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."