Monday, March 21, 2016

Birding at 75+

I've been a road warrior for work lately. I've spent way too much time in the truck. As much as I like what I do, the miles on the road sometimes get to be a bit much.

When my husband is driving, it isn't too bad. He doesn't mind driving and I can look around. However, as a rule, he doesn't come with me on work trips, so I have to drive. My husband teases me when we are traveling together because I always have my binoculars at the ready and have my little notebook to record any birds I see while we are flying down the road. But he has gotten pretty good about paying attention and letting me know if we pass a county line. He thinks I am crazy to record birds by county and at high speeds, you can't really get a good look at the birds.

It was hard enough at 70 mph. Since Texas raised the speed limit to 75 (and in some places, 80 or 85), it is even more difficult, especially if you are the one driving. Nonetheless, I do try to keep an eye out for birds, while trying to be safe. I must admit my scribbles are nearly indecipherable, as I have to try to write without actually looking at my note pad.

Over the past few weeks I have put around 2000 miles on my truck, with more than that still to come over the next two weeks. I always say I am going to take time on these work trips to do a little recreational birding, but it never seems to happen that way. I am either driving there, doing my work, or driving back. I was in McAllen a couple of weeks ago and didn't bird at all--that is really sad. I have been in 28 counties over the past two weeks and expect to be several more before I wrap up at the beginning of April.

Open area and wooded lot behind the hotel in Conroe
When you are birding at a high rate of speed, you really only see the birds that are very big, very conspicuous or very common and sitting right in front of your face. If you compared my lists from one county to the next, certain birds would be on more than not. I don't think I have a single county without a turkey vulture, for example. American kestrels and mockingbirds are also on most county lists. Unfortunately, so are starlings.

Good spot for a ruby-crowned kinglet
Why keep lists by county? First, because it is a fairly small area when trying to determine a bird's range. So when you put your counts into eBird, it helps create the range maps all of us rely on. Also, the Texas Ornithological Society created the Texas Century Club some years ago to encourage people to bird some of the more remote counties and find out more about the birds found in our state. The idea was to challenge birders to find 100 birds in 100 different counties. There are some people who have managed to do that. They are more focused than I. I probably have birds in 100 counties, but no where near 100 in many of them. But I am inching my way along-it's a target to work on, but I am not competitive enough in my birding to push for it. I'll get there eventually.

Tonight I am in Conroe, TX, near the beautiful Sam Houston National Forest. I did manage a short walk near the hotel this evening, as much to stretch my legs as to look for birds, but I can multitask. The best bird was probably some eastern bluebirds, although the ruby-crowned kinglet was nice as well. I've put a couple of cell phone pictures in this post. Construction crews are busily cutting down the trees and clearing the lands for stores and hotels, so most of this will likely be gone by next year.

It just goes to show, you can enjoy birds anywhere!

Good birding!

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