Monday, March 29, 2010

Checking Nest Boxes

For many years, members of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club have maintained several blulebird nest boxes at Lake Arrowhead State Park. Many of those members are no longer able to keep up the work required, so long-time volunteer, Greg (pictured top) took me and Terry McKee out to show us where the boxes are located and begin training us how to maintain the boxes and keep the records.
We had a great time. The weather was gorgeous and it is still early enough that mosquitoes weren't a problem. We found several boxes with bluebird nests and a couple of the boxes had eggs (lower picture). Two of the boxes appeared to have attracted other cavity nesters (one looked like a wren's nest and one a flycatcher). Of course, there were also some with hornets and wasps and spiders. No snakes though.
Not all of the boxes are easily accessible, as my shredded pants and scratched up body prove, but that is probably a good thing. Out of the approximately 30 boxes the club maintains, 6 had been removed by vandals. The poles were still standing, but the boxes were gone. We'll be replacing the boxes and moving some of them to less noticeable locations. It is unfortunate that it is necessary--the boxes give visitors to the park good opportunity to see and photograph the bluebirds and other interesting birds.
While walking to check the boxes, we did hear some coyotes and barred owls near sundown. Terry and I also saw our first scissortailed flycatchers of the year and a small herd of deer. A great way to spend a few hours.
Good birding!

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Blog Added to Blog Roll

I added a link to another local blog, Traveler Literary Gnome. Elizabeth takes beautiful pictures and posts many to her blog. A good way to learn the local birds.

Good birding!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Interesting Article on Pronunciation of Bird Names

I just thought I would share this article. It's not uncommon for people to pronounce bird names differently--this is a resource on this topic.

Good birding!

Swainson Love or War?

Why is it that I often see really interesting things while driving, when I can't easily stop in time to get a good look?

I was driving the other day and caught a glimpse of two Swainson's hawks grappling and falling toward the ground. They broke apart and flew away just before reaching the ground. Neither appeared to be injured. Could it have been two birds establishing territory for nesting or was this some mating ritual?

I pulled up Birds of North America online, my usual source of information on all things about birds (especially relating to ID and behavior.) I did not find a reference to this specific behavior. The mating behavior described was not specifically as seen--that doesn't mean this wasn't what I saw. By the same token, Swainson's are not especially territorial, except immediately around a nest and then primarily against red-tailed hawks, not one another.

It's interesting to note that the Cornell All About Birds shows that Swainson's don't winter in our area--just another example that birds don't read the range maps. They are not in The Birds of North Central Texas checklist as common in the winter, but I have been seeing them fairly regularly the last couple of years--another bird changing its range?

Another mystery; another reason birding is always so interesting.

Good birding!

Good Morning for Woodpeckers at Lucy Park

Photo of rehabbing downy woodpecker courtesy of Wild Bird Rescue.

Sunday morning I decided to go to Lucy Park for my bird walk in hopes of seeing some spring migrants. That didn't pan out, but it was a good morning nonetheless, primarily because of the woodpeckers.

Lucy Park is a good place to see woodpeckers because of the large number of snags in the woodland. On Sunday, the birds were drumming and calling to establish territories, which made it easier to find them. I saw/heard several red-bellied woodpeckers and the downy woodpeckers seemed to be everywhere. A special treat were the yellow-shafted flickers. According to the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club checklist, The Birds of North Central Texas, flickers don't breed here, but they must do some pairing before heading north, because a couple were drumming and calling like mad.

I was watching a yellow-shafted flicker drumming and calling from a bare snag when a downy landed immediately below him. It must be a snag that has good noise-producing qualities. The downy was not able to convince the much larger flicker to leave, so he hopped over to an adjacent branch to start his own drumming.

I almost always see (or at least hear) the red-bellied woodpeckers in Lucy Park. I often see one or two downys. However, on Sunday I saw and heard numerous downys (at least 6) and as many or more red-bellied woodpeckers. I saw 3 flickers. I thought I saw a hairy woodpecker, but the distance was too far and the glimpse too brief to be absolutely certain.

Since I was having such a great woodpecker morning, I walked over to the duck pond where I have seen red-headed woodpeckers a few times in the last several months, but no luck this time. It would have been exciting to have seen them too, but I suppose I shouldn't be greedy and should be content to see them on another day.

Good birding!

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Meets Tomorrow

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club will meet Tuesday, March 16, 7:00 PM at the NALC Building, 5310 Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Landscaping).

Terry McKee will present a program on photographing birds. Light refreshments will be served. Bring your bird sitings and any other interesting items to share. Guest are always welcome.

Good birding!

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 State of the Birds Report

Last year's report was an eye-opener. So it this year's report, focused on the potential impact of climate change on bird populations.
There is really nothing I can say about the report that the report doesn't say for itself. There's a lot of information here.
Good birding!

New Additions to the Texas State Bird List

The Texas Bird Records Committee has added two species to the official state bird list: the Amazon Kingfisher and the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. Mark Lockwood, the Secretary of the Committee announced the additions on the TEXBIRDS list earlier this week. This brings the total number of species on the list to 636.

You can retrieve a full state list, to include the newest species a the TRBC site.

Good birding!

Missi's Mew

You'll recall I posted about Lila Arnold's efforts to raise $1500 for a mew to house Missi, the first educational bird for Wild Bird Rescue. We're about 1/3 of the way there.

To support the cause, Lila has started a blog about Missi, from Missi's point of view. You can read more at Missi's Mew.

Good birding!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Don't Forget the Wild Bird Rescue Celebrity Roast

The Wild Bird Rescue Celebrity Roast is Friday, March 26, 6:30 PM at the Multipupose Event Center.

This year's guest of honor is State Representative David Farabee. In addition to a nice meal and the roast, there will be both silent and live auctions. I have seen some of the items for the silent auction--good stuff!

Wild Bird Rescue depends upon donations--the baby birds will be coming soon and food bills are staggering.

If you don't already have your tickets to this event, call 940-691-0828. Tickets are $25 each or you can save by inviting your friends and buying a table of 8 for $175.

I'll make it even easier. If you call Wild Bird Rescue and purchase tickets, I will bring them to you if you live in Wichita County. Just tell Bob I am picking them up and give him your address (if you're hard to find, I suggest you also give him clear, idiot-proof directions and a phone number in case I get lost.) How much easier can it be?

In addition to the roast, Lila Arnold with Wild Bird Rescue is trying to raise $1500 to build an educational bird aviary. Our first education bird, Missi, is a one-eyed Mississippi kite and will have to be moved outside soon so we can use the inside aviaries for our babies. Missi has been in training all winter and is ready to start visiting schools to provide education programs. But she needs a nice, roomy home. If you can help, contact Wild Bird Rescue.

Good birding!

Spring Birds Arriving

As mentioned on the 8th, the first purple martin scout was reported a few days ago. I understand from Bob at Wild Bird Rescue that they have arrived there and were fussing to have the house opened.

I saw my first turkey vulture of the spring in Wichita Falls today and I saw my first barn swallow on I-44 between Wichita Falls and Lawton, OK this afternoon.

Good birding!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Purple Martin Scouts Arrive in Wichita Falls

I got an email from Terry McKee that her first purple martin scout was checking out her martin house. I called Bob Lindsay at Wild Bird Rescue to pass the word so he can put up the martin house there.

Now the battle is on to be sure the martin house is not overrun with house sparrows and starlings before the purple martins become established.

Let's hope the martins have an easier time raising their young this year--last year saw a lot of fatalities.

Good birding!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beautiful Weekend, Wet Monday

You'd know that since I had to spend most of the weekend inside, the weather would be gorgeous. However, the Home and Garden Show was a treat. I very much enjoyed attending the program, "Uncommon Facts About Common Backyard Birds," by John Schaust, Chief Naturalist for Wild Birds Unlimited. What a job!

Anyway, John took the top 20 feeder birds from this region as reported in Project Feederwatch and gave some interesting information about each. Here are a couple of things I learned I didn't know:

- The change in the starling's plumage from winter spots to summer brown is not due to a molt, but rather is a result of breaking off the white tips of small protrusions on the feathers. He said this is also a reason for male cardinals becoming brighter red in the spring.
- Blue jays (as well as blue birds and indigo buntings) are not blue. They are gray. It is the refraction of the light in the feathers that make them appear blue.
- Flocks of juncos are highly segregated by sex in the winter, with the predominantly female flocks migrating further south than the predominantly male flocks.
- The longest lived wild bird in the US (other than pelagic birds) is the mourning dove at 31 years.

I always enjoy listening to others; it is always a joy to learn new things about these fascinating creatures. I did not have a chance to attend John's other presentation on hummingbirds--I am sure it was just as interesting.

Good birding!