Monday, August 29, 2011

Help Migrating Hummingbirds

Hummingbird migration has started and with the drought, the little guys will depend even more on our feeders than usual.Photo above is of a patient at Wild Bird Rescue, so you can see how tiny they are.

I had the opportunity to do a short interview for Channel 6 today to talk about the impact of the drought on hummingbirds in migration. The segment may air tomorrow, depending upon other news. If you get a chance to watch, don't tell me. I try never to watch myself on TV.

Anyway, that made me think this would be an ideal time to talk about hummingbirds. We have black-chinned hummingbirds and ruby-throated hummingbirds here in the summer. During migration in September and October, other species of hummingbird may pass through, although not in large numbers.

All birds use a lot of energy in migration--hummingbirds are no exception. They consume a lot of food to keep their energy levels high for the trip to central America. They eat primarily nectar in flowering plants as well as small insects. With the severe drought there is a scarcity of flowering plants and the insects have not been plentiful either. This year more than most, hummingbirds will need the extra food provided by those of us who hang out hummingbird feeders.

If you don't already have feeders out, this would be a good time. You can make your own sugar water cheaply by mixing 1 part cane sugar with 4 parts water and boiling. Let the sugar water cool and pour it into a clean feeder. It is important to keep the nectar clean. Usually, you should clean out the feeder every 3 days, but in this heat, you may need to change the sugar water daily. If you see any cloudiness then change the water right away.

Hang the feeder out of the sun and preferably where the birds have a view of the sky. For best results, place your feeder near other flowering plants (if you have any.)

Let's help these wonderful birds have a safe trip.

Good birding!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Donations for Wild Bird Rescue Garage Sale Being Taken Saturday

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.

Needless to say, operating expenses have been high. Insectivores and predatory birds are expensive to raise and Wild Bird Rescue is planning a garage sale to help raise funds. Volunteers will be taking donations this Saturday at 9:30 AM at the National Association of Letter Carriers building at 5310 Southwest Parkway. No clothing please.

The sale itself is September 17. So, please help the birds by donating items this weekend and by stopping by on the 17th and shopping.

For more information, call Wild Bird Rescue at 940-691-0828.

Good birding!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Big Year Movie Out October 14

OK, a movie about birders on a Big Year. Bound to be a comedy of course, with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black. I am probably going to have to go see it. If we can't laugh at ourselves....

Good birding!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sandpiper Migration Underway

Although we are still in the height of summer in terms of heat, fall migration has started and sandpipers are passing through on their way south. I decided to try to beat the heat yesterday morning and got out at 7:00 AM--84 degrees--to the chat trail in Lake Wichita Park. I walked to the barrow pit in hopes there would still be some water, and consequently some birds.

I make no bones about the fact that I find shorebird identification difficult. I have to have a good view for a long time to be sure of any but the most distinctive shorebirds, especially the peeps (the smallest of the sandpipers.) Fortunately, I got both.

The first was a spotted sandpiper, easily told by the distintive bobbing motion it makes as it walks along the shore line. The photo below (courtesy of Mike Baird, Wikimedia Commons) doesn't show the spots on the underside. I has a lot more difficulty with the two small peeps. I easily spent 20 minutes watching them and working with my field guide to identify the Baird's sandpiper. (Photo below courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.)

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.

Warblers are also beginning to come through on migration. I saw several yellow warblers along the trail and around the barrow pit (photo below from Wikimedia Commons.)

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.

Good birding!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Daily Savings Club at Wild Bird Unlimited

I'm not into selling things on this blog, but I know some of the readers are members of the Daily Savings Club at Wild Birds Unlimited, Smith's Gardentown. Well, this week they have double points for Savings Club members. If like me, you need to stock up on some seed, this would be a good week to go.

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.

Good birding!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Victor Emanuel Story in Texas Monthly

Texas Monthly has a very interesting profile on Austin bird lover Victor Emanuel that those who like to watch birds will enjoy.

Good birding!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review: The Atlas of Birds

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.

Good birding!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Swift Night Out

The Driftwood Wildlife Association hosts A Swift Night Out each year. The August Swift Night Out is scheduled for August 5, 6 and 7. Just locate a chimney swift roost, count the number of birds that enter at dusk and email the number to the Driftwood Wildlife Association.

A Swift Night Out is also scheduled for September 9, 10, 11.