Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from November, 2006

Field Trip to Lake Baird, December 2, 2006

Join us this Saturday, December 2 for a field trip to Lake Baird in Callahan County, Texas. We will meet at the Towne Crier Restaurant at 818 E. Hwy. 80. We will leave at 7:30 a.m. The restaurant serves breakfast so if you’re hungry come early for breakfast and carpooling. The target birds for this trip will be: White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, duck species (mergansers and buffleheads are beginning to show on area lakes), Lark Bunting, and whatever else flies in front of us.

Please check our hotline at 325-691-8981 if weather appears problematic. Bring snacks if you like to munch before lunch. This field trip will last until noon at which time we will either go our separate ways or find a place to eat lunch.

Bluebirds, Harriers, and Pantries: Mid November Birding

WEBL

Several Western Bluebirds are here in the Big Country for the winter. Found the first flock in Buffalo Gap and another at Cedar Gap Farm. For an explanation on the finer points of IDing Western vs. Eastern, visit the Mid-November Gallery.

NOHarrier

Lorie captured a couple of action shots of a Northern Harrier hunting for its food at Lake Kirby. How did it know to hunt in the tall reeds? Hawks see the ultraviolet spectrum of light. Rodents leave urine trails as they scamper from one weedy area to another. Urine trails apparently glow like neon lights in the ultraviolet range. Therefore, all a hawk has to do is find the urine trails and wait patiently for the next full-bladdered rodent to hurry down the path.

LOSH_Food

Other birds stash their food in pantries to be consumed later. I found several impaled insects (like the one above) indicating the Butcher Bird (Loggerhead Shrike) is stocking his pantry for the winter. Fifty-two impaled grasshoppers were discovered in S.E. Callahan County last week. Oh yummy; someone’s having a Thanksgiving feast soon.

We at BCAS hope you have a delicious Thanksgiving, full of family, happy gatherings, and thankful reflections.

Unexpected November Finds

Whenever my son and I bird together we engage in an activity at the end of the day we call, “What’s the best bird you saw and why.” It’s a way of recounting the day, carefully thinking about all the birds seen, and then choosing just one to win the title, “best.” Sometimes the best bird is a lifer (we almost always elevate lifers to “best”). Sometimes it’s best because it’s the most beautiful (think Painted Bunting). A seldom seen bird does something out of the ordinary and thus it becomes best for the day (watching an Osprey fishing is a darn good “best”). Or as often is the case, the unexpected bird becomes the best of the day simply because it was, well, unexpected. That’s what happened this past week. Let me explain.

GCKI

Several unexpected finds made this past week memorable. Monday while birding the golf course at Dyess AFB I saw this little mystery bird. As soon as I saw it, the heart started racing, I grabbed the camera, and got some fuzzy but dignostic pictures. I found an excellent picture from the web for you to ooh and aah over. However, I didn’t find one bird; I found five. Five times the excitement!

MOBL

Another unexpected find was watching four birds flit around the playground at Kirby Lake. If you don’t know who sports sky blue plumage, check this photo. Unexpected because the habitat is all wrong. Best bird for the day because I didn’t see any of these last year. In fact, they are very challenging to find in the Big Country.

Other “bests” included Bald Eagle, Sage Thrasher, and Hermit Thrush. Hey, sometimes it’s hard to capture everything on a digital camera; that’s why there’s the world wide web.

Deer

And the best unexpected find was the wildlife browsing the shores of Lake Kirby. He walked out of the mesquite shrub, looked me over, and then ignored the clicking shutter as he fed. Watching him from 50 yards away with nothing between us but sunlight was definitely unexpected and a best for the day.

Other pictures of our November sightings can be seen in the Unexpected November Finds Gallery. If you have unexpected finds, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

November 10, 2006 – N.E. Callahan County

Best bird(s) of the day:

  • Mountain Bluebirds, 27
  • Grasshopper Sparrow, 1

Others:

  • American Wigeon, 4
  • Mallard, 2
  • Blue-winged Teal, 5
  • Northern Shoveler, 6
  • Green-winged Teal, 3
  • Great Blue Heron, 1
  • Northern Harrier, 2
  • Red-tailed Hawk, 2
  • American Kestrel, 7
  • Greater Yellowlegs, 1
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove, 26
  • White-winged Dove, 12
  • Mourning Dove, 8
  • Inca Dove, 2
  • Greater Roadrunner, 1
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 5
  • Northern Flicker, 1
  • Loggerhead Shrike, 12
  • Blue Jay, 2
  • American Crow, 2
  • Carolina Chickadee, 3
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 1
  • Bewick’s Wren, 1
  • Eastern Bluebirds, 2
  • American Robin, 2
  • Northern Mockingbird, 5
  • Curve-billed Thrasher, 1
  • European Starling, 192
  • Chipping Sparrow, 38
  • Field Sparrow, 6
  • Vesper Sparrow, 1
  • Lark Sparrow, 2
  • Savannah Sparrow, 1
  • Song Sparrow, 1
  • White-crowned Sparrow, 43
  • Dark-eyed Junco, 1
  • Northern Cardinal, 3
  • Pyrrhuloxia, 1
  • Blackbird sp., 36
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 25
  • Meadowlark Sp., 79
  • Common Grackle, 65
  • Great-tailed Grackle, 3
  • House Finch, 3
  • American Goldfinch, 1
  • House Sparrow, 10

All sightings by Bill Hughes, Kathy Hampton, Laura Packer

November 8, 2006 – Lake Kirby

Best bird(s) of the day:

  • Mountain Bluebird, 4

Others Highlights:

  • Northern Shoveler, 4
  • American White Pelicans, 200+
  • Snowy Egret, 1
  • American Kestrel, 1
  • Black-bellied Plover, 3
  • American Avocet, 1
  • Greater Yellowlegs, 3
  • Least Sandpiper, 12
  • Dowitcher sp., 1
  • Wilson’s Snipe, 2
  • House Wren, 1
  • American Pipit, 1
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1
  • Song Sparrow, 4
  • White-crowned Sparrow, 5

All sightings by Laura Packer

End of October Treats

AWPE

My how time flies, and so do the birds. The end of October found pelicans at Lake Kirby,

NAWA

warblers still moving through,

NOFL

and brown woodpeckers alighting in the trees around town.

For more photos and updates on the End of October birds click here. And visit this site soon; early November birds are winging this way!

Field Trip to Abilene State Park – Nov. 11, 2006

We will leave from the Burger King at 1633 Antilley Road at 7:45 a.m. If you want breakfast, come early. Several of us will be there early for breakfast, 7:10ish. Check out the past weekend’s sightings to see what to expect. Target birds are Golden-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Brown Creeper, Spotted Towhee, White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and Marsh Wren. If time allows we will bird Lake Abilene. There have been over three hundred ducks on the lake. There’s always the possibility we’ll see Mountain and Western Bluebirds around the lake area.

Remember, there is a charge for entrance to the State Park unless you ride with some of us that have the Texas State Parks Pass. This field trip is rated “easy” requiring some walking and will last half a day. Bring snacks (or ask Bill to share), dress for the weather, and bring money for lunch if you want to join us for lunch. Remember to call our hotline at 325-691-8981 if weather conditions are questionable.

Armadillo

And by the way, we look at other wildlife like this armadillo (above) that was spotted last week while birding.

November 6, 2006 – Dyess AFB

Mesquite Grove Golf Course

Best Bird(s) of the day:

  • Golden-crowned Kinglet, 3 in one area, and 2 in another. Hard to tell if these were the same birds.
  • Eastern Bluebirds, total of 31 for the morning, including the ones seen around WSA


Others:

  • Pied-billed Grebe, 1
  • Great Blue Heron, 1 (or three. Saw GBHE at three different ponds but think it’s only one heron that knows how to get around)
  • Cooper’s Hawk, 1
  • Red-shouldered Hawk, 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk, 1
  • Killdeer, 4
  • Greater Yellowlegs, 3
  • Wilson’s Snipe, 2
  • Ring-billed Gull, 35 (circling overhead thinking about landing on the effluent pond)
  • White-wing Dove, 5
  • Mourning Dove, 111
  • Belted Kingfisher, 1
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 3
  • Blue Jay, 10
  • American Crow, 1
  • Common Raven, 2
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 5
  • Bewick’s Wren, 4
  • House Wren, 1
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 4
  • Eastern Bluebird, 9. Most are flocking together
  • Northern Mockingbird, 6
  • Orange-crown Warbler, 1
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler, 11
  • Spotted Towhee, 1
  • Chipping Sparrow, 2
  • Field Sparrow, 5
  • Song Sparrow, 4
  • Swamp Sparrow, 2
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow, 16
  • White-crowned Sparrow, 17
  • Dark-eyed Junco, 18
  • Northern Cardinal, 6
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 11
  • Meadowlark species, 7
  • House Finches, 18
  • House Sparrow, 8

Weapons Storage Area:

  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 1
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 3
  • Eastern Bluebird, 22 (almost all found around the main building)
  • European Starling, 368
  • Chipping Sparrow, 2
  • White-crowned Sparrow, 1
  • Dark-eyed Junco, 1
  • Meadowlark species, 57
  • House Finch, 16

All sightings by Laura Packer

November 5, 2006 – Kirby Lake

Highlight:

  • Sage Thrasher, 1

Sighting by Gary Hunter

November 4, 2005 – Abilene S.P. & Kirby Lake

Abilene State Park:

Best bird(s) of the day:

  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 2
  • Marsh Wren, 1
  • Hermit Thrush, 1
  • Nashville Warbler, 1

Others:

  • Black Vultures, 11
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 1
  • Eastern Phoebe, 1
  • Blue Jay, 1
  • Carolina Chickadee, 4
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 2
  • Carolina Wren, 6
  • Bewick’s Wren, 1
  • American Robin, 8
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler, 6
  • Spotted Towhee, 5
  • Song Sparrow, 4
  • Dark-eyed Junco, 3
  • Northern Cardinal, 4
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 27

Kirby Lake Highlights:

  • Horned Grebes, 3
  • Western Grebes, 2
  • American White Pelicans, 100+
  • American Avocets, 12
  • Marsh Wren, 1
  • Song Sparrow, 1 singing!

N.E. Abilene:

  • Great Kiskadee, heard along the 1900 block of Cedar Crest Drive

All sightings by Kathy Hampton and Laura Packer