Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from July, 2006

Hot Chicks of July

Swainson's Hawk

The effects of July’s 100 degree plus temperatures were evident everywhere; bird-life slowed down, water is receding, and fire danger is rising. The birds aren’t singing as vigorously as it takes too much energy, and besides, most have now finished raising their young and defending their territories. Three out of four nesting bluebird pairs abandoned their clutch of eggs. The eggs were either infertile when laid or became infertile due to the excessive heat. The older Swainson’s chick’s first fledgling flight was down to a puddle of cool water on the golf course where it sipped water for the very first time. It struck me the chick had never tasted water; parents can bring food but not water. At least two Mississippi Kite chicks have succumbed to exposure. I watched one kite parent bring a fat bug to her nest but then act confused when she couldn’t drop the bug into a gaping mouth. She flew off a distance and called to the chick, flew back to the nest and tried again to feed the young, but gave up after a few minutes and flew off to eat the bug herself.

beaver-dyess

The beavers are coping with falling water levels and rising pond temperatures. We’re all apprehensive about the success of their continued existence. But life goes on. The mockingbirds, cardinals, and doves are still raising young and some people have a sense of humor about the heat. We all know high temperatures are a part of the Big Country and they will eventually drop. Pictures of the “hot chicks” of July are now posted, along with other interesting sightings during the latter part of July.

Signs of the Season

Moon

As the July moon sets early in the western sky, the birds all across the area are hastily feeding their nestlings; juveniles are learning to forage for food; and the adult birds are molting to prepare for migration.

Nestling Swainson's

The Swainson’s Hawks in the nest at Dyess have changed noticeably. Gone is the downy white fluff, replaced by adult plumage. One is now out of the nest and perched on supporting branches. The younger hawk will soon follow its older sibling’s example and leave the nest. In the next ten days the juveniles will prepare for their first flight by facing into the wind and flapping their wings until an updraft floats them skyward.

At Cedar Gap Farm numerous juveniles are being seen. Their identification is challenging to birders. Some have no color, others have extra spots, and some look ratty, showing only gray spots where feathers used to be. Now is the time to enjoy our summer breeders for soon they will be gone. The Bullock’s Orioles are beginning their trip south, male Painted Buntings will leave in August, and the Ash-throated Flycatchers are not as numerous as they used to be. With the subtle shift of breeders moving south comes the anticipation of post breeding dispersal, or in other words, maybe something good (out of range) will show up.

So enjoy these last weeks of summer and keep your eyes and binoculars on the birds. And take a look at the newest pictures of the juveniles and nestlings in the area.

Nature’s Assortment

swainson's chick

It’s hard to give a title to a mixture of pictures. Most pictures are what John and I photographed the last week of June and the first week of July. You’ll find an update on the Swainson’s Hawks, Mississippi Kites, Bewick’s Wrens, Lark Sparrows, and other avian assortments. Each picture depicts nature in progress. I learn a bit more every time I look at and marvel at the natural world. I have some questions, too. They are attached to the pictures. If you know the answers, please let me know.

Nestlings, Juveniles and Bugs

Western kingbird feeds young

Several nestlings (birds still in the nest) and juveniles (birds that have left the nest but are not fully grown) are now appearing around our area. Parents are bringing bugs to the begging youngsters at an incredible pace. Bug after bug, anything that moves is snatched up and deposited down the youngsters’ throats. Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens, Western Kingbirds, and Scissor-taileds were photographed begging or being fed. Mind boggling that insects (what we try to annihilate) can produce such feathers of beauty. Crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, snails, ants, caterpillars, wasps, bees, moths, flies, leafhoppers, cicadas, ticks, millipedes, aphids, mayflies, winged termites, mosquitoes and many other bugs yet unthought of are all part of birds’ diets. Avoid the insecticide as much as possible; someone’s nestlings are hungry.

Field Trip to Oakwood Trails

Oakwood Trails

This Saturday, July 8, we will meet at the entrance to Oakwood Trails at 7:30 a.m. Oakwood is located on the Abilene State School campus. Check out our directions if you are uncertain as to where to meet. The breeding birds are still singing so we should find Painted Bunting, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Bullock’s Oriole, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and possibly Summer Tanager. Bring mosquito repellent, hat, water, and sunscreen along with your optics. This will be a half-day field trip.

Spring Festival at Abilene State Park

Spring Festival

I know, this post is a little late, almost three months late. But being new to web posting and learning WordPress is my excuse. Of course spring migration and birding had nothing to do with this post’s tardiness.

Enough pontificating; here’s the story: Abilene State Park held their second annual Spring Festival Arts and Crafts Show April 22, 2006. Big Country Audubon participated by offering bird feeders, nestboxes, bird seed, wildlife paintings, bird photographs, plants, and miscellaneous items. In addition to our arts and crafts booth, we also participated in the children’s area by helping them to create thumbprints. The children were eager to show off their creative talents and Kathy did a great job of organizing this activity.

Hats off to Lorie for her overall planning. She spent months and hours with the Friends of Abilene State Park organizing and encouraging our participation in this event. The day was a huge success and you can see a few pictures of our members as they set up their booth. Thanks to those that helped: Lorie, Joan, Carolyn, Charline, Tom, Kathy, Earlene, Steve, Dolores, Esta, and John. We eagerly look forward to next year’s Festival.