Monday, February 27, 2012

Birding Walks Begin at Lake Arrowhead State Park

The Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) has started a campaign to help increase attendance at Texas State Parks by their Invade State Parks initiative. Basically, members of TOS host birding field trips and encourage other TOS members and the public to attend.

The first bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park is Saturday, March 10, beginning at 8:00 AM at the firewood shed (dump station). I will be leading the walk. I picked this area of the park because of the habitat. We should have good viewings of sparrows and water birds. The walk will be about an hour and encompass about a half mile. However, if there are enough people interested, I will be happy to continue birding with anyone interested for another hour or so in other areas of the park.

There is a $3 entry fee to the park, unless you have a Park Pass.

Good birding!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Become a Bluebird Buddy!

The Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park are supporting the bluebirds at Lake Arrowhead State Park. You can too by becoming a Bluebird Buddy. For $50 a year you, your family or a group can sponsor a bluebird nest box at Lake Arrowhead State Park.

Bluebird buddies will have a plaque with their name affixed to one of the bluebird boxes and receive updates on the nesting status of their box.

For more information, call LASP at 940-528-2211. If you want a sponsor form, email me at and I'll be happy to send  you one. Wild Bird Rescue is sponsoring a box. So am I. I hope you will too.

Good birding!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review: Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives (2nd Edition)

Princeton University Press sent me a review copy of Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives (2nd Edition). What a beautiful book.

Since I was a child, reading Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, I have wanted to go to India. I haven't made it yet, but if I ever get to go, this book will be in my suitcase, even if something else has to be left out.

This book has 226 color plates, showing 1,375 species--all residents, migrants and vagrants. What makes the guide especially useful is that the species descriptions and maps are directly across from the color plate. Considering the number of species represented, this is a very compact field guide.

Richard Grimmett is head of conservation at BirdLife International. Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp are freelance wildlife consultants.

This book is $39.50 from Princeton University Press. It shows up for $26.07 on Amazon.

Looking through the book has me ready to pack my bags and go!

Good birding!

Great Backyard Bird Count at Lake Wichita

I  missed the first two days of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) due to a work trip, but hit Lake Wichita first thing this morning. Six of us met on the shore of Lake Wichita behind Wild Bird Rescue and birded from 7:30 - 9:00 AM. You can see  by the photo at the left that conditions were not the best, with dense fog. However, the fog burned off between 8 and 8:30.

Our beaver friend that is often in the cove for the various counts in this location was doing laps across the area when Elizabeth Hawley and I arrived at 7:30. Unfortunately, everyone else missed him. I believe Elizabeth got some good photos though.

The GBBC protocol is to count the largest number of each species seen at one time. For Lake Wichita behind Wild Bird Rescue the count was (listed in the order seen):

White pelican, 39
Ring-necked duck, 3
Mallard, 5
American coot, 4
Red-winged blackbird, 14
Northern cardinal, 1
Ring-billed gull, 32
European starling, 6
Great blue heron, 3
Bufflehead, 2
Wren sp (was fussing in the reeds--we couldn't make a positive ID)
Canada goose, 4
Pied-billed grebe, 3
Blue jay, 1
Common goldeneye, 1
Cedar waxwing, 15
Ruddy duck, 6
Red-tailed hawk, 1
Robin, 1
American crow, 1
Eurasian collared dove, 1
Downy woodpecker, 1
Killdeer, 2
Great-tailed grackle, 3
House sparrow, 5
Double-crested cormorant, 3

During the count, we had a sweet little spaniel escapee show up. Fortunately, little Ben had a tag with his name and his owner's name and phone number. We crated him and when we finished the count, I took him home. He had taken advantage of the wet weather to dig out of his back yard.

After returning Ben to his home, I went on to Lake Wichita Park on my own to bird the chat trail and the barrow pit from 9:15 - 10:20 AM. My count was:

Eurasian collared dove, 9
Eastern meadowlark, 2
European starling, 3
Double-crested cormorant, 6
American robin, 5
Mourning dove, 1
White-winged dove, 13
Blue jay, 1
Great-tailed grackle, 1
Northern cardinal, 3
Northern flicker, 2
Downy woodpecker, 1
Carolina chickadee, 2
White-crowned sparrow, 9
American goldfinch, 4
Red-winged blackbird, 3
Pied-billed grebe, 1
American coot, 10
Northern shoveler, 23
White pelican, 36
Killdeer, 2
Turkey vulture, 1
Ring-billed gull, 1
Great blue heron, 1
Spotted towhee, 1
Harris' sparrow, 4
Fox sparrow, 1

I watched 5 shovelers swimming together, bobbing their heads and making soft clucking sounds. I was very happy to see the Harris' sparrows as I haven't seen many of them this winter.

Altogether, 38 species for the two short counts--not bad. 

For the rest of the day I am going to watch my feeders for Project Feederwatch and then tomorrow I plan to take the morning off work and do a GBBC count at Lucy Park.

If you haven't already, spend some time outside and watch the birds.

Good birding!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend

Snowy Owl photo copyright Ian Davies

The 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) runs 17 - 20 February. Although we won't be seeing the snowy owl in our area (there have been some sightings in OK this year though), there are still plenty of good birds out there to see.

The GBBC is another citizen science project in which all of us can help contribute to our knowledge of birds. This is a super project for home schoolers or those who just want to get out of the house and enjoy nature for a little while.

To participate, watch and record birds for a minimum of 15 minutes and upload your counts at the GBBC website.  The website has an instructional video and other helpful information to get started. You don't have to be a birding expert and you don't have to know all of the birds (you just indicate in your checklist that there were birds you couldn't identify.)

If you want to have the opportunity to take part as part of a group, then head for Lake Arrowhead State Park at 9:00 AM on Saturday, February 18. There is a $3 admission fee at the gate. The folks at the gate can direct you to the right place.

If Saturday isn't a good day for you, consider coming out to Wild Bird Rescue on Sunday, February 19 at 7:30 AM. I'll have my scope, and we'll be counting there for an hour or so, depending upon the weather and the birds.

Unfortunately, I'll be out of town  until Saturday evening, but plan to bird multiple locations on Sunday and Monday. If you want to go with or meet up with me, send an email to and we'll plan a count.

Last year participants sent in 92,000 checklists with 11 million observations. Observers in Wichita Falls submitted 15 checklists, documenting 75 species. We can do better, I'm sure. Right now, the weather is predicted to be pretty nice, so get outdoors and enjoy it!

Good birding!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review: Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America

I recently had the opportunity to read one of the newest bird books from Princeton University Press, Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America: A Photographic Guide, by Steve N.G. Howell. 

I've been traveling quite a bit lately (more to follow on that), so didn't get to the book as soon as I would have liked, but I am glad I finally did get to take a look.

Here in north central Texas we don't have the opportunity to see these majestic birds. However, cruising seems to be the rage for vacations, and out at sea is the best opportunity to see these birds.

I loved this book. Petrels, albatrosses and storm-petrels are among the least-known of the world's birds as they live at sea, far from the sight of most people. Additionally, their white, gray and black plumage make them difficult to see against the sky and ocean.  This photographic guide combines detailed species summaries, focusing primarily on distribution and identification, with hundreds of pictures of the birds in various plumages.

I found the Introduction (Field Identification of Tubenoses) to be fascinating. Although focused on identification, this chapter has a lot of interesting information about this family of birds, from taxonomy to conservation to information about the ocean these birds depend upon.

This hefty book is not a "field guide" you can fit in your pocket, but I think I would find a way to get it into my suitcase if I was going on a trip where I would have a chance to see these birds. This in one of the better specialized books I have come across. If you're interested in these birds, this is a good choice. Priced at $45 from Princeton University Press, or $29.70 on Amazon.

Good birding!