Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Creating a Bird Garden

When we moved into our new house almost a year ago, I was disappointed with the birds compared to our previous house and began immediately to start improving the habitat for birds and other wildlife, especially butterflies. Many of the plantings will take time. I did note today the red admiral butterflies all over the backyard. Butterflies are more numerous this year than I can remember due to the weather, but still, they  are in OUR yard.

We're still working on the birds. I came across this blog post, Creating a Bird Garden, I thought worth sharing. Although written for a northeast US audience, the points are germane in our area--although the plants might be a little different.

I still have a few years' work to get my yard the way I want it, but we've made a start. I look forward to a greater variety of birds as time goes by.

Good birding!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Used Book Find

I was browsing at Hastings and as always, checked the Clearance section. I don't often find a great book there, but for $0.99, I can't pass up the chance to look for a bargain. I certainly found one recently.

I picked up Birding Essentials, by Jonathan Alderfer and Jon L. Dunn. This book is focused upon bird identification and has a wealth of information on the topic. Numerous photos and a clear explanation of birding terminology make this a must-have basic book. In addition, the book contained an explanation of field guide features, the basics of binoculars, and a chapter on fieldcraft in addition to the thorough explanation of bird identification basics. At the same time, most experienced birders will find something worthwhile in the book.

If you can't find the book in the bargain book section of your favorite book store, you can find it on Amazon for $10.63.

Good birding!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lake Arrowhead State Park Bird Walk

The monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park is Saturday, April 14, at 7:00 AM--right at sunrise. Meet at the firewood shed behind the first camping area on the left when you come in the gate.

I am going to be in San Antonio this weekend for the League of Women Voters of Texas state convention, so Terry McKee has agreed to serve in my stead. Terry is a well-known local birder and is involved with many projects and groups relating to the outdoors and birds.

Many thanks, Terry, for your help.

There is a $3 entry fee to the park, if you don't have a park pass. The wildflowers are gorgeous, so bring your camera!

I'll be back next month (second Saturday).

Good birding!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Prepping for Hummingbirds

Pre-sunrise shot of hummingbird feeder.
A few folks say they have seen hummingbirds in the area. I haven't yet, but it can't be long.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have started to change out feeders. I took down most (not all) of my seed feeders and rehung one of my hummingbird feeders. I'll get another up as soon as I see my first hummingbird.

Coral honeysuckle taking off this spring

However, whenever possible, try to supply natural food. I planted a lot of plants since we moved into our new house to encourage the hummingbirds, butterflies and pollinators. We didn't lose any plants (except perhaps the Turk's cap) during the drought. Everything is coming up this spring. My coral honeysuckles were just little twigs when I planted them next to the arbor. My husband figured they might grow to the top about the time we're eligible for Medicare. However, the plants have really taken off this spring.

Salvia is starting to bloom
It's easy and inexpensive to make your own sugar water for your hummingbird feeder, so don't by the syrup in the store. Just boil some water and mix 4 cups of water to 1 part table sugar. Stir until dissolved. Be sure to change often.,  I already had to change the sugar water in my feeder because crud was beginning to grow in it. So keep it clean and you should see some of these beautiful little birds any day!

Good birding!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Project Feederwatch Year End

One set of feeders out back.

This past weekend was my last count for Project Feederwatch. Since  my winter feeder birds are gone and the numbers of birds visiting the feeders is down, I guess it's time.

I am swapping out my feeders for the summer. I feed all year; I just don't feed as much and I switch up the food. Over the summer, I'll have the two tray feeders, the hummingbird feeders and the mealworm feeder. I should have the changes all made by this weekend.

If you can, consider joining Project Feederwatch next year. The season starts in November, but be sure to sign up early so you receive your materials in time.

Good birding!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Texas Ornithological Society Spring Meeting

The Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) will hold its spring meeting in Port Aransas, May 3 - 6. I am planning to go. I've sent in my registration form, so I am committed to it now. I have only gone to one other TOS meeting, and that was a few years ago. They always come at a bad time for me.

In addition to some awesome field trips at a perfect time of year for migrants, a special treat will be a fundraiser for the TOS Sanctuaries Fund. A group of grade school kids is going to do a mini Big Day to raise money. You can make a pledge here.

It should be a good time, with the promise of some great birds as well. If anyone from this area wants to go, contact me at txbirds@gmail.com and perhaps we can carpool.

Good birding!

Book Review: How to Be a Better Birder

Princeton University Press sent me a sweet little volume, How to Be a Better Birder, by Derek Lovitch. At first glance, I thought it might be a rehash of some other books on bird identification using the "whole bird" concept versus relying upon field marks. And the book does have some discussion on that point, although Lovitch pays homage to several of those other books in his first chapter.

I have been fortunate for the past few years to teach the basic birding class for the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist training class. My approach to teaching identification starts with "when and where" and proceeds through a list of items to consider, that includes color and field marks. However, I try to downplay those items as most birders, especially novices, place too much emphasis on only them, to their detriment.  Lovitch has a chapter on "Birding by Habitat" as well. His discussions of geography and weather and their impact on seeing the most birds, especially during migration, were especially interesting. I have been working on my sparrow identification skills for some time--his short section on why this group of birds shouldn't intimidate birders was very useful.

However, one of the unique aspects of the book is how technology can make you a better birder. I always wondered about the interest in the radar images of night migration and just how useful that could be to the average birder, but Lovitch explains this, and I will definitely pay more attention in the future.

As I am involved in several citizen science projects about birds, I was glad to see a chapter on how birders can put the observations to use in helping capture knowledge about birds that can postively impact their conservation.

Derek Lovitch's advice on how to be a better birder? Go birding! I wholeheartedly agree.

Birders at any experience level will find something of interest in this slender volume. The book is available from your local bookstore for $19.95 or from Amazon for $13.23.

Good birding!