Sunday, January 31, 2016

Beautiful Morning at Lake Wichita Park

Lake Wichita Park is very close to my house, so I often bird there, especially since Lucy Park has been cleared out in the hopes of better flood control.

This morning dawned bright and sunny, although with a chilly bite once the wind came up. I headed out to the Chat Trail, past the barrow pit and then over to Murphy's Mound and back. A pretty good morning. 

A couple of highlights:
Common yellowthroat male,
Matt Tillet, Wikimedia Commons
  - A male common yellowthroat in the reeds in the marshy area at the corner of the Chat Trail and the Circle Trail. I have seen common yellowthroats in this area before, but not since before the drought. I always look for them there. They sound a little like wrens when they are rummaging in the reeds, so do a little extra looking if that is the case. In spite of the "common" in the name, they are not so common here. 
  - One of the great horned owls was perched in his usual spot along the Chat Trail. A lot of trees have fallen down in the that area--I hope that doesn't run the owls off. 
  - As I was heading back to the car, a flock of some 21 cedar waxwings flew into the tree next to the trail. There is a shallow place in the ditch where they were flying down with the robins to take a nice bath. They didn't seem to be overly concerned with me--I was pretty close to them.

The ducks seem to be pairing up before heading back north. There were a few dozen northern shovelers on the barrow pit. Almost all of them were a male/female pair with a few lone males interspersed.
View from the overlook

Now that the lake is full again, the wildlife viewing overlook once again provides good views over the water toward the dam and Pelican's Point. It is has been nothing but weeds for some years with the drought, but a nice area now. I did see several ducks this morning.

I didn't see any pelicans on the lake this morning--there were some good-sized flocks circling yesterday. I am trying to remember when they will be leaving.

When I got home, I had a beautiful little male ladderbacked woodpecker in the pecan tree out front and a orange-crowned warbler looking for insects in the hackberry tree next to the feeders out back. Neither counts for Project Feederwatch, but good birds in my yard. I have had a paucity of good birds in my yard since we moved to this house, so I am happy to see some showing up. Hopefully that means my efforts to make the yard more bird friendly are beginning to pay off.

Birds seen/heard in Lake Wichita Park this morning: Canada goose, mallard, ruddy duck, bufflehead, gadwall, northern shoveler, pied-billed grebe, American coot, great blue heron, ring-billed gull, Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, great horned owl, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-shafted flicker,  belted kingfisher, blue jay, cardinal, American robin, northern mockingbird, ruby-crowned kinglet, common yellowthroat, house finch, goldfinch, spotted towhee, song sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, cedar waxwing, and European starling.

Wonderful start to Sunday--unfortunately, housework calls......

Good birding!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Not-So-Fair-Weather Birding

Saturday, Jan 9, was the monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park (2nd Saturday of each month.) The forecast was for a mixture of rain and snow with little or no accumulation and this time, the weather forecast was spot on. However, the further out of Wichita Falls I drove, the more rain and less snow. As you can see by the photo to the right, there wasn't much accumulation at 8AM when the walk started, and what little there was, was gone by the end of the walk at 9:30.

Although I had posted on Facebook that the walk was a go, I thought it unlikely anyone but me would show, and I was right. Texans are definitely fair weather birders. All I have to say is, "You snooze, you lose." It was a pretty good morning with some decent birds. On the drive out to the park, I saw a flock of wild turkeys in someone's front yard on FM 1954 (Archer Co.)

Overall, I saw the usual birds, although there were some special moments. Dozens of white pelicans were following one another over the lake--there was a large pod of white pelicans and cormorants fishing. Periodically, a group of  pelicans would take off for another part of the lake, flying low over the water.

Marsh wren, Wikimedia Commons, Allan Vernon
I had a close-up view of a Loggerhead shrike. There were several ruby-crowned kinglets--these little inquisitive birds would alight on branches right in front of my face, making sure I got a clear look. A marsh wren was also checking me out, so I had the chance to get a very good look. There were two birds I wasn't able to identify because I caught only fleeting glimpses--one was a warbler (not a yellow-rumped or orange-crowned) and the other was a larger bird flying through the trees.

Birds seen: double-crested cormorant, white pelican, Canada goose, gadwall, American coot, mallard, pied-billed grebe, great blue heron, killdeer, ring-billed gull, red-tailed hawk, red-bellied woodpecker, northern flicker, mourning dove, Bewick's wren, marsh wren, northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, European starling, meadowlark, Loggerhead shrike, northern mockingbird, eastern phoebe, American goldfinch, ruby-crowned kinglet, American crow, song sparrow, and white-crowned sparrow.

On the way home, I made a quick drive past Stone Lake, just to check for ducks. In addition to more mallards and coots, there was a lone male shoveler and some lesser scaup.

Overall a good morning.

Good birding!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy National Bird Day!

Blue Jay
Who knew?

I didn't realize there was a National Bird Day. In reading through the website, you can see that it seems devoted to better treatment of pet birds, although it is obvious their thoughts are that birds are not pets and should live life "outside the cage." Their focus is on the conservation of birds that are used in pet trade.

However, I am not one to quibble. I am just happy that there is any effort to show people how intriguing and how important birds are in our ecosystem. But, as far as I am concerned, every day is Bird Day!

Why not celebrate Bird Day with a donation to some bird-related cause? Some local 501(c) options:

  - Wild Bird Rescue rehabilitates wild birds and returns them to the wild for all of us to enjoy. They are hosting 11 barn owls right now in addition to some other birds--these are very expensive to feed and house to release.
  - River Bend Nature Center, which does not focus on birds, but does help our community better understand the ecosystem as a whole.
  - Texas Master Naturalist, Rolling Plains Chapter, which trains volunteers to help others learn more about the environment. The group does many projects gathering and reporting information useful to learning more about the birds in our area as well as providing programs and events to connect people with our local plants and animals.

Two other options for you out-of-towners:

  - Texas Ornithological Society
  - Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Even better, watch the birds in your backyard, on the Circle Trail or at one of our local parks.

Good birding!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"First Day" Birding

On January 1, Texas parks host a "First Day Hike." Lake Arrowhead had a morning hike along the Onion Trail and a short nature hike on the nature trail in the afternoon. The Rolling Plains chapter Texas Master Naturalist members were on hand to assist Ranger Joe.

I attended the morning hike. Some parts of the trail were closed due to flooding and pretty much the entire trail was soggy, but several people met up at 8:30 to hike about 4.5 - 5 miles on the Onion Creek Trail. It was good to see that there was water once again flowing over the dam. I brought my binoculars to get in a little birdwatching. We didn't see a large number of birds, but we had some pretty good ones--it was a very good morning for sparrows.

Birds heard/seen during the hike included: American Coot, Canada goose, northern shoveler, gadwall, mallard (I didn't see these--Mike and I were hanging back looking at some sparrows when the leading group flushed a group of ducks), Wilson's snipe, great blue heron, belted kingfisher, double crested cormorant, Inca dove, downy woodpecker, Bewick's wren, northern cardinal, blue jay, eastern phoebe, northern mockingbird, ruby-crowned kinglet, European starling, eastern meadowlark, dark-eyed junco, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, Harris's sparrow, chipping sparrow, and song sparrow.

We had plenty of other water birds, but the sun was behind the birds, instead of behind us, so we couldn't identify many of them. At the conclusion of the hike, I took a quick driving pass along the swim beach area in hopes of more ducks. but other than a lot more coots, the only additional bird was a pied-billed grebe.  Driving home along FM 1954, I picked up a couple of kestrels and a red-tailed hawk.

A nice start to 2016.

Good birding!