Thursday, January 28, 2010

Issuing Life Preservers

We're getting a little rain today. It has been raining steadily all day. The first picture is at the side of my house. I just took a shot straight down at my feet coming back from refilling the feeders to show what the birds are having to contend with in their search for food on the ground. I am getting ready to issue little life preservers.
The second picture is our front yard.
Large numbers of birds have cleaned out my feeders today. I am not having more types of birds, but the regular ones are arriving in droves. We have a winter storm warning for ice tonight, with a projected accumulation of 1/4 - 1/2 inch--as much as 3/4 inch on the north side of the Red River. The temperature has already dropped to 32 degrees, so the weather forecasters may be correct. Given the frenzy at the feeders, I daresay the birds are expecting bad weather.
I'm planning to make a big pot of soup tonight.
Good birding!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Local Bird Checklist

I got an email from Bob at Wild Bird Rescue that an Eagle Scout was looking for a list of all of the birds in the local area. I mailed the young man a copy of "The Birds of North Central Texas," published by the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club.

Unfortunately, I am not aware of an electronic copy, but the club does have copies available at their meetings and occasionally at bird-related presentations at River Bend Nature Center. Every member of the local organization gets a copy of the checklist when they join along with a monthly newsletter of local sitings and reports of bird-related trips and educational opportunities--a deal at $5 per year dues.
The checklist is an excellent resource; I use it frequently.

Good birding!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Busy Morning at the Feeders

We had a thunderstorm last evening with some short-lived, but heavy rain. I decided to go to Lucy Park this morning for my walk. It was cloudy and in the 40's; and there was a little sprinkle of rain, but not enough to keep me home. It wasn't a great birding morning; but neither was it terrible. The birds I saw/heard this morning included: tufted titmouse, blue jay, cardinal, mockingbird, slate-colored junco, yellow-rumped warbler, red-bellied woodpecker, northern flicker, Canada goose, mallard, starling, white-winged dove, cedar waxwing and rock pigeon.

I went by Wild Bird Rescue and noted a flock of about 30 coots on the cove. Since I have been home, the feeders have been active with cardinal, junco, house sparrow, house finch, white-winged dove, goldfinch, spotted towhee and Harris' sparrow.

Like I said, not a bad morning overall. But even a bad morning would be better than a morning doing almost anything else.

Good birding!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count Coming Up

The Great Backyard Bird Count is February 12 - 15. This is a great opportunity to get out, see birds, and add to our knowledge of bird populations.
I usually go to a different city park each day and upload the results. Terry McKee gave a presentation at the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club this week about the GBBC and asked everyone to try to go several places in the county during this 4-day period, so I will try to hit some additional places this year.
If you have never done a count and would like to meet some other birders to learn the ropes, consider coming out behind Wild Bird Rescue (4611 Lake Shore Drive) on February 14 for a little while beginning at 7:30 AM. We'll have a group of people out there for a couple of hours anyway. You can spend as little or as much time as you wish. This is the same place as the Big Sit in October. Bring chairs and your binoculars and dress warmly! There is usually a breeze coming off Lake Wichita, so it feels colder than the thermometer says.
Good birding!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bluebird Trail

For several years, members of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club have maintained blue bird trails at Lake Arrowhead State Park and the State Hospital grounds. Greg Mucciollo has borne the brunt of the work for the past couple of years. Recently, he reported birds that fledged from the boxes at Lake Arrowhead:

Although three nests failed to fledge due to high temperatures, the following birds did fledge from the boxes provided:

Eastern Bluebirds: 34
Bewick's Wren: 23
Ash-throated Flycatcher: 15
Carolina Chickadee: 4
Tufted Titmouse: 4
Screech Owl: 4
Burrowing Owl (outside of the park): 4

Even if you are not in a good place for bluebirds, you can help other cavity nesters by hanging a bluebird box. You can find out more at the Texas Bluebird Society website.

Good birding!

Thousands of Sandhill Cranes

Many thanks to Elizabeth Hawley for allowing me to share her photos of a large flock of sandhill cranes she saw at a farm along Petersen Rd earlier this month. To get a good look, just click on the photo to enlarge.
What a treasure thesse elegant birds are!
Good birding!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meets January 19

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club will meet Tuesday, January 19 at 7 PM at the NALC Building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Nursery.)

Terry McKee will present a program on the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count.

Good birding!

Foggy Morning on Lake Wichita

It was a foggy morning at Lake Wichita this morning. It was still a good morning for birds, although I probably missed some due to visibility.
When I left the house, I thought the wet was just fog, but overnight some of the fog had coalesced into ice on the truck and trees. You can see a little bit of frost on the ground. The bridge had a light film of ice. The ice was beginning to melt by 8 AM.
Among the birds seen: white-crowned sparrow, ring-billed gull, Harris' sparrow, red-tailed hawk, Cooper's hawk, mockingbird, downy woodpecker, ruddy duck, mallard, northern shoveler, pied-billed grebe, American coot, cardinal, bufflehead, red-winged blackbird, Canada goose, blue jay, starling, slate-colored junco, song sparrow, great-tailed grackle, Eastern phoebe, and Eurasian collared dove.
Good birding!

Spring is on the Way!

It may not seem like it, but Spring is coming soon. When I went outside this morning, a male cardinal was singing a territorial breeding song. This is the first I have heard this year. It won't be long before birds will be building nests. Last year, Wild Bird Rescue had its first baby bird in January.

Good birding!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Keep Feeders and Feeding Areas Clean

When you feed birds, it is important to keep feeders and the ground around the feeders clean.

Feeders should be cleaned no less than every other week (I would suggest making it a weekly chore). Wash them thoroughly with hot, soapy water and allow to air dry before refilling.

You can reduce the mess under your feeder (this is under one of my sunflower feeders after just a couple of days) by feeding seeds without the hulls. This is more expensive per pound in the bag, but considering the weight of the hulls on the ground and the chore of cleaning up, the extra cost is probably worth it. However, as much as I feed, I have always felt the birds should have to do some of the work by shelling their own seeds. Seeds on the ground under the feeders get wet and moldy, and not good for the birds.

Around January I'll begin getting calls from people who tell me they have a bird (usually a dove) who monopolizes a feeder and eats constantly. We will also get emaciated birds people bring in that they insist have been eating like pigs, but just fell to the ground. We will also start getting calls from people asking about blind birds (usually finches) at their feeders.

These birds have trich (doves) or conjunctivitis (finches). These are common, highly contagious diseases that are spread by contact, often with feeders and food the infected birds have been around. This is the reason it is so important to clean your feeders and feeding areas. If you have an outbreak of trich or conjunctivitis, take your feeders down and clean them thoroughly (in this circumstance, I would also rinse in bleach water, allow to dry and then rinse in clean water), clean up the area, and do not rehang the feeders for 10 days. This will allow the diseased birds to die off and not reinfect your feeders as soon as you rehang them. This seems cold-hearted, but is necessary to keep infection from spreading.

Enjoy feeding your backard birds, but keep the area clean.

Good birding!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Spotted Towhees

I have had a female spotted towhee at my feeders for several weeks. Yesterday a male showed up for the first time. My resident wasn't happy. She chased him all over the side yard and the field next to the house every time he came near a feeder. She seemed to get used to him later in the day and allowed him to eat, as long as he didn't get too near to her. She has not been at all aggressive against birds of other species at the feeders--wonder if the male committed some towhee faux pax.

Good birding!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Weather Forecasting

Even if I hadn't heard the weather forecast for tomorrow, I would bet good money that the weather will be taking a turn for the worse. My feeders are jam packed today.

The birds seem to know when bad weather is coming. Although I have had good numbers of birds for the past several days, the demeanor of the birds today is decidedly different. They are more frenzied and if there is food, they are staying put. No waiting in line politely--no, if one bird seems to be staying too long, another is pushing it aside to get to the goodies. The only time my feeders have been empty was when the big black tom stray settled in under the cedar tree. Even then, the only feeders that emptied out were those under that tree--just a few feet away, the birds were still stuffing their faces. I had to go out to refill one feeder in the back earlier, and I will have to go do all of the feeders on the side of the house before dark.

According to the weather forecast, we are expecting bitterly cold weather for this area with possible ice. It is 60 degrees right now--high of 25 the next two days with night temps in the single digits. Keep the food and water going.

Good birding!

PBS Program on Hummingbirds

KERA's schedule shows a program on hummingbirds Sunday, January 10 at 7 PM.

Good birding!