Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Bird Count Coming Up

The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club will be hosting the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Saturday, December 17. As usual, we will be dividing the count circle up into thirds to ensure good coverage. Team leaders are Terry McKee (Wichita Falls proper), Me (Lake Wichita/Holliday), and Warren King (Iowa Park area).

The CBC is the longest running citizen science project in the U.S. The first was held on Christmas Day, 1900. You can read more about the history of the CBC and the many interesting things we have learned at the Audubon Society's website.

You are invited to join any of the teams for part or all of the count. Most of the teams start around first light (7:30ish) and finish up around 3 or 4. We meet up in the evening for the count supper--a potluck, after which the team compiler, Debra Halter, takes the information from all of the teams to prepare the final report on the count.

All of the counts teams will spend some time walking and some driving, with some stationary watching at better locations. People may also watch at their feeders, if in the count circle, and send their information to the compiler.

My section of the count usually is about 4 - 5 miles walking and a fair amount of driving. All of the terrain is fairly flat. If you are interested in participating in any part of the count, contact me ( or Terry ( I haven't talked to Warren to get his permission to share his email or phone, but Terry or I will be happy to connect you with him, if you would like to participate in that area.

If my math is right, this is the 43rd year the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club has been conducting the count in our area--it has been a while. Feel free to take part in the count.

Good Birding!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November Bird Walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park

Flock of pied-billed grebes
Photo courtesy of Debra Halter

Closer photo of pied-billed grebes
Photo courtesy of Debra Halter
Last Saturday was the monthly bird walk at Lake Arrowhead State Park. We had a pretty good showing, with 6 people showing up, a couple of whom are new birders. It is nice to have new people because it helps me remember to enjoy the common birds that are not so common to the beginner. The walk doesn't get advertised very well, so it is unusual to have that many people come.

I'll lead with the good stuff. We had the largest flock of pied-billed grebes any of us had ever seen. I have seen as many as 5 or 6 at a time, but this group was more like 30 in number. Debra Halter was kind enough to take some pictures as I am sure there will be some push back from the eBird editor with a number that high.

The picture above is a good view of most of the flock (yes, the two birds in the foreground are coots, not grebes.) The picture to the right is a closer look at a few of the birds to show they are definitely pied-billed grebes. These are cute little birds--always nice to see them.

The weather Saturday was absolutely gorgeous, although a little more chilly than recent temperatures--upper 40's. The winter birds are definitely beginning to show up.

Here is a complete list of the birds we saw:

Great egret
Great blue heron
Double crested cormorant
Canada goose
American coot
Pied-billed grebe
White pelican
Ring-billed gull
Tern species (we couldn't get a good enough look at them to positively identify, although best guess is Forster's)
Ladder-backed woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker
Yellow-shafted flicker
Red-tailed hawk
Turkey vulture
Mourning dove
Northern mockingbird
American robin
Northern cardinal
Bewick's wren
Cedar waxwing
Yellow-rumped warbler
Orange-crowned warbler
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Eastern phoebe
Harris' sparrow
White-crowned sparrow
Song sparrow
House finch
Great-tailed grackle
Meadowlark species (no song)

Driving home, still in Clay County, I had a very good view of a Swainson's hawk and a couple of American kestrels.

Why not join us in December? Our next walk is December 10 at 8 AM.

Good birding!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Project Feederwatch Starts This Weekend

Downy woodpecker.
Photo by Errol Taskin/Project Feederwatch
One of my favorite citizen science activities is Project Feederwatch. I have been participating for 18 seasons! Feederwatch is a good way to learn the common birds that regularly visit your backyard. It would be a great project to do with your kids or grandkids. I count birds every time I pass by my windows and keep a running tally for the two days. It only takes about 5 minutes to input the count data each week.

Although I feed birds all year, I put out additional feeders in the Feederwatch season. I started adding feeders last weekend and will have them all up by this weekend.

Project Feederwatch only costs $18 per year to participate ($15 if you are a member of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.) There is still time to sign up.

For more information about the program and what the data is used for, see the Project Feederwatch Project Overview.

You can watch the birds from the comfort of your warm, dry home; enjoy the birds; and contribute to our knowledge of these fascinating animals.

Good birding!