Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cold Front and Birds

Saturday was our monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park. I predicted really good birding because of the strong front that came in Friday night.  Well, I was right and wrong. We didn't have a very good day at Lake Arrowhead, but Lake Wichita was another story.

I met up with Fernando Barrera at Lake Arrowhead State Park at 7 AM. Fernando is the new education coordinator at the park. Unfortunately, Fernando and I were the only people there. However, it was a beautiful morning, so we decided to bird. Overall, we didn't get many birds: Great egret, snowy egret, cattle egret, great blue heron, killdeer, Canada goose, ladder-backed woodpecker, red-winged blackbird, mockingbird, cardinal, common grackle, scissor-tailed flycatcher, yellow warbler, eastern bluebird, and lark sparrow.

When I left the park, I decided to make a quick trip by Bridwell tank. Due to the drought, the front portion of the tank is completely dry and there wasn't much water in the back half of the tank. However, there was a good flock of lark sparrow and my first northern harrier of the season.

I then drove down to the boat ramp and picked up some turkey vultures, double-crested cormorant and my first ring-billed gull of the season, looking a little worse for wear.

On the way back to Wichita Falls I decided to make a quick stop at the Lake Wichita spillway. I'm glad I did as the front appeared to have brought in the first wave of winter ducks. There have been some white pelicans on the lake for a few weeks, but as of Saturday morning, there were well over 100 birds on the lake. Greater and lesser yellowlegs, black-necked stilts and a few avocets were also present. Several female/immature northern shovelers were the first for me of the season as well as a large number of gadwall. A flock of 21 blue-winged teal were also moving around the lake. A small group of coot stayed over the summer, but it appeared larger numbers had come in. The stop was rounded out with a belted kingfisher, turkey vltures, great-tailed grackle, snowy egret, great egret, great blue heron, red-winged blackbird, mallard and three black terns.

Overall, a very good morning. This is a great time of year to be out birding. It's cooler and birds are moving, so there's always the possibility of a surprise.

Good birding!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Local News for Bird People

Several small snippets of information for local people interested in birds:

  • The next bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park will be this Saturday, September 8, 7:00 AM. We'll meet as usual in the first camp ground on the left by the firewood shed. This is the last month we'll be meeting this early until next Spring. Over the fall/winter, we'll switch to 8 AM. But for this month, set your alarm and be there shortly after sunrise.
  • Wild Bird Rescue, Inc. is recruiting for a new Executive Director. If you or anyone you know might be interested, contact WBR at 940-691-0828.
  • Wild Birds Unlimited in Smith's Gardentown is looking for a part-time person for their store.
  • The Wild Bird Rescue garage sale is September 15. If you have items to donate (no clothing please) call 940-691-0828 to arrange for drop off. You will be able to drop off items on September 14 at the National Association of Letter Carriers building on Southwest Parkway from 9 AM - 4 PM.
  • We're recruiting for the next Wild Bird Rescue Big Day fundraiser. If you like to bird and have the stamina for a 12-hour birdathon, contact me at or call me at 940-867-9761. Right now, we're looking at the Sunday following Thanksgiving.
Good birding!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Bird Sense

I just got a new book (published in April) in the mail, and it is absolutely fascinating. Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird, by Tim Birkhead, explores how birds perceive their world through their senses, and how that perception affects their lives.

The book does provide a lot of anatomical and physiological information, but in a way that the average reader won't be intimidated. Historical accounts illustrate how we made the discoveries about how senses work. One very interesting discussion revolves around how well birds smell, using the turkey vulture to illustrate. That question is still debated in the general public.  I'm not going to give you the answer; read the book and discover it for yourself.

I am currently enrolled in the Cornell ecourse, Courtship and Rivalry in Birds, in which one of the discussions going on is emotions in birds--there is a chapter in this book on that very topic. Birkhead's conclusion is that birds do feel emotions, but not in the same way we do.

This is not a long book (around 200 pages of text), but is very well documented if you want to find out more.

This is another one of those books that should find a place on every birder's book shelf. $25 retail/$13.25 hardcover on Amazon/$9.99 for the Kindle edition.

Good birding!

Monday, September 3, 2012

And the Drought Continues

Yesterday I went out to the Lake Wichita spillway. I intended to spend most of the morning birding but forgot I had promised to help accept donations for the Wild Bird Rescue garage sale and fold newsletters at 9 AM, so was only able to stay for a short time. Although the lake is way down, this is the deepest part of the lake so there is still a fair amount of water. Numerous yellowlegs, both greater and lesser, were present. Generally it is difficult to tell one from another without hearing their call. This time I was given extra assistance as some of the birds were close to one another and the size difference was readily apparent. Many killdeer were also present.  There was a lone redhead duck a little further out in the water. Overall, not a lot of birds, but not bad for a quick stop. The birds seen included: robin, starling, pigeon, killdeer, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, snowy egret, great blue heron, great egret, white pelican, spotted sandpiper, mourning dove, white-winged dove, Eurasian collared dove, red-winged blackbird, mallard, black-necked stilt, yellow warbler, red head duck, house sparrow, and great-tailed grackle.

This morning I went to Lake Wichita Park and walked the chat trail and down to the barrow pit, which although not completely dry, is well on its way, although there were a large  number of black-necked stilts, killdeer and some peeps I wish I had been able to identify.
Barrow pit--nearly dry

I also wanted to check out the new wildlife observation platform, which I had heard was completed. And sure enough, it was.
Wildlife viewing platform in Lake Wichita Park

View toward pelican point this morning
It is where I wanted it to be placed, which was at the end of the barrow pit overlooking the well-concealed inlet and out toward pelican point. Right now, the view is not so great as the lake has almost completely dried up at this end.

Overall, a fairly disappointing half hour. I did see a group of scissor-tailed flycatchers and an orchard oriole. As always, the cardinals were plentiful. Unfortunately, so were the mosquitoes and flies. I only got bit a couple of times by the mosquitoes but the flies were driving me nuts.

I decided my luck had to improve so in spite of the heat, which was already becoming oppressive at 8:30 AM, I decided to make a quick stop at Crestview Memorial Park on Hwy 79--often a good spot. However, both ponds are nearly dry--no birds of note.

I am looking forward to the promised rain later in the week and the cooler weather forecast for next weekend. Next Saturday is our regularly scheduled bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park.

Good birding!