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!

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