Monday, January 2, 2017


Pyrrhuloxia, Lake Arrowhead SP, 12/23/2016
Photo courtesy of Debra Halter
There are few things more exciting to a birder than adding a life bird to their list. I had a chance to do that this past week.

Debra Halter and June McKee were birding at Lake Arrowhead SP and saw this pyrruhloxia. It looks much like a female cardinal, but it is more of a grayish color and is dark gray/black around the beak and eyes. Debra kindly posted her photo to the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Facebook page, with a good description of where they saw the bird.

It was late in the day when I saw the post, so I decided I would give it a try to find the bird the next day. I had an previous opportunity to get this bird when I was showing a group of birders from Houston around the area, and we were at Copper Breaks State Park a few years ago. Several of them saw the pyrruhloxia--I did not. I heard it, but I don't count a first-time bird unless I see it well enough to be able to identify it.

I told my husband I was going out to try to find a lifer. The last time he went with me was a couple of years ago when he went with me on New Year's Eve (when we didn't find) and New Year's Day (when we did find) a whooping crane that had been sighted out around Electra. He didn't know about a lifer, and he didn't think people would actually spend time out beating the bushes for one--until he saw how many people were out trying to get a glimpse of the whooping crane.

Even though this bird wasn't in an isolated area, he decided he would go with me, so Christmas Eve found us at Lake Arrowhead State Park, trying to find this bird. Birds will often stay in one area for awhile, if they find the type of habitat they like. We walked all through the general area Debra had described, with no luck. I finally spied what I thought would be perfect habitat for this bird and decided to give it a thorough look. And, there it was! My husband didn't see it, but he was on the opposite side of the area. I got a good look, but couldn't find it again for him. He's not a birder, so he wasn't heartbroken. But it would have been nice for him to see it too. Overall, it took us about 45 minutes to find the bird, so not bad at all. We did see a few other birds during our walk: eastern phoebe, European starling, Northern mockingbird, American coot, pied-billed grebe, double-crested cormorant, red-winged blackbird, ladder-backed woodpecker, yellow-shafted northern flicker, ruby-crowned kinglet, northern cardinal, Cooper's hawk, northern harrier, black vukture. Not bad for 45 minutes.

Good birding!

Christmas Bird Count

I am catching up on happenings. It is hard enough to find time to bird over the holidays, let alone follow-up writing about it. But I did want to catch up.

The Wichita Falls Christmas Bird Count  (CBC) was December 17, sponsored by the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. The weather was absolutely beautiful on December 16. Not so much on count day. I was naively thinking the cold front might not come through until afternoon, but the temperatures started dropping early in the morning. That would have been okay, except for the wind, which makes the weather seem so much colder and keeps the birds down. Consequently, the count was lower than usual, both in number of species and numbers of individual birds. We worked hard for these birds.

I started the count on the Lake Wichita dam, where it is always windy and can be downright miserable when it is cold. I was joined by Fred Koberg, from Graham, joining me for his first CBC. We birded from 7:30 AM to around 3:00 PM in our area. We walked about 5.3 miles and drove 82 miles. We later met the other teams for the count supper at Sue and Warren King's home.

My favorite birds of the day were the Wilson's snipe, prairie falcon, and white-throated sparrow.

I am including only the birds seen by me and Fred in our area, which is the southwest section of the circle. Debra Halter is the official compiler for our count and submitted final totals for the count after the count week.

Canada goose, 88
Gadwall, 76
American wigeon, 6
Mallard, 67
Northern shoveler, 53
Ring-necked duck, 29
Bufflehead, 1
Duck sp, 54
Pied-billed grebe, 5
American white pelican, 77
Double-crested cormorant, 100
Great blue heron, 5
Turkey vulture, 1
Northern harrier, 2
Sharp-shinned hawk, 1
Cooper's hawk, 1
Red-tailed hawk, 5
Buteo sp, 3
American kestrel, 8
Prairie falcon, 1
American coot, 41
Killdeer, 10
Wilson's snipe, 4
Ring-billed gull, 144
Rock pigeon, 21
Eurasian collared dove, 70
White-winged dove, 6
Mourning dove, 4
Belted kingfisher, 3
Red-bellied woodpecker, 1
Ladder-backed woodpecker, 2
Downy wooodpecker, 2
Northern (yellow-shafted) flicker, 1
Eastern phoebe, 4
Loggerhead shrike, 1
Blue jay, 4
American crow, 1
Tufted titmouse, 1
Ruby-crowned kinglet, 3
Eastern bluebird, 1
American robin, 3
Northern mockingbird, 5
Brown thrasher, 1
European starling, 287
Orange-crowned warbler, 1
Spotted towhee, 1
Fox sparrow, 1
Song sparrow, 2
White-throated sparrow, 1
Harris' sparrow, 6
White-crowned sparrow, 18
Sparrow sp, 13
Dark-eyed junco, 5
Northern cardinal, 32
Red-winged balckbird, 218
Meadowlark sp, 23
Common grackle, 4
Great-tailed grackle, 108
Blackbird sp, 230
American goldfinch, 10
House sparrow, 1

Although this wasn't one of the better counts in terms of numbers or weather, it was a great time. After all, I could have been cleaning house.....

Good birding!