Saturday, September 12, 2015

(Mostly) Lackluster Holiday Birding

One of the great things about 3-day weekends is the extra time to go birding. I hit the ground running on Saturday to get all of the errands and housework done so I could do some birding Sunday and Monday.

I really do mean it when I say, "A bad day birding is better than most anything else," because Sunday and Monday were not the best birding I have had. I was looking forward to getting out because migration is underway. We certainly are not at the peak yet, but some of the early migrants are coming through and some of our summer birds are already gone.

I got a late start on Sunday. Although we have gone to winter hours at Wild Bird Rescue, there are still enough birds to take a while to clean and feed first thing in the morning, so by the time I got to the Chat Trail at Lake Wichita Park, it was 9:40 and already getting hot. I ran into Robert Mauk, a local photographer who takes some good bird pictures just leaving the trail. He said he hadn't seen many birds at all.  Because of the heat, I just went down the Chat Trail to the barrow pit and back--a sum total of 30 minutes. If there had been many birds, I would have stayed in spite of the temperatures, but no luck. Just as I was coming back, I did have two sightings that saved the morning: a yellow warbler and a blue-gray gnatcatcher. Other birds included: Eurasian collared dove, blue jay, robin, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, black-chinned hummingbird, great-tailed grackle and a woodpecker. The woodpecker could have been either a downy or a ladder-backed--it was the right size for either, but it was just flying across the trail and I just didn't have time to be sure.

I decided to try Lucy Park on Monday. Another late start, but I was there by 8:30. Once breeding season is over, the birds are very quiet. The great-tailed grackles have molted. During those few weeks they don't have tails, they skulk around in the bushes, uncharacteristically quiet. You would think they are embarrassed because they are half dressed. Soon they will look gorgeous once again. If it wasn't for the blue jays, the woods would have been nearly silent.

It is easy to see the level of the flood waters due to the mud line on the trees. Although many of the wonderful birding areas have been torn out for supposed flood control, there are still some good birding opportunities in the park. Not as many as there were certainly. Now, if the people who cut down all of the wonderful trees had just torn out all of the salt cedar--but a rant for another day.

Red-headed woodpecker. Photo by Andy Reaga and Chrissy McClellan,
Wikimedia Commons
This was another day that was very disappointing, until near the end, when a pair of red-headed wookpeckers started chasing each other through the trees, chattering to one another. I donb't see red-headed woodpeckers so often that it isn't a thrill to catch a good sighting. There were also several small kettles of Mississippi kites circling the park with a few turkey vultures. I figured they were getting ready to ride the front that was predicted to move through the area in the next day or two. (The front did come through and I haven't seen or heard a Mississippi kite since.) Other than these birds, the only birds seen/heard that morning were: blue jay, cardinal, Carolina chickadee, yellow warbler, great-tailed grackle, starling, Canada goose, mallard (not the ones at the duck pond--on the river) and Canada goose.

Overall, not a great weekend, but a few good birds to make it all worthwhile.

Good birding!

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