Sunday, September 27, 2009

White Pelicans Return

Bob Lindsay at Wild Bird Rescue posted in his blog he had seen the White Pelicans return for the winter on Lake Wichita. I finally saw a small flock yesterday while at Wild Bird Rescue and some this morning while birding Lake Wichita Park.

It was a pretty morning in the park. The winter ducks are coming back. I saw American widgeon, coots and ring-necked ducks with the mallard and the pied-billed grebes on the tank. In addition to the ducks, other birds included northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, eastern phoebe, chimney swift, barn swallow, great egret, snowy egret, Canada goose, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird, robin, double-crested cormorant. killdeer, scissor-tailed flycatcher, belted kingfisher, blue jay, brown-headed cowbird, mourning dove, and Eurasian collared dove.

As frequently happens, there was a bird I wasn't able to identify. In this case, two of them, flying over the tank. A larger sandpiper type bird, with a decurved bill, a white rump, feet that extended beyond the end of the tail in flight and what appeared to be blue legs/feet. They were flying and unfortunately the sun was at an awkward angle. What I was able to see doesn't fit anything exactly. It is possible the leg color was off due to the sun, but they sure looked blue to me. I did not notice any distinguishing wing markings, which are common among the shorebirds. If anyone has ideas, let me know.

Good birding!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Big Sit October 11

The annual Big Sit will be held Sunday, October 11, from sunrise until we get tired and go home (usually by noon.) We gather behind Wild Bird Rescue on what we optimistically call "the peninsula."

The Big Sit is a nationwide event--so groups all sit on the same day. This is a lazy birder event as the rules require that participants have to sit inside a 17-ft circle and count birds from inside that area. Groups compete for having the birdiest site. Most groups are a little more competitive than we are and start in the dark; end in the dark. We are out for the portion of the day that yields the most birds.

This event is sponsored by the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. It is free and open to the public. You don't have to know anything about birds to take part--there are plenty of experienced birders on hand. This is a come and go, so if you are not inclined to be up and functional at sunrise, come a little later in the morning (although you will miss some great sights.)

Dress appropriately (there is almost always a breeze off the water.) I advise layers as you will likely shed them as the morning warms. Also bring a lawn chair, your binoculars, a field guide, bug spray if you need it, and whatever you want to drink.

We have had some excellent birding mornings in the past, so come on down! By the way, check out the video on the BirdWatchers' Digest website about the event.

Good birding!

Another Local Bird Blog

I have mentioned Bob Lindsay's blog before. Bob is the Executive Director of Wild Bird Rescue. During the summer, he is really too busy to blog much, except for an occasional update in the number of birds (over 1000 this year so far.) However, things are beginning to slow down, so he is starting to pick back up. He just posted a couple of items that I enjoyed. Check out the blog at

I'd be interested to find other area blogs on this topic. I'll be happy to post in my blog roll if they are kept up.

Good birding!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flocks of Blackbirds

One of the most noticeable bird behaviors in the fall is the formation of large flocks of birds, especially blackbirds.

Today I came across several large flocks of mixed blackbirds. One, at the corner of FM 369 and 277 was a mixed flock of a few hundred starlings and brown-headed cowbirds. Although you may find flocks of blackbirds year around, the flocks become very large after the breeding season ends.

However, other birds also form flocks. It is not uncommon to get fairly significant numbers of cardinals and blue jays in the winter. Not the hundreds seen with blackbirds, but significantly more than the 2 or 3 seen in the summer.

In the summer, most birds tend to disperse in order to reduce the demand on food. Many birds defend territories from others of their own kind in order to ensure offspring belong to them (keep out poachers) and to ensure a good food supply for their young. However, it takes a lot of energy to defend territory. So in the winter, it just isn't worth the effort. In addition, flocks of birds have better defense from predators in a more open environment. So flocking behavior makes more sense outside of the breeding season.

In addition to many blackbirds, I did see two eastern bluebirds on FM367 just outside Iowa Park city limits.

Good birding!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Owl Calling Event with the Sierra Club

The Red River group of the Sierra Club is hosting an owl-calling event on October 13 at 6:30 PM at Lake Arrowhead State Park.

Greg Mucciolo is a local expert on owls and other wildlife in the park. He presents these programs three or four times a year for different groups. I have been to previous programs with the Master Naturalists and the bird club.

This will be the regular Sierra Club meeting. I am sure there will be food and plenty of camaraderie before dark, when the owl calling begins. You do not need to be a member of the Sierra Club to attend.

As soon as I get more details, I will post. For now, if you're interested in seeing some owls up close, then plan to attend. The last time I attended, we had two or three screech owls show inside the park and a couple of barred owls elsewhere. I know other groups have had great horned owls. You never know what you will see.

The entry fee to the park is $2 per person (over 13.) Come early and walk the nature trails or go fishing. Fishing from the shoreline doesn't require a fishing license and the park loans out fishing tackle.

Joanna Bonnheim, President of the local Sierra Club, can be reached at for more information.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club

I had an email query this morning about whether there was a birding group in Wichita Falls. It has been a while since I mentioned the group, and I definitely want to encourage birders (novice and experienced) to find us, so here's the scoop.

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club
Meeting: 3rd Tuesday of each month, 7:00 PM, NALC Building (Southwest Parkway)
Point of Contact: Terry McKee,

Membership is only $10, which supports the monthly newsletter.

Everyone is welcome.

Good birding!

Beautiful Morning in Lucy Park

It was clear, in the mid 60's and wet in Lucy Park this morning. With the recent rains, new plants are sprouting everywhere--you would think it was spring time.

Anyway, between the blue jays and the fox squirrels, I wasn't going through the park unnoticed this morning; however, I still saw a few good birds. On my list this morning were: blue jay, rock pigeon, northern cardinal, tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, European starling, great egret, common grackle, great-tailed grackle, red-bellied woodpecker (several), white-winged dove (over 50 in one flock), downy woodpecker, mourning dove, Carolina wren, Mississippi kite, great crested flycatcher, scissor-tailed flycatcher, house finch, great blue heron, mallard duck, and Canada goose.

It looks like there will be a few more pecans this year than last (which wouldn't take much as last year's crop was nearly a complete bust.) The squirrels were everywhere harvesting acorns and the first of the pecans. I was scolded away from their trees all along my walk.

One interesting thing: a gentleman was sitting on one of the benches at the duck pond throwing bread to the domestics there and the great blue heron was standing just a few feet away in the open. I have never seen one allow anyone to get so close, but it seemed unfazed. I would imagine the man makes a regular routine of visiting, and the heron has become used to his visits.

Good birding!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Good Morning for Orioles on the Chat Trail

I had another good morning on the Chat Trail at Lake Wichita Park. The morning was a little muggy with no breeze, but the birds didn't seem to care.

There were several orchard and Bullock's orioles today; I was able to watch them for several minutes. I also had a very nice view of a warbling vireo gleaning catepillars off the undersides of leaves. Another treat for me was a great-crested flycatcher.

Other birds this morning included: northern cardinal (several young ones), blue jay, red-winged blackbird, chimney swift, robin, Mississippi kite, Canada goose, flicker sp, coot, pied-billed grebe, killdeer, mallard, blue-winged teal, mockingbird, mourning dove, great egret, little blue heron, white-winged dove, and barn swallow.

Good birding!