Friday, December 30, 2011
You can follow the team's progress on Sunday by following me on Twitter (@birdwithpenny) or watching the feed on the home page of this blog.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
If interested, contact Jessie Berry at email@example.com.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
We had a good day on the Christmas Bird Count yesterday. It started out a little chilly with temperatures in the uppers 20's, but since there was no wind, it was a nice morning. It warmed into the low 50's by the afternoon.
We divide our count circle into thirds and have different groups cover each one in order to get good coverage of the area. I have the Lake Wichita area. Sue and Warren King and Elizabeth Hawley started the day with me, covering the area on foot from the spillway, along the dam, around the barrow pit and down the chat trail in Lake Wichita Park. The highlights from this section of the count were 3 rock wrens (I think the first rock wrens of a Christmas Bird Count in our area, although they have been sighted in the area before) and 10 wood ducks.
My chat trail and barrow pit let me down during the count. I have been having excellent results lately at both places. On the day of the count, although we had some decent birds, we didn't get the variety of ducks I have been seeing lately on the barrow pit, and we didn't get the numbers of species or birds I sometimes get on the trail. Oh well, if the birds were a sure thing, there wouldn't be nearly the challenge. We did see an albino Canada goose in a flock that flew overhead. Elizabeth Hawley got a good picture (see below.)
They then left for other activities, and I conducted the driving portion of the count, as well as Camp Stonewall Jackson near Holliday, TX. Stonewall Jackson is normally a great place for woodpeckers and the little birds like brown creepers, nuthatches, titmice and sparrows. It was pretty much a bust yesterday, except for some eastern bluebirds, which are very common there.
After 7 1/2 hours of birding, I went home to make dessert for the count supper. Jimmy and Jeannette Hoover were once again kind enough to open their home for a pot luck spaghetti dinner and compiling the count numbers from the three teams into one report. Katherine Smith of Smith's Gardentown Wild Birds Unlimited store donated goodie bags for the count participants--always nice to have more feeders to fill up (good marketing, Katherine!)
I am waiting for the official count results--I'll post them when I get them from the count compiler, Debra Halter. I imagine that will be later in the week.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I reported earlier today there was a TEXBIRDS report of a large flock of tundra swans out near Kamay. E.B.Hawley went in search of the birds and found them with several other neat birds. She sent me some pictures and gave me permission to post one of her photos here. Thanks, Elizabeth!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
My own favorite bird of the day was the hooded merganser (see photo left, from Malcolm on Wikimedia Commons.) These are just beautiful, elegant birds. We came across a small tank and counted 10 birds in the small flock.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I birded both Saturday and Sunday mornings this weekend. Yesterday was warm and sunny; today very cool and overcast.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Princeton University Press was once again nice enough to send me a new birding book for review. I have been out of town for a few weeks, so am just now getting the chance to take a careful look at the book, published November 2.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Audubon's Birding the Net has taken on a life of its own. Although I am getting the "have to do" work done, I am spending probably too much time birding in the virtual world. The only exercise there has been is my fingers hitting the keys on the keyboard. However, I have found some interesting web sites I wouldn't likely come across any other way such as http://florafaunafungi.com/.
Audubon seems to be trying to capitalize on the release of The Big Year movie with a social media game to encourage people to get interested in birding and to join the Audubon Society. Finding birds pretty much requires a twitter account, although there have been some bloggers consolidating the clues and putting them on their website, so that is another avenue. However, I don't know that this would allow a person to be timely enough getting the word to stay high in the rankings.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Today I decided to bird Lucy Park. I haven't been there in a while and it is a good habitat for warblers and sparrows. Although the woods were a little empty today, it was a great morning. The weather was clear and in the 60's.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Well, today was the opening of The Big Year, a movie about three birders and their quest to rack up the highest tally of bird species in a calendar year. Starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, I expected more of a slapstick comedy (and Ebert's review I read before going to the theater reinforced that expectation.) Fortunately, the movie was more substantial than that. Although a comedy, the movie was more in the vein of humorous than riotously funny--which made for a better movie in my opinion. One place I had to laugh was when a birder brought his new non-birding wife on a honeymoon trip to Attu. It was NOT what she was expecting. The funny part was how oblivious he was to what she would think of this trip of a lifetime. (A little similar to my conversation with my husband today about why I would want to go to the Galapagos Islands--see grand prize in Audubon's Birding the Net.)
Monday, October 10, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
Roadrunners sometimes sound like a little puppy whining to me.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
The Big Sit is ideal for those who can't (or just don't want to) walk far or for novice birders who would like to meet some more experienced birders and learn more about the birds in our area in a more relaxed environment. Bring a lawn chair, binoculars and drinks/snacks if you want them. You are welcome to bring your field guide although there will probably be a few there. Dress for the weather. Although it has been extremely hot and dry this year, the Big Sit has traditionally been cold, windy and wet in our location--and we will welcome that type of weather this year! Since we are on an exposed point on the shore, the wind is usually more brisk and the weather colder than it is at the house when you leave, so bring a jacket, even if you don't think you need one and dress in layers.
We meet shortly after sunrise and bird until we feel like stopping. People come and go, so there is no requirement to stay the entire time. This is as much a social event as a birding event. If you would like more information, contact Terry McKee at firstname.lastname@example.org or you're welcome to contact me at email@example.com.
I was very happy to see a little blue-gray gnatcatcher along the chat trail. I haven't seen a lot of these little guys in town, but when I do come across one, it is almost always along the chat trail. A little further along the trail, seven white-faced ibis flew over my head, calling, on their way to the barrow pit.
The barrow pit still has some pools of water, so there were birds, to include the usual peeps I couldn't positively identify. But as I was watching the white-faced ibis and black-necked stilts, a small flock of 11 American avocets circled the barrow pit and landed. They stayed for all of maybe two minutes before heading out to Lake Wichita. They are very pretty birds that migrate through in the spring and fall. In addition to the mallards, blue-winged teal and the redhead ducks that are usually there, a small group of 8 northen pintails were dabbling in one of the pools. It is a little bit earlier than usual to see these ducks, but not by a lot. They are such an elegant duck--one of my favorites.
Throughout my time in park, I kept hearing a red-tailed hawk in several locations. I didn't see him, but periodically heard him calling. On my way back to my truck I heard him again near the chat trail, so looked into some nearby trees to see if I could locate him. I checked out a tree based upon where it sounded like the call was coming from and saw what sure looked like a great horned owl. I couldn't see the head clearly, but the stocky build of the great horned owl is distinctive and not at all like the sleeker build of the red-tailed hawk. But I could hear the red-tailed hawk cry right in the same area. While I was trying to decide if I was trying to turn a red-tailed hawk into a great horned owl, the owl (seemingly irritated by the constant calling of the red-tail) flushed from the tree. A couple of seconds later, the red-tailed hawk flew in pursuit. All I have to say after being around both is that the red-tailed hawk had better hope the great horned owl didn't turn on him--he'd be toast.
The warblers are coming through with a few black-and-white warblers and several yellow warblers along the chat trail. I was also fortunate to get some good views of a hairy woodpecker (I've always wondered, why "hairy?"). There was also a single purple martin soaring overhead--I haven't seen any purple martins in a couple of weeks.
Before going home, I drove to the other side of Lake Wichita to the spillway to see if there was anything special there. With no water going over the spillway, I didn't expect much and didn't get it. A few snowy egret and a greater yellowlegs was about it, although there was a fairly good bunch of killdeer as well.
When I got back to the house, I was pleased to see some black-chinned hummingbirds at the feeder. I think anyone who has a stocked hummingbird feeder is going to see hummingbirds this fall.
Overall a good morning. I am looking forward to the Labor Day holiday. The weather is supposed to be much cooler with a cold front coming through. Fronts usually bring along a good bunch of migrants, so I plan to be out looking for them.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Wild Bird Rescue has taken in over 1000 wild birds so far this year. The drought has really hit wildlife hard. This year the center took in over 50 purple martins and over 80 Mississippi kites due to the heat and the lack of insects. Most of those birds have been released back into the wild, with many still in care. A dozen newly released Mississippi kites were circling over Wild Bird Rescue last weekend.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
The black-necked stilts are still present in decent numbers and easy to identify. There were also some blue-winged teal on the barrow pit.
I was sitting on one of the benches along the trail looking over the barrow pit. The stilts were unusually quiet. Then all of a sudden all of the birds starting making noise. When I looked up, there was a Cooper's Hawk flying over the water, probably looking for breakfast. A couple of killdeer flew up and mobbed him into the trees. I don't recall seeing shorebirds mob predators before, but obviously they do.
A little later, I was trying to identify a little Empid (no luck there) when I had the chance to watch two black-chinned hummingbirds chasing each other all over the area.
On the way back to my truck, I watched a pair of orchard orioles searching through the willows for bugs. All in all, a good morning.
Monday, August 15, 2011
I was just thinking this AM that I was going to have to go get some food--the gluttons are going through the seed. Even though I only have one feeder going right now, I have lots of visitors.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
I have been reading The Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior and Conservation, by Mike Unwin and published by Princeton University Press. Another "must have" bird book.
I admit, the book was not exactly what I expected when I ordered it--it's better. A compendium of interesting and useful information about birds throughout the world, with an emphasis on their conservation. Yes, there is lots of information about where the birds are--and in the illustrations it is easy to see why the rain forests of South America are so vital. You can also see at a glance those countries that have birds found no where else and see the areas identified as Important Bird Areas for conservation purposes.
The book also has information about the various bird families--what makes them unique. Especially interesting to me are the small vignettes of various species. Just two of the interesting facts in this book:
- A Ruppell's vulture was recorded over West Africa at a height of 7 miles, which makes it the high-altitude record holder for birds
- Swifts are almost entirely aerial, feeding, mating and even sleeping on the wing. A newly fledged swift will not reach breeding maturity for 3 years and may spend all of that time exclusively on wing.
In addition to a lot of interesting and useful facts and dozens of maps, the book is full of eye-catching photos.
This book is a winner for any birdwatching enthusiast. The price (softcover) is $22.95, although I did see you can get it from Amazon for $15.35.
Monday, August 1, 2011
A Swift Night Out is also scheduled for September 9, 10, 11.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Feather Our Nest Garage Sale
Saturday, September 17
8:00 AM - 2:00 PM
NALC Building, 5310 Southwest Parkway
This has been a big year for the organization. So far they have taken in over 800 birds and the year is barely half over. For more information about making a donation, please call 940-691-0828.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Eldon Sund will present a short program on loons. Light refreshments will be served. The meeting is free and open to the public. As always, members will share their sightings and other items of interest with the group.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Anyway, check out the post as I begin the effort to transform our new yard from standard suburbia to a wildlife-friendly landscape.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
If you don't have a water source for wildlife in your yard, please consider adding some sort of water feature to your yard. If you can't spend the money on a pond or birdbath, a shallow pan will work fine. If you have some sort of water feature in your yard, please keep it full. You'll be doing wildlife a favor and bringing the birds in so you can have the pleasure of watching them.
I came across a great blog post, "The Brain and Birds," by Richard Crossley, the author of The Crossley ID Guide. I posted a review of this book a few months back. As we bird more, we tend to pick up patterns we use to identify the birds and through repetition (whether seeing the bird in the field or reviewing birds in the field guides and reading articles about them) we help our brain make the information readily accessible.
Anyway, I thought is was an interesting post and wanted to share.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
When I first moved to Wichita Falls, there was a flock of crows that I saw most of the time near the entrance to the Tanglewood subdivision, but when the West Nile virus first began, the flock disappeared. I recently saw a few birds there again, so that is reassuring.
Crows are fascinating birds, more common in the county than the city.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I had such good sightings on Friday, I decided to go back to the barrow pit on Saturday morning. As I was getting out of my truck, I heard a belted kingfisher and was fortunate to be able to watch him fish successfully before he carried off two good sized minnows.
When I arrived at the barrow pit, I saw pretty much the same birds as the day before, which was good. But I didn't see anything different.
I was walking back down the chat trail when I saw a small group of ibis fly over. It appeared they were heading for the barrow pit. I very nearly kept walking to the truck, but convinced myself that if I missed a good look at the birds because I was lazy, it would be a sad day indeed. So I turned around and walked back to the barrow pit. Sure enough, there was a group of 4 white-faced ibis.
I realize you can't really tell which ibis these are from the photo--my little point and shoot camera doesn't zoom in too closely. However, it is easy to see by the shape and color they are ibis. Generally, most of the ibis seen in this area are the white-faced, although I rarely see the distinctive white at the base of the bill that all of the field guides show. I think they touch up the photos.
Overall, a nice morning sighting. The drought does seem to be concentrating the water birds as the ponds dry up. Although the sightings are nice, let's hope for some rain soon.
One of several groups of purple martin babies currently in the care of Wild Bird Rescue.
This has been a horrible year for purple martins in north Texas. The drought has had a severe effect on insect populations; consequently, birds that depend upon the insects for food are having a tough time of it. Especially noticeable is the impact upon purple martins.
I volunteer at Wild Bird Rescue and the purple martins have been brought in by the droves--most of which are emaciated and dehydrated. A friend brought in the last of her purple martin babies when the parents abandoned the colony. I haven't gone back to count, but literally dozens of baby martins were brought in over one weekend. We easily have 50 that have survived and are eating us out of house and home now. Purple martins are very expensive to raise because of their insect diet. They go through the mealworms. But at least they are fattening up and are looking much healthier than previously. Now if we can get them raised in time for them to leave with the older birds.
I noticed yesterday that the martin house at Wild Bird Rescue was very busy--today, there isn't a purple martin to be found. They usually mass here before taking off south, but it doesn't appear to be the case this year. Although it is a little early for the martins to leave, the food is scarce, so who knows? Have you been seeing the martins massing?
I hope our nest of chimney swifts are doing OK. I have been seeing one of the parents diving into the tower periodically. That's a good sign. I was talking to a couple recently, and they had a nest in their chimney and could hear the babies. But I imagine the lack of insects is having a similar effect on them.
Friday, June 24, 2011
I was surprised by some of the water birds I found. First there were about 2 dozen black-necked stilts. Although they are not unknown at this time of year, they are not common.
Little blue heron
Other birds seen this morning included: blue jay, white-winged dove, rock pigeon, mockingbird, cardinal, brown-headed cowbird, robin, Carolina wren, snowy egret, great blue heron, Mississippi kite, American coot, chimney swift, barn swallow, purple martin, mallard, scissor-tailed flycatcher, and western kingbird.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I saw the pictures from the last trip and talked to some of the folks who went, and it sounds like the birding trip of a lifetime.
Here's a link to the flyer with more information. You can also contact Katherine Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wish I was going.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Consequently, everything is turning brown, and you can see the leaves on the trees wilting in some cases--it won't be long before many trees begin dropping their leaves to conserve moisture.
The birds have also been laying low. Yes, parent birds are gathering food, but they are far less active than just a few weeks ago. By midafternoon, you hardly see any birds. I can't blame them; I don't want to be outside then either.
This is a miserable time of year to birdwatch. It has been 80 degrees at 6:00 am when it's time to walk with a friend and doesn't take long to hit 90 and later, 100 degrees. My husband set up my bird bath in our new yard and we've had some visitors. However, since there isn't a lot of cover yet around it, there haven't been as many birds as I would have thought with the hot weather. It will be fall before I can plant much and have any hope the plants will survive. For now, I'll keep the bird bath filled with water and plan for fall planting.
Friday, June 3, 2011
I recently received a new publication from Princeton University Press, Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer & Build, by Peter Goodfellow.