Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wonderful Morning at Lake Wichita

I suppose the morning could have been more perfect, but this morning at Lake Wichita between 7 AM and 9AM was wonderful. The weather was pleasant and there were some good birds. I walked the Chat trail, around the tank and took the trail to Murphy's Mound and then came back.

There are still one or two birds I am researching, in hopes of finding a recording of their sounds, since I didn't get a good look at the birds themselves, but here are the birds I am sure of: American kestrel, great egret, snowy egret, Canada geese, scissor-tailed flycatcher, northern cardinal, Carolina chickadee, ruby-throated hummingbird, black-chinned hummingbird, mallard ducks, blue-winged teal, red-winged balckbird, European starling, Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, white-winged dove, pied-billed grebe, barn swallow, yellow warbler (somewhat early for this one), orchard oriole, Bullock's oriole, great-tailed grackle, killdeer, robin, and blue jay.

On my way home, I saw a flock of pigeons and some common grackles.

The poor blackbirds are looking bedraggled. Most have lost their tails to the fall molt and others have only one or two feathers sticking out at odd angles.

It appears there will be plenty of food for birds passing through or staying the winter. There are lots of sunflowers, thistles and other grasses, fruit trees, etc. The red-winged blackbirds were going crazy with the sunflowers today.

All in all, a super morning.

Good birding!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fronts and Migration

Migration takes a lot of energy, so when possible, birds use weather fronts to give them a tail wind and help them along the way. Earlier this week we had a small front come through bringing a little rain (1/4 inch) and a cool front (100's before, low 90's after). When I drove into Midwestern State University, I saw a kettle of turkey vultures (TV) forming overhead, probably 25 or so when I first saw it, gathering more as it moved away. Turkey vultures are usually here in large numbers until late September--this could have been the first of our locals heading out or a group from further north passing through. I was reading up on Birds of North America Online and noted that TV migration is not well studied. It always amazes me what we don't know about fairly common birds.

Later that afternoon, I saw a group of about 30 common nighthawks forming up. This is about the time the vast majority leave the area--they are mostly gone by mid-September, although a few linger to the beginning of October. We received a newly hatched common nighthawk this week at Wild Bird Rescue, so I hope at least some adults linger longer--adults have to feed on the wing and handfeeding a bird for months over the winter is not a pleasant prospect.

Good birding!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fall Migration Underway

There is no doubt the birds are beginning to move. There are very few Western Kingbirds left--I saw my last one over the past weekend. There may well be a few left in the area, but not many.

The purple martins are not gone, but the ones that nested around Wild Bird Rescue have dispersed. Usually someone finds the roost where the birds are staging before departure, but not so this year. It was a very poor nesting year for many of the colonies in the area, judging from the number of emaciated birds brought in to WBR this season.

One of my favorite birds is the chimney swift. It is time again for the "Swift Night Out," sponsored by the Driftwood Association, taking a census of chimney swifts congregating for migration. Instructions are on their web site.

Good birding!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Morning in Lucy Park

I haven't gone birding in Lucy Park in a while. Lucy Park is closer to my house than Lake Wichita Park, but when I leave the driveway, I turn more often to the lake and the Chat Trail, where it seems there are more birds. The last several times I have been to Lucy Park, the birding has been average, and comments from other bird club members makes me think they are having little luck there as well.

However, seeing the Northern Waterthrush yesterday got me excited about the possibility of seeing warblers on their fall migration, although it is a little early. Lucy Park should be perfect as it is a riparian woodlands habitat. I was obviously too early as I didn't see any warblers. Unfortunately, I didn't see much of anything. I used to bird Lucy Park almost every weekend and often saw good birds (which infers other birds are bad, which isn't the case, but fellow birders will know what I mean.)

Anyway, today I walked the circle trail and also the path to the waterfall. I didn't take the pathway to Williams Park today as it was getting just too hot for that long of a walk. What struck me was how quiet the woods were--there were not many birds singing this morning, with the exception of an exuberant Carolina wren.

I followed his call and of course, when I was close, he stopped singing. I sat down on one of the large flat rocks along the trail to drink some water and wait for him to sing again to get a look. A few minutes later, a little brown bird flew out of the cedar tree to another tree about 10 yards aways. I moved down the trail and was able to watch the wren sing away. When the wren moved, he must have crossed the line into another wren's territory, because less than a minute after he started singing, another Carolina wren came flying from the other direction and lighted on the same tree. He was obviously agitated and was giving the singing wren a piece of his mind.

Besides the wren, my walk was uneventful. I saw the following birds: mourning dove, white-winged dove, Eurasian collared dove, blue jay, cardinal, Mississippi kite, purple martin, pigeon, Carolina chickadee, mockingbird, European starling, robin, tufted titmouse, red-winged blackbird, house finch, and cattle egret.

There were lots of butterflies and dragonflies/damselflies. If I had been looking for those, it would have been a great morning. But it was nice to get out and get a little exercise before settling down to work on the computer the rest of the day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Northern Waterthrush

When I came in to Wild Bird Rescue this morning, Bob told me he had heard a bird singing in the mulberry tree and couldn't ID the bird.

This afternoon, I went out to feed the Mississippi Kites in the outdoor aviary and saw a little warbler in the mulberry, so I stopped to watch in hopes that I could see it well enough for long enough to figure out what it was. Lo and behold, it was a northern waterthrush, bobbing his tail.

Although this is in their migratory pathway, they are not often seen, so I consider myself very lucky. Whether this is Bob's songster, I can't say, but they do have a pretty song, so it's possible.

Good birding!

Article on Roadrunners

There was an interesting article on roadrunners on the MSNBC website, posted to Facebook. Thought I would share. I also posted the link to a species account (click on "roadrunners" in the previous sentence.)

Good birding!

Harrison Apartment Cattle Egrets

You'll recall earlier posts about the cattle egret rookery at Harrison Apartments. The babies are beginning to fall from the nests and showing up at Wild Bird Rescue. A large number die from impact with the concrete under the trees or the heat before they are brought in. Some have had to be euthanized because of severe injuries. A few have died from dehydration/emaciation soon after arrival. But others are recovering and will likely be able to be released in a few weeks. All of them seem to be well underweight--the parent birds are having to travel quite a ways into town to bring food. I hope they remember the trek next year and find a more suitable nesting location.

Egrets are pretty aggressive birds; fortunately for my fingers, most are beginning to self feed. Once we can release the birds in one of the outdoor aviaries, these guys can go outside and practice catching bugs.

Good birding!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Next North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meeting

The next meeting of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club is Tuesday, August 18, 7 PM at the NALC Building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Landscaoing.)

I will be doing the program on pollinators. We will (briefly) talk about birds as pollinators, but the majority of the time, we'll be talking bees and other insect pollinators and their conservation. I will have a list of plants and other information about helping these important critters. I also have the food detail--I am thinking of testing a few of the recipes we'll be including in the EcoFair Meat-less Cookbook by the Sierra Club.

Hope to see you on Tuesday!

Good birding!

The Life of Birds

Many years ago the BBC created a series of documentaries on The Life of Birds with David Attenborough. I have always liked those programs that I have been able to catch on TV. For my birthday, my husband bought me the entire series of 10 programs. Last night I watched the first three. Although the series is now several years old, the photography is beautiful and there is a lot of fascinating information. I won't lack for entertainment for some time!

Good birding!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Weekend Outside

It was a hot weekend, but the Master Naturalists had two events--fortunately in the morning. We went out in search of horned lizards in Saturday morning out near Dean. We were skunked on horned lizards, but were able to document a box turtle and took some pictures of a walking stick bug. On Sunday, I had a mussel watch at Lake Wichita and Lake Arrowhead. I did find some mussels at Arrowhead, to include a live yellow sandshell, but it wasn't the best day I've had for mussels.

But as in all outdoor events, there was an opportunity to do a little bit of birding. On Saturday, I thought my best birds were lark sparrows. They have a pretty song and although they are fairly common in the county, I don't see them in town.

On Sunday I saw a lot of birds. There was a belted kingfisher fishing at the Lake Wichita spillway. There was also a small flock of snowy egrets. One of the birds was still in breeding plumage and he was giving all of the others a tough time--chasing them around, jumping on them and squawking. He is a little confused--it's time to start getting ready to leave. Breeding season is over. I was waiting for the others to gang up on him, but they were just trying to stay away from him. My other highlight was a singing Bewick's wren in the bottom of a bush. He was just pouring his heart out. I watched him for several minutes.

Good birding!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Next Meeting North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club

The next meeting of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club will be 7:00 PM, August 18 at the NALC building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Landscaping.)

I will be speaking about pollinators--their importance and conservation. Although we normally think of bees as pollinators (and they are), birds also act as pollinators for some plants.

Good birding!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bluebird Program

Jane McGough gave a nice presentation on bluebirds at the Texas Master Naturalists meeting tonight, based upon a slide program put together by the Texas Bluebird Society. All three species of bluebirds have been sited in our local area; however, the Eastern Bluebird is the only regularly occuring species.

An interesting tidbit that I found on the TBS website I wish I had known during the meeting is:
Audubon unpublished data shows a 19% decrease in the population of Eastern Bluebirds in Texas (1966 – 2005,) as compared to a 311% increase nationwide and a northward shift of 115 miles, according to Rob Fergus, Senior Scientist for Urban Bird Conservation, National Audubon Society.

The Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists meet the 1st Tuesday of the month at 7:00 PM at River Bend Nature Center.

Good birding!

Economic Impact of Birders

Birders buy stuff. Feeders, bird seed, binoculars and other optics, bird books, magazines, outdoor clothing, etc. We travel to see birds, staying at hotels, eating in restaurants, and supporting convenience stores with bathrooms. We visit local, state and federal parks.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a report on July 15, 2009, with the Press Release titled, "Birdwatchers No Featherweights in Contributions to the Economy," which documents the $36B economic impact of the birdwatching hobby in the US. In addition to the demographics on birdwatching, there is a report on other wildlife watching. Hopefully, these reports will give impetus to preserving these fascinating creatures.

What I don't get is why TX is not in one of the top 5 states for the percentage of birdwatchers when we have such a bonanza of birds here.

Good birding!