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!