Friday, December 30, 2011

Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue

On January 1, I'll be out with other birders in Wichita and Archer counties looking for birds in a Big Day fundraiser to support Wild Bird Rescue. If you would like to donate, you can contact me at or donate on line at the Wild Bird Rescue website. Just indicate "Big Day" in the "purpose" block.

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.

Good birding!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Know Any Young Birders?

If you know any passionate young birders (high school age) who are thinking of a career in ornithology, they should check out the Young Birders Event at Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology. A week-long educational event held in August each year, this is a chance of a lifetime for young birders to see research in action.

If interested, contact Jessie Berry at

Good birding!

Bird Brain?

The more we learn about birds, the more we find they are not a dumb as the expression, "bird brain" infers. A new study shows that pigeons can not only count, but understand some abstract math concepts. Interesting article here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quanah CBC January 2

For those who would like to take part in a Christmas Bird Count but weren't able to make it to the Wichita Falls count, the Quanah CBC will be January 2. This CBC includes much of Hardeman Co and part of Jackson Co, OK. If you are interested in taking part, contact Steve Welborn at or Kurt Meizenzahl at

Good birding!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Bird Count December 17

Picture of me checking a sparrow ID during the CBC by E.B. Hawley.

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.

Good birding!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Attention Photographers!

The Clay County Pioneer Sentinel is running an outdoor photography contest. The deadline for entry is December 31. More information can be found here. I am sure some readers of this blog have some great photos to enter.

Good birding!

Tundra Swans in Wichita County

Photo (left) courtesy of E.B. Hawley.

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!

I am happy to know some people who are much better photographers than I (not that it would take much!) to help spice up this blog a little. I plan to try to get out to see them late this week. It will probably be Friday, so I hope they are still there.

Good birding!

Interesting Nest

I was at Lake Arrowhead State Park a couple of weeks ago and John Ferguson, Park Superintendent, took me to see some oriole nests in a tree near the fishing pier. One had fallen down; he let me take a picture of it. The nest is made primarily from fishing line. Birds are ingenious.

Good birding!

New Year's Big Day Planning Continues

Well, we are moving forward with plans for the Wild Bird Rescue Big Day fundraiser. We have a small team and some pledges, so the day will be a good one.

You can follow the team through the Wild Bird Rescue page on Facebook or by following the Twitter feed through @birdwithpenny, #WBRBigDay. If you don't have a Twitter account, no worries, as the feed is shown on the home page of this blog.

TEXBIRDS reported tundra swans out near Kamay this past weekend--hope they are still there when the Big Day comes around. For those who may wish to see these beautiful birds for themselves, they were reported to be on the west side of FM 2846, near the intersection with FM 1180. The observers counted 32 birds, which is a large number--they should be noticeable.

Good birding!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"You're So Hard to Shop For!"

My family always says, "You're so hard to shop for!" at Christmas time. They are getting better over time (and an Amazon wish list helps). However, for those of you who have birders on your Christmas list and just don't have a clue what to get them, let me give you a hand. I tackled this topic in a 2009 post and that one is still valid, but let me update it here.

First of all, just because the item has a bird on it, doesn't make it the perfect gift. I have received some truly horrid items because of this thought process. Your friend will appreciate the thought, but probably regift the item at the next Chinese gift exchange.

Next, consider the type of birder they are. How old are they? How long have they been birding? Are they a casual birdwatcher or a hard-core birder? There is something for everyone. I don't want to repeat the entire list from the previous year--you can click and read that--but here are some ideas.

Bird people love books and magazines. Even though we can find a lot of information on line and there are a lot of e-zines and blogs, most of us still love a good book and our favorite magazines, especially if they have lots of pretty pictures. I reviewed three good books earlier this year I would recommend: The Atlas of Birds, The Crossley ID Guide and Avian Architecture. If your birder is a more casual backyard birder, consider giving Birds and Blooms or Birdwatcher's Digest.

Consider purchasing a membership in some birding organizations. Some that have magazines associated with the membership include Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Birding Association. The ABA used to be rather snooty, but seems to be trying to reconnect with "regular" birders. These organizations do great things and at the same time, have magazines and programs that appeal to the more serious birder (Audubon reaches across the divide and has articles of interest to birders of all stripes.)

For the person who has everything, consider donating to a bird-related cause. Locally, Wild Bird Rescue would appreciate the support. Your friend may appreciate being a sponsor for one of the Avian Ambassadors, used for educational programs in the community. The Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) continues to expand its preserve network and a donation to the sanctuaries account would be appreciated. Unfortunately, they don't have any sanctuaries in our area, but I have visited some of the ones in east Texas and they truly are birding hot spots. In addition, our state parks are severely underfunded--many are wonderful birding spots. You might consider a donation to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation or to our own local Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park.

This year I am on a kick to redo my new yard with more drought-resistant plantings attractive to birds. Consider a gift certificate from a local nursery or a bird-friendly, native plant. Winter is an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs.

Between this post and the previous one linked above, you should be able to find lots of birding ideas for your birding friend that will fit any price range.

Good birding!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Year's Big Day Fundraiser for Wild Bird Rescue

A group of birders will be holding a Big Day event for Wichita and Archer Counties on January 1 as a fundraiser for Wild Bird Rescue. I will be one of the birders that day.

A team of local birders will be out from 7 AM to 7 PM to find as many bird species as possible. If the weather is good, expect a total count of between 70 - 80 species. A really excellent day could reach 90 species, but that would be truly exceptional. If the weather is bad, the totals may only be in the 40 - 50 species range. An ice storm event making the event unsafe, will cause the day to be moved to January 8. Otherwise, we go on New Year's Day.

Please support Wild Bird Rescue's rehabilitation and education programs by donating. You may choose to donate a flat amount or pledge an amount per species. You can call Wild Bird Rescue at 940-691-0828, drop off or mail a check to 4611 Lake Shore Dr., Wichita Falls, TX 76310 or donate online (indicate purpose as "Big Day") at

You'll be able to follow the progress of the team on the Big Day by following me on Twitter, @birdwithpenny or searching hashtag #WBRBigDay.

Wild Bird Rescue helped over 1100 birds last year, returning nearly 70% to the wild for our enjoyment. In addition, they provide educational programs to schools, the community and local groups at no charge. Help them by donating through this fundraiser.

Good birding!