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!

No comments: