Monday, November 26, 2012

Successful Big Day

The Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue, held yesterday, was fun and exhausting.

The core road team consisted of me, Brady Surber and Rick Folkening. We met at 6 AM at Sue and Warren King's home for a wonderful breakfast. Waffles, fresh fruit, bacon, and muffins! Considering we brought things like granola bars and PBJ sandwiches to eat throughout the day, breakfast was a treat.

The Kings have a barred owl in the neighborhood, and we tried valiantly to get the bird to show before hitting the road to no avail. We did pick up a few songbirds in their backyard before light. Our first bird of the count was an American Robin. Before we left, dark-eyed juncos, northern cardinals and a white-throated sparrow showed. We also heard a northern flicker.The Kings continued to watch their feeders all day to see if they had any visitors to add to the count, and we did add Inca Doves that spent an hour at their feeders that morning.

We proceeded to Sikes Lake, where we primarily picked up a few common birds, such as three species of doves, Canada and Cackling geese (pictured above).

Next, we birded Lake Wichita, checking in at the spillway, Lake Wichita Park and behind Wild Bird Rescue. We also walked the Chat Trail while we were in the park. Jonathan Alfonso and Becca Herd, new birders, joined up with us at Lake Wichita Park.

We picked up some ducks, several shorebirds, a few songbirds and a northern harrier. The highlight was a Black Scoter, a duck that has not been documented in Wichita County before. Rick took some photos--due to the distance, the pictures on the camera looked a little fuzzy, but I am hoping when seen on the big screen of the computer, there will be no doubt about the bird's ID.

Leaving Lake Wichita, we headed to Camp Stonewall Jackson where we had some good luck with our smaller birds to include everyone's favorite Eastern Bluebird and a Golden-fronted woodpecker. From there, we headed to Lake Kickapoo in Archer County. We didn't have much luck with waterfowl, but did add field sparrow, least sandpiper and gadwall.

By the time we left Lake Kickapoo, it was obvious we were already running low on time. We headed to Lake Longley for some more ducks and then to Iowa Park, hoping to find some rare gulls that had been reported just the day before at Lake Iowa Park. We checked Lake Buffalo, Lake Iowa Park and Lake Gordon, hoping we would find the reported Thayer's Gull and Lesser black-backed gull, but it wasn't to be. We did find a black-crowned night heron at Lake Iowa Park, which is an uncommon bird in this area. Jonathan and Becca left the group at Lake Buffalo (missing the heron,) leaving me, Brady and Rick to finish out the day.

By this time, it was getting dark, and we sped back to Wichita Falls. We made a quick pass through Rosemont Cemetery, hoping for nuthatches, but struck out. We got to Lucy Park just at dusk. We headed for the back part of the park, where in the past I've had the best luck with woodpeckers and small deciduous woods species. Unfortunately, the flood-control project has completely cleaned out the underbrush and most of the trees that used to provide excellent birding habitat. We came up with nothing in the short time we had available. I hope the engineers are correct that this will help prevent flooding (should we ever get rain again) because the negative impact upon the birds in the park has been substantial. I am consoling myself that the new nature park on Seymour Highway is not intended to be developed beyond a portion of the circle trail.

We decided to swing by the small pond behind Wal-Mart on Lawrence Rd as Rick mentioned he had seen Wilson's snipe there regularly. Sure enough we discovered two, even though it was after dark.

We made one more unsuccessful try for the barred owl at the King's house before calling it a day, with 96 species. Not quite the 100 we were shooting for, but a great day of birding nonetheless. The weather was near perfect.

Here is a list of the birds we saw for the day: American coot, northern shoveler, mallard, ruddy duck, bufflehead, green-winged teal, black scoter, gadwall, redhead, canvasback, lesser scaup, American wigeon, northern pintail, ring-necked duck, hooded merganser, pied-billed grebe, eared grebe, American white pelican, Canada goose, cackling goose, snow goose, greater white-fronted goose, double-crested cormorant, sandhill crane, great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, spotted sandpiper, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, killdeer, western sandpiper, spotted sandpiper, Baird's sandpiper, least sandpiper, American avocet, long-billed dowitcher, Wilson's snipe, ring-billed gull, Herring gull, Bonaparte's gull, Forster's tern, rock pigeon, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, Inca dove, northern harrier, Cooper's hawk, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, American kestrel, northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, golden-fronted woodpecker, Carolina wren, marsh wren, sedge wren, Bewick's wren, Carolina chickadee, blue jay, American robin, eastern bluebird, brown thrasher, northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, Loggerhead shrike, American crow, great-tailed grackle, common grackle, Brewer's blackbird, red-winged blackbird, European starling, brown-headed cowbird, eastern meadowlark, western meadowlark, American pipit, Sprague's pipit, yellow-rumped warbler, eastern phoebe, house finch, American goldfinch, pine siskin, spotted towhee, Lincoln's sparrow, white-throated sparrow, Harris' sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, song sparrow, field sparrow, vesper sparrow, swamp sparrow, savannah sparrow, and house sparrow.

You can still support the rehabilitation and education efforts of Wild Bird Rescue by donating at their website or sending a donation to 4611 Lake Shore Drive, Wichita Falls, TX 76310.

Good birding!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Birdfest Texoma

I was at Wichita Valley Nursery to pick up a milkweed vine yesterday and saw an advertisement for Birdfest Texoma.

This event will be held at Hagerman NWR May 3 - 4. Wichita Valley Nursery will be there as a vendor. David Allen Sibley (Sibley's Field Guide to Birds) will be present as well.

A complete schedule and registration will be available in January, but mark your calendars now. I am planning to go.

Good Birding!

TOS Winter Meeting

The Texas Ornithological Society is hosting its winter meeting in west Houston this year. A birdy spot.

For information on workshops, field trips and hotels click here.

I usually miss the winter meeting because this is prime time for birthdays in my family; however, I hope some of you can make it. These meetings are a good way to learn more about our birds and meet others who share our interest.

Good birding!

Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue is Sunday!

Sunday, November 25 is the Big Day fundraiser for Wild Bird Rescue, Inc!

We'll be starting the day at Sue and Warren King's house for a pre-sunrise breakfast--Thank YOU!--and then start our 12-hour birding marathon on a quest for 100 species in Wichita and Archer counties. We plan close out our day at Wild Bird Rescue at 7PM.

As of right now, our team consists of me, Katherine Smith of Wild Birds Unlimited, Brady Surber from Vernon and Rick Folkening from Holliday.

I'll be posting our progress in Facebook on the Wild Bird Rescue page and on Twitter. You can watch the twitter feed on this blog.

If you haven't already, please make a lump sum donation at the Wild Bird Rescue website or pledge a per-species amount by emailing me.

Thanks for all your support.

Good Birding!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review: The Jewel Hunter

Princeton University Press sent me a copy of Chris Gooddie's The Jewel Hunter for review. This is a story of his journey to see every one of the world's most elusive groups of birds--the pittas--in a single year.

The first chapter is his description of how he decided to quit his day job and spend a year following his passion. He was 45 and his desire to see his favorite birds required rugged travel in the rain forests. Additionally, pitta's are under a lot of pressure due to habitat loss, so the longer he waited, the more likely some of the 32 species of pitta would be extinct.

The rest of the book is a description on his journey through several countries, looking for these secretive birds in the rain forests of Asia, Africa and Australia. One of my favorite sentences in the book (as it sums up the life of birdwatchers everywhere): "My six and a half days of searching had finally paid off with a glorious, three-second view of the whole bird."

The summary:
  • Eleven months
  • 200,000 km (approximately 120,000 miles) traveled
  • 30,000 pounds (approximately $47,800 today)
  • Lost 13 kilos in weight (about 28 lbs)
  • Saw 1,970 species of birds (about 1/5 of the world's total)
  • Found all 32 species of pittas
It includes his pictures (definitely not professional photos) of the landscapes, people and animals he saw on his journeys.  Overall, an interesting book about a man on a mission.

This book is $25.95 from Princeton University Press and from Amazon.

Good birding!

Book Review: Birds of Central Asia

Princeton University Press sent me a copy of Birds of Central Asia, and it's a beauty.

This is the first field guide ever to central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. I wish it had been out when my son-in-law was deployed to Afghanistan--I would have sent him a copy.

Central Asia is a diverse environment, encompassing steppe, semi-desert and mountains. The pictures of the various biomes in the book show the diversity. It is also a fairly remote part of the planet.

This guide covers 618 species, including all resident, migrants and vagrants. The book contains 143 beautiful plates showing many distinct plumages and races. I found the descriptions to be a little more extensive than most field guides, which I consider a good thing. Of course, to get that additional information in the guide and still make the guide a good size to take into the field, the print is pretty small. If you have reading glasses, you'll definitely need them. However, the font is crisp and clear, making it easier to read.

Available from Princeton University Press for $39.50. I did find it on Amazon for $26.07.

This is a nice diversion for an armchair birder. After reading the book, I would be more likely to consider a birding trip to this area. If you know a birder stationed in that area of the world, this would be a very nice gift.

Good birding!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Big Day Coming November 25

The Wild Bird Rescue Big Day fundraiser is Sunday, November 25.

Wild Bird Rescue, Inc. has a two-fold mission: to rescue, rehabilitate and release wild birds and to educate the public about wild birds and wild bird issues.

This past year Wild Bird Rescue added a raptor aviary and a shorebird aviary and expanded its education program by adding several birds of prey and an amphitheater on site. This increased the number and types of birds Wild Bird Rescue can keep, but also added significantly to the operating costs, as raptors and shorebirds are expensive to feed.

The Big Day is a marathon event to find the most species during a particular day. The Big Day will be from 7 AM - 7 PM and will cover Wichita and Archer Counties. Last year, the team covered over 200 miles and recorded 98 species. The goal this year is 100 species--if the weather is good, that's possible.

Wild Bird Rescue is looking for birders for the team. If there are enough birders who want to participate, competing teams could be arranged. Contact me if you would like to take part.

We are also looking for pledges. You may pledge a flat amount or per species. You can email me your pledge or you can go to the Wild Bird Rescue website and use the "Donate" button--just put "Big Day" in the comments so your donation will be credited to the Big Day event.

It isn't necessary to be a part of the team to pledge.

To follow the progress of the team on the Big Day, you can look for posts on the Wild Bird Rescue Facebook page or follow me on Twitter at @birdwithpenny (that Twitter feed will also show up on this blog if you don't have a Twitter account.)

Please help this organization continue to provide these programs to the community.

Good Birding!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Birdy Weekend Coming Up

The bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park is Saturday, November 10, 8:00 AM. We meet in the first camp ground to the left at the firewood shed.

Also this is the first weekend for this season's Project Feederwatch. If you haven't registered but would like to take part, you can sign up at the Cornell web site.

Good birding!