Thursday, December 18, 2014

Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue

The Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue fundraiser is scheduled for January 1.

This is the 4th Big Day. Teams of birdwatchers will be scouring the countryside, trying to find as many species of birds possible within our Big Day time frame.

Typically a Big Day is 24 hours, but by agreement, we have always opted for a 12-hour window, from 6 AM - 6 PM. Teams map their own routes to try to cover as many different habitats as possible and as much area as possible, hitting all of the known birdy spots in the area.

Although it is possible to get 100 species at this time of year, the record for a single team on the Big Day has been 98 species. Weather plays a big part. We have a tendency to get significant winds, which is not something that helps when you are trying to hear the birds.

If you want to participate, you are welcome to form a team of your own, or contact me at and I will be happy to add you to a team. Although it is helpful if you are a birder, it isn't necessary. We're trying to find as many species as we can, but Wild Bird Rescue also has a mission to educate the public about wild birds, so we welcome novices as well. Besides, more spotters and people to help record species can't hurt.

Can't bird that day? Why not sponsor a team with a donation (Team #1! Team #1!)? You can drop off a check at Wild Bird Rescue or mail one to them at 4611 Lake Shore Dr, Wichita Falls, TX 76310. You can also donate on line at the website. Be sure to indicate Big Day in the memo line of your check or in the comments of your online donation. Or if you contact me at, I will come to you to pick up your donation if you are in Wichita Falls.

Regardless of the number of birds we find, we'll have a great time and (I hope) raise some money for this worthy organization.

Good birding!

Flat Day at Lake Arrowhead State Park

Eastern Phoebe, Photo by Andy Reago and
Chrissy McClarren
Wikimedia Commons
Our monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park on December 13 wasn't one of our better months in terms of the birds seen, but hey, a bad morning birding is better than a great morning doing most anything else.

Walk regular, June, came as well as Mike, who has participated the last few months. This month we also had a newcomer, Sharon. It is always extra nice to have people relatively new to birdwatching along as almost any bird is going to be a good bird. We did have a few decent birds, most notably very good views of an eastern phoebe. These often appear fairly drab little birds, but in the right light like we had on Saturday, they are really very pretty.

I was hoping for a lot of ducks so we could work on duck identification, but that didn't work out for us. The only ducks we saw were gadwall. But we did see a nice raft of white pelicans on the water, although further away than I would have liked.

Here's the list of our birds for the morning: Canada goose, gadwall, double crested cormorant, white pelican, ring-billed gull, killdeer, great blue heron, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, yellow-shafted northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, mockingbird, eastern bluebird, cardinal, Bewick's wren, eastern phoebe, brown-headed cowbird, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird, junco, eastern meadowlark goldfinch, house finch.

The walk next month will be January 10, 8:00 AM.

Good birding!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas Bird Count Coming Up

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club has scheduled the annual Christmas Bird Count for Saturday, December 20. Our club has participated in the count since 1972.

As usual, we have divided the count circle into 3 sections, with a team leader responsible for each section. The sections are: Lake Wichita, Lucy Park and Wichita Falls, and Iowa Park. If you are interested in participating for part or all day, contact Terry McKee at She is the overall coordinator and the team leader for the Lucy Park area. I will be organizing the Lake Wichita section. If you would like to take part in that area, contact me at Jimmy Hoover will be once again heading up the Iowa Park area. You can take part for an hour or all day. You can even sign up to watch your feeders at home if you are in the count area.

We'll be getting together the evening of the 20th for our annual count potluck. You don't have to participate in the count during the day to come to the supper and listen to the tallies. Always a lot of fun.

Good birding!

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Facebook Page

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club now has a Facebook page! If you are interested in local birding events, like "North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club."

Good Birding!

Good to Be Home!

I am not even going to try to explain why I haven't been posting. Mostly because I haven't been birding, and I haven't been home.

I got home late Saturday to the lovely rain and Sunday decided I was going to get out and see some birds. There has sure been a lot of change since I was last out. The summer birds are all gone and many of our winter birds have arrived. I wasn't able to spend a lot of time out, but I did hit a couple of spots and had some good birds.

Crestview Pond
I stopped by Crestview Memorial Park in hopes of some winter ducks, and I got a few. The last time I was at Crestview, this little pond was very low. The smaller pond in the back was completely dry. There was some water in the back and this pond was about 80% full. And there were some winter ducks: mallards, ring-necked ducks, gadwall and wigeon. I was surprised to see a roadrunner--the first one I have seen in this cemetery. The white-crowned sparrows were numerous, as usual in the winter. I got my first ruby-crowned kinglet of the season.

I then made a short stop at Lake Wichita Park for a trip down the Chat Trail and the barrow pit. The barrow pit has been dry for a couple of months, but had some water in it Sunday morning. No birds, but some water, at least. I didn't have time to actually go to Lake Wichita--hopefully over the Thanksgiving weekend. However, driving past the spillway area, there was a flooded spot where there were two northern shovelers.
Barrow pit--some water!

I did see a few good birds. The drainage ditch that runs adjacent to the chat trail was full and for the first time in many months, there was a belted kingfisher hunting. I also saw my first goldfinch of the season mixed in with some house finches along the trail.

Since it was my day at Wild Bird Rescue, I stopped by the Center to care for my charges. There was a fair sized flock of yellow-rumped warblers in one of the trees and an Inca dove out front (I stopped by this morning and there was a flock of a half dozen Inca doves in the front flower bed.)

Overall, a fairly good two hours. Here is a complete list of my birds: mallard, ring-necked duck, gadwall, American wigeon, northern shoveler, Canada goose, pied-billed grebe, ring-billed gull, killdeer, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, Inca dove, downy woodpecker, belted kingfisher, roadrunner, blue jay, northern cardinal, yellow-rumped warbler, ruby-crowned kinglet, northern mockingbird, American robin, spotted towhee, house finch, American goldfinch, meadowlark sp., great-tailed grackle, European starling, white-crowned sparrow, house sparrow.

Good birding!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On the (Chat) Trail After a Chat!

Yellow-breasted chat. Photo courtesy of Jim Conrad, Wikimedia
This afternoon I was heading back to the house with the very serious intention of shoveling some work off my desk so I can leave for the Rockport Hummingbird Festival tomorrow morning with a clear conscience. I was just a few blocks from my house and sitting at the red light on the corner of Fairway Blvd and Southwest Parkway when I get a text from fellow birder, Rick Folkening. He said he had stopped at the Chat Trail in Lake Wichita Park that morning and had seen some good birds, to include a yellow-breasted chat. What to do?

One could argue that I should have been responsible and headed home, but that's not what happened. I convinced myself that a short detour wouldn't be a horrible thing. After all, Lake Wichita Park is just off Fairway Blvd, right?

Yes, I know the Chat Trail is "closed" due to the temporary water reuse project, but there is no better place to bird in Wichita Falls during migration season. It was hot and humid and not the best time of day for birding (11:45 AM), but I decided to go for it. I spent about 45 minutes walking down to the bridge and back on the trail and did indeed pick up some good birds to include the yellow-breasted chat, which was cooperative enough to sit right out in the open for a couple of minutes to give me a very good view.

I didn't see all of the birds Rick saw, but I did see three 1st winter blue grosbeaks, which were a complete surprise. As noted in another blog post, I saw two blue grosbeaks at Lake Arrowhead last month and was very excited. I definitely did not expect to see any on the chat trail, although it is great habitat for them. I tried to turn them into house finches, which I frequently see along this trail, but it didn't work.

Other birds seen in this short stop: red-tailed hawk, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, chimney swift, barn swallow, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, blue jay, yellow warbler, Baltimore oriole, Carolina wren, robin, eastern kingbird and eastern phoebe. Well worth the stop.

So yes, tonight I am stressing about what I didn't get done today, but I did see some extremely good birds, so I'll get over it. After all, it was "only" 45 minutes.

Thanks, Rick! Appreciate the text.

Good birding!

Book Review: The Passenger Pigeon

I recently received "The Passenger Pigeon" by Errol Fuller from Princeton University Press. September 1, 2014 was the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha the passenger pigeon, the last of her species, so it is a timely reminder of just how tenuous life can be for a species, regardless of how numerous they might be.
This hardback book is beautifully illustrated. Mr. Fuller has put together a complete natural history of the passenger pigeon drawing upon historical illustrations, photographs, specimens, poems, ornithological journal articles and historical accounts. Do you know where the term "stool pigeon" originated? You'll know after reading the sad story in this book.

Many of the same factors that affect birds today were part of the reasons for the demise of the passenger pigeon, so the story resonates.  

Not a joyful book by any means but nonetheless, an important story for anyone who cares about birds and their future.

The Passenger Pigeon is available from Princeton University Press for $29.95. It is also available from for $22.15 (and don't forget, you can help Wild Bird Rescue, Inc., by logging in to Amazon through the URL and designating Wild Bird Rescue as your charity.)

Good birding!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Saturday at Lake Arrowhead

On Saturday I attended the Bird Walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park. We had some out of town guests (David, Jonathon, Eilene) from New Mexico and Arizona as well as Terry, June and Paula.

It was unseasonably cool for mid September, which I was very happy about. I expected a lot of shorebirds, considering the numbers of shorebirds at Lake Wichita that past couple of weeks. Other than a few killdeer, the shorebirds were not to be found on Saturday. However, we did have some decent birds.

When you go on a bird walk, the expectation most people have is the "leader" is going to be an expert and be able to identify every bird seen. I am very conservative. If I am not absolutely positive about the ID, I don't make one. I do take note of field marks and try to research the bird later for a positive identification. We had three mystery birds when we stopped the walk--two of which I feel comfortable making an identification call.

The first was a small group of dickcissel that perched out in the open for a long time. When I initially
Dickcissel at LASP. Photo courtesy of Paula Savage
got a good look at them, I identified them as dickcissel and then for some reason, talked myself out of the ID. Paula Savage took the photo accompanying this post and as soon as I opened her email, the dickcissel identification was obvious. Thank goodness for a photographer among us.

The second mystery bird remains unidentified. It looked a lot like an oriole. One of the members of our group leaned toward a Bullock's oriole. I was reluctant to go there, as there was no white patch on the wing--it was more like a pair of wing bars. Really, it looked more like a tanager, but they tanager it looked most like hasn't been recorded anywhere close to our area. That doesn't mean it is impossible, just not likely. We did not get a photo of this bird, so it remains unidentified--those that were there can decide to record it as they wish.

The third mystery bird was an Empidonax flycatcher. These birds are notoriously difficult to identify without a song clue, which we didn't get. The most noticeable field mark was the olive tint to the plumage, to include the wing bars,which were obvious, but not sharply distinct. I also wrote down a bi-colored bill and some very light streaking on the throat and upper breast. Based upon those notes and comparing all of the species accounts, my best guess is an Acadian flycatcher.

One of the best birds of the morning was an adult male red-headed woodpecker. We don't get to see these as often as we used to, so it is always a treat. This was a lifer for Paula. We had another lifer for one of our out-of-town visitors--a scissor-tailed flycatcher. We took time to really look at and enjoy these birds. It's a fact that we see so many of common birds such as the scissor-tailed flycatcher that we don't take the time to really look at and appreciate just how beautiful they are.

The birds seen in the park Saturday were: killdeer, great egret, great blue heron, snowy egret, Canada goose, double-crested cormorant, turkey vulture, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, Bewick's wren, red-headed woodpecker, northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, scissor-tailed flycatcher, Acadian flycatcher, dickcissel, orchard oriole, lark sparrow, and yellow warbler.

On the way home, I stopped at the Chat Trail in Lake Wichita Park in hopes of catching sight of the redstart seen and photographed a few days before by Paula Savage. No dice on that. In fact, it was very quiet on the Chat Trail for this time of year.  We were there for just about 20 minutes and saw the following birds: Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, chimney swift, hummingbird sp., scissor-tailed flycatcher, great-crested flycatcher, blue jay, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, robin, eastern phoebe, house finch, savannah sparrow, and house sparrow.

Overall, a nice morning of birding.

Good birding!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Local Bird Events Coming Up

I received an email this morning from Katherine Smith of Wild Birds Unlimited of Wichita Falls with some upcoming bird-related events happening in the local area, reminding me I needed to get the word out. You wouldn't think I need that reminder as I am involved with most of them, but apparently that's the case.

Saturday, September 13, 8:00 AM: Bird Walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park. Meet at the firewood shed in the middle of the first campground on your left. There is a $3 entry fee to the park. Shorebird migration is in full swing, so I would expect us to see some good birds.

Saturday, September 13, 10:00 AM: Bird Program at Wild Bird Rescue, 4611 Lake Shore Drive. There is no admission, although donations are always appreciated. Chris will have either hawks or owls and will give an informative talk on their beautiful birds. This is the first of a continuing series of programs at  Wild Bird Rescue. Here is a list of the programs scheduled so far, as well as one or two special events happening at the Center:

Sat., Sept. 13, 10 a.m.
Sun., Sept. 14, 1 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 11, 10 a.m.
Sun., Oct. 12, 7:30 – 10:30 a.m. – The Big Sit Bird Count
       1 p.m. – Feeding your Winter Birds
Sat., Nov. 8, 10 a.m.
Sun., Nov. 9, 1 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 13, 10 a.m.
Sun., Dec. 14, 1 p.m. – Birds in Christmas Traditions
Thurs., Jan. 1 – Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue team birding competition and fund raiser
Sat., Jan. 10, 10 a.m.
Sun., Jan. 11, 1 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 14, 10 a.m.
Sun., Feb. 15, 1 p.m. – Birds in Love; Interesting Mating Behavior in Birds
Sat., March 14, 10 a.m.
Sun., March 15, 1 p.m.
Sat., April 11, 10 a.m.
Sun., April 12, 1 p.m. – Wildscaping your Yard to Benefit the Birds
Sat., May 9, 10 a.m.

Sun., May 10, 1 p.m.

Saturday, September 13, Noon, Wild Birds Unlimited Store: This is the one year anniversary of the Wild Birds Unlimited store opening in its Market Street location. There will be a big sale Friday - Sunday, but on Saturday, beginning at approximately noon, I will have some birds from Wild Bird Rescue to meet the customers. I expect to be there for about 2 hours.

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club will have their meeting at the Wild Birds Unlimited store at 7 PM on Tuesday, September 16. Katherine Smith will be showing pictures from her recent birdwatching trip to Peru.

Don't forget the trip to the Hummingbird Festival in Rockport, TX, September 17 - 21. Some people have dropped out at the last minute, so you can probably still get a seat on the bus, departing Thursday morning. I for one, am looking forward to the trip.

On Tuesday, September 23, 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM, there will be a Pollinator Workshop at River Bend Nature Center. Did you know that some bird species pollinate wildflowers? Well, they do. Come learn about providing good habitat for the birds and other pollinator species. Free.

If you would prefer to just get out and go birding, Lake Wichita has had some awesome numbers of shorebirds passing through on migration. Since I am taking part in almost all of the programs listed here, I plan to take a couple of hours Friday morning to head out to the spillway with a scope to check out the shorebirds.

Good birding!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Blue Grosbeaks at Lake Arrowhead State Park

Male blue grosbeak, Wikimedia Commons, Dick Daniels
Saturday was the monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park. June, one of the regular participants showed at 7 AM, so it was just the two of us for the walk this time.

Those of you who thought about coming to the bird walk, but decided it was too early, missed a treat. June and I were walking along and I heard an unfamiliar call from the mesquites near the dining hall. We followed the call in to the trees and I noticed a bird at the top of the tree that looked to be in about the location the call was coming from. Of course, as often happens, the bird was between me and the sun, so we had to circle around to get a better view. The first thing I noticed other than the general shape was blue. I knew it wasn't a blue bird, so my first thought was an indigo bunting, which I see in the Lake Arrowhead area now and again. But when I was able to get a good look, it was obvious that is not what we had. The cardinal-like beak is the first clue. The russet stripes on the wings another. We had a male blue grosbeak! Another grosbeak flew in. I thought it was a female, but upon closer inspection, it turned out to be an immature grosbeak. Dad took him a big fat insect for breakfast. I saw the male again later singing in a tree across the parking lot.

This was our best bird, but by no means the only good bird of the morning. Apparently, the egrets/herons are getting ready to migrate. We saw several flocks of snowy egrets (one flock was between 25 and 30 birds) and great egrets. We also saw parent bluebirds feeding their fledglings in the camping area.

June left about 8:30. She had asked me about dickcissel and I told  her I have heard them in the park--they tend to start calling a little later in the morning though. We didn't hear one before she left. I had a mussel watch for the Texas Master Naturalists, so stayed for that and added a couple of other bird species she wasn't with me to see--one of them being a dickcissel about 9 AM. Other birds that morning included: Canada goose, white pelican, great egret, great blue heron, snowy egret, greater yellowlegs, killdeer, turkey vulture, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, golden-fronted woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, barn swallow, cliff swallow, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, orchard oriole, red-winged blackbird, American robin, scissor-tailed flycatcher, dickcissel, eastern bluebird, common grackle, European starling, and house finch. I also saw a peep that I was not able to identify.

Overall, a nice morning bird walk. Next month, the bird walk reverts back to 8 AM, for all of you who like to sleep in a little bit on the weekend.

Good birding!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Clean Those Feeders and Baths!

Many of us feed birds during the summer. Almost all of us have a bird bath. Although we all know it is important to keep our feeders and bird baths clean, sometimes we're not as diligent as we should be. But these cleaning tasks are vital to the health of the birds we enjoy.

In the summer, the stress on the birds, especially in our drought-ridden area, means they have lowered immune systems. One disease that often takes hold is trichomoniasis (trich)--most commonly in pigeons and doves, which are very susceptible to this disease. The raptors that feed on these birds also tend to get trich. This is not the same trichomoniasis as found in people.

Trichomoniasis is very contagious and highly fatal in birds. It progresses very rapidly. If you find a dove on the ground that is extremely emaciated, even though it has been eating, it is very possible trich is the culprit. Often you can see a yellowish, curd-like growth inside their mouths. If you see this, you know you have trich. A large number of extremely emaciated doves with no visible signs of injury are coming in to Wild Bird Rescue, suspicious for trich.

If you find a dead dove or pigeon in your yard that may have contracted trich, take down your feeders immediately and empty your bird bath. Leave everything down for 10 days. What you are doing here is dispersing the birds from your yard at least and allowing time for the infected birds to die. Before you refill your bird bath and feeders, clean them thoroughly and disinfect with a 1:10 bleach solution. I am not a big chlorine bleach fan, but it works well as a disinfectant.

Watching these birds waste away is heartbreaking. Clean your feeders regularly and watch for signs of trich in your backyard birds. You didn't cause the disease, but you can help prevent it from spreading.

Good birding!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Good Birding on the Circle Trail

I have been out of town (another post on that later), so haven't had a chance to bird much lately but decided if I was going to do any birding in May I had better get out this morning. I decided to bird the section of the Circle Trail between Lucy Park and Williams Park. It runs along the Wichita River and is one of the prettier sections of the trail completed so far. It isn't very long, but is nicely wooded. I spent about an hour and a half walking the path, enjoying the birds.

Although the water in the river was very low, there were some good birds, to include the only belted kingfisher I have seen for a while--this drought is not kind to a lot of bird species. I watched this one for a while. He left his perch to hover above the water several times, but I never saw him dive to catch anything. I hope he is finding some fish.

I also came across a robin's nest out in the open where it is easily seen. One of the parents had just come back to feed the nestlings when I passed by--two little heads were up above the edge of the nest, begging for food.

Altogether a good little walk. The birds seen included: mallard, green heron, snowy egret, great egret, white-winged dove, Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, rock pigeon, Mississippi kite, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, chimney swift, belted kingfisher, northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, blue jay, western kingbird, tufted titmouse, black-crested titmouse, Carolina chickadee, robin, eastern phoebe, red-winged blackbird, European starling, great-tailed grackle, common grackle, house finch, and house sparrow.

Good birding!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Photo Big Day

I know some of the people who read this blog like to photograph the birds they see. Here's a new competition for you--a photographic big day! Although this is another one of those events I didn't learn about until it was in progress, it appears you can make a team any time!
Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, co-authors of The Warbler Guide, are collaborating with the ABA and NYC Audubon on a race to see and photograph as many bird species as possible 24 hours. Most of us are familiar with the “Big Day,” where teams race to see and hear as many birds as possible in a single day, but these teams are made up of elite birders and many of the “sightings” are actually made by ear.

The Photo Big Day is an attempt to level the playing the field by reducing the reliance on ear-birding and limiting species counts to actual photo-documented sightings. Tom and Scott will be part of Team Warbler and their inaugural Photo Big Day will be held on April 22 in Southeastern Texas. You can read more about the Photo Big Day, join the fun, or support a team at this site:

There are a number of questions not answered on the website (or at least I didn't find the answers.) For example: What are the criteria to determine whether your photo counts? Although this team birded in southeastern Texas on April 22, it appears teams may choose a location and date different from the team mentioned in the above paragraph.

This might be a fun event for our local photographers and birdwatchers.

Good birding!

Pledge to Fledge

As some of you know, I support Pledge to Fledge, which is really nothing more than helping new birdwatchers learn more about birds. However, every year the Global Birding Initiative designates the last weekend in April for an international event. I did it last year and did meet up with a new birder--had a great time.

This year I am going to be in Austin attending a convention over the Pledge to Fledge weekend. But just know that if you're a new birder and want to learn to identify birds, contact me at and we'll find a mutually agreeable time to get out and watch the birds. No special event required.

In the meantime, don't forget the Bird Walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park on the second Saturday of each month. Usually I lead the walk. When I cannot, Terry McKee has been kind enough to step up.

People are often intimidated by the number of birds and feel overwhelmed at first. But all of us learn our birds one at a time. Whether you can identify one bird or hundreds, it is more important to enjoy and appreciate them than it is to know their names.

Feel free to contact me any time to meet-up to bird.

Good birding!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nice Morning at Lake Arrowhead State Park

I am just now getting around to writing a summary of our morning at Lake Arrowhead State Park. Saturday, April 12, was the monthly bird walk at the park. A beautiful morning, although a little cool and nippy. One of my regular walk attendees, June, came as well as Karen, one of the new class of the Rolling Plains chapter Texas Master Naturalist. Robert Mauk with Inland Fisheries stopped by for a few minutes, although he was in the park primarily to take some nature photos.

On my way to the park, I noticed my first flock cattle egret of the year in Archer county and then came across a small flock of black vultures around a carcass on FM 1954 in Clay county.  That was a good start for what turned out to be a decent birding morning. Several summer birds have arrived--both snowy and great egrets were around the lake and everyone's favorite, scissor-tailed flycatchers, were everywhere. The highlight was probably the large group (probably easily 300 birds) of white pelicans massing over the park. A front was moving into the area, so perhaps the birds were preparing to head north. No sign of any gulls, so they have apparently all left--I haven't seen any around Lake Wichita for several days now. Some winter birds are still around--most noticeably the white-crowned sparrow.

We spent two hours birding. The birds cited included: Canada goose, white pelican, double crested cormorant,  killdeer, great egret, snowy egret, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, Carolina chickadee, northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, eastern phoebe, eastern bluebird, red-bellied woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, cliff swallow, scissor-tailed flycatcher, Bewick's wren, red-winged blackbird, eastern meadowlark, brown-headed cowbird, common grackle, lark sparrow, savannah sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, and house finch.

Overall a pleasurable couple of hours.

Good birding!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Book Review: The Thing with Feathers

The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, by Noah Strycker is a must-have for bird enthusiasts. Enough science for those so inclined, enough history for those who enjoy that, and lots of fascinating information about the birds around us.

The book is laid out in short chapters focused on something interesting about a particular bird--the long-debated topic of the sense of smell in vultures, for example. It is apparent Mr. Stryker has a great love and fascination for birds--it comes across in every page. He also has a great sense of humor. I laughed out loud when he described picking up a deer carcass along the side of the road to bait vultures--in part because it sounds like something I would do. However, maybe it is my age, but I think I would have thought to put a plastic garbage bag under the dead animal in my car.....

Overall, a fun, fascinating, wide-ranging book. I highly recommend it. I bought my copy from Amazon. Don't forget to log in through and designate 0.5% to Wild Bird Rescue or other charity of your choice.

Good birding!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Moving to Summer Birdfeeding

I am writing this this morning while watching the rain--it is such a joy to see water. Those of you in this area know how severe our drought has been.

A few days ago I wrote about the end of this year's Project Feederwatch season. The end of the season also marks the end of winter bird feeding for me. It would be different if I lived further north--I would probably keep all of my feeders up another few weeks.

However, that doesn't mean I don't continue to feed the birds in the summer; I feed all year around. It does mean I don't have to spend as much money supporting my birds. I took down one suet feeder, one platform feeder and two tube feeders. That still leaves one suet, two platform (although I'll put only half the food out as usual) and one tube feeder. I also add a hummingbird feeder in the summer. After all, I still like to watch the birds and an easy  meal is never turned down by busy parents. I have been noticing fewer visitors to my feeders over the past couple of weeks. In part this is due to more insects being available and in part because breeding birds are beginning to lay out their territories.

Most importantly, especially in this drought, provide water. Although you cannot use treated water outside under our drought restrictions, if you collect rain water or use greywater (from your shower only,) you can continue to put out water for your birds.

People sometimes ask why reduce food when the birds have babies to feed in the summer? Most babies are fed insects. Baby birds grow at a phenomenal rate and insects are high in proteins and fat. Most adult birds also change the composition of their diet in the summer, switching to a higher proportion of insects as insects are usually plentiful at this time of year and parents need a quick meal on the go. Cardinals eat about 1/3 insects and 2/3 vegetation (including seeds) although they feed their young almost 95% insects.

That isn't true of all of our birds, of course. The diet of house finches seems to stay at 97% seeds and plants all year long. So they'll be regular visitors to my sunflower feeder all summer. And of course our doves eat seeds all year around. Not that the Eurasian collared doves and white-winged doves in my neighborhood couldn't afford to go on a diet.

The best bird feeding is what birds get from native plants and the insects that feed on them. I haven't put in as many plants as I have wanted to the last few years because of the drought. But I continue to put in one or two every year.

Please don't spray poisons in your yards. Not only does it reduce the number of insects, but those insects in your yards are full of poisons, and are then fed to baby birds. Lots of birds is a good way to keep insects under control. Besides, we are all going to be sorry when the pollinators are gone.

So continue to enjoy your birds as the summer approaches. If you put up some bird houses or provide other suitable habitat with trees, shrubs and vines, perhaps you'll have the good fortune to watch a brood grow up.

Good birding!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Project Feederwatch Season Ends

This past weekend was my last Project Feederwatch observation period for this season. I have participated for 16 seasons.

Overall, it was a pretty disappointing season for me. We moved a couple of years ago and our yard is not nearly as bird-friendly as previous years. With the drought, I have not been able to make the wildscape improvements as quickly as I would like. Hoping the drought breaks soon. This year, out of 22 observation periods I had a grand total of 17 species--mostly less desirable species like white-winged doves, Eurasian collared doves, house sparrows and European starlings. I just keep trying to remember that the data is important, even if not what we want.

I have already signed up for next year and am hoping for a good year. Why not sign up? It's a good way to commit yourself to take the time to watch the birds in your backyard. This would be an excellent project for home schooling or as an activity to do with your kids. My 2-year-old granddaughter loved to feed the birds and to watch the doves all trying to fit on the platform feeder. I am hoping to have better luck turning her into a birder than I did with my kids. It's only $15 if you are not a Lab of Ornithology member; $12 if you are.

Good birding!

An Hour in Lucy Park

Photo by Manjith Kainickjara, Wikimedia Commons
I haven't birded Lucy Park much over the past year or so. My favorite areas for birding have been cleared out for a flood control project, so the little dickie birds that used to be so plentiful there are not. However, there are still some areas with some good cover, so I decided to give Lucy Park an hour of my time on Sunday morning. I walked the front of the trail from the entrance to the park to the Falls and then back down to where the clearing out starts near the bridge to the RV park, and then some inside the RV park. Then I took a quick drive by the duck pond, in case the wood ducks were there again (they weren't.)

I can't say I had great luck, but I did better than I expected. I was especially happy to come across a pair of Carolina wrens. The male was singing his little heart out and his lady friend was scoping out a tangle of vines around a downed tree limb for a possible nesting site. Another special treat was a small flock of yellow-rumped warblers. I haven't seen them much this year, so that was a nice touch to the morning.

It was a beautiful morning--clear, sunny, very little breeze and about 60 degrees. It doesn't get much better than that. Here are the birds I saw: Canada goose, blue-winged teal, mallard, gadwall, northern shoveler, white-winged dove, rock pigeon, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, cardinal, eastern phoebe, yellow-rumped warbler, northern mockingbird, Carolina chickadee, American robin, tufted titmouse, black-crested titmouse, Carolina wren, American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, fox sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird, European starling, and house finch.

All in all a nice little walk.

Good birding!

Monday, March 17, 2014

New Cornell University Programs

Barn Swallow by Walter Siegmund,
Wikimedia Commons
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is looking for people with nesting barn swallows to help in conducting a study on the effect of light on these birds. Although barn swallows haven't yet returned to our area, if you usually have nesting barn swallows, you can learn more from a recent newsletter article

I'm a little late bringing this to you, but Cornell is getting ready to launch their duck ID webinar series again, as well as the shorebird identification webinars. I have taken the shorebird series and learned a lot. I am going to sign up for the duck series this time, even though I am pretty good on ducks, and they're all getting ready to leave the area again until next winter. However, I can use some help on the non-duck swimming birds (grebes, etc.) I can't wait for the crow series to come back around. They are fascinating birds.  At $10 a webinar, these are within reach of most budgets, if you take one at a time.

Good birding!

Book Review: Ten Thousand Birds, Ornithology Since Darwin

I received Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin from Princeton University Press a couple of weeks ago. A large book, I admit I put off giving it an in-depth review just because of the size (544 pages.) It also doesn't have all of the pretty pictures most bird books have, although it does have several. One of the authors, Tim Birkhead, wrote Bird Sense, one of my favorite books about birds, so that caught my attention and gave me additional incentive to read the book.

So I made the plunge. The book delves into the rapid expansion in the study of birds since Darwin, but especially over the past few decades. It reviews our knowledge about bird evolution, classification, behavior, migration, ecology and conservation. The book takes a biographical approach, focusing on the major players in the field of ornithology and interweaving that information with their discoveries. What was especially interesting to me was how they went about making their discoveries--their thought processes and why they chose to study what they did.

Once I got into the book, there was a lot of fascinating information about birds tucked in throughout the book, so even if you are not necessarily excited about reading about science history and individual ornithologists, there is still a lot of attract a birder to the book. I found the book thoroughly entertaining and can see there is more than enough substance to have me returning to the book many times in the future.

This book is available from the publisher for $45.00 or  from for $32.12.

Good birding!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


OK, so I haven't seen a hummingbird yet this year, but they're coming. They have been sighted in Texas and are heading back this way. Drought conditions being what they are, some supplemental food is going to be important. I cleaned out my hummingbird feeder and set it out this morning (this picture is from last summer, not this morning.)

There is no need to spend a lot of money on nectar. You have a red feeder, the birds don't need red nectar (you don't see red nectar in your flowers, do you?) Give your wallet/purse a rest and use the following recipe: 4 parts water and 1 part sugar. You can dissolve the sugar in the water without boiling, but most of us do boil the water first--if nothing else as an extra measure to kill any bacteria that might remain in your feeder after cleaning. If you made too much, you can keep the extra in your refrigerator until you need it.

It is important you change your feeder nectar frequently--at least every 3 days. Perhaps more often in the hottest part of the summer. If the nectar looks cloudy, you definitely need to change it.

I encourage you to put out the welcome mat for your hummingbirds as soon as possible. Even if you don't see them visit, it is quite possible they are early in the morning or late in the evening. I hope however, you have the chance to enjoy these amazing little birds.

Good birding!

Book Review: Rare Birds of North America

I received Rare Birds of North America, by Steve N.G. Howell, Ian Lewington and Will Russell, from Princeton University Press a few weeks ago and am just getting a chance to sit down with it. I spent several hours pouring over the species descriptions and plates.

This book will be most enjoyed by the bird geek among you, although those with less obsessive birding tendencies will get a lot from it. The thorough treatment of bird topography, for example, would be welcomed by even beginning birders.

The species accounts of the 262 rare species identified at one time or another in North America are extensively researched. The identification plates are exceptional, with clear identification of differences with similar species.

If you are someone who likes to chase rarities, this would be a much appreciated addition to your birding library. 

Published just a couple of weeks ago, this book is available from Princeton University Press for $35.00 (hardcover) or you can order it from for $23.35 (and don't forget to log into your account through and designate Wild Bird Rescue, Inc. as your charity.)

Good birding!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Upcoming Bird Events

Chimney swift nestlings at Wild Bird Rescue
We're coming into migration season again, so birding will be especially good the next couple of months (if it will just rain, it could be great.)

Here are some upcoming bird-related events you don't want to miss:

- Saturday, March 8, 8:00 AM: Bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park. First campground on the left after you enter the park (which is the 2nd left turn). We meet at the firewood shed. Park admission applies.
- Tuesday, March 18, 7:00 PM: North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. National Association of Letter Carriers. 5310 Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley nursery.)
- Sunday, March 23, 10:30 AM: Wild Birds Unlimited will have birding expert, Joe LeFleur lead a bird walk to help learn to identify birds.
- Sunday, March 23, 12:00: Mr. LaFleur will give a talk in the store at Wild Birds Unlimited.
- Saturday, March 29, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM: Wild Bird Rescue Open House. Baby shower to kick off baby season. This is the only day of the year the facility is open to the public for tours, so come on out! Lite refreshments will be available and the Avian Ambassadors will be on hand. The public is encouraged to attend and to donate a wish list item or cash to this worthy organization. Gift shop items, to include a new T-shirt featuring Stevie, the great horned owl, will be available.

I hope you can attend one or more of these events.

Good birding!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Austin Trip

Congress St Bridge
I had to go to Austin for a work-related conference February 20 - 22.  I try to bird a little on my trips, even if it is just the drive to and from. My husband laughs at me because I am always asking what county we are in so I can record the birds by county along the way. Usually, I don't see much, even when I am not driving. This time I was by myself. I always thought birding while driving at 70 mph was a little tricky, but birding at the new 75 mph is definitely foolhardy--not that I seem to be able to help myself.

On the way to Austin, it was exceptionally windy--never good news when trying to sight birds. However, luck was with me. In Lampasas county, an Osprey flew across the road right in front of me. I generally am trying to remember the birds of each county until I can stop and record them--I know I had other birds in Lampasas, but the osprey pushed the rest of them right out of my brain.

When I got to Austin, I had some time and needed to stretch the kinks out from the 5 hour drive, so decided to take a walk. I didn't realize it when I registered by the conference hotel was right on the Colorado river and adjacent to Congress St. bridge, famous for the bats at sunset. Anyway, I took a little walk along the river, noting some birds that have not yet returned to Wichita Falls, as well as some ducks we have in the winter.  I took just a short walk as I had skipped lunch as was looking for someplace to eat. As I was walking downtown, I saw a mockingbird jump into a tree. When I looked up to get a better look, there was a sharp-shinned hawk! He had a small bird in his talons, enjoying his dinner--people where walking along right under his perch, not even noticing him. Without the mockingbird, I probably would have missed him too.

After dinner, I was walking back to the hotel and noticed the bat display in front of the Austin American Statesman offices. I decided to sit on the hill and watch the bats come out, even if it is not considered the best time of year for it. While I was waiting, a young man sat down nearby. He was riding a bike with several saddle bags. We struck up a conversation. Max is from Canada and was riding through the US on his way to central America. He had entered the States in August and had to be out by March 29. He had visited many cities along the Mississippi River. He too was waiting for the bats. He was a very nice young man--I hope he has a safe journey. The bats were awesome! Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, exited from under the bridge in a 15-minute span at sunset. I wish I had a good camera--my cell phone did not pick them up at all. A very inspiring sight, if you ever have the chance to experience it.

The birds I noted that afternoon were: ring-necked duck, bufflehead, American coot, double-crested cormorant, pied-billed grebe, great egret, snowy egret, spotted sandpiper, rock pigeon, white-winged dove, mourning dove, sharp-shinned hawk, cardinal, song sparrow, great-tailed grackle, northern mockingbird. The next night on the way to dinner I added some gadwall.

On the way home, I stopped to stretch my legs in a short walk in Pecan Creek Park in Hamilton, Texas. Several nice birds, to include: Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, turkey vulture, Carolina chickadee, Bewick's wren, northern cardinal, blue jay, northern mockingbird, eastern phoebe, cedar waxwing, orange-crowned warbler, American robin, and house sparrow.

What an nice trip! The conference was also good--I really did learn some interesting things and meet some nice people. But this is just more proof that you can bird anywhere!

Good birding!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Looking Back on the 2014 Great Backyard Bird Count

Texas Master Naturalist and friends enjoying the GBBC at Lake
Arrowhead State Park.
I had a pretty good Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC.) Whenever possible, I try to do a little birdwatching all four days. It doesn't always work out, but this year I did manage to bird every day, although the time available wasn't much on Friday and Monday.

I started out my Valentine's Day at Lake Wichita Park at 7:45, spending about 45 minutes walking from the parking lot next to Murphy's Mound around to the barrow pit and back. It was a beautiful, clear morning with a temp near 40 degrees, but the wind was bitter cold. The best bird there was a brown thrasher. Other birds included: northern shoveler, gadwall, Canada goose, double-crested cormorant, ring-billed gull, greater yellowlegs, northern flicker, Eurasian collared dove, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, white-crowned sparrow, Harris' sparrow, song sparrow, American robin, and meadowlark (sp.)

On Saturday I started at Lake Arrowhead State Park where the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists hosted a public GBBC count. It was fairly windy. The best bird there was a ferruginous hawk. We didn't get a lot of species, but other birds included: American white pelican, double crested cormorant, Canada goose, ring-billed gull, killdeer, downy woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, Bewick's wren, meadowlark (sp.), white-crowned sparrow, and house finch.

On the way back from Wichita Falls from Lake Arrowhead, I stopped in to Crestview Memorial Cemetery. Probably the best birds there were the large number of cackling geese (they look rather like stumpy Canada geese.) In addition, the following birds were present: Canada goose, mallard, bufflehead, ring-necked duck, gadwall, northern shoveler, red-tailed hawk, red-winged balckbird, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, song sparrow, and Harris' sparrow.

Still not ready to head home and grade final exams (bleh!), I decided to cut through by Stone Lake.  I drove by there and parked behind Grace church for a quick survey of a nice wooded area. I stayed for about 20 minutes and saw American coot, northern shoveler, mallard, Canada goose, American kestrel, northern cardinal and spotted towhee.

In yet another delaying tactic, I swept through Kiwanis Park and Lakeview Cemetery (any idea why it is called Lakeview?) I have never seen any good birds in this park, but you have to give it a shot every once in a while. The only finds there were 1 each, great-tailed grackle, blue jay and starling.

I then cut back across Southwest Parkway to check out Rosemont Cemetery. I haven't had a lot of luck since they started expanding and making "improvements" in the cemetery, but nonetheless, I did see my first turkey vulture of the year soaring overhead, so that was a good find. Other birds included: Eurasian collared dove, northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, American robin, white-crowned sparrow, Harris' sparrow, and house finch.

On Sunday the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists hosted another public GBBC count behind Wild Bird Rescue, where the Big Sit is held. There is no water in the lake at the west end due to the drought, but we did have some good birds, notably a flock of white-fronted geese flying over and an orange-crowned warbler. In addition to these sightings, the group saw: Canada goose, double-crested cormorant, ring-billed gull, killdeer, northern harrier, rock pigeon, Eurasian collared dove, northern cardinal, blue jay,  red-winged blackbird, European starling, great-tailed grackle, spotted towhee, dark-eyed junco, song sparrow, and house sparrow.

On Monday, I drove through Riverside Cemetery between meetings. I was only there for 15 minutes, but the only bird I saw was a northern mockingbird. However, the wind was blustery and cold--not promising.  Although I didn't expect to get much, I was right by Lucy Park, so had to at least make a quick 15-minute drive through. Although I didn't spend much time and didn't get out of the vehicle, I had the good fortune to see three wood ducks on the duck pond. Even if I didn't see another bird, I would have been happy. As it happened though, the wood ducks were not the only birds (although they were far and away the best ones.) Other birds includes: Canada goose, mallard, northern shoveler, great blue heron, Eurasian collared dove, northern mockingbird, blue jay, American robin, European starling, great-tailed grackle, and common grackle.

All told, I spent 7.75 hours birding over the four days and drove about 50 miles all told. I had a great time and saw some good birds.

Good birding!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Upcoming Bird-Related Events

Yes, I do realize I have made more posts today than I have for the past two weeks. My life is like that. I need to learn how to write them in a big purge and schedule when they show up, but I haven't yet.

There are some upcoming events for those interested in birds I thought I would pass on.

February 14 - 17: Great Backyard Bird Count. I have already written a separate post about that, so I won't repeat everything here--you can read the post. It looks like the weather is going to be decent (of course, that could easily change.)

February 18: Movie Night with the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. 7:00 PM. The club will have its regular meeting in the home of two of its members to watch "The Big Year." Guests are welcome, but email me at for information on the location. Popcorn will be served.

March 8: Raptor ID class at Hackberry Flat. 9:30 AM. There will be a group leaving from Wichita Falls around 8 AM. For more information contact Terry at

March 8: Bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park (and the reason I won't be going to Hackberry--boo!) 8:00 AM. Meet at the Firewood shed in the first camping area to the left after you enter the park.

Try to check out some of the bird-related activities in our area.

Good birding!

Pine Warbler

Sue and Warren King reported a pine warbler in their back yard a couple of days ago. There are only a couple of sight records of this bird in Wichita county, so this is an excellent find. To say I am jealous is an understatement. Here are some photos of this beautiful little bird. Sue King was gracious enough to give me permission to use her photos.

Good birding!,

Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue

Terry McKee told me I haven't posted a summary for the Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue that was held January 4. It's one of those things I was intending to do that somehow in my mind got turned around to me thinking I had done....ever have that happen to you?

We had two teams this year. We met at IHOP for breakfast and to plan strategies.

The more experienced team was Team 1 (me, Brady Surber, Tiffany Surber, Rick Folkening and Katherine Smith). We birded Wilbarger, Archer and Wichita counties. This was our first year with a second team. Sue and Warren King and Chuck Thueson birded primarily Wichita and Clay counties.

Team 1 species list (in order found, not field guide order):

Great horned owl
Red-tailed hawk
Eastern meadowlark
Eastern meadowlark
American kestrel
Northern harrier
Ladder-back woodpecker
Harris' sparrow
Field sparrow
Canada goose
Cackling goose
Loggerhead shrike
White-crowned sparrow
Red-winged sparrow
Hooded merganser
Red-headed woodpecker
American crow
Northern cardinal
Horned lark
Dark-eyed junco
Wild turkey
Black-crested titmouse
Eastern phoebe
Yellow-shafted flicker
Ring-necked duck
Northern bobwhite
European starling
House sparrow
Brown-headed cowbird
Brewer's blackbird
Savannah sparrow
Lark bunting
American pipit
McCowan's Longspur
Chestnut collared longspur
Lapland longspur
Song sparrow
Winter wren
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Carolina chickadee
Sandhill crane
Ferruginous hawk
Blue jay
Eurasian collared dove
Northern mockingbird
Yellow-rumped warbler
Rock pigeon
White pelican
Great blue heron
Ring-billed gull
Green-winged teal
Herring gull
Lesser yellowlegs
Vesper sparrow
Greater white-fronted goose
Least sandpiper
Western sandpiper
Eastern bluebird
Long-billed dowitcher
Greater yellowlegs
Baird's sandpiper
White-winged dove
Great-tailed grackle
American coot
Glaucous gull
Burrowing owl
Greater roadrunner
House finch
Bewick's wren
Brown thrasher
American goldfinch
Black vulture
American wigeon
Prairie falcon
Cooper's hawk
Lesser Scaup
Greater scaup
Northern pintail
Northern shoveler
Black-bellied whistling duck
Mourning dove
Double-crested cormorant
Lincoln's sparrow
American robin

Team 2 was a first-time entry. This is their list (again, in the order seen.)

Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Pied-gilled Grebe
White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Greater Yellowlegs
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
White winged dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker –Yellow
Northern Flicker – Red
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Le Conte’s Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

I haven't seen a final tally of how much we earned, but I Kate Bukowski at Wild Bird Rescue did tell me that although Team 2 had fewer birds, they out earned Team 1--way to go Team 2! It was the most successful Big Day fundraiser we've had. Thanks to everyone who sponsored/donated for this event!

Good birding!