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!