Monday, February 15, 2016

Great Backyard Bird Count Was "Great!"

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was Feb 12 - 15. I have finished updating my checklists, so thought I would give you a summary of four great mornings of birding. Four days worth of birding makes for a long post, but some good birds.

I am not going to provide the number of each species as those are in the eBird checklists I turned in. You can either pull them from eBird or email me at and I can forward them to you.

Fires in Lucy Park
On Friday, I started the GBBC in Lucy Park. It just makes me want to cry to go to Lucy Park any more. On the advice of hydrological engineers, the city of Wichita Falls has been cutting down many of the old trees in the park, clearing all of the understory and clearing and burning pretty much all of the branches and leaves on the ground. This is intended to reduce the potential for flooding. I know the City Council isn't going to weigh bird habitat heavily against potential property loss among their constituents, but it still makes my heart hurt. This used to be a premier place to bird. Lucy Park still has relatively decent birding, at least for woodpeckers, as there are still many old trees with cavities still in the park. However, as the understory is removed, the habitat is likely to be more favorable to starlings. The birding has steadily declined over the past 2 years. I don't know if Lucy Park will be worth the effort next year. I was joined on this count by Ray and Sharon, fellow Texas Master Naturalist.

We had a pretty decent morning with the following species seen: turkey vulture (unusual for this time of year), red-tailed hawk, Cooper's hawk, mallard, Canada goose, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, mourning dove, northern flicker, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, tufted titmouse, American robin, Carolina chickadee, northern cardinal, blue jay, ruby-crowned kinglet, cedar waxwing, northern mockingbird, song sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird, rusty blackbird, house finch, American goldfinch, yellow-rumped warbler, and European starling,

Saturday was the regular bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park, which we also did as a GBBC count. Mike and June, two regulars for the Saturday walks, came.  For me, the highlight was the yellow-bellied sapsucker, a pretty winter visitor to our area. Our species for the morning included: double-crested cormorant, Canada goose, American coot, pied-billed grebe, mallard, gadwall, white pelican. ring-billed gull, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, mourning dove, white-winged dove, Eurasian collard dove, eastern bluebird, eastern phoebe, northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, blue jay, ruby-crowned kinglet, Bewick's wren, American pipit, eastern meadowlark, dark-eyed junco, white-crowned sparrow, Harris's sparrow, common grackle, great-tailed grackle, loggerhead shrike, orange-crowned warbler, and house sparrow. On my way home (still in Clay County) I saw a great blue heron, a couple of American kestrels, and a red-tailed hawk. A Cooper's hawk was sitting on a pole on Sisk Road (Archer County.) Altogether a nice outing.

Sunrise on Lake Wichita
Debra, Terry and James at the GBBC count behind Wild
Bird Rescue
People wonder why I like birding. One of the big reasons is that it is so quiet. Look at this picture of Lake Wichita at sunrise. Even with a cell phone photo, you can see just how peaceful it looks. It helps that this time of year, sunrise comes at a very reasonable 7:20 or so. This was right around 7:30. Several Texas Master Naturalist came out for this count--Terry, Debra, James, Tami. Katherine from Wild Birds Unlimited also came out. Both James and Katherine scored a lifer with the yellow-rumped warblers (Myrtle).  We had some momentary excitement when we heard a barred owl calling, but then we remembered where we were--Lindsay, one of the education birds at Wild Bird Rescue was the culprit.

This count was a stationary count behind Wild Bird Rescue, where we also host the Big Sit. Species seen included: white pelican, pied-billed grebe, mallard, northern pintail, gadwall, redhead, American coot, northern shoveler, bufflehead, Canada goose, double-crested cormorant, greater yellowlegs, killdeer, great blue heron, ring-billed gull, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, yellow-shafted flicker, ladder-backed woodpecker. northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, blue jay, cedar waxwing, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird, American robin, western meadowlark, American crow, European starling, song sparrow, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, yellow-rumped warbler (Myrtle's), orange-crowned warbler, house finch, and house sparrow.

Monday I was the lone birder for Lake Wichita Park. I limited the walk to the chat trail and the barrow pit--unfortunately, I do have to work sometime as I like to eat. The first bird I heard/saw when I got out of my truck in the parking lot was a belted kingfisher, one of my favorites. I had 11 species of birds before I got out of the parking lot, which boded well for the morning. But then, I came across this mess--can you believe the nerve of people?

Dumped trash at Lake Wichita Park
 Fortunately, some good birds helped my temper. Birds seen this morning included: Canada goose, white-fronted goose, mallard, norhtern shoverler, bufflehead, redhead, ruddy duck, American coot, gadwall, pied-billed grebe, northern pintail, ring-billed gulls (hundreds circling the water treatment pond), killdeer, Eurasian collared dove, white-winged dove, great horned owl,  great blue heron, belted kingfisher, northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, northern cardinal, blue jay, eastern bluebird, eastern phoebe, yellow-rumped warbler, Carolina chickadee, Bewick's wren, cedar waxwing, northern mockingbird, white-crowned sparrow, song sparrow, field sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, great-tailed grackle, European starling, American robin, and American goldfinch.

 Overall, a great GBBC.

Good birding!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Big Day Team One Has a Name!

Chihuahuan Raven
For the past few years, a group of birders has been doing the Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue. Since originally there was only one team, we didn't have  a name. Last year, we had three teams. Two of the teams came up with names--my team was just called Team One because we were the first team. That was a little blah, but we just didn't take the time to come to an agreement on a name.

This year, it appears we will have four teams. Team One decided to take the plunge and come up with our own name. So we will be the Raven Lunatics. Suits us, I think.

Two of the other teams are the Sitting Ducks and the Chickadees. No idea yet what the fourth team will call themselves.

So when you send in your donation to Wild Bird Rescue, be sure to put "Big Day--Raven Lunatics" on the memo line. You can also donate online. Again, be sure to put the same memo in the comments section in PayPal. And of course, I will be happy to pick up any donations from you. Just email me at

Good Birding!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue is March 6

The Big Day for Wild Bird Rescue will be held on Sunday, March 6. This is a fundraiser for Wild Bird Rescue.

Currently we have 3 teams lined up to participate. The Big Day is a marathon 12-hour competitive birding event. The goal is to find as many species of birds in the allotted 12 hours as possible. We have yet to have a single team make 100 species, although that is possible. We made a combined total of 106 species between the 3 teams last year, but no single team has been able to break the 100 bird barrier. My team has been in the 90+-species range every year, but just can't quite get over the hurdle of 100. The teams may go anywhere they wish during the 12-hour period. Last year, the team I was on drove over 400 miles and walked several more.

Teams compete to find the highest number of species and to collect the highest contribution total. Teams are looking for sponsors. Individuals and companies may pledge a lump sum amount or may pledge per species.

Want to take part? No problem! You can join one of the three teams already made up or you can put together a team of your own. You do not have to be an experienced birder (although it helps.) Someone needs to drive, keep records and help spot birds, so don't think you cannot take part because you don't have a lot of knowledge.

If you have questions, would like to take part or to pledge, feel free to contact me at Put Big Day for WBR in the Subject line, so I won't think your email is spam.

Good birding!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Additional Public GBBC Count

In my last post, I mentioned I did not know if the Rolling Plains Chapter Texas Master Naturalist were planning their usual public Great Backyard Bird Count. The answer is, yes, they are.

For those who may want to hone their skills in a group setting or don't want to walk, the Master Naturalists will be hosting a GBBC public event on Sunday, February 14 from sun up to around 10:00 AM behind Wild Bird Rescue at 4611 Lake Shore Dr, Wichita Falls, TX.  Anyone is welcome for part or all of the time.

You don't need to RSVP, just show up. You may want to bring a lawn chair if you would like to sit. I would suggest layers as the wind coming off the lake makes it feel colder.

Now you have 4 possible days and times to participate in the GBBC, if you want to take part with someone else.

Good birding!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Great Backyard Bird Count

One of my favorite events of each winter is the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), held mid February of each year. The GBBC is a joint effort of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. It is a global event, with people in many countries sending information on the birds they see during their backyard count. Last year participants submitted over 147,000 checklists, counting over 5,000 species of birds.

I have blocked out the mornings of the next 4-day count, February 12 - 15, in order to participate.

You do not have to be a great birder to take part. In fact this is an excellent way to introduce new people to birdwatching, so it is perfectly fine if you are new to the hobby. Nor do you have to spend a lot of time (unless you want to.) How do you take part?

  • Choose a nearby location (your backyard is fine.)
  • Find at least 15 minutes to watch birds
  • Count every individual bird you can identify
  • Submit your counts (you may have to set up an account if you are not already registered with eBird or one of the Cornell Lab citizen science projects.)
This is a great project to do with your children or grandchildren, since it doesn't require a long attention span. It could also be a great introduction to birds for home schoolers, classrooms and scout troops.

One of the GBBC counts will be the monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park on Saturday, February 13. It will start at the firewood shed (1st camping area to your left after you enter the park) at 8:00 AM. The entry fee to the park does apply.

Usually there is a group Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist count on Sunday. I haven't heard if that is happening and it isn't on the chapter calendar. I am keeping that date open, just in case.

I will be doing a count at Lucy Park on Friday, beginning at 8:00 AM. If anyone is interested in taking part, just meet at the first parking area on the left after entering the park on Sunset Street (the entrance adjacent to River Bend Nature Center and behind the Sanitation Department.) 

I will also be doing a count at Lake Wichita Park beginning at the head of the Chat Trail beginning at 8:00 AM on Monday, February 15.

Anyone who wants to take part is welcome to come along. If you need more information, send me an email at Be sure to put GBBC in the Subject line so I don't think your email is spam.

Good birding!