Monday, April 26, 2010

Home Again

This past weekend I went to San Marcos, TX for the League of Women Voters of Texas state convention. Had a great time. The wildflowers were in bloom. I took a picture of the gaillardia (Indian blanket) at the left at one of the picnic areas along Hwy 281. While there, I watched a pair of Bewick's wrens in a very large yucca. The male was singing his heart out and had gotten the attention of a female.
As usual, I didn't have a chance to see many birds, but in addition to the black vulture sighting mentioned in the last post on the way down, I did see both a yellow-headed blackbird (Jack County) and an Eastern bluebird on my way back, in addition to the usual "road birds."
Good birding!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

San Marcos

I'm in San Marcos for the weekend. I drove down Hwy 281 again and the wildflowers were gorgeous. I got even more pictures and will post another one in a day or two.

Just around sun up on Friday in Archer County I saw a flock of about 10 - 12 black vultures feeding on a deer carcass in the field adjacent to the highway. I did stop and try to get a photo, but between the dark and the distance, I did not get a good picture, but I enjoyed the opportunity to watch them for a few minutes anyway. The "windows" at the wingtips were very obvious when the birds flew away.

Other than that, I haven't had a chance to bird at all....bummer.

Good birding!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On the Road Again

Yesterday, I went to Stephenville to make a presentation. I went HWY 281 to enjoy the wildflowers, which I did (see photo for an example).
I didn't get much of a birding opportunity at 70 mph, but I did see some black vultures in Jack and Palo Pinto counties and some wild turkeys in Jack County. I also saw my first great egret of the year in Archer County.
I stopped by Wild Bird Rescue and saw my first black-chinned hummingbird (a female) of the spring.
Tomorrow I am heading out to San Marcos for the weekend (no, not a birding trip.) I hope to see a few birds while tooling down the highway.
Good birding!

Monday, April 19, 2010

OK Ornithological Society Spring Meeting

The OK Ornithological Society will be having its spring meeting at Hackberry Flats April 30 - May 2. It's too bad I will be out of town (Lubbock that weekend.) I am not a member of the OOS, but the meeting is so close, I would definitely go if I was going to be in town.

The price is right ($30 for non-members) and it's a good chance to improve birding skills with more experienced birders and get to know some good birding spots.

For more information and to register, go to the OOS website.

Good birding!

Want to Learn More About Feathers?

Terry McKee will present a program about feathers at the monthly meeting of the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club, 7 PM, April 20 at the NALC Building on Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Landscaping.) The meeting is free and open to the public.

Good Birding!

Monday, April 12, 2010

American Pipits

Red Admiral Butterfly at Lake Wichita Park.

Sunday was a great birding morning. The weather was nearly perfect, the wind not too bad and there were plenty of birds to see.

I started on the chat trail in Lake Wichita Park, where the cedar waxwings were obviously massing in the willows. There were hundreds of waxwings, as well as good numbers of yellow-rumped warblers. All of them will be gone very soon, heading back to their nesting grounds in the north.

There were still quite a few winter ducks on the barrow pit. Northern shovelers, Bufflehead, Ruddy ducks, Blue-winged teal and American Coots were all on the water.

My best sighting at Lake Wichita Park was an American bittern flying through. I had a chance to watch him for several minutes soaring over the lake.

I was also amused to watch a male red-winged blackbird harass a turkey vulture. The blackbird pushed the vulture several times on his back, enough to cause the vulture to adjust his flight a few times. I wonder why he was so fired up over the vulture--unlike other birds of prey, the vulture isn't likely to bother the blackbirds. Probably testosterone (is it the same hormone in male birds as it is in male humans? Don't know.)

I decided I was having such a great morning, I would check out the Lake Wichita spillway, in case the egrets were back. No luck on egrets, but there was a flock of dozens of American pipit, which made the side trip more than worthwhile. Usually, if I see one pipit, it's a good morning.

My birding list for Sunday included (includes Lake Wichita Park, Lake Wichita Spillway and a couple from the drive between):

American bittern
American coot
American pipit
Barn swallow
Blue jay
Blue-winged teal
Brown-headed cowbird
Carolina wren
Cedar waxwing
Chimney swift
Cliff swallow
Common grackle
Double-crested cormorant
Eastern phoebe
Eurasian collared dove
European starling
Great blue heron
Great-tailed grackle
House sparrow
Lark sparrow
Mourning dove
Northern cardinal
Northern shoveler
Pied-billed grebe
Red-winged blackbird
Ring-billed gull
Rock pigeon
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Ruddy duck
Savannah sparrow
Scissor-tailed flycatcher
Song sparrow
Spotted towhee
Turkey vulture
White-crowned sparrow
White pelican
Wilson's snipe
Yellow-rumped warbler
Not bad for an hour and a half. In addition to the birds, I heard some frogs and saw several butterflies and caterpillars.
Good birding!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Purple Martins vs. European Starlings

Wild Bird Rescue has a Purple Martin house that has been very popular in years past. The trick is to allow the purple martins in while keeping house sparrows and starlings out.

Lila Arnold, one of the other rehabbers at Wild Bird Rescue, said she had been seeing house sparrows taking over some of the units, and asked if I would clean the nests out while I was here Saturday.

Sure enough, when I got here I could see three pair of martins checking out the apartments and I could also see a pair of house sparrows going in and out. I had my husband drop the house (my hands aren't strong enough to wrestle the pins--darned arthritis!) and pulled out a large house sparrow nest. I checked the other units and could see a few had the beginnings of purple martin nests.

Today I drove up to Wild Bird Rescue and there are at least 6 pairs of martins busily going in and out with nesting materials. I could also see a pair of house sparrows busily working away. At this point with the martins looking well established, I probably won't drop the house again. However, I thought about it when I saw a starling sitting on top of the house, as they can be very aggressive and have been reported to oust martins.

I think this group will be OK though. As I watched the starling, trying to decide what I should do, I noticed a couple of martins diving at him. One grabbed him and they fell to the ground, where they wrestled for a few seconds before the starling flew away, pursued by several of the martins. It appears they can take care of the starling interloper fine on their own. Bob Lindsay observed a similar mobbing on a starling last year.

I've been out since and it appears there are about 6 pair of martins and 2 pair of house sparrows in the unit. We'll see how it goes. If the house sparrows look like they are getting obnoxious, they'll have to go.

Good birding!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Gorgeous Morning on the Chat Trail

Sunday I walked from the chat trail to Murphy's Mound and back. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning and being Easter, the trails were relatively empty.

I was hoping to see some yellow-headed blackbirds, as it is just getting into the time frame they migrate through our area. I was also hoping to see some warblers as well. We don't always get what we want, but that doesn't mean we don't have a great time. No blackbirds and only yellow-rumped warblers. I went by Murphy's Mound to see swallows as they were numerous in that area last year. However, no luck on Sunday morning.

It sounds horrible to say "only" yellow-rumped warblers when they are such pretty birds. And there were dozens of them along the chat trail. However, they have been common over the winter and I was hoping for different sorts of warblers migrating through.

There were still some winter ducks and some winter sparrows, while some summer birds have returned (scissor-tailed flycatchers).

It was also a very good morning for frogs. I heard several cricket frogs and scared two bullfrogs into the drainage ditch.

My birding morning included: mockingbird, cardinal, great-tailed grackle, yellow-rumped warbler, Robin, Carolina wren, blue jay, rock pigeon, house sparrow, European starling, mallard, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, mourning dove, bufflehead, American coot, song sparrow, ruddy dick, Canada goose, killdeer, red-winged blackbird, pied-billed grebe, scissor-tailed flycatcher, northern shoveler, white-crowned sparrow, brown-headed cowbird, white pelican, northern harrier, turkey vulture, and double-crested cormorant.

Not a bad couple of hours.

Good birding!