Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from July, 2007

July Endings, 2007

DICK_puzzled

The end of July pretty much marks the close to the nesting season in the Big Country. The Dickcissels (above) and Mourning Doves were seen this morning still on the nest or tending young. But the Swainson’s Hawk at Dyess AFB has fledged; the Western Kingbirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are clumped together in family groups now; and a few fall migrants are pushing through. The influx of hummingbirds at our feeders this month is also an indication of changing populations. So just as you thought nothing new was happening with our birds, think again. Better yet, take a look at the July Endings Gallery; you’ll see some of our birds I’ve encountered in July and maybe learn something new. Have you ever seen a newly hatched Killdeer?

July 30, 2007 – DAFB

Best bird(s) of the morning:

  • Empidonax Flycatcher, 1
  • Orchard Oriole, 12, small flock foraging among the sunflowers left standing west of the cantonment area

Both sightings are a sure sign that fall migration has started

Complete list:

  • Northern Bobwhite, 7; most in the field where the sunflowers were not mowed down
  • Great Blue Heron, 1 flying overhead
  • Green Heron, 1 flying overhead
  • Swainson’s Hawk, 1 perched in the trees next to where the sunflowers were mowed
  • Killdeer, 1 flying overhead
  • White-winged Dove, 8 flying overhead
  • Mourning Dove, 40
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 2; one in mesquite habitat, one next to the shredded field
  • Common Nighthawk, 5
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird, 2
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 1
  • Empidonax Flycatcher, 1 (if I had to ID it: Willow, due to its large size, dark head, no eye ring)
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher, 1
  • Western Kingbird, 3
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 10
  • Blue Jay, 5
  • American Crow, 1
  • Cliff Swallow, 55 on the wires above the diversion ditch, low water crossing
  • Barn Swallow, 1 flying overhead
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 2
  • Bewick’s Wren, 1
  • Northern Mockingbird, 7 and they were not singing this morning
  • Eurasian Starling, 9
  • Canyon Towhee, 2
  • Lark Sparrow, 5
  • Northern Cardinal, 3
  • Painted Bunting, 2
  • Dickcissel, 39, with the majority still using the sunflowers that weren’t mowed. Saw a male and female still bringing food to a nest site. But there was a small flock of about 12 that were roaming aimlessly, either this year’s teenage nestlings or misplaced parents still trying to find their nests in the shredded grass.
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 1 (yep, I was nowhere near water)
  • Great-tailed Grackle, 146
  • Brown-headed Cowbird, 11
  • Orchard Oriole, 12 in the remaining sunflower patch foraging
  • Bullock’s Oriole, 1
  • House Finch, 2
  • House Sparrow, 15

Sightings by LgPacker in Mesquite Shrub habitat and in the large field west of the cantonment area, where it was recently shredded. SYITF

BCAS Annual Meeting and Auction, 2007

IBWO_t_shirt

Please join us for a fun evening of food, fellowship, and silent auction, Thursday evening, September 6 at the Lodge at Oakwood Trails. We’ll eat about 6:30 but come early if you’d like to bird the area. We’re going casual again this year; bring your own food (sandwiches was the norm last year). Drinks, dessert and homemade ice cream will be provided. Please bring an item (or several) for our auction. After we eat we’ll bid on these items as a way to raise funds for our bird blind. Some items already donated include:

  • Book: “The Grail Bird: the Rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker” by Tim Gallagher and personally autographed by Bobby Harrison
  • Book: “Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail” by Mel White
  • Book: “Bird Songs” by Les Beletsky featuring audio from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on 250 North American birds.
  • Field guide “Birds of Texas” by Rappole and Blacklock
  • Ivory-billed Woodpecker t-shirt (size large)
  • Bird posters and games
  • Bird note cards
  • Hand painted decorative bird feeder with a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck depicted on the front

And the list keeps growing. Check the website to see pictures of these items; come back often to see updates. Yes, we’ll elect officers, give out a few awards, and have a short program if time allows. Hope to see you there!

July 24, 2007 – DAFB

Best bird(s) of the day:

  • Watching a couple of Mississippi Kites work a flock of Cliff Swallows and successfully take one out.
  • Watching the juvenile Swainson’s Hawk learn to fly and feed himself.


Complete List:

  • Mallard, 2
  • Wild Turkey, 4
  • Northern Bobwhite, 5
  • Green Heron, 2
  • Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, 2
  • Turkey Vulture, 1
  • Mississippi Kite, 7
  • Swainson’s Hawk, 3
  • Killdeer, 2
  • White-winged Dove, 24
  • Mourning Dove, 39
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 3
  • Greater Roadrunner 1
  • Common Nighthawk, 1
  • Chimney Swift, 7
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 3
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 2
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher, 2
  • Western Kingbird, 32
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 47
  • Blue Jay, 2
  • American Crow, 3
  • Cliff Swallow, 81
  • Cave Swallow, 6
  • Barn Swallow, 1
  • Bewick’s Wren 3
  • Eastern Bluebird, 26 (with 19 of these being around WSA)
  • American Robin, 12
  • Northern Mockingbird, 25
  • Curve-billed Thrasher, 2
  • European Starling, 25
  • Canyon Towhee, 1
  • Lark Sparrow, 6
  • Northern Cardinal, 3
  • Pyrrhuloxia, 1
  • Painted Bunting, 2
  • Dickcissel, 7 still singing which means they are still nesting
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 4
  • Eastern Meadowlark, 3
  • Great-tailed Grackle, 14
  • Brown-headed Cowbird, 6
  • Bullock’s Oriole, 1
  • House Finch, 14
  • House Sparrow, 4

Sightings by LgPacker @ GC and WSA

July 10, 2007 – DAFB

No best bird of the day; all recorded are the usual breeders. However, the bobcat that walked out of the high grass ten feet in front of me was a pretty good find. He sauntered out from the six-foot forbes where I had just been checking a nestbox. I think I roused him from his morning nap.

Complete list:

  • Mallard, 2
  • Wild Turkey, 2
  • Northern Bobwhite, 3
  • Green Heron, 1
  • Mississippi Kite, 3
  • Swainson’s Hawk, 1 plus 1 juvenile on nest
  • Killdeer, 2
  • White-winged Dove, 28
  • Mourning Dove, 74
  • Common Nighthawk, 4
  • Chimney Swift, 30
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird, 1
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 1
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 3
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher, 8
  • Western Kingbird, 27
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 40
  • Bell’s Vireo, 1
  • Blue Jay, 3
  • American Crow, 2
  • Cliff Swallow, 39
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 2
  • Bewick’s Wren, 4
  • Eastern Bluebird, 8
  • American Robin, 31
  • Northern Mockingbird, 26
  • Curve-billed Thrasher, 2
  • European Starling, 25
  • Canyon Towhee, 1
  • Cassin’s Sparrow, 1
  • Lark Sparrow, 5
  • Northern Cardinal, 1
  • Pyrrhuloxia, 1
  • Painted Bunting, 4
  • Dickcissel, 6
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 1
  • Eastern Meadowlark, 4
  • Common Grackle, 16
  • Great-tailed Grackle, 16
  • Brown-headed Cowbird, 2
  • Bullock’s Oriole, 2
  • House Finch, 4
  • House Sparrow, 5

Sightings by LgPacker

A Bird in the Hand…

BCHU

I’ve posted bird banding pictures recently, but I just had to share these photos with everyone because how many times do you see a hummingbird in the hand and it’s still alive? Kathy and I went to Christoval to Dan Brown’s Hummer House at the end of June (it was her birthday!) to watch the banders at work. Weather stayed mild and cloudy making for excellent bird-in-the-bag conditions. If the weather is too hot, some hummingbirds are too stressed and can’t be contained in the bags for long. I learned how to determine age and sex of hummingbirds (no, you don’t look there). The sign is in their back feathers, wings and tail feathers. If the edges to the back feathers are gray, it’s a female. If the edges are buffy, it’s a juvenile. Spreading the wing and counting from the tip of the primary back to the 7th primary reveals sex. A narrow P7 is male; a fatter P7 is female. How cool is that? Then you study the tail feathers to determine if the third feather from the edge is white tipped or green to categorize the bird further. All the adult males are “green” and a small percentage of females are also. If there is another AOU split with Black-chinned Hummingbirds, the banders will already have their data collected.

I got to try my hand at banding the hummers. I was nervous at first; such tiny bands and tiny legs and tiny everything about hummers! And I was nervous at the end. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. One male hummer kicked and flailed his tiny leg into the air making himself a moving target. What if I squeezed too hard on the band? What if I severed a leg? What if I squeezed his body too hard? Who turned up the heat? Well, I managed to band three hummers before handing the tools back to the seasoned veterans. I decided my talent was plucking the hummers and other birds from the mist nets used to snare the unsuspecting birds. Yes, it was easier until the dreaded cardinal appeared in the net with his BIG bright red bill ready to clamp down on my finger. Somehow I managed to get him out of the net without incurring any war wounds. In between plucking birds out of the net and watching the banders deftly apply jewelry to the birds’ ankles, I macro-photographed some of the more interesting birds. A Bird in the Hand is definitely easier to photograph than one in the bush! And did I mention the show-stopper bird?

Mid-July Parenting

SWHA

This year only one Swainson’s Hawk chick sits in the nest at Mesquite Grove Golf Course. The nest started out with two chicks but either fratricide, rain storms (I think I remember we had some rain), or an accidental slip reduced the nest to one. The hawks are being good parents and every mockingbird, scissor-tail, and kingbird are once again voicing their displeasure every time one of the big birds soars in the air. These majestic birds have made their nest in a large mesquite and they’re pretty easy to see.

loudspeaker

But across the Base high atop a public address system, another set of parents work hard to raise their young. I watched two Western Kingbirds attend to their nestlings and marveled at the lengths some birds go to find that perfect nest site. Some parents have lofty goals for their kids; drop into the Mid-July Parenting gallery and you’ll see what I mean.

July 6, 2007 – Lake Fort Phantom

Best bird(s) of the evening:

  • White-faced Ibis, 6, flying overhead
  • Cattle Egret, 203, most still in breeding plumage
  • Common Moorhen, 3. Don’t think we’ve ever recorded this species at Lake Ft. Phantom

Complete List:

  • Northern Bobwhite, 5
  • Great Blue Heron, 24
  • Snowy Egret, 8
  • Cattle Egret, 203
  • White-faced Ibis, 6
  • Turkey Vulture, 2
  • Mississippi Kite, 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk, 2
  • Common Moorhen, 3
  • American Coot, 1
  • Killdeer, 6
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • White-wing Dove
  • Mourning Dove, 39
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1
  • Greater Roadrunner, 1
  • Common Nighthawk, 10
  • Chimney Swift, 2
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird, 1
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 5
  • Eastern Phoebe, 1
  • Western Kingbird, 8
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 65
  • Bell’s Vireo, 1
  • Purple Martin, 129, beginning to form large flocks in preparation of fall migration
  • Cliff Swallow, 12
  • Barn Swallow, 2
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 4
  • Verdin, 2
  • Cactus Wren, 1
  • Bewick’s Wren, 3
  • Eastern Bluebird, 1
  • Northern Mockingbird, 21
  • Curve-billed Thrasher, 3
  • European Starling, 5
  • Northern Cardinal, 7
  • Painted Bunting, 5
  • Dickcissel, 1
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 20
  • Eastern Meadowlark, 1
  • Common Grackle, 34
  • Great-tailed Grackle, 21
  • Brown-headed Cowbird, 4
  • Bullock’s Oriole, 4
  • House Sparrow, 40

Sightings by KHampton, LgPacker

July 6, 2007 – DAFB

Best bird(s) of the morning:

  • Well, it’s getting harder and harder to find a best; but the 16 juvenile American Robins flocking together like teenagers was amusing. Their spotted breasts and boldly patterned facial markings were reminiscent of varied thrushes.


Others:

  • Northern Bobwhite, 4
  • Mississippi Kite, 5
  • Swainson’s Hawk, 2 (only seeing 1 juvenile on the nest)
  • Red-tailed Hawk, 2 (not seeing the juvenile on the water tower)
  • American Kestrel, 1
  • Killdeer, 2
  • Rock Pigeon, 1
  • White-winged Dove, 10
  • Mourning Dove, 36
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 2
  • Common Nighthawk, 1
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 3
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 4
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher, 3
  • Western Kingbird, 17
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 24
  • American Crow, 2
  • Cliff Swallow, 24
  • Bewick’s Wren, 2
  • Eastern Bluebird, 14
  • American Robin, 27
  • Northern Mockingbird, 14
  • Curve-billed Thrasher, 2
  • European Starling, 26
  • Cassin’s Sparrow, 1
  • Lark Sparrow, 2
  • Northern Cardinal, 1
  • Painted Bunting, 3
  • Dickcissel, 7
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 9
  • Eastern Meadowlark, 2
  • Brown-headed Cowbird, 8
  • Bullock’s Oriole, 2
  • House Finch, 19
  • House Sparrow, 5

Sightings by LgPacker

July 5, 2007 – Lake Fort Phantom

Best bird(s) of the day:

  • Cattle Egret, 136 and probably more, most of them in breeding plumage

Complete List:

  • Northern Bobwhite, 4
  • Great Blue Heron, 2
  • Snowy Egret, 2
  • Cattle Egret, 136
  • Green Heron, 4
  • Turkey Vulture, 3
  • Mississippi Kite, 2
  • Red-tailed Hawk, 1
  • Killdeer, 6
  • Mourning Dove, 24
  • Inca Dove, 2
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 2
  • Common Nighthawk, 2
  • Chimney Swift, 2
  • Belted Kingfisher, 1
  • Golden-fronted, 3
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 2
  • Western Kingbird, 3
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 12
  • Blue Jay, 1
  • Purple Martin, 2
  • Cliff Swallow, 12
  • Cave Swallow, 6
  • Barn Swallow, 4
  • Verdin, 4
  • Bewick’s Wren, 3
  • Eastern Bluebird, 4
  • Northern Mockingbird, 12
  • Curve-billed Thrasher, 4
  • European Starling, 14
  • Canyon Towhee, 3
  • Lark Sparrow, 2
  • Northern Cardinal, 5
  • Painted Bunting, 4
  • Dickcissel, 1
  • Red-winged Blackbird, 6
  • Eastern Meadowlark, 1
  • Common Grackle, 1
  • Great-tailed Grackle, 5
  • Brown-headed Cowbird, 3
  • House Finch, 4
  • House Sparrow, 12

Sightings by Amy, Jay, and LgPacker