audubon Society support wind power as a way to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, they've also warned that wind farms need to be placed with care for birds and bats. Wind power could grow about tenfold by 2030, if the country is to reach a goal of getting 20 percent of its electricity from wind.
Iberdrola Renewables, the second largest wind energy provider in the U.S. after NextEra Energy Resources, has plans at all its facilities to protect birds and bats, said company spokeswoman Jan Johnson. She said it also must follow regional rules, regulations of some states and the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it a crime to kill a migratory bird.
"When you have voluntary principles and use them in a plan, you really take a step to mitigate your risk," Johnson said.

There was no need to shut down this spring because there was no bad weather, said Gary Andrews, the chairman and chief executive officer of the radar maker, DeTect of Panama City, Fla., during a visit to the wind farms in May.

Iberdrola's wind farm has 84 turbines, which produce 202 megawatts of energy, enough to power 70,000 south Texas homes, and it plans to expand on the coast. Babcock & Brown's turbines are expected to generate up to 283 megawatts per year.

The American Wind Wildlife Institute, an industry-supported group, is working on guidelines for turbine use.

"These companies really want to do the right thing," said the group's president, Kraig Butrum.
There's no good estimate of the number of bird deaths from turbine collisions nationwide - "It really does range wildly, to be candid," Butrum said.

Michael Fry, a scientist who directs conservation advocacy at the American Bird Conservancy, said the worry about bird and bat deaths would increase as the number of wind turbines across the country increases.

Fry agreed that the Texas coast is particularly a problem because it's the most concentrated area of migration in the country. Most of the risk, however, is for resident birds, he said.

There's great uncertainty in the numbers killed at wind turbines anywhere because dead bats and birds are hard even for trained searchers to spot, Fry said. Others never get counted, because ravens, skunks and other scavengers eat them first.

Experts on bird migration plan to meet soon to try to come up with ways to predict where birds are concentrated and at risk of colliding with wind turbines in bad weather, Fry said.

Some places that see large numbers of migrating birds include the Great Lakes shores, the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains and central California.

The worst known bird kills at wind farms have been at California's Altamont Pass, where some 17,000 raptors have been killed in 25 years.

There's also concern about whooping cranes, with only about 400 left. Many of these cranes migrate between Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas through the wind corridor of the central U.S. and into their breeding grounds in Canada. Fry said they're vulnerable to collisions with power lines, but little is known about the risk from turbines.

In other places, wind farms reduce bird habitat.

The risks to bats also are still being studied. Iberdrola Renewables helped fund research at its Casselman wind farm in southwest Pennsylvania in October that showed that turning off the turbines during low wind periods reduced bat deaths by 53 percent to 87 percent, with only a marginal loss of income. The research is continuing.

State of the Birds - report and video:

Thunderstorm and Wild Bird Rescue

We normally have one storm a year that results in a large influx of birds at Wild Bird Rescue. Saturday night's storm led to a number of birds being brought in by members of the public. Bob's Blog documents 72 new birds following the storm. As always, donations are appreciated.

Good Birding!

Egrets on Front Page

The cattle egret rookery was on the front page of the Times Record News today with a short article. Unfortunately, the photo and story are not on the public portion of the website; they are only on the e-version of the paper, which requires a subscription.

Good birding!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

An Old News Bit on Bird Feeding Effects

Occasionally I pick up an old magazine and flip through. Last evening, I was re-reading the May 2008 issue of BirdTalk and came across the news bit "Wild Cravings."

"A study by researchers at several United Kingdom universities found that outdoor wild birds successfully rear more chicks in the spring when humans offer food handouts in the winter. The birds that got an extra helping hand laid the same number of eggs as birds that went without, but they laid them earlier and successfully feldged one more chick per clutch."

The researcher was Dr. Dan Chamberlain of the British Trust for Ornithology. The study was published February 6, 2008 in the Royal Society Journal, "Biology Letters."

Good birding!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Funky Nest Contest

Thanks to Jim Miller for reminding me about this contest, sponsored by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology Celebrate Urban Birds Project.

Basically, the Lab is looking for pictures showing odd places birds choose to nest. For rules, prizes and some of the entries so far, see I especially like the hummingbird nests (entries #28, #29 and #35).

If you have any photos, be sure to submit them before July 31!

Good birding!

Rookery Visit

I did go by the cattle egret rookery last evening to get a closer look. There are two large trees with easily over 50 birds nesting. I think the egrets are tolerating the grackles because the baby birds have not hatched out. I saw several of the birds bringing in twigs still.

Leaves from the trees are building up on the ground, along with quite a lot of bird poop. I am sure the apartment building residents are not happy as the trees are right over the front entry to their building and their parking spaces. The smell is already pretty strong--I can imagine what it will be like in a month or two.

That being said, it is exciting to see an active rookery up close. I am not sure the attraction of a busy area of town to establish one, but I don't pretend to know what birds are thinking.

Good birding!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cattle Egret Rookery

I was tooling down Kell Blvd West and saw a bunch of white birds in a tree off to the right at Harrison. I go by that intersection at least 3 times a week. There were at least 50 cattle egrets in a clump of large trees in the apartments there. I know the management has to be oh-so-excited about that.

Since I go by there so often, I couldn't believe I wouldn't have noticed that many birds before now, but obviously, I didn't. I went by on the access road later in the day, just to confirm the birds were really there, and yes, they were.

An interesting note that there were several adult great-tailed grackles interspersed in the same trees. I am surprised the egrets would allow this since grackles tend to predate young birds. I'll have to go by again on the way home and check that out in more detail.

Good birding!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Few birds are more dispised than the blackbird family, probably because of the huge swarms they tend to form. Even if you like them, they can get to be too much of a good thing if they are your neighbors.

I personally don't care for starlings--mostly because they are not native and aggressively take over nesting places other native cavity nesters could be using. Although I have to admire their adaptability, I still don't care to see them in my neighborhood. However, I am fairly complaisant about the other blackbirds--mostly because they are not roosting in large groups in my trees and pooping all over my driveway and cars. This is the most common question I get from people--what do I do about grackles in my yard? No one has ever liked my answer--change your habitat.

I have found that people who have grackle problems have nice manicured lawns with a few large trees. This is ideal grackle habitat. Having a thick understory of shrubs and tall grasses tends to discourage large flocks of blackbirds, especially the great-tailed grackles. I do occasionally have one or two of the common grackles come into the yeard, but not many and not for long. However, my neighbors around me (who have much prettier lawns,) have LOTS of grackles. Sometimes it pays to be a slob.

Good birding!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Wednesday AM driving to work, I saw a yellow-crowned night heron in a drainage ditch on Allen Road, between two houses. Although these herons are not rare, you don't see them every day, in spite of the fact many nest in the housing areas. Bob Lindsay at Wild Bird Rescue had a humorous blog entry about a call concerning "Two Penguins in a Tree" relating to these birds.

Usually the crown of the bird looks dirty white (white to pale gray) to me, but Wednesday in the morning sun, the reason behind the "yellow-crowned" part of the name was apparent.

Good birding!