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!

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