Monday, September 26, 2011

Last Week to Sign Up for Costa Rica Tour

This is the last week to sign up for the Wild Birds Unlimited (Smith's Gardentown) Costa Rica tour. I didn't make the tour last year since I had already taken a big trip in 2010, but I heard about it from some other folks and was jealous. They saw some great birds. This year the trip is scheduled during the time my first grand baby is due. As much as I love birdwatching, the grand baby comes first. Maybe next time.

But if you are interested in making the trip, the deadline to sign up is September 30.

Good birding!

Inca Dove

Inca Dove photo courtesy of Clinton and Charles Robertson.

Overall, the yard at our new house isn't very birdy--there isn't much in the way of understory right now. However, one of the nice surprises has been the pair of Inca dove that appear in my yard regularly. I usually don't see them, just hear the distinctive sound of their wings as they take off when I come out of the house. This morning though as I was sipping my tea on the back porch, I was able to watch the doves during the breakfast feeding frenzy at the feeder. The Inca's seem to come in before and after the masses of white-winged dove.

We in Wichita Falls, TX are just about as far north as the dove occurs--they are very sensitive to cold weather. Although the doves don't seem as common here as they used to be (purely anecdotal), they are expanding their range, according to Birds of North America Online. They seem to prefer to live around people. The species account in BNA (available only with a subscription) tells a lot of interesting facts about these doves. I was aware of their pyramid roosting to combat cold, but I did not know their metabolic rate is about 20% less than most passerines, which seems to help them cope with the hot environments in which they live and would indicate why they might be more sensitive to cold.

Such a sweet little dove--I hope you are able to enjoy them in your yard too.

Good birding!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Birding Organizations

Many birders belong to one or more organizations devoted to the conservation and/or enjoyment of birds. I came across a column through a twitter post that has some good pointers for deciding which birding organizations to join. After all, we all only have so much discretionary income. Birding organizations not only support the study and conservation of birds but are a good source of interesting information about birds and connections with other birders, who can help us learn to be a better birder.

I agree with many of the points made in the article and realize no article can list every worthwhile organization. Personally, I have been a member of both the Audubon Society and of the American Birding Association. They have fallen by the wayside as part of budget tightening. However, I do have a lifetime membership in the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) and have been a member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for many years. I like the TOS because of its local focus and the sanctuaries (although over focused in east Texas). I like Cornell primarily because of all of the citizen science projects. For regular readers, you know I am involved with Wild Bird Rescue and the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club in Wichita Falls.

What birding organizations do you belong to and why?

Good birding!

Could Use Some Help with Bird ID

This small hawk came into Wild Bird Rescue as a newly hatched chick and I haven't been confident enough to ID him. Anyone have any ideas?

Good birding!

Winter Waterfowl Coming In

With cooler weather and a little rain, plants are starting to bloom and the insects are coming out. I haven't been bitten by a mosquito but once the entire summer until this past week, and they have been making up for lost time. Fortunately, the cooler mornings do keep the mosquitoes down to tolerable level. The monarch butterflies are migrating through and seem to enjoy the sunflowers.

This morning I saw my first white pelicans on Lake Wichita--two rafts of approximately 50 birds altogether. I also saw some American coots and American wigeon on the barrow pit, in addition to some northern pintails that have been there most of the time for the past couple of weeks. A pied-billed grebe was also grooming itself along the reeds. I am glad to see a little more water in the barrow pit; hopefully that will mean more ducks.

I ran across a small flock of clay-colored sparrows in the weedy area on the south side, between the barrow pit and Lake Wichita. A belted kingfisher flew over my head on the chat trail. Overall a good morning.

Good birding!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Signed Up for Project Feederwatch?

Project Feederwatch season starts November 12. I have been participating for several years. The Lab of Ornithology is getting ready to mail out the participation kits, so if you want to take part, sign up now. If you wait, you may not get your kit until after the beginning of the season.

Project Feederwatch is a good way to combine your birdwatching hobby with contributing to the knowledge of birds. It doesn't require a lot of time and you don't have to be an expert birder. You just watch the birds at your feeder and update the information.

Check out the website. If you want to ask questions, feel free to post here in the comments section or email

Good birding!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Roadrunner Song

Went out birding for a little while this morning. There were about 30 greater yellowlegs on the barrow pit. My best sighting was a yellow-billed cuckoo, although the Loggerhead shrike was also nice. Otherwise uneventful. However, Burr Williams of the Sibley Nature Center shared a short little video of a roadrunner singing on Facebook. I thought others might enjoy it.

Roadrunners sometimes sound like a little puppy whining to me.

Good birding!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Big Sit--October 9

The annual Wichita Falls Big Sit is scheduled for October 9 on "the penninsula" overlooking Lake Wichita behind Wild Bird Rescue, 4611 Lake Shore Drive. Although traditionally the Big Sit is a 24-hour event, the Wichita Falls birders are far more laid back about the whole thing and usually bird for 2 - 4 hours, depending upon the weather and the birds.

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 or you're welcome to contact me at

The Hawk and the Owl

Saturday morning I decided to see what the chat trail and barrow pit at Lake Wichita Park would turn up with migration underway. The weather was a muggy but bearable mid 80's, ahead of a cold front and cooler weather (hallelujah!)

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.

Good birding!