Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Vacation

Hubby and I took a road trip to Chicago, IL to spend Christmas with my son and his wife. My daughter and her husband were also able to come in from North Carolina. It was a very nice, albeit too short, trip.

We hit snow in Missouri, but otherwise, the road were good and the weather was nice. Chicago was typically cold, but it could have been much worse. My son and I took a walk to a local Hyde Park park soon after I arrived in Chicago and almost immediately saw a flock of monk parakeets. I was certainly surprised to see a flock of tropical birds in such a cold environment.

My daughter-in-law and I went the next day to a park on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was interesting to see such a large lake area covered with masses of floating ice. There was plenty of open water, but many of the gulls present were riding on the chunks of ice. However, the ducks and mergansers were submerging and feeding in the cold water.

On the trip to and from, I didn't see many birds--there is just little to see at 70+ mph along the highway. However, there were many red-tailed hawks. In Illinois, my husband and I saw one swoop down to the edge of the highway as we passed and pull up with a small fuzzy animal in its talons. I did see other hawks, but am not proficient at speed. Red-tails are relatively easy to ID, so that is the primary bird I noted. However, I did see one red-shouldered hawk and several kestrels as well.

Although the purpose of my trip wasn't to watch birds, part of the fun of birdwatching is that it can be done anywhere and anytime.

Good birding!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wichita Falls Christmas Bird Count

In spite of an inauspicious start with heavy fog, we had a pretty good Christmas Bird Count (CBC) yesterday. A serious birder in the Houston area posted today on his Facebook page that he had just finished the 3rd of 4 CBCs he is participating in this year and is tired. I can imagine--I am pooped and have only done the one.

Anyway, in the Wichita Falls CBC, we divide the area into three sections and a different group surveys each one. At the end of the day, we get together for a potluck spaghetti dinner and someone's home and compile all of the sightings into one report to turn in. Bob Lindsay joined me for the morning in the Lake Wichita section and my husband accompanied me in the afternoon. Normally, we do a lot more walking in the morning portion of the count, but the fog was so thick much of the morning that we did less walking as we would not have been able to see much on a large segment of the trail.

I don't have the official compiler's report yet, so am only reporting on what we saw in our section of the circle. Far and away the largest number of a single species was the Canada goose--we counted 829 on the day in our area. The other teams added a few in their sections. In addition, our group tallied: mallard, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, northern shoveler, northern pintail, canvasback, ring-necked duck, bufflehead, ruddy duck, wild turkey, pied-billed grebe, white pelican, double-crested cormorant, great blue heron, great egret, northern harrier, Swainson's hawk, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, American coot, killdeer, greater yellowlegs, Wilson's snipe, ring-billed gull, rock pigeon, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, mourning dove, ladder-backed woodpecker, yellow-shafted flicker, eastern phoebe, loggerhead shrike, blue jay, American crow, Bewick's wren, American robin, northern mockingbird, European starling, cedar waxwing, yellow-rumped warbler, spotted towhee, lark sparrow, savannah sparrow, fox sparrow, song sparrow, Harris' sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco, northern cardinal, red-winged blackbird, meadowlark species (since they don't sing this time of year, it is very difficult to tell the east from the west), comomn grackle, great-tailed grackle, brown-headed cowbird, house finch, American goldfinch, and house sparrow.

All in all a great day! Sure beats cleaning house....

Good birding!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wichita Falls Christmas Bird Count Tomorrow

The Wichita Falls Christmas Bird Count is Saturday, December 18. There will be three teams (Lucy Park and City of Wichita Falls, Iowa Park, and Lake Wichita) covering the 25 mile circle around Wichita Falls. I have the Lake Wichita section.

Participation is $5 per person. My team will meet at the Lake Wichita spillway at 7:30 AM. Those who plan to participate with one of the other teams should know where and when to meet. If not, I gave contact information for the other routes in a previous post.

Good birding!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Love Squirrels

I know a lot of people who feed birds don't like to have squirrels. After all, bird food is expensive and squirrels can be destructive. However, I love the fox squirrels. I enjoy watching their antics. As you can see in the photo to the left, they are very acrobatic, which makes it difficult to keep them out of your feeders. This is one of my resident squirrels casually hanging upside down and nibbling sunflower seeds that he removes from the wire basket to the right.
Baffles can help, feeders with cages outside of the feeders (providing the cage is more than "arms length" from the seeds) can help. Placing your feeders on a pole several feet from any structure a squirrel can stand on will also help (but most birds won't like being so far from cover either.) But as you can see in this famous You Tube video, squirrels are hard to discourage. Personally, I just plan to feed them so I can watch.
The squirrels love black oil sunflower seeds, as most of my favorite birds do. One sure way to reduce squirrel feasts at your feeder would be to stop feeding black oil sunflower, but be prepared for a drop in some nice birds as well. What fun would that be?
Squirrels often bury nuts to find later when the weather is bad and food is scarce. How do squirrels find their nuts again? There's a nice short video on YouTube on an experiment on nut finding behavior in squirrels you should find interesting. If you just want to watch something silly (people will do almost anything), then check out squirrel fishing. The squirrels aren't all that funny--it's the numbskulls in the tree.
Anyway, enjoy your squirrels--chances are you won't get rid of them.
Good birding!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Great Horned Owl and a Bobcat

This was quite the morning at Lake Wichita Park. Shortly after entering the chat trail, I briefly saw a large bird flying through the trees. I was 95% certain it was a great horned owl, but it seemed a little late in the morning (8:15) for one. Later, I saw the owl in a tree near the barrow pit and had a good chance to get a decent look at it, so confirming the sighting.

After the owl flew I checked out the ducks in the barrow pit and when I turned around, I could see a bike rider coming over the bridge as well as a bobcat emerge from the swampy area to the left and head toward the trail. It looked like the bobcat and the biker would arrive at the intersection of the trail at the same time. The bobcat paused, just short of the trail. The biker, focused on me and saying, "Good morning," did not see the bobcat just a few feet away from him. The rider went on and the bobcat walked up onto the trail and stopped. I had a good minute to watch the motionless bobcat before he walked off into the overgrowth near the beaver pond.

It was a good morning for birds as well. Other birds seen included: robin, blue jay, cardinal, white-crowned sparrow, song sparrow, fox sparrow, spotted towhee, goldfinch, eastern phobe, slate-colored junco, red-tailed hawk, mallard, American coot, pintail, bufflehead, double-crested cormorant, ring-billed gull, pied-billed grebe, American wigeon, ruddy duck, canvasback, and lesser scaup.

Good birding!

Cedar Waxwings

It has been a busy week and somehow I overlooked posting last week's cedar waxwings. I have posted a photo of one of our previous year's patients at Wild Bird Rescue so you can see just how elegant these birds are.
I thought I heard cedar waxwings at my house early the week of Thanksgiving, but couldn't find them. However, on 28 November I was in Lucy Park and heard the thready calls of waxwings and was able to find a flock of about a dozen in a nearby tree.
These beautiful birds spend the summer up north and are fruit eaters, so they come south for the winter. You can find them wherever you have trees and shrubs with berries.
Good birding!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: Parrots of the World: An Identification Guide

I've often spoken of my love for bird books. I just don't think birders can have enough of them.

The folks at Princeton University Press sent me a review copy of Parrots of the World, by Joseph M. Foresaw and illustrated by Frank Knight. Although we don't have parrots in our area, they are beautiful birds and seriously threatened in their own habitat.

The field guide covers all 356 parrot species and well-differentiated sub-species of parrots and is organized by geographical region, which should help reduce confusion when traveling. The guide, published October 27, features 146 color plates depicting every kind of parrot as well as facing page species accounts that describe key identification features, distribution, subspeciation, habitat and conservation status. Many of the illustrations show upperside and underside flight images. The guide also shows where to observe each species in the wild.

This is an excellent reference for those who may travel to areas where parrots can be seen or who just like to drool over pretty pictures. It would also make a nice companion for those who are interested in birds overall and would like a current resource to supplement other bird references on this group of beautiful and fascinating birds.

You can order a copy from the Princeton University Press or from Remember, if you like to order from Amazon, consider accessing through the Wild Bird Rescue website to help them raise money for the care of injured and orphaned birds.

Good birding!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hummingbirds in the Snow

Although a few records exist of ruby-throated hummingbirds in our area into December, as a rule, all of our hummingbirds are gone by mid-October. Their food isn't present in abundance and they go torpid in the cold--which can't be good for avoiding predators.

But as all birders know, birds don't necessarily do the things we expect. I am providing a link, sent to me by Elizabeth Hawley with some photos of hummingbirds at feeders in the snow. But you can see that the photographer made some effort to make things more hummingbird friendly by supplying cover and a heat source.

Good birding!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Bird Bath a Happening Place This Morning

Well, my birdbath (left) has been a happening place this morning. In less than an hour since sun up I have had a cardinal, several juncos and a robin. When I went out to take this picture, I startled a little ruby-crowned kinglet when I walked up on the bath. I didn't even see him until I was focusing the camera. You can see the sides of the bath where the water has been thrown. I'll have to go out later and refill.

Bird baths and other water features can be a huge draw for birds. In our area, they often draw as many birds as the feeders do. And some birds who don't eat at feeders will come to the water, so it is another good way to add variety to your birdwatching experience.

However, most bird baths are too deep. My husband and kids got me the birdbath in the picture as a gift, but I added the sloping piece of rock to allow better access to smaller birds. You can also add rocks to the bottom of the bird bath to create shallow pools for smaller birds to bathe. I find the larger birds like robins enjoy the deeper areas and the smaller birds use the edges and the rock for their ablutions.
If you don't have a bird bath of any kind, think about getting one!
Good birding!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Window Strikes

Window strikes are a fact of life when you feed birds. It is estimated that approximately 1 Billion (yes, with a "b") birds are killed annually due to collisions with glass. The closer to your windows the feeders are, the more bird strikes you are likely to have. So a frequent question is, "how do I stop birds from hitting my windows?"

Birds fly into the windows because the reflection makes it look like they can fly straight through. When the birds are startled from a feeder, they are prone to take off quickly to escape and splat!

I fight window strikes by placing my feeders in view of, but well away from the windows and also by allowing my windows to get a little dirty, reducing the window's reflective properties. There are other things you can do, although none are foolproof. The American Bird Conservancy has a list of tips that may be useful to you.

Good birding!

Lake Wichita on Sunday

The weather was wonderful on Sunday morning--perhaps a little too warm to be perfect, but still much better than summer. The birds were loving the weather. With the leaves falling, the birds are becoming easier to see.

My favorites Sunday were some fox sparrows in the marshy area where the chat trail intersects with the trail over the dam and a few eared grebes on the barrow pit. I also saw two late barn swallows at the spillway. I hope they plan to move on by Thanksgiving--we are supposed to get a very cold front by then. But for now, the weather is nice and there are still plenty of insects around.

I noticed the giant reed and many of the reeds near the spillway had been removed, allowing better visabilty. I was glad to see the invasive giant reeds taken down and hope whoever was responsible keeps up the good work. There were still some giant reeds standing, but they were in an area that was not very accessible.

Other birds seen: American pipit, kestrel, great blue heron, lesser yellowlegs, rng-billed gull, gren-winged teal, American coot, mallard duck, white pelican, Bewick's wren, killdeer, some unidentified peeps, white-winged dove, house sparrow, dark-eyed junco, white-crowned sparrow, savannah sparow, song sparrow, cardinal, northern mockingbrd, blue-winged teal, American goldfinch, eastern phoebe, northern shoveler, pied-billed grebe, red-winged blakbrd, blue jay, canvasback, bufflehead, double-crested cormorant, ruddy ducl, American wigeon, sharp-shinned hawk, robin, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, yellow-rumped warbler, Eurpean starling, and great-tailed grackle.

Good birding!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bird Feeding Workshop Tomorrow

I have been remiss. I thought I posted this event earlier in the week, but apparently not.

Wild Birds Unlimited at Smith's Gardentown is hosting a workshop on feeding wild birds, Saturday, November 20 (tomorrow) at 10:00 AM at their Wild Birds Unlimited store on Seymour Highway. Come learn about the foods that will attract birds to your yard.

The workshop is free and open to the public. Missi, the avian ambassador for Wild Bird Rescue, is expected to drop by for a short time as well.

Good birding!

Monday, November 15, 2010

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meeting

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meets Tuesday, November 16 at 7 PM at the NALC Building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley nursery.)

Light refreshments will be served. In addition to a short program, the group will discuss plans for the Christmas Bird Count and the December holiday party.

Good birding!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beautiful Fall Morning in Lucy Park

I had a light frost on the windshield when I got up this morning--38 degrees according to the thermometer. Bright sunshine and no wind made for an excellent morning for a walk. I decided to go to Lucy Park.

Although I didn't get to see any brown creepers or nuthatches today, I did see my first American goldfinches of the season, mixed with a bunch of yell0w-rumped warblers (better known as "butter butts" when I lived in VA.)

In addition to these birds, the red-bellied woodpeckers were very active and the woods seemed full of Carolina chickadees. I heard several tufted titmice in the woods, but didn't see any of them. Also seen: pigeon, white-winged dove, cardinal, blue jay, starlings, dark-eyed junco, mallard, Canada geese, common grackle, great-tailed grackle, and robin.

Good birding!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chirstmas Bird Count

The Wichita Falls Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is scheduled for December 18. The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club coordinates this event.

We divide the count area into three sections with team leaders responsible for organizing the route. The count usually runs from 7:30 AM until the team members run out of steam or finish their section. The teams meet up for a pot luck at 5:30 to consolidate their counts into the report that will be submitted to the Audubon Society.

Participation is $5 per person to support the Audubon's work to maintain the database. You do not have to be an expert birder. Anyone who can help spot birds and help keep track of the sightings will be a help. You do not have to participate for the entire day. Any amount of time will be helpful.

If you're interested in taking part, you can call one of the team leaders for more information.

Lake Wichita, Penny Miller. This route involves a lot of walking. 940-867-9761
Iowa Park, Jimmy Hoover. This route is primarily driving with some short walks periodically. 940-592-4661.
Lucy Park and City of Wichita Falls. Terry McKee. This route is mostly walking in the morning and driving in the afternoon. 940-766-4097.

Good birding!

Project Feederwatch Season

Today marks the first day of the Project Feederwatch (PFW) season. I made sure my feeders were full yesterday. I feed all year around, but, once PFW season starts, I make sure whatever feeders are up are full. At the beginning of the season, I only have a few up; by mid-winter, I will be running around 10.

Anyway, I was laying in bed this morning enjoying a few minutes of quiet before the animals figured out I was awake (how do they know?) and started making their wishes known and hoping that the first birds of the season would not be house sparrows. We have a lot of house sparrows around our house, but I can count them any day.

The first trip this morning yielded no birds at all. Later, when I was getting ready to head out to Wild Bird Rescue, there were three birds at the feeders. One female cardinal at the black oil sunflower and two house sparrows at the millet. The cardinal made me feel better about the house sparrows. We're off to a good start!

Good birding!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wild Bird Rescue will be at PETS Pantry Event

PETS will be holding an event to get a pet pantry off the ground Saturday, November 13, 10AM - 2 PM at Berend's Landing, 500 Wichita St.

Bring donations of dog/cat food and visit booths of several local rescue organizations. Wild Bird Rescue will be there with Missi, their Avian Ambassador (at least, until she decides she has had enough of the crowd.) Wild Bird Rescue will also have items suitable for gifts for sale. Start your Christmas shopping early and support wildlife rehabilitation in our community.

Good birding!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Little Peeps

This morning in an earlier post I indicated I saw semipalmated sandpipers. There were several at the top of the Lake Wichita Spillway.

I looked at the checklist for the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club and according to that checklist, there should not be and semiplamated here right now. The closest would be least sandpipers. However, I know birds do not read the checklists and bird guides.

I have carefully studied several field guides, to include The Shorebird Guide and Shorebirds of North America. I really do think they were semipalmated--the white tail feathers on the side of the tail were noticeable in flight, but the center is dark. White wing stripe in flight fairly noticeable. However, since I am not an expert on sandpipers, I am not prepared to defend my ID to all, so take the ID with a grain of salt.

Good birding!

FAB-u-lous Morning

This morning I was ambivalent about where to bird, but finally decided to go for waterfowl at Lake Wichita. I ended up having a pretty good birding morning all the way around. Of course, I forgot my camera at home, so a word picture will have to do. The weather was cool, but sunny and there wasn't any wind, so very comfortable.

I started at Lake Wichita Park, along the chat trail, back to the barrow pit, then across the bridge and up behind the wooded area that runs parallel to the chat trail. It seemed at first it would be a very quiet morning, but it didn't stay that way. The winter birds are definitely back. Today I saw my first of season white-crowned sparrow, savannah sparrow, yellow-rumped warbler, northern harrier, greater yellowlegs and spotted towhee.

Near the bridge I heard an odd sound near the beaver dam, so went down into the brush to see if I could find what was making the noise. I didn't find out, but did have an interesting observation. I ended up in the middle of a flock of nearly a dozen cardinals and heard them making a kind of chuffing noise I have never noted before. I haven't found a recording like it yet.

Birds seen included: ring-billed gull, Eastern phoebe, white-crowned sparrow, Bewick's wren, blue jay, cardinal, American coot, ruddy duck, green-winged teal, bufflehead, American wigeon, canvasback, song sparrow, red-winged blackbird, house finch, yellow-rumped warbler, savannah sparrow, common grackle, mockingbird, rock pigeon, robin, spotted towhee, great blue heron, red-tailed hawk, Eurasian collared dove, European starling, and great-tailed grackle. I also had a chance to watch a white-tailed deer for some time.

I then drove by Rosemont Cemetery on the way to the spillway. I occasionally see turkeys there and this morning was one of my lucky days. I saw two turkeys walking among the headstones in an otherwise quiet cemetery.

Then headed over to the Lake Wichita spillway and walked up for a view over the lake and then down along the dirt road on the opposite side of the dam, between the drainage ditch and the mesquite fields. There I saw European starlings, eastern phobe, meadowlarks (unidentified species), great blue heron, blue jay, killdeer, white pelican, ring-billed gull, double-crested cormorant, greater yellowlegs, mallard, semi-palmated sandpiper, northern harrier, lark sparrow, savannah sparrow, mourning dove, rock pigeon, dark-eyed junco, white-winged dove, and cattle egret.

So overall a good morning.

Good birding!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jackpot at Lucy Park This Morning

Lucy Park Circle Trail near the park entrance.

I love the woods in the fall, so decided to go to Lucy Park for my Sunday bird walk. Am I glad I did.

Lucy Park is always a bit of a crap shoot for birds. Sometimes you don't see much and other times you hit the jackpot. Today I consider a jackpot day.

In Lucy Park it's guaranteed you will hear lots of cardinals, blue jays and robins. That held true this morning. I was happy when the first bird I saw was a Cooper's Hawk on a bare branch along the Circle Trail. I saw a second Cooper's later in the rear part of the park. I passed through a flock of Carolina Chickadees a little later. At my favorite intersection in Lucy Park I saw and heard a brown creeper. It has been a few years since I have seen a brown creeper--and if I am not mistaken, the last one I saw was also in Lucy Park. I wanted a better look but the tree the bird was using was in a patch of poison ivy. Although I haven't had much problem with poison ivy in the past, I felt that walking through a large patch of it on purpose was tempting fate more than was wise. I would have been happy at this point if I hadn't seen another bird.

A little further down, I passed an area with a lot of underbrush and heard some little birds. I decided to stop and try pishing. Some birds seem to find pishing irresistable. Sure enough, out popped four golden-crowned warblers, two chipping sparrows and a cardinal to see what the crazy birder was up to.

Down by the canoe launch I found my first flock of juncos of the season. I was coming back around to my truck at the entrance and heard a red-bellied woodpecker so I checked out one of the snags nearby and found two red-breasted nuthatches. It doesn't get much better than this.

In addition to the birds mentioned above, other birds seen this morning included: mallard, Canada goose, northern mockingbird, rock pigeon, white-winged dove, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, common grackle, great-tailed grackle, red-bellied woodpecker, northern flicker, house finch, and starling.

It looks like the last of the scissor-tailed flycatches have left. I haven't seen any in a few days.

Good birding!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stocking Up

Although it isn't quite Feederwatch season, I usually have a feeder up all year. In a couple of weeks, when Project Feederwatch starts, it will be more like 10 feeders. I was completely out of bird food (except suet cakes) so I had to stock up.

I went down to Wild Bird's Unlimited at Smith's Gardentown. A little pricier, but high quality food. Many birders go for the cheap stuff like below. You can buy this seed very inexpensively, but don't.

How do you tell which seed to buy? If you're buying a mixed seed, choose one with as little milo as possible (see the round brown seeds in the picture to the left? That's milo.)

Milo is cheap and relatively light and large, so it is a good filler. However, the birds don't care for it much. If you have a lot of milo in your seed mix, you may think the birds love it because it disappears so quickly. What is happening is the birds are digging through the seed, throwing out the milo and picking out the good stuff they like. You end up with a lot of seed on the ground, leading to mold (unhealthy), more food to attract mice and rats, and relatively little of the seed going into your birds' stomachs. I'm not saying birds don't eat any of the milo; if they are very hungry and food is scarce in the middle of the winter, they will eat more of it. I'm just saying if I am going to spend money on bird food, I want it to end up in their stomachs, not on the ground.

I suggest if you are not familiar with the mix you are buying, try to buy food in a bag you can see some of the mix to evaluate the amount of milo and choose the mix with the least. Atwoods on Loop 11 has a reasonably good mix for a good price, if you want to spend less money. When I am going through tons of mix in the winter, I often do buy some to keep the hit on my wallet down.

Anyway, I went to Wild Birds Unlimited as they have a 15% off sale on bird food until October 31 and got black oil sunflower, millet and peanuts without the shell. I decided to try out the Savers Card for $25, figuring I would save that much over the course of the feeder season. That got me an additional 5% off on the food on sale. That was nearly an additional $6. Since I am predisposed toward not liking to pay for a savers card, I am going to keep a spreadsheet to see if the card is worth the money and will let you know when I at least break even. You can see my haul to the left--the expensive bit was the bag of peanuts. But that one bag will likely be the only one I will need to buy this year.

I also started my Christmas shopping. Wild Birds Unlimited has some really cute bird Christmas ornaments that are very inexpensive as well as other gift ideas for the birders on your shopping list. If you know a birder and are stumped for gift ideas, email me at or wait for an upcoming post with gift ideas and links.

Anyway, time to unload, fill up the two feeders I am running right now, and then back to the workday (sigh.)

Good birding! Photo Contest

For the photographers among us, is hosting a photography contest, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Natural Resources Defense Council. You can upload your photos at the website until November 24, then the public votes. All entrants have a chance to win random drawings for Song Birds Bible. The overall winner will receive a copy of the same book as well as bragging rights--I have looked at some of the submissions so far and they are stunning. I know I don't have any pictures that would work, but I know some of you may.

Good birding!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mystery Bird Identified

I posted to the TEXBIRDS listserv and got several responses that the bird in my previous post is a grasshopper sparrow. That's one of the great things about birders--always so helpful.

Great birding!

Mystery Bird--ID Help

We had a little bird come in for rehab (most probably from impact with a car considering the circumstances in which he was found) at Wild Bird Rescue and we are stumped for identification. He is the size of a sparrow. I am posting pictures and hope someone can help. The yellow on the leading edge is quite noticeable when the wing is extended and barely noticeable otherwise.
Good birding!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Morning After

Is there anything better than a walk the morning after a big rain? We've had a couple of days of storms--this morning was beautiful at Lake Wichita Park. Everything feels good, smells good and looks good after a good rainstorm. The rain gauge at Wild Bird Rescue this morning showed a little over 1.5 inches.

I took only a short walk along the chat trail down to the barrow pit. The most notable thing was the number of Eastern Phoebe along the trail. It is not uncommon to see/hear one or two, but this morning there were several phoebes along the trail.

The cardinals have also started to gather into their winter flocks. One flock of approximately a dozen birds was moving from tree to tree.

The barrow pit was full of waterfowl--mostly American Coot and American Wigeon, although there were some pied-billed grebes and ruddy ducks as well.

Summer birds still hanging around were scissor-tailed flycatchers and a lone barn swallow.

Other birds noted this morning were: White pelican, robins, blue jay, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, rock pigeon, great-tailed grackle, and starling.

Good birding!

Friday, October 15, 2010

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meeting

The next North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meeting is Tuesday, October 19, 7 PM at 5310 Southwest Parkway--the NALC building next to Wichita Valley Nursery.

Terry McKee will present a short program on owls. The group will also begin planning for the Christmas Bird Count to take place on Saturday, December 18. Light refreshments will be served.

If you want to learn more about the birds and birding places in the area, this is the place to be. It's a small group, so visitors should not feel intimidated as sometimes happens with larger groups.

Good birding!

Results of Big Sit

Got my North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club newsletter and a write up on the Wichita Falls Big Sit was in there. I missed this year since I was in Ft. Worth, which is probably why the weather was so nice. Almost every year I have taken part, we have been cold and sometimes wet.

Our group doesn't tough it out as long as many Big Sit groups, so we don't normally have big numbers of birds. However, the group did have some good ones. According to Terry McKee, birds sighted included: mallard, Canada geese, ruby-crowned kinglet, great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, yellow-crowned night heron, robin, yellow-shafted flicker, double-crested cormorant, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, killdeer, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, chimney swift, barn swallow, cardinal, northern mockingbird, scissor-tailed flycatcher, common grackle, great-tailed grackle and red-winged blackbird.

Sounds like a good time. Maybe next year I'll be home!

Good birding!

Good birding!

Science Saturday on Migration

Tomorrow's Science Saturday at River Bend Nature Center is on migration. Birds aren't the only animals that migrate, but they are among the most spectacular. A good time for the kids. Check out the blog roll for River Bend's blog--further details are there.

Good birding!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fort Worth Birding

Village Creek Wastewater Plant Drying Beds and Overlooking the Trinity River in River Legacy Parks

I had to be in Fort Worth for a meeting on Saturday and a conference beginning on Monday, so decided to see what birding spots I could find on Sunday morning. I posted a plea to TEXBIRDS and received a couple of responses to look at the Fort Worth Audubon Society website, along with some specific suggestions for where to go. I had time to go to two locations: the River Legacy Parks and the Village Creek Wastewater Drying Beds.
I can't say that I had excellent birding at either location, but there's a lot of potential. It's the same everywhere you bird--some days are great and some are good. But I had a great time anyway.
River Legacy Parks is in Arlington not far from the Drying Beds. The park runs along the Trinity River and has a wonderful trail system. The park was busy, even relatively early and by late morning, it was packed. Runners, walkers, bikers and a few skaters filled the trails. The park should be a great place for warblers and other songbirds--the habitat is prime. I didn't have a lot of luck, although the belted kingfishers were a treat. Either the first pair I saw followed me for a few miles along the trail, or there were multiple birds along the river. In Wichita Falls, I often wonder how the birds can make a nesting burrow--I don't see much in the way of suitable habitat along the water (although there is obviously some) but as you can see in the picture of the river above, there is a lot of river bank that looks like it would provide great nesting habitat.
I then went to the Village Creek Drying Beds where I ran into a group of birders participating in a Big Sit. Although I arrived late in the morning, I did see some good water birds. As always, the birders were friendly. One of the group (and the same person that responded to my TEXBIRDS post with the birding ideas) allowed me to view a kestrel through his spotting scope. I would have missed that bird without him pointing it out. I would love to get a scope--I have held off because I am a klutz and am sure I would break it. As expensive as they are, I would be a basket case when I dropped it (a sure thing.)
Meeting this group reminded me that the Wichita Falls group was scheduled for a Big Sit Sunday. I hope they had a great day and I look forward to learning what they saw--I'll post the results when I get them.
Good birding!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Want to Learn More About Sparrows?

Photo by Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan.
Most of the people I know think the only sparrows here are house sparrows, but thankfully not so! There are a lot of sparrow species in Texas in the winter like the beautiful white-crowned sparrow pictured to the left. I have spent considerable time over the past couple of years working on my sparrow ID skills. I am much improved, but still have a long way to go.
If you are interested in seeing and learning more about sparrows, the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) is sponsoring a field trip February 12 and 13, 2011. The information will be posted to the TOS website at some point, but it isn't there yet.
Some basic information. The field trips will be to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge near Marble Falls. Cost for both days of the field trips will be $80 for TOS members; $110 non-members (includes one year of dues.) The trips will include parts of the refuge not open to the public. Expect moderately strenuous hiking with few trails and rocky hill country terrain. The field trips include lunch, but other meals will be on your own, as is the cost of the hotel. Transportation will be provided from the hotel to the refuge both days. For accommodations information, contact Shelia Hargis at Full payment is due by December 15, 2010. The minimum number on this trip is 8 and the maximum is 12. To reserve your space, contact Jim Hailey at
Sounds like a fun time!
Good birding!

Project Feederwatch Starts Soon!

Yesterday I received my Project Feederwatch (PFW) materials in the mail, so now I am getting excited. I have participated in PFW for several years and look forward to having an excuse to watch birds over the winter.

Project Feederwatch is a citizen science project sponsored by the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University. This is one of several citizen science projects that takes data gathered by volunteers and consolidates it for use by researchers.

Feederwatch season starts November 13 and runs through April 8. I'll be cleaning all of my feeders over the next few weeks and stocking up on bird food in preparation. Not that I have to wait for the PFW season to officially start to put up feeders and watch birds, but there's nothing like the excuse that I "have" to watch for birds for my reports.

Good birding!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Winter Ducks Arriving

Photo of Wilson's Snipe by Cephas, Wikimedia Commons.

I took a short walk in Lake Wichita Park this morning looking for migrants. It was a cool morning--it finally feels and smells like fall.

At the entrance of the chat trail was a herd of 6 white-tailed deer that watched me very closely for several minutes until they got too nervous and turned tail back into the woods.

The ducks are beginning to come in. On the barrow pit the were hundreds of waterfowl: American coot, redhead ducks, American wigeon, mallard ducks, pied-billed grebes, and a single Wilson's snipe (one of my favorite birds.)

The turkey vultures are also on the move with a few dozen birds flying over this morning.

I also saw my first northern flickers of the fall--two yellow-shafted flickers flying over and another flicker perching on the lights of the football field.

Other birds seen this morning: scissor-tailed flycatcher, blue jay, cardinal, red-winged blackbird, great blue heron (an immature that caught two fish while I watching), Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, robin, double-crested cormorant, killdeer, common grackle, great-tailed grackle, and European starling.

Good birding!

Bird Lectures at OU

Since Norman, OK isn't all that far away, I want to pass on information about some birding lectures at OU this week. Here is the announcement from OKBIRDS:

"Dr. Masakazu (Mark) Konishi from Caltech, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, will be on the OU campus next week to give two lectures on the two fields he pioneered. He will speak on "The Science of Birdsong" at the Sam Noble Museum Tuesday, October 6 at 7 PM (reception following) and will give a presentation on "How Owls Catch Prey in the Dark" in George Lynn Cross Hall 123, Wednesday, October 6 at 4:30 PM. Both are free and open to the public."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oklahoma Ornithological Society Fall Meeting

I am so happy for the beautiful fall weather.

The Oklahoma Ornithological Society (OOS) Fall Meeting is coming soon to Stillwater, OK. If you aren't a member of the OOS, you are still welcome to attend. They have a couple of nice field trips and an interesting speaker for the banquet lined up. The agenda and registration form are here.

Note that you can register on site for the meetings and field trips but the banquet requires registration before September 30, so sign up now if you want to go.

Good birding!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Save the Dates! Big Sit and Christmas Bird Count

It's a serious bummer for me, but the annual Wichita Falls Big Sit event will be October 10, 7:30 - 10 behind Wild Bird Rescue. Bummer for me as I will be out of town that weekend. The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club will be hosting the event, along with Wild Bird Rescue, who graciously allow us access to their restrooms (an important logistical issue.) Terry McKee is coordinating. If you have questions, contact Terry at I'll post more details closer to the date.

Plan early to participate in the Wichita Falls Christmas Bird Count on December 18. This is an all-day event, but you can participate even if you can only take part for a portion of the day. Once the area leaders are assigned, I'll follow up with information. The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club hosts a spaghetti dinner to compile the count results from the teams that same evening. It's always exciting to hear what other groups saw.

Good birding!

Next North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meeting

This month's North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meeting is Tuesday, September 21 at 7PM. The meeting is the annual club picnic and will be at a member's home. I don't want to publish a home address to the world, but if you plan to come and are not yet a member of the club, just email me at and I will contact you with directions.

The home sits on Lake Wichita, and there are normally lots of birds. The program this month will be presented by Eldon Sund, "What are the Butterflies Telling Us?"

The meeting is free and open to the public. Bring your own sack meal, and we will enjoy the fall evening outside.

Good birding!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rare Bird Alert--Brown Pelican at Lake Wichita

Photo of brown pelican courtesy of Calibas, Wikimedia Commons.

Last Friday I got an email with a rare bird alert from Terry McKee with the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. Robert from Texas Parks and Wildlife contacted Terry with the news.

I was out of town on Friday and had to teach class on Saturday, so didn't have a chance to go look for the brown pelican until Sunday morning. Of course, I was thinking it would be just my luck the bird would be gone already, and I would have missed him. But there he was, on the pier next to the spillway, where the pavillion used to be. Since I broke my camera on a previous outing and haven't yet replaced it, I didn't get a photo. I did attempt a photo will my cell phone, but the bird was too far out for a decent picture. Robert did take some photos on the 10th to document the bird. If I can get his OK to post one of his picures, I'll do that in the next couple of days.

The brown pelican is a threatened species. Although I have seen them along the coast, they are listed as accidental in the North Central Texas checklist. We have lots of white pelicans Fall - Spring, but not the brown. It is very posible the bird arrived with the Hurricane Hermine front that came through last Thursday.

I also saw my first pied-billed grebes of the season and my first orchard orioles.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Birding

I spent Labor Day morning at Lake Wichita. I went first to Lake Wichita Park and then over to the spillway.

My favorite bird of the morning was a spotted sandpiper at the spillway. I like this shorebird, because it is easy to identify, even if you don't see it well. It teeters constantly. I did see some other peeps at the barrow pit, but was unable to identify them.

Another highlight was a belted kingfisher. The bird appeared to be an immature one in the short glimpse I had. I used to see a kingfisher almost every morning along the chat trail at Lake Wichita Park, but haven't seen one in months. However, Monday morning I was lucky. I am glad one has taken up residence in this area again.

Ducks are beginning to congregate again. Along with several mallards, there were 15 blue-winged teal on the barrow pit. From the spillway, I was able to see two large flocks of great egrets and snowy egrets as well as a number of individual birds (well over 100 birds.) They are getting ready to leave for the winter.

Lots of birds and wonderful weather. A great birding morning. Birds seen: Mississippi kite, Eurasian collared dove, cardinal, blue jay, scissor-tailed flycatcher, chimney swift, great blue heron, white-winged dove, mourning dove, turkey vulture, robin, red-winged blackbird, great egret, killdeer, blue-winged teal, double-crested cormorant, European starling, mallard, belted kingfisher, barn swallow, house finch, snowy egret, and spotted sandpiper.

Good birding!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tough Morning

Photo of yellow warbler, by Dori, Wikimeida Commons
Yesterday I went birding at Lake Wichita Park and the spillway. Saw some decent birds overall, but am still paying for it.

My mother always said she should have called me Grace, since I am a complete klutz. I get focused on something and forget everything else. In this case I was looking at a bird (nothing very special--a great-tailed grackle flying overhead), forgot I was at the edge of the trail, stepped off and went down. Twisted my left ankle and sprained my left foot, knee, hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder and somehow my right shoulder as well. Hurt like a son of a gun. Lost my glasses (didn't realize they came off my head worrying about whether I did any serious damage to my body) and broke my camera (but that's why I buy inexpensive stuff--I do this on occasion.) Fortunately, no damage to my binoculars--that would have been a serious bummer.

Anyway, that cut short my birding trip as I couldn't use my left arm much at all and my right one hurt. Fortunately, one day later I am much improved, although I am not doing much that requires the use of my arms. Another couple of days and I should be 100% again, if I don't take another spill.

But back to the birds. At Lake Wichita Park I saw the following: scissor-tailed flycatcher, northern cardinal, blue jay, eastern phoebe, killdeer, chimney swift, mallard, American coot (this is early), yellow warbler, Mississippi kite, northern mockingbird, red-winged blackbird, American robin, great egret, barn swallow, mourning dove, white-winged dove.

I drove through Rosemont Cemetery on my way to the spillway, but nothing special--house finch, white-winged dove, scissor-tailed flycatcher and American robin.

At the spillway there were dozens of great-tailed grackle, looking rather ratty as they do at the end of the summer. In addition, there were house sparrows, Eurasian collared dove, killdeer, house finch, great egret, rock pigeon, red-tailed hawk, barn swallow, snowy egret, great blue heron and semipalmated sandpiper. The sandpipers always give me fits, but fortunately for me in this case, they were easy to see, a few flew and they were calling, making it easier to be certain of my ID. Thank goodness for Birds of North America (BNA) online--I could listen to recordings of the calls and compare to rule out the western sandpiper and positively ID the semipalmated.

A subscription to BNA isn't too expensive and if you are a member of the Texas Ornithological Society, you get a discount, making it an even better deal.

Good birding!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pretty Morning on Lake Wichita

This is one of my Saturday's at Wild Bird Rescue. One of the good things about late summer (other than the break in temperatures we're having right now) is that things are begining to slow down at the Rescue. That means I can go outside now and again to check out the birds on Lake Wichita. During the height of the summer season, there just isn't time to do that.

This morning I took about 15 minutes to walk down to the inlet adjacent to Wild Bird Rescue. In just those few minutes, I got to see a couple of immature Mississippi Kites (probably some of our releases), a great egret, great blue heron, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbirds, mallards, pigeons, mourning dove, Eurasian collared doves, white-winged dove, house sparrow, black-chinned hummingbird, snowy egret, and both an adult and immature yellow-crowned night-herons. The night-herons were not together. The immature was in the reeds along the shore line and the adult was a flyover.

Not bad for such a short time.

Good birding!

Friday, August 27, 2010

New Look

I got tired of the blog template I was using (just seemed a little blah) and decided to change it up. I like the rain in this template (probably because it has been so hot and dry lately) and hope you like it too. But let me know. I'm in the mood to experiment.

Good birding!

Consider eBird

I have kept track of my sightings for years. I have also moved around a lot.

My master life list was recorded in my copy of Clements' Birds of the World--a couple of years ago that book came up missing. I am hoping the next time I move, the book will miraculously reappear, since all of my European sightings are there. My nightmare is that it was in the trunk of the car I sold a few years back, and I didn't notice when I cleaned it out. I can't imagine why that thought has been bouncing around in my head for years, but it is a recurring nightmare. It has GOT to be in this house somewhere.

I keep my field notes in little notebooks I can carry around, and some of those are missing.

I tried AviSys, but when my computer hard drive died, so did my list.


I have been meaning to start using eBird for some time. My hope being that once the sightings are posted there, they cannot be lost. In addition, the information entered by birders is a source of information for many scientific studies.

eBird is another project of one of my favorite organizations, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. I am going to spend some time over the next several weeks going back through all of the notebooks I have and loading that information while inputting information from my current birding outings. Let's hope this eliminates my observation storage problem while contributing to the general knowledge about birds.

Good birding!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Article/Photos in Smithsonian

Interested in the history of the ivory-billed woodpecker. In this month's Smithsonian there is an article you can read online.

Good birding!

Want a Chance to Win a Bird Book?

I received an email today that Princeton University Press is having a drawing from those who "like" their Facebook page or fan them on Twitter.

The books they are giving away to some lucky folks who sign up are:

Birds of Western North America: A Photographic Guide
Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide

Princeton University Press publishes a lot of books of interest to naturalists and birders, so no hardship on me to sign up at their page.

The drawing is Friday, so sign up at one or both of their social media sites.

Good birding!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Morning In Lucy Park

Once fall arrives I try to bird Lucy Park every few weeks. Lucy Park is river bottom deciduous woodland and sometimes draws some excellent migrants. With TEXBIRDS reports of migrants heading through the area, I gave it a try today. It wasn't a fruitful morning, but even a poor morning birding is better than a morning doing most anything else.

I didn't see many different birds, but there were a lot of Mississippi Kites. Since we are having a good crop of dragonflies, the kites should be eating well. I saw several fledglings in the tree tops.

In addition to the Mississippi kites, birds seen/heard this morning included: blue jay, cardinal, mourning dove, white-winged dove, Eurasian collared doves, chickadees, European starling, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, mockingbird, great-tailed grackle, rock pigeon, robin, Canadian geese, and mallards.

Since I didn't see a lot of birds in the park, I drove through Riverside Cemetery. Not a lot of species there either, but again several Mississippi kites as well as hundreds of red-winged blackbirds and dozens of white-winged doves.

Good birding!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Interesting Articles on Painted Buntings and Titmice

Painted bunting photo courtesy of Doug Jenson, Wikimedia Commons.
Two wonderful little birds in our area are the Painted Bunting and Tufted Titmouse. The recent edition of the occasional Oklahoma Biological Survey Newsletter has interesting articles on each of these birds (as well as other topics.)

I had a talk with someone recently about painted buntings. Many people aren't aware of these colorful birds in our area because they inhabit the county, not the city. I have had a female at my feeders before in spring migration, but it was only for a day and she hightailed it out of town into the surrounding countryside. This is the time of year, the painted buntings are leaving us for their wintering grounds (see the article cited above).

We do get to keep the tufted titmouse all year around and we do have both the tufted and black-crested species. Whether we are in the hybridizatioin area mentioned in the newsletter article, I am not sure.
It's always a good birding day when seeing or hearing either of these birds.
By the way, if you're interested in receiving notice when the Oklahoma Biological Survey newsletter is published, you can email Amy Buthod at to be placed on the distribution list.
Good birding!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meeting

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club met at Wild Birds Unlimited (Smith's Gardentown) tonight and heard about some new products for bird lovers. Many thanks to Bill from Smith's for his time and interest.

A couple of the products I found most interesting were a new easy clean feeder with anti-microbial properties and well as a product called Feeder Fresh which is to help keep feed dry in the feeders. Both sound like good products to discourage molds and other noxious things that cause disease among birds. And anything that makes a feeder easier to clean is a good thing.

For those of us who buy large quantities of bird food each year, the Daily Savings Club may be an option to consider. I am generally opposed to things I have to pay to join, unless I am sure I can get all of my money back and then some. In this case, the Daily Savings Club is $25 annually but has many benefits. Stop by the store and look into it--whether it is a good deal for you depends upon how much feed you buy.

Bill gave out some samples of the no mess feed and bark butter to an appreciative bunch of birders. I know my samples will be put to good use.

Smiths is now an authorized dealer for Tilley hats--a great favorite of outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.

There are still some openings on the Costa Rica trip in November, so if you're interested, be sure to sign up soon.

Good birding!

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Birding Forum

There was a post on TEXBIRDS last week about a new North American Birders Forum.

Although created primarily for the more obsessive birder, there appears to be plenty of content for bird lovers of all levels of interest and knowledge. Take a look.

Good birding!

Thanks Readers

I like getting email from readers of this blog. Most are sending me more information about the subject of one of the posts.

Thanks to E.B. Hawley who publishes the Traveler Literary Gnome blog listed in the blog roll. She always has such beautiful pictures on her blog. She sent me a link to her pictures of turkey vultures on the blog, published a couple of years ago when she had a roost near her property. She was also kind enough to send me a very good article from the New York Times on purple martins. Although purple martins are leaving us now, this article is good inspiration for those who may want to set up martin houses in their yards next spring.

So keep that email coming!

Good birding!

Friday, August 13, 2010

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meets This Week--LOCATION CHANGE

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meets Tuesday, August 17, 7PM at Smith's Gardentown/Wild Birds Unlimited on Seymour Highway. I am not sure the topic of the program, but I am sure we'll get to see all of the new goodies at Wild Birds Unlimited. The group will also be planning their September club picnic.

If you're not a member of the club, come visit. It's a small, friendly group. You'll have a chance to learn more about birds and other wildlife, local birding spots and to meet area birders. The club publishes a monthly newsletter with news about local bird sightings and nature-realted events and happenings in the area.

Good birding!

Stalking the Elusive Turkey Vulture

For the past few weeks when I have been in the area of Kemp Blvd and Midwestern Parkway between 8:30 and 9:00 AM, I have seen large flocks of turkey vultures circling over the area near Barwise Junior High. Easily 30 - 50 birds in a flock. One morning there were 2 flocks circling the area.
Turkey vultures roost in groups. They are not active early and wait for the sun to start heating the atmosphere, creating updrafts in which they can soar all day. Wednesday AM I had a little time so decided to hang out in the Barwise Jr. High parking lot to see if I could refine a roost location. I got some funny looks from the adults with the girls' track team. Possibly because I got caught up in looking for the birds and was stopped in the middle of the parking lot instead of a defined parking space. I didn't notice until people started driving around me, giving me the evil eye.
I could see 3 vultures on the school's roof and noted a couple of birds launching from nearby trees off Maplewood and flying to Barwise around 8:30. Unfortunately, I had to leave for an appointment (work seems to interfere with my birdwatching waaaay too often) so wasn't able to tell much more.
Today I took the day off and headed out for the Maplewood/Barwise area around 8:30 and staked out the area around Hirschi Realtors, across the street from Barwise. There was a roost on the roof of Barwise. I counted as many as 16 turkey vultures perched where I could see them. However, this was not nearly all of the turkey vultures to be seen. As the air heated up, turkey vultures started launching themselves out of trees in the area, but the largest group came from an area northeast of that location, so it looks like I will be out on another surveillance Sunday AM. It appeared that the Barwise/Maplewood area was a "meet up" location before dispersing. If you have any ideas on the location of the second roost, please post a comment.
Good birding!

Purple Martins Released

We did find a purple martin colony with lots of birds on the outskirts of Wichita Falls and released three young into the flock. Of course, this morning, I saw a single purple martin perched on a wire outside Wild Bird Rescue's front door. Figures.

Good birding!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looking for A Purple Martin Roost

Photo courtesy of Dori, Wikimedia Commons.
Wild Bird Rescue has three fledgling purple martins to release. The colony at Wild Bird Rescue is usually the group we release in, but for whatever reason, the colony disappeared immediately after fledging their own young this year.

So we are looking for a roost. If you are aware of a roost in or near Wichita Falls, TX please call Wild Bird Rescue at 940-867-9761.
Good birding!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Earth's Cycle

Gardeners are highly attuned to the cycle of the seasons. So are birders.

I woke up earlier this week and thought, "It seems dark for this time of the morning." I had to check my clock to be sure it was my usual wake up time. It was; it's just the days are once again getting shorter. And fall migration season has started.

It seems we just finished talking about spring migration and now we're into fall. And that is true. Spring migration continues into May/June and Fall migration begins in July. The birds are constantly on the move.

The purple martins at Wild Bird Rescue fledged last week; I didn't see any purple martins yesterday while I was working there. I saw postings on OKBIRDS and TEXBIRDS about large martin roosts, which generally precede the birds' departure.

The fall migration is usually more drawn out, so we will have a chance to see birds for several months.

Good birding!

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Although the official thermometer in Wichita Falls (which must be in the shade) has not yet hit 100 degrees, it is HOT. Last I saw today, the official temperature was sitting at 99. We haven't had much rain, even with the clouds and showers that have popped up around the area all week. The birds need water.

If you have a birdbath, be sure to keep it full. Most bird baths are too deep for our song birds, so be sure to put some rocks in the bottom to make pools or very shallow places for the birds to stand or sit. I have a flat piece of rock propped on the edge that slants down to the center of the bird bath, and the birds often stand on it when drinking.

At this time of year, water is a no-fail way to get birds to your yard.

Good birding!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Double-crested Cormorants

Well, they're not supposed to be here in July, but there were two small flocks of double-crested cormorants at Lake Wichita on Sunday. They were on the pilings in the boat ramp and spillway areas. Of course, I was thinking I don't see them in the summer, but I didn't take a picture. They were too far off to get a good picture with my camera, but I should have made an attempt. I will go back to see if they are still there--probably not.

Good birding!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Do You Feed Birds in the Summer?

Photo by Jim Conrad, Wikimedia Common
I feed birds all year around, although I cut back substantially in the summer time, only keeping a couple of feeders going to attract birds to the yeard so I can see them.

It is just as important to keep your feeders clean in the summer as in the winter. We have been having doves (especially white-winged doves shown in the photo) coming in to Wild Bird Rescue extremely emaciated. We have checked for trich, but there is no sign. The best guess from the symptons is aflatoxin from a fungus that grows in seed when it is hot and humid--the perfect description of our weather over the past month. Although the humidity is starting to drop, it is still unusually humid for our area over the summer.

Store your bird seed in a clean, dry place if possible. Clean and disinfect your feeders weekly. This will help prevent aflatoxins and other diseases that pass from bird to bird.

Also, many of you are trying to attract hummingbirds. The sugar water mixtures we feed are very prone to breeding harmful bacteria, especially in the heat. Replace your nectar every three days. preferably before it develops a cloudy appearance. Clean and disinfect at least once a week. If you feel you are throwing away a lot of sugar water, mix only half as much at a time.

We all enjoy watching the birds in our yard. In return we should do our best to keep them healthy.

Good birding!

Save the Date: Texas Ornithological Society Meeting

An official "Save the Date" announcement was posted to TEXBIRDS this morning about the next TOS meeting, 13 - 16 Jan 2011.

I go mainly for the field trips; evening speakers include John Defillipo, Byron Stone, and Kenn Kaufman (I just bought Kenn Kaufman's field guide for my son-in-law for his birthday--don't tell him.)

Pencil date in. Registration information should be posted in November.

Good birding!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ornithological Society Meetings

Since Wichita Falls is so close to Oklahoma, I subscribe to the birding listserv for that state as well. A Save the Date message came out this AM that the Oklahoma Ornithological Society (OOS) Fall Meeting will be Oct 15 - 17 in Stillwater, OK.

Unfortunately, I will be just coming back from HR Southwest and just don't want to make a quick turn, although these sorts of meetings are normally informative, fun and inexpensive. Watch for details on the OOS website.

The next Texas Ornithological Society meeting is next January in Ft. Worth according to their website. They do have some good field trips coming up, however.

Good birding!

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meets Tonight

With vacation, the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meeting came up awfully fast. The meeting is tonight at 7 PM at the NALC building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley nursery.) No specific program topic was listed in the Cardinal newsletter, but there will be a short program, an opportunity to talk about sightings and some refreshments. The meeting is always open to the public. Come and meet some other bird watchers in the area. The group is small, friendly, and has birdwatchers from beginner to expert.

Good birding!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Last Post of Vacation

I got back last week from vacation and have had a few people ask me about the days after my last vacation post--I guess some folks do read this blog. Anyway, I did not have a single chance to go purposely birding the entire trip. However, in addition to the birds I posted previously, I did see a crested caracara in flight in Florida and a field full of ibis (both white and glossy) in Alabama. So although I didn't see a lot of birds, I did have the opportunity to see a few good ones. A fair number of red-tailed hawks were active along the roadways as well as large numbers of vultures, both turkey vultures and black vultures.

Since I got back, I have been avoiding the heat (heat indices over 100 are not my idea of nice weather). However, the birds out back have been singing away. The Bewick's wren was singing his heart out this AM. Don't forget to keep your water features full for the birds--they need the water when it is this hot.

Good birding!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Swift Night Out Coming Up

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, taken by National Park Service.
The Austin-based Driftwood Association is hosting a "Swift Night Out" the weekend of August 6, 7, 8. Chimney Swifts are among my favorite birds; our chimney swift tower at Wild Bird Rescue hosts a breeding pair every year.

The Swift Night Out is a project to collect information on chimney swifts. If you have some time, consider participating, especially if you are lucky enough to have a roost in your chimney.

Good birding!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I was sitting at a gas station on the Florida panhandle while my husband gassed up the car and saw a large flock (31) of crows fly in and land on the wires overhead. I noticed they looked a little bedraggled. However, the calls were what initially attracted my attention. In Wichita Falls, the only crow we have is the American crow, which has the stereotypical "caw" call we associate with crows. However, these were fish crows, which have a lower, softer "uh uh" sound. I used to see these crows frequently when I lived in Virginia, but this was flock was the first I have seen in many years.

Spent the night in Alabama--on to Houston today!

Good birding!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Just drove into Florida today. Three sandhill cranes at the side of the road. That was pretty exciting. Hope I get some birding time soon!

Good birding!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What's Up With This?

Eastern Bluebirds are generally birds of the countryside. For example, in Wichita Falls, you see them in the county but not inside the city, and the "city" isn't really all that urban. I have seen occasional bluebirds in Lake Wichita Park, but that is pretty much it.

We're on vacation and got stuck in a traffic jam in Atlanta (I-20 E, just outside the Loop 285) and decided to pull off as soon as possible and find a motel for the night. As my husband is checking in what do I see? I had to get out my binoculars to be sure, but there it was, a male Eastern Bluebird at the side of the road.

In addition to the bluebird, I saw a brown thrasher carrying food to its young. Two good birds for anywhere, seen in Altanta, GA.

Good birding!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Going on Vacation

Tomorrow my husband and I are leaving for a vacation, visiting North Carolina and Florida, so I look forward to birding en route. I will be sure to post any good birds. Ya'll watch the Texas birds for me.

Good birding!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Great Day at Wichita Moutains

Photo taken by Michael Male and used with permission from Wikimedia Commons.

My father-in-law visited over the weekend and my husband and I took him to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. My husband always wants to see elk, which rarely happens (and didn't this trip either), but we did see lots of buffalo, some white-tailed deer, prairie dogs, a wild turkey and of course, Texas longhorn cattle.

However, my best sighting of the day was a couple of black-capped vireos along one of the trails. The black-capped vireo is an endangered species and the Wichita Moutains is one of the few places you have a good chance of seeing one. I have actually seen one in Lake Wichita Lake park some years back, but that sighting wasn't accepted by the Texas Bird Records Committee (TBRC) since I was the only one who saw it, and I didn't have a camera. Wichita Falls is not considered a mecca for the bird. But the bird is distinctive enough I am satisfied I saw it, so that is the important thing.
I looked for the canyon wren at Quanah Parker Dam but no luck this time. I almost always hear one there at the very least, but not this time. I guess I shouldn't expect to see everything on every trip.
The weather, although hot, wasn't miserable. There was a fair amount of shade in many areas, and a good breeze atop Mount Scott, which is usual. A good day in the refuge topped off by beef ribs at Meers (hubby had his usual Meers burger and Dad got one of the 1/4 lb burgers.)
Good birding!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bluebird Symposium Coming Up

A few years ago, Wichita Falls hosted the Texas Bluebird Society Bluebird Symposium. I really enjoyed it. This year, the Symposium will be in Henderson, TX. Here is some information on the symposium in case you can make time to attend.

August 14, 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM

New Civic Center at Lake Forest Park

1006 Hwy 64, Henderson, TX

$10 registration includes lunch

Register by July 1 and receive 10 extra door pr1ze tickets

Special guest speakers Keith Kriedler and Greg Grant with information on woodpeckers and bluebirds. Other speakers as well.

Silent auction will provide funds for bluebird conservation projects. Also, anyone who signs up to watch 2 bluebird boxes, gets one free.
The registration form is available on the website.
Good birding!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baby Bird Photo #2

Photo courtesy of Wild Bird Rescue
Well, our ID challenge is giving people fits, so I am posting another photo in hopes that by providing more information, we can make a good identification in case we receive another, similar baby.
Good birding!

And You Think Adults Are Tough!

Photo courtesy of Wild Bird Rescue.

We've talked before about the challenges of bird identification. Immature birds present their own special challenges. Some look like their parents, and some not so much.

In the picture at left, Bob Lindsey from Wild Bird Rescue is holding a new "patient" at the center. It's important to know what bird we're dealing with to ensure its proper nutrition and care until release. This is a new one and we're not entirely sure what it is.

Any ideas?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Birding Trip to Costa Rica

Katherine at Wild Bird's Unlimited (Smith's Gardentown) sent me a flyer for a birding trip to Costa Rica she has arranged for November. I wish I could go--this is on my bucket list of birding places, but this year isn't in the cards.

The trip is 4 - 14 November. A deposit of $350 is required to make a reservation; the balance is due in August. Price per person (not including air fare) is $2495 (single)/$1975 (double). She can accept only 18 more people.

If interested, contact Katherine Smith at 940-733-2423. She'll send you the flyer as well as lists of birds you can expect to see at the various stops.

Good birding!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bird ID Is Tough

Even for those of us who bird regularly, bird identification can be tough. For those with little prior experience, it can be even more difficult. If they don't have experience, binoculars and/or field guides, all people have to rely on is their memory of birds they have seen on TV or in a magazine.

Many times people call, excited that they have found a really unusual bird. Other times they call because they see a bird that "looks like" a very unusual bird, but know that it cannot be what they think it is. Usually, they have found a fairly common bird--just one they haven't seen before and therefore, not one that pops into their minds.

Two examples to illustrate:
- There was a call there were birds that look like penguins building a nest in a tree. The person knew it was very unlikely this is what she had, but the markings looked like a penguin to her. It turned out to be a pair of yellow-crowned night herons. If you know your birds, then the confusion is hard to understand. But if you look at the aspects of the birds (both seem kind of hunched up and stumpy) and you haven't seen night herons, the coloring could lead you to think penguins, especially if the lighting wasn't the best.
- Received a call that there were a couple of bald eagles in a tree in my neighborhood. Well, in June, that is very unlikely, but if I missed a pair of bald eagles because I didn't go look, I would have been upset. I did not see any birds on the tree mentioned, but I did see two Mississippi Kites flying overhead. This is possibly the cause of the confusion. Although to an experienced birder, there is no resemblance between a bald eagle and a Mississippi kite, the fact is they are both raptor type birds and both have a pale head with a darker body. If you have seen both birds, you would recognize immediately the tremendous difference in body size, if nothing else. If you haven't then you might reach for "what hawk-like bird do I know of that has a pale head?" and come up with a bald eagle.

Sometimes, we are not understanding enough when people mis-ID birds. Heck, I have been a birder for most of my life and still make mistakes, even with binoculars, field guides, and a host of other tools. I am just glad that people noticed the birds and were interested enough to try to find out what bird they are seeing. Fortunately, most birders have "been there" and remember what it was like just starting out. The birding list servs are full of requests for ID help, sometimes spurring a lively debate.

So get out there and look for birds and don't worry about making mistakes. Start with a few common birds and work your way to some of the less common. You'll have fun regardless.

Good birding!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Raffle to Support Wild Bird Rescue

Wild Bird Rescue is raffling at 2009 Honda Rebel Motorcycle (MSRP $3999) to raise money. Tickets are $10--ONLY 500 will be sold. The drawing will be at United Market Street on June 5 (you do not have to be present to win) in conjunction with the baby shower.

Last year, Wild Bird Rescue cared for over 1000 injured and orphaned wild birds and provided education programs on birds to a host of audiences. Like all non-profits, Wild Bird Rescue is operating on a very thin budget and this is another attempt to raise funds to care for our local wild birds, like the four baby mockingbirds in the photo (courtesy of Wild Bird Rescue.)

If you would like a ticket, stop by Wild Bird Rescue at 4611 Lake Shore Drive or call 940-691-0828.

Good birding!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Love NPR

Great documentary on hummingbirds you can watch online. If you have a spare 50 minutes, learn more about these fascinating little birds.

Good birding!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer Birding

Sunday morning was very warm and muggy. When I went to Lake Wichita Park, the mosquitos were waiting. Fortunately, the breeze came up about 7:30, which helped keep the little bloodsuckers at bay for a little while. Then the wind died out and they were back with a vengence. Since I try not to wear bug spray too much (somehow spraying poison all over your body seems like a bad plan to me), I got a few bites. But most of my skin was covered. I do need to get a new supply of the non-DEET spray soon though.

The vegetation has really filled out, giving the birds lots of places to hide. If it weren't for the males singing to establish territories and attract mates, it would be very difficult to find the birds. Fortunately, they do.

In the summer, it is much more important to know the bird calls. The birds are easier to see in the winter and birds don't vocalize as much, so I tend to forget many of the calls and have to brush up every spring. But once you know the calls of at least some of the birds, a walk, even through areas of dense vegetation, can be a great birding morning. It is also fun to pick out the calls of baby birds--their calls are often quite different than the adults and very distinctive. Volunteering at Wild Bird Rescue in the summer provides a great opportunity to learn those calls.

Another good way to get better visibility on birds is by pishing. That is where birders stand and make silly noises to draw out the birds. I know there is at least one renowned birder who says this only works because birders actually stand still long enough for the birds to make an appearance, which they would have done without the pishing. I think that is Pete Dunne, but I wouldn't swear to it. While I agree pishing doesn't work for a lot of birds, I have found there are a few birds species that seem to find pishing irresistable--cardinals, spotted towhees, many sparrows, wrens, and a few others seem to pop out to see the goofy birders almost immediately. Sunday I managed to pull out a white-eyed vireo along the chat trail in Lake Wichita Park.

I heard a lot of yellow-billed cuckoos in the park yesterday. I saw one in flight--the rest were calling from the vegetation.

So to get the most out of your summer birding experience, learn the songs of the most common birds. You'll gradually expand your knowledge and enjoy birding even more.

Good birding!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Need Bird Pictures

American tree sparrow, From Wikipedia Commons, Dominic Sherony

I am finishing up my presentation about sparrows today for Tuesday's North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club meeting. I always have trouble finding good photos, since I am not a photographer myself.

I have been finding small caches of public domain photos, or photos that can be used with attribution (which of course, I would do), but some of the lesser known (or better termed, less spectacular) birds are difficult to find. I should have guessed wikipedia would have an answer. In the wikipedia commons, there are thousands of photos, free for use. That is where I found the photo above.

I also found today an open source of bird song recordings through a post on the OKBIRDS listserv. Thanks to all of those who share their work. I hope these photos will make this blog more interesting going forward. Who wouldn't want to be able to see the beautiful birds we're talking about?

Good birding!