Monday, October 14, 2013

An Excellent Big Sit

Turkey Vulture in Flight (Photo: Geoff Gallice, Wikimedia Commons)
More people participated in the Big Sit on Sunday morning than we have ever had--we had a total of 11 people who came at one time or another.  Peggy Browning (who wrote Saturday's article about the Big Sit in the Times Record News), Tami Davis, Jim Hensley, Sue King, Warren King, Terry McKee, June McKee, Chris Peterson, Katherine Smith, and Chuck Thueson watched birds with me from 7:30 - 10:00 AM.

We thought this would be a lackluster year because of the drought and predicted rain. The location of the Big Sit, behind Wild Bird Rescue has been dry for a while and is now a good distance from any water. We did not have nearly the number of ducks and shorebirds we could have because the birds were too far to positively identify, even with a scope. However, in spite of that, we did have a very good count. The weather was also very pleasant, although none of us would have been upset if it had been pouring rain.

One of the highlights of the morning included a continuous series of kettles of migrating turkey vultures. A total of 147 vultures passed overhead during the 2.5 hours we were observing. The sight was even more impressive given that the vultures don't take to the air until later in the morning when they can catch a good updraft.

Another highlight was the sighting of 4 species of woodpeckers. Usually we are lucky to find one or two species. We had a red-bellied woodpecker, two northern flickers, a pair of downy woodpeckers and a hairy woodpecker, a less common woodpecker.

Altogether we 29 species--not bad considering the conditions and the limited time the Sit took place. We did have some birds we were not able to identify for one reason or another (usually too short of a view or poor lighting.)

Here is a complete listing of birds seen:

Canada goose
White pelican
Northern shoveler
Great blue heron
Greater yellowlegs
Long-billed dowitcher
Double-crested cormorant
American avocet
Turkey vulture
Downy woodpecker
Hairy woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker
Northern flicker
White-winged dove
Mourning dove
Rock pigeon
American robin
Scissor-tailed flycatcher
Yellow warbler
Northern mockingbird
Northern cardinal
Blue jay
Ruby-crowned kinglet
European starling
Eastern meadowlark
Red-winged blackbird
Great-tailed grackle
House finch

Many thanks to Katherine Smith of Wild Birds Unlimited for donating a goodie bag to all of the participants.

All in all, a great morning.

Good birding!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Upcoming Birdwatching Opportunities

I have not been posting much lately. I would like to say it's because I have been so busy watching birds I haven't had a chance to write, but that wouldn't be true--unfortunately. However, there are some opportunities coming up in the near future to watch birds with others. This is a great way for new birders especially to learn more about birds. Novice or experienced, birding together is an enjoyable way to pass the time.

Saturday, October 12, 8:00 AM, is the Bird Walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park. Terry McKee is leading the walk this month as I have another commitment. Meet at the firewood shed in the first campground on the left after you enter the park. This is a walk, although the way terrain is fairly flat. We are in migration season, so there should be some good shorebirds and perhaps some warblers. The length of the walk depends upon the weather, the birds, and the desires of the group. It's usually 1 - 1.5 hour.

Sunday, October 13, is the Big Sit on Lake Wichita behind Wild Bird Rescue, 7:30 AM - approximately 10:00 AM. This is a sedentary birdwatching event. Bring a lawn chair, binoculars and something hot to drink. Dress in layers--we've had rainy and/or cold weather at nearly every one of these events. Rain is forecast. Since we are still in an extreme drought, I am perfectly fine with getting wet. The photo to the left was the view last year when there was still some water at the end of the lake where we conduct the watch. It is dry now, so we will see what birds we can see.  The Big Sit is officially a 24-hr event, but we have traditionally just watched for a few hours. It is not necessary to be there the entire time--this is a come and go event.

A little further out is the Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club on December 14. This is an all day census of all birds seen. The club divides the count circle into three parts, each birded by a separate person/group. Typically we bird from sunup until we cover our area thoroughly (usually around 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM) then we head home to clean up and head to the count potluck dinner to compile the report with the information from all of the teams. I have headed up the Lake Wichita segment of the count the last few years. Other teams cover Lucy Park and much of the city of Wichita Falls and another does the area closer to Iowa Park.

A little further out is the Wild Bird Rescue Big Day fundraiser on January 4. This event runs 12 hours: 7 AM - 7 PM. This is a hard day of birding. We have traditionally had one team--it would be great to have more than one--perhaps an out-of-town team? If you don't want to bird this one, you can follow the team(s) on Facebook and Twitter during that day. Of course, we'd love to see you donate for that event to support Wild Bird Rescue.

If you want more information on any of these events, contact me at I'd love to see you at some of these events.

Good birding!