Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Bird Count Results Are In!

Last night the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club met for their regular monthly meeting, Christmas party and Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) results party. This was the 40th Wichita Falls CBC. Participants for part or all of the count were: Tammy Davis, Rick Folkening, Debra Halter, Jimmy Hoover, Sue King, Warren King, June McKee, Terry McKee, Bryan Miller, Penny Miller, and Chuck Theuson. The compiler for the CBC was Debra Halter.

Sue and Warren King were gracious hosts for the gathering in their home.

The CBC on Saturday, December 14, started out cold and blustery, which did have an impact on the birds seen. Overall, the count was about average for the number of species, but very low in terms of the numbers of individuals of each species seen.

The species seen included: Canada goose, cackling goose, gadwall, American wigeon, mallard, northern shoveler, northern pintail, green-winged teal, canvasback (countweek), ring-necked duck, lesser scaup, bufflehead, common goldeneye, hooded merganser, ruddy duck, pied-billed grebe, double-crested cormorant, great blue heron, northern harrier, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk (count week), red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, merlin, American coot, sandhill crane, killdeer, ring-billed gull, rock pigeon, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, mourning dove, Inca dove, great horned owl, barred owl, belted kingfisher, red-bellied woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker,  downy woodpecker, northern flicker, eastern phoebe, loggerhead shrike, blue jay, American crow, horned lark, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, black-crested titmouse, red-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, Bewick's wren, eastern bluebird, American robin, northern mockingbird, European starling, orange-crowned warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, spotted towhee, fox sparrow, song sparrow, Harris' sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco, northern cardinal, red-winged blackbird, eastern meadowlark, western meadowlark, Brewer's blackbird, common grackle, great-tailed grackle, brown-headed blackbird, house finch, American goldfinch, house sparrow.

In addition, the McKee's found a large flock of longspurs, but typically, the birds were too far away to make a positive identification as to species. I also had the good fortune to get an excellent look at a bobcat.

After compiling the count, the club members participated in a Chinese gift exchange. Overall, an enjoyable evening.

The next big event for birders will be the Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue, coming up on January 4. We are shooting for 100 species, which is considerably more than we found on the CBC. Why is that? First, the participants in our CBC don't stay out for 12 hours on their counts. The CBC is also limited in terms of geographical area--there are some good birding locations that aren't far from Wichita Falls that are outside of the count circle for the CBC. The Big Day team will visit those places. The last Big Day team drove more than double the miles all of the CBC teams logged. The CBC also tends to be more leisurely. The Big Day team knows it is out to raise money and to do that, they must find as many species of birds as possible in the time they have--so they don't spend much time just appreciating the birds (which is unfortunate, but a fact of life.)

I hope you'll take time to participate as a birder on one of the teams (it looks like we may be able to field more than one team this year) and/or contribute to the team. After all, as much as the team members love to bird, this is an exhausting event and the goal is to raise as much money as possible for our local organization. Not only does Wild Bird Rescue rescue, rehabilitate and release wild birds, but they provide educational programs to thousands of people annually--many of you have met their Avian Ambassadors around the community. If you would like to bird or would like to contribute, contact me at

Good birding!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue Coming Up

Once again, I'll be taking part in the Big Day in support of Wild Bird Rescue. The Big Day is scheduled for Saturday, January 4. As always the goal is 100 species. We haven't made it yet, although we've been close.

Some of you may not know what a Big Day is. A Big Day is an attempt to find as many species of birds possible in a 24-hr period. In our case, our "day" is 12 hours (7 AM - 7 PM).

Our team of birders will bird Wichita and Archer counties. If we can get enough birders, we may break into two teams and expand our range a little, making it a competitive event. If you're a birder and want to take part, contact me at

However, our biggest need is sponsors--people who will donate to support the team as it tries to raise money for Wild Bird Rescue. Donations can be a flat dollar amount or on a per species basis (the more species we find, the more the donor pays.) If you wish to donate on a flat basis, that's great. You can drop your donation off at Wild Bird Rescue at 4611 Lake Shore Dr., Wichita Falls, TX 76310, mail it to the same address, or donate by credit card through PayPal at the website (if you elect PayPal, please indicate "Big Day" in the comment section.) Or you can contact me via email, and I will be happy to pick up your donation in the local area.

If you wish to donate on a per species basis, just send me an email with your pledge or call Wild Bird Rescue at 940-691-0828, and they'll make note.

You can track the progress of the team all day in one of the following ways:

  • Follow me on Twitter (@birdwithpenny)
  • Watch the Twitter feed on this blog
  • Watch the Wild Bird Rescue Facebook page
We are hoping for a lot of sponsor support for this event--Wild Bird Rescue is desperate for funds at this time of year. The organization receives well over 1000 wild birds per year to rehabilitate. The Avian Ambassadors program has been a huge hit with educational programs touching over 6,000 people in 2013 (most of them children.) This is not an inexpensive task, so your financial support is needed. 

Good birding!

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

One set of feeders out back (Ignore the rest of the mess)
Brrrr! It is really cold here and we have several days of below freezing temperatures to go! Yes, those of you in the great frozen north are probably playing your tiny violins for us as you go through this all of the time, but for people who have become acclimated to the warmer weather of Texas, this is really something unusual. We might be below freezing for one day, maybe two, but it is rare indeed for it to go on for nearly a week, as it is predicted to do. As you can see in the photo to the left, there isn't a lot of snow, it's a thin layer of ice with a hard layer of crusted snow over the top.

Fortunately, those of us in the Wichita Falls area got less snow and ice than predicted, although we got enough. My poor birds are very happy for the buffet in the back yard, especially with a layer of ice on the ground that isn't going to melt anytime soon.

I hope you are putting out food for the birds, and just as importantly, water. My rainwater harvesting unit I would normally use to fill the bird bath is frozen, so gray water it is. I left it on drip yesterday, but I don't see anything dripping out of it today--hope it doesn't break.

Looking forward to seeing some birds today. Yesterday I had my first juncos at the feeders.

Good birding!