Monday, December 28, 2009

Project Feederwatch Reports

I have mentioned before that I participate in Project Feederwatch, a citizen science project of Lab of Ornithology of Cornell University.

The report from last year's season were included in the Autumn 2009 Living Bird mailing. We are part of the Southeast and South-Central region. There were 1204 sites reported on. The report includes the Top 25 birds for each region--these are the birds reported in the largest number of sites, not in the largest numbers.

See how many of these birds you recognize from your backyard feeder. In my case, the list here doesn't reflect two of the most common birds at my feeder: House Sparrows and White-winged Doves.

Northern Cardinal
Mourning Dove
American Goldfinch
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Blue Jay
Carolina Wren
Red-bellied Woodpecker
House Finch
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Mockingbird
Dark-eyed Junco
American Robin
White-throated Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Pine Siskin
Eastern Bluebird
American Crow
White-breated Nuthatch
Common Grackle
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Brown-headed Cowbird
Rufous-sided Towhee
Brown Thrasher

Good birding!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Blizzard of '09

We have to name everything, don't we? Wichita Falls had a record-breaking snowfall yesterday, and there is already a Facebook group called "I Survived the Blizzard of '09."
I am glad I don't have to be outside for any length of time today, although it is supposed to be sunny and no more snow. However, it is cold. Right now it is 18 degrees.
The birds gobbled down the seed yesterday. I had to refill most of the feeders this AM. The snow was over the top of my boots.
Later I am going to get out some fresh water, although I imagine there will be a little bit out there once the sun hits the icicles.
The snow yesterday brought my first Harris' sparrows to my feeders. I also had a red-winged blackbird. I do occasionally have one or two when the weather is especially bad.
It should be a good day for bird watching out my windows.
Merry Christmas and Good Birding!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter Wonderland

This is the view out my back door to one of my feeders. The birds are swarming all of the feeders and the ground under them this morning. The snow will make it increasingly difficult for the little guys to find food while the temperatures will mean food is more important. Although I feed the birds mostly for my benefit, because I love to watch them, at times like this, I am sure the birds welcome the handout.
Looks like more snow today, and a white Christmas.
Good birding!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Bird Count (Unofficial) Report

The Wichita Falls CBC was yesterday, with three teams scouring the area for birds. The teams met up at the Hoover residence for the traditional pot luck spaghetti dinner to compile the results, where we all ate entirely too much food.

The weather was clear and cool and overall, we had a good count. As in any year, there were birds that we expected to count and didn't, and those we didn't expect to find, and did. The count week continues through Tuesday, so the number of species may change. I am not the compiler, so I did not attempt to track the numbers, but I did try to keep track of the species as each team presented their information. However, once the official results are published, I'll provide a follow-up.

The list below is preliminary, unofficial, list of the specifies seen for the count. I marked with an asterisk the species that we seen by my team, which counted the area around Lake Wichita, including Lakeside City and Holliday. My group started with 4 people in the AM, and did the Lake Wichita Park area, and then I continued on to complete the remainder of the area (so those in my group who see species you don't recall--they were seen in other areas later in the day.)

I was glad to see a few people who attended the bird ID workshop last week came on the count this week.

The list is in the order of the CBC checklist.

Snow Goose*
Canada Goose*
Wood Duck
American Wigeon*
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler*
Northen Pintail
Green-winged Teal*
Ring-necked Duck
Common Goldeneye*
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck*
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe*
American White Pelican*
Double-crested Cormorant*
Great Blue Heron*
Northern Harrier*
Bald Eagle
Swainson's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk*
American Kestrel*
Virginia Rail*
American Coot*
Sandhill Crane
Least Sandpiper*
Wilson's Snipe*
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull*
Rock Pigeon*
Eurasian Collared Dove*
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove*
Inca Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker*
Red-bellied Woodpecker*
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker*
Eastern Phoebe*
Loggerhead Shrike*
Blue Jay*
American Crow*
Horned Lark
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren*
House Wren
Marsh Wren*
Ruby-crowned Kinglet*
Eastern Bluebird*
American Robin*
Northern Mockingbird*
European Starling*
American Pipit*
Cedar Waxwing*
Orange-crowned Warbler*
Yellow-rumped Warbler*
Spotted Towhee*
Savannah Sparrow*
Harris' Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow*
Song Sparrow*
Dark-eyed Junco*
Lapland's Londspur
Northern Cardinal*
Red-winged Blackbird*
Meadowlark (species)*
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle*
Brown-headed Cowbird*
House Finch*
American Goldfinch*
House Sparrow*

Good birding!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Reminder: Wichita Falls Christmas Bird Count Saturday

Just a quick reminder that the Wichita Falls Christmas Bird Count is Saturday, December 19. We have three teams counting our circle. If you haven't signed up and want to attend, you can still call one of the three team leaders today or you can just show up in the morning for 2 of the 3 teams. You don't have to know anything about birds--just want to learn. You can bird all day or just part. There is a $5 charge per person, which is sent to Audubon to pay for maintaining the database. Dress warmly in layers. Bring binoculars, a field guide, water and snacks if you need them. The teams may stop for a quick lunch, depending upon the desires of the group. Groups usually conclude by 2 or 3 PM so members who plan to attend the count supper can clean up and prepare their contribution to the pot luck.

Here is the information:

- Lake Wichita area: includes Lake Wichita, Holliday, and a portion of Archer Co. Lots of walking, especially early and then driving. Contact: Penny Miller, or 940-867-9761. Meeting at the Lake Wichita spillway (off Kemp) at 7:30 AM.
- Lucy Park area: includes Lucy Park and much of the city of Wichita Falls. There will be some walking early, and then driving with short walks intermittently. Contact Terry McKee, or 940-766-4097. Meet at the Log Cabin parking lot in Lucy Park at 7:30 AM.
- Iowa Park: mostly driving with a few walking areas. Contact: Jimmy Hoover, 940-692-4975. Jimmy is picking up his team so you must call.

Jimmy and Janette Hoover are hosting the count supper, where the teams will compile their data for submission to Audubon. This is a pot luck spaghetti dinner and all team members and North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club members are invited.

Good birding!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Feeder Tragedy

One of the hazards of feeding birds is that predators sometimes snatch one of the birds you've been fattening up.
I went out to refill feeders and found evidence of at least an attempt to catch one of my doves. I did not find a carcass and dove feathers pull out very easily, so I cannot say for sure this guy is a goner. However, judging from the number of feathers in this area, if he wasn't a casualty, he's darn cold.
Since I didn't find evidence of a carcass, I would assume one of the feral cats that live in the field next to my house probably got lucky. If the cat caught one of the white-winged doves, he should be stuffed for a week.
Good birding!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Texas Ornithological Society Expands Magic Ridge Sanctuary

The Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) recently added 5 acres to its Magic Ridge sanctuary near Indianola, TX. The local North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club made a donation to honor one of our previous members a few years back--it is good to see the sanctuary continue to grow.

The TOS maintains five sanctuaries in east Texas which are important to migrating birds. I was able to visit two of these sanctuaries (Sabine Woods and Hooks Woods) during a TOS meeting in the area a couple of years ago. Some of the sanctuaries were hit hard during Hurricanes Katrina and Ike and the TOS has put in a lot of work to clean up and maintain these sites for the birds and TOS members who visit to observe them.

To learn more about TOS sanctuaries, visit the TOS website.

Good birding!

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meets Tonight

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meets tonight at 7PM at the NALC Building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Landscaping.) This is the Christmas meeting, so finger foods are welcome. If you are interested in participating in the gift exchange, bring a wrapped gift under $10.

Along with food and games, we'll be finalizing plans for the Christmas Bird Count on the 19th.

Good birding!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lake Wichita Park on Sunday

I hope the weather is as clear as it was on Sunday for the Chirstmas Bird Count next week. The morning was bright and sunny. A heavy frost covered the ground and trees when I started down the chat trail, but soon burned off.

At the entrance to the chat trail were seven white-tailed deer who stood for a few minutes checking me out before they ran into the wooded area to the right.

I only walked down to the the barrow pit and across the birdge up to the dam, so not a long walk at all. I saw Canada geese, cardinals, double-crested cormorants, white-winged doves, robins, red-winged balckbirds, bufflehead, song sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, great blue heron, coots, ruddy ducks, ring-billed gulls, canvasback, downy woodpecker, meadowlark sp, mourning dove, white pelicans, killdeer, gold finches, and house finches.

Good birding!

December 12 at River Bend

We had a nice bird ID workshop Saturday. We had some new Wichita Falls residents come. One couple had lived near San Franscisco for many years, so this habitat is new. Two others just moved from Nebraska. After the indoor workshop, we walked the trail at River Bend. Even though it was rather late for a bird walk, we did see a few good birds: white-winged doves, goldfinch, house finch, slate colored juncos, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, tufted titmouse, cardinal, Carolina chickadee, Eastern phoebe, and blue jay.

Many thanks to Wild Birds Unlimited at Smith's Gardentown for donating door prizes.

Good birding!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Don't Forget!

Don't forget bird identification workshop tomorrow at River Bend Nature Works, 2200 Third Street, Wichita Falls, TX. 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM. Free to River Bend members/Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists; $3 all others. At the conclusion of the presentation, those interested can walk the trails to practice.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meets December 15

The monthly North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meets Tuesday, December 15 at 7 PM at the NALC Building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Nursery near the corner of SW Parkway and Barnett.)

This is the annual Christmas meeting, with food, games and presents. We will also be finalizing plans for the Christmas Bird Count the following weekend.

Come meet a few of the local birders and learn more about the organization.

Good Birding!

Big News of the Retail Variety

Katherine Smith of Smith's Gardentown told me she is adding a Wild Birds Unlimited store to her nursery. I am excited--there will now be a place in Wichita Falls I can find good quality bird seed. Of course, there will also be a place where I will be tempted to blow much of my discretionary income, which I am sure will please Katherine.

Katherine tells me she hopes to have some products in the store before Christmas (see the previous post on gifts for birders) with a grand opening to coincide with the Home and Garden Show on 27, 28 Fenruary 2010. She is bringing in a speaker from Wild Birds Unlimited for the event, so watch for that.

This will be a nice complement to the nursery. Good luck, Katherine!

Good birding!

Monday, December 7, 2009


My blood is thinning out since moving to Texas. I am cold! And today it felt like the temperature dropped during the day.

The birds and the squirrels are cold too. I have had a full house at the feeders today while everyone tries to top off for the night. I had 4 squirrels at once this morning and have had dozens of birds eating their heads off pretty much the entire day. We're at the edge of a winter storm moving this way. It appears all we will get it the added cold and none of the snow and ice, but it appears the birds aren't taking any chances.

Most of the birds have been white-winged doves and house sparrows, but I have seen the cardinals, blue jays, spotted towhees, juncos, house finches, Inca doves and chickadees as well.

Good birding!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cold Weather Means Feeder Overflow

Cedar waxwing in rehab. Photo courtesy of Wild Bird Rescue.
We have some cold, wet weather coming through, with some snow possible overnight. Even if I didn't hear it on the news, I would know it by the numbers of birds at the feeders today--the birds are absolutely mobbing them. This is normal behavior before a cold front.
Usually, I don't see cedar waxwings at the feeders. Technically, I didn't today, but I did have one at the bird bath near the feeders. The bird bath was also full of birds bathing. You have to wonder about getting wet when it's cold, but bathing keeps feathers in good condition and good feathers are absolutely essential to survival.
I don't usually see just one cedar waxwing either--there is usually a flock. So I did look out front in the tops of my trees and there was a small flock of 7 in the oaks. When it started raining, the cedar waxwings were enthusiastically showering and preening.
Good birding!