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!

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