Friday, July 31, 2009

Sunday at Lake Arrowhead State Park

I didn't post after my Mussel Watch at Lake Arrowhead State Park last Sunday. It was a very pleasant morning, but soon escalated to muggy and hot.

I did find a few mussels and had a fairly good birding morning. Birds sited included:

Mourning dove
Great blue heron
Snowy egret
Great egret
Turkey vulture
Red-winged blackbird
Western sandpiper (2)
Great-tailed grackle
Neotropical cormorant
Green heron
Scissor-tailed flycatcher
House finch
Barn swallow

Good birding!

Responses to Mystery Bird

I had six responses to my mystery bird TEXBIRDS post, evenly divided between Mississippi Kite and Swainson's hawk. I guess we will just have to give the little guy more time. I will see him again tomorrow and see if an ID is possible yet.

Good birding!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mystery Baby

Some weeks ago (June 15) we had a newly hatched raptor come in to Wild Bird Rescue. Due to its small size and it being just a tad early for Mississippi Kites, it was tentatively identified as a kestrel. It developed slooooowly. Once baby kites started coming in and the little guys started to get some feathers, there began to be discussion about it possibly being a baby kite.

I am not convinced it is either a kite or a kestrel, but I don't know what it is. It is now too big and solid for a kestrel. It is slightly more solid than a kite. But a kite after 5 weeks would be ready to fly--this one is not. Also, when a kite's feathers start to come in, they are distinctly brownish with some grey tones. This little guy's feathers appear more of a steel gray, although there are one or two hints of brown. Also, a kite's downy feathers have a hint of buff to them, this one does not. It's beak is slightly more yellow than the other immature kites. Compared to a kite of approximately the same stage of development, he is slightly more heavy, his head is rounder and he seems to stand more horizontal than the more vertical aspect of the baby kites. He also doesn't make a kite sound--more of a hissy sigh.

Ideas? I am going to post a link to TEXBIRDS--there are a lot of experienced birders there.
We'll know in a few days or weeks probaby as he continues to feather out, but this makes an interesting challenge.

Good birding!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Iowa Park

I was driving to Iowa Park today for business and saw a sign on Business Hwy 287 (Old Iowa Park Road) a sign proclaiming Iowa Park a Bird Sanctuary. I have seen this sign before (although it isn't very conspicuous) and was wondering if this is an official city declaration. I know there is some good birding in the area, but I don't know what if anything the city is doing to promote birding.

I sent an email to the city and will let you know what I find out.

In the meantime, I did see a red-tailed hawk and a roadrunner in the area today. Unfortunately, I was on business and didn't have time to look around.

Good Birding!

Bird Club Tonight

I don't know why I never post before the day of the meeting, but that's the way it is.

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meets tonight at 7:00 PM at the NALC Building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Nursery, between Cypress and Barnett.) Terry McKee will give a program on hummingbird migration.

Good birding!

Sunday at Lake Wichita

Sunday morning I decided to take a walk down the chat trail, around the tank and to Murphy's Mound in Lake Wichita Park. Although warm, the weather was better than it has been, although by the time I left (9:00), it was getting too warm for comfort.

Here are the birds I saw:

Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Great-tailed grackle, Mourning dove, White-winged dove, Eurasian collared dove, Northern Cardinal, Mallard duck, Mississippi Kite (both parents and a fledgling), Barn swallow, Cliff swallow, Chimney swift, Yellow-crowned night heron, Yellow-billed cuckoo, Red-winged blackbird, Bown-headed cowbird, Bullock's oriole, Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed flycatcher, Killdeer, Turkey Vulture.

There were as always, a couple of birds I heard I couldn't identify and one atypical bird. When I first saw it, I thought "Coot," but it is much too early for coots. However, the latest National Geographic puts coots here year 'round, so perhaps I have just been unobservant the past few summers (which is possible.) I gave a thought to a moorhen, but the bill and the forehead shield were definitely white, not red.

Good birding!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Interesting Scissortail Story

I haven't read the local paper in a few days since I've been out of town and haven't taken the time to catch up, but Tami Davis from the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists sent me a link to an article about a study being done on local scissor-tailed flycatcher populations.

I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Good birding!

It's Not Always the Birds

There wasn't much in the way of birds to see on my trip to San Antonio. It wasn't intended as a birding trip, but one likes to think we'd still see some good birds on the way, especially as I didn't have to drive.

The trip down was done in the heat of the day, which makes birds less likely to be out and about. However, I did see one black vulture around Mineral Wells and a Swainson's hawk in Jack County.

We went out to eat in Lytle, TX (outside San Antonio). I saw a black-bellied whistling duck jump up into a tree and then, better, started seeing bats pouring out from behind a sign on the front of a small store across the street. There were easily a couple of hundred bats. That was exciting.

We left San Antonio before light on Thursday, July 16 to head back to Wichita Falls. Going through the hill country was beautiful, and I have not seen more deer in my life. They were in every field and often yards. It was a bit harrowing driving the narrow roads with so many deer on either side of the road. But my best siting was at 7:24 AM. A cougar was in the field just off HWY 16, just north of Kerrville. This was the first cougar I have ever seen in the wild, and was I excited (still am for that matter.) I was fortunate to have a siting as clear as day.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, with few birds other than turkey vultures, which were abundant. But with bats and a cougar, I am not complaining!

Good birding!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baby Killdeer

Yesterday I had to go out to the Clinics of North Texas on Midwestern Parkway. Not the best way to start the day, but as I was getting out of the car, there were two parent killdeer herding a group of 4 babies along the edge of the parking lot. The little ones were trying to get up the curb into the grass with their parents and the parents were calling continuously to encourage them.

I saw one get up before I had to go into the clinic; when I came out 20 min later, all were gone.

I love baby killdeer--they are the cutest things. They look like a colorful cotton ball sitting on top of the thinnest legs imaginable.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mussel Watch at Gordon Lake

I went out to Gordon Lake in Iowa Park to look for mussels. I got skunked on mussels, but it was as good an excuse as any to go birdwatching as well.

I got out a little late. I set the time at 9 AM for the mussel watch so others wouldn't have to get up so early, since I have been fussed at about the time in the past. Since no one else came (for the second time in as many watches), I am thinking after the next one in July, I am going to suit myself and go earlier in the day. Less hot and better birding.

Anyway, there were no extra special birds, but I did see the following in addition to the domestic ducks in the park: Canada geese (at least 50), great blue heron, chimney swift, barn swallows, cliff swallows, killdeer, scissor-tailed flycatcher, mallard ducks, Western kingbird, great-tailed grackles, mourning doves, white-winged doves, Eurasian collared doves, rock pigeons, red-winged blackbirds, purple martins, and house sparrows.

There were two baby barn swallows on a barn branch overlooking the lake being fed by their parents. There were also a couple of fledgling purple martins on a wire.

It should be a good year for the dove hunters. There were hundreds of doves (mostly white-winged) in the fields around the lake.

Good birding!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Baby Chimney Swifts in the Tower at Wild Bird Rescue

Photo courtesy of Wild Bird Rescue
When I was coming back into the building at Wild Bird Rescue after checking the outdoor aviaries, I heard the distinctive sound of baby chimney swifts in the tower--hurray!
My husband built the tower at WBR a couple of years ago. I went to a Texas Master Naturalist annual conference where we learned to build them, taught by Paul and Georgeann Kyle and nothing would do but we had to have one on site at WBR. I am not too handy with anything that involves tools, so that meant I had to recruit someone who was--which as usual, meant my husband was recruited. We found a donor for the material--he "just" had to work out in the hot sun to put it up. The tower has had a nest for the past two seasons.
Although a tower may house many chimney swifts, only one pair builds a nest and lays eggs. Although Bob had seen chiminey swifts leaving the tower in the morning and entering at night (the birds fly all day, eating on the wing), he wasn't sure if there was a nest. But after today, I can say for sure there is. Now we hope the babies all fledge successfully.
Good birding!

Breeding Bird Survey--Charlie/Byers Area

Yesterday I dragged my husband out for the breeding bird survey of the route that begins in Charlie, TX. He's not a real morning person, but he will go with me if I am short a partner as the routes are somewhat remote.

Nothing extra special on this route, although it was still a good day. I was glad to note that the property with the prairie dog town on it had not yet plowed the field--the owner had indicated they were going to do so, and I was hoping they would hold off until after the burrowing owl nesting. It appears they did and we did see a couple of burrowing owls as a consequence--always a treat.

As with the Beaver Creek route, there were a lot of painted buntings--most heard, but several seen.

Another great morning of birding--now all I have to do is get the reports done (sigh...)

Good birding!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mockingbird Fledglings

Once you have fed several hundred baby birds for several years, as I have, you get to know the calls of most of the common birds in this area. When I go for a walk, I can hear the babies calling to the parents for food.

This year, we've had several species of birds nesting on our property. A couple of weeks ago, the cardinals fledged. This morning, while I was in the kitchen fixing breakfast, I heard the unmistakable "fingernails-on-a-chalkboard" call of two baby mockingbirds. The parents may have a beautiful song, but the babies just have a one-note, high-pitched call that just grates on my nerves. Sure enough, I looked out the window over the sink and two fledged mockers were nagging mom and dad for breakfast. As this point they are out of the nest and can flutter short distances. They were following their parents, just so they wouldn't forget they were hungry. Like they could forget!

Soon the babies will be self-sufficient and on their own, and my ears will get a rest.

Good birding!