Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from September, 2007

September’s Magic

It was that kind of morning; a dark foggy cool morning, just right for staying in bed and getting some extra shut-eye. But after the birding-side of my brain argued with the sleepy-side of my brain, I arrayed myself in birding attire, grabbed the binoculars, and headed out the door. A few minutes later I was at Dyess, sitting in the dark and waiting for the sun to come up. Then I heard “them.” The migrating birds. Overhead. Small barely audible little seeps and chips! Now I couldn’t wait for dawn; I needed some light to illuminate the sounds. But as dawn finally arrived, the earth around me became quiet. I saw nothing; heard nothing; so back to the truck I went. As I rounded the side of the truck, a little feather ball shot out from under the wheel well almost brushing next to my leg. Grabbing the binoculars I located a little bird in the trees bobbing up and down as if it was doing deep knee bends to ward off the early morning chill. Oh! I need to document this bird! Quick, grab the camera from the truck; turn it on; get the settings right; darn! there’s not enough light! When I focused the camera where the bird had perched, of course it was gone.

Then a little chip and a quietly uttered song told me the bird was up under my vehicle, no doubt taking advantage of the residual heat and the collection of bugs acquired during night-time driving. I walked around to the other side of the truck in an attempt to get its picture. Click! It hopped out on the tire and I got:

ROWR

I looked at the image in the LCD window. Ugh, how can that picture be diagnostic? I tried again:

ROWR

Since I don’t do Frustration well; I decided I’d do Patience and wait for the little feather ball to relocate to a more photogenic area. After a full ten minutes (my camera records the time on pictures) the little bird sailed out of its hiding place, perched on a lamp base out in the open, and showed off!

ROWR

A Rock Wren! Three pictures later, it took off moving deeper into the Mesquite shrub, no doubt looking for more suitable winter habitat. Now I bet you’re thinking to yourself that this one incident doesn’t constitute “magic.” And I would agree with your assessment; but wait ’till you hear and see what happened next. During the morning’s birding, all those little unseen seeps and chips materialized: Clay-colored Sparrows, Pine Siskins, Nashville, Wilson’s, and Orange-crowned Warblers, a Common Yellowthroat, a Blue Grosbeak, and Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. Dyess got its first-of-the-season Northern Harrier and maybe their last-of-the-season Painted Bunting (a gorgeous male; boy did I enjoy seeing that one). Then I saw:

a Common Nighthawk invisibly perched along a tree branch:

CONI

a couple of late-nesting Canyon Towhees bringing food to a nest:

CANT

and…but wait; I’ll leave the show stopper in the September’s Magic photo album. And once you see it; you’ll have to agree that it was a magical morning!

September 28, 2007-Cedar Creek Area

Most of the following were seen at Will Hair Park but a few were noted on Cedar Crest Street, or at Erinshire Gardens. Yes, I took a walk in the neighborhood this morning.

  • Cooper’s Hawk: 1 at Erinshire
  • Swainson’s Hawk: 1 at the house
  • Red-shouldered Hawk: 1 at Will Hair
  • Wild Turkey: 15 near the creek
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove: 1 at Will Hair
  • White-winged Dove: 12 at the park
  • Inca Dove: 8 at Erinshire
  • Chimney Swifts: 6
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker: 1 at the park
  • Downy Woodpeckers: 3 along Cedar Crest
  • Great-crested Flycatcher: 1 at Erinshire
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher: 4 at the park
  • Blue Jay: 8 at the park
  • European Starling: 15 at the park
  • Orange-crowned Warbler: 2 at Will Hair, 1 at Erinshire, and 1 at the house
  • Nashville Warbler: 8 at Will Hair, yes I saw eight at once.
  • Northern Cardinal: 2 at Erinshire
  • Bullock’s Oriole: 2 at the park
  • House Sparrow: 24 at the park

Sightings by LgPacker

September 22, 2007-Lake Fort Phantom Area

SeaBee Park:

  • White-faced Ibis – 6
  • Little Blue Heron – 5
  • Green Heron – 4
  • Great Egret – 10
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 2
  • Blue-winged Teal – 10
  • Lesser Yellowlegs – 5
  • Least Sandpiper – 10
  • Belted Kingfisher – 1

Lake Ft Phantom Hill:

  • White-faced Ibis – 15
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 2
  • Blue-winged Teal – 8
  • Lesser Yellowlegs – 18
  • Greater Yellowlegs – 3
  • Least Sandpiper – 8
  • Wilson’s Snipe – 1
  • Snowy Egret – 3
  • Great Egret – 100+
  • Cattle Egret – 100+
  • Osprey – 2
  • Belted Kingfisher – 1
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird – 1

Sightings by Joan Howard, Charline Wheeler, Esta Wiginton, Nicole Underwood, Tom Underwood, Lorie Black

September’s Spectacles

GRHE

Another quiet week, a little cool spell and a few migrants marked last week’s birding. The above photo of a Green Heron at the Lily Fest in San Angelo was taken by Lorie Black. She said he really put on a show Saturday. He hopped from pad to pad. As it began to sink he’d hop to another. He was filling up on the little Mosquito Fish.

BTNW

A few warblers were trickling into the Big Country. This Black-throated Green Warbler was seen in southern Taylor County off CR 134. A Peregrin Falcon, Osprey, and Northern Harrier were spotted in Jones County.

CBTH

Even though it’s mid-September, I keep seeing juveniles. This young Curve-billed Thrasher dressed in his new school clothes was spotted the morning it turned cool. Mom was nearby trying to make the old feathers look presentable.

YBCU

And lastly, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was spotted out in the open! When caught, his only defense was to act like a tree. You can see a few more photos in the September’s Spectacles Gallery.

General Meeting, October 4, 2007: The Dyess AFB Bluebird Trail

EABL

Join us Thursday evening at 7 p.m., October 4, 2007 to hear Laura Packer talk about the Dyess Air Force Base Eastern Bluebird Nestbox Trail. For the past two years Laura has monitored the nestboxes at Dyess, and she will share her pictures, stories, and data with us. This is the same program she presented to the Texas Bluebird Symposium last month. Material will be available to help you get started with building nestboxes, creating a trail, and the ups and downs of being a monitor. Whether you put up one nest box or twenty to attract the bluebirds (or other cavity nesters), you will want to hear her program. It contains a wealth of information on attracting birds to boxes, how to monitor the boxes for success, and controlling predators.

Laura has always enjoyed birds but became an avid birder 14 years ago when her then 12-year-old son decided he needed a ride to BCAS field trips. Her birding journeys have taken her coast to coast, from Canada to Mexico, and overseas to Europe. Laura conducts spring and fall Northern Bobwhite counts with TPWD and Dyess, helps with the migratory bird surveys at Dyess, runs a breeding bird survey in Callahan County, and is developing a bird checklist for Dyess. She has led field trips and participated in and coordinated the local Christmas Bird Counts for many years. Laura is a member of the Texas Ornithological Society, the Texas Bluebird Society, the North American Bluebird Society, the Nature Conservancy, and the Big Country Audubon Society. She also enjoys photographing birds and their behavior and sharing what she has learned about birds with others.

Please join us October 4, 2007, at 7 p.m. at Rose Park Activity Center, Room A, South 7th and Barrow Streets.
Our meetings are free and open to the public.

Weekend Birding-September 14-16, 2007

Here are some highlights of the weekend:

  • American Wigeon, 2 @ Waste Water, HT 9-14
  • Little Blue Heron, 1 @ Sea Bee, LB 9-16
  • Cattle Egret, 24 on CR 134, Taylor Co, LP 9-14
  • White-faced Ibis, bunches @ Waste Water, HT 9-14
  • Osprey, 1 @ Lake Ft. Phantom, LB 9-16
  • Northern Harrier, 1 @ Waste Water, HT 9-14
  • American Kestrel, 2 on CR 134, Taylor Co, LP 9-14
  • Peregrin Falcon, 1 @ Waste Water, HT 9-14
  • Dowitcher species, bunches @ Waste Water, HT 9-14
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1 @ private residence in Southern Taylor Co, LP 9-14
  • White-eyed Vireo, 1 @ Abilene S.P, JE, BJ, LP 9-14
  • Carolina Chickadee, 5 @ private residence in Southern Taylor Co, LP 9-14
  • Carolina Wren, 1 @ private residence in Southern Taylor Co, LP 9-14
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 5 @ private residence in Southern Taylor Co, LP 9-14
  • Nashville Warbler, 1 in NE Abilene, LP 9-15
  • Yellow Warbler, 1 in NE Abilene, LP 9-15
  • Black-throated Green Warbler, 1 @ private residence in Southern Taylor Co, LP 9-14
  • Wilson’s Warbler, 1 in NE Abilene, LP 9-15
  • Bullock’s Oriole, 3 in NE Abilene, LP 9-15

Sightings by Lorie Black, John English, Bera Johnson, Laura Packer, Heidi Trudell

September 12, 2007-DAFB

Highlights:

  • Swainson’s Hawks, a small kettle of 5, circling overhead. The resident female and junvenile Swainson’s were part of this group.
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1. A highlight because it didn’t take flight but allowed me to take a few pictures of it.
  • Nashville Warbler, 2

Complete List:

  • Northern Bobwhite, a covey of 12
  • Turkey Vulture, 2
  • Swainson’s Hawk, 5
  • Killdeer, 1
  • Spotted Sandpiper, 1 flyover
  • White-winged Dove, 14
  • Mourning Dove, 16
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 2
  • Chimney Swift, 2
  • Hummingbird, 1 Unidentified
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 2
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher, 1
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 66
  • Loggerhead Shrike, 1
  • Blue Jay, 2
  • American Crow, 2
  • Cave Swallow, 75
  • Barn Swallow, 2
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 3
  • Carolina Wren, 1
  • Bewick’s Wren, 2
  • Northern Mockingbird, 10
  • Curve-billed Thrasher, 3
  • Nashville Warbler, 2
  • Canyon Towhee, 2
  • Lark Sparrow, 1
  • Northern Cardinal, 7
  • Painted Bunting, 6
  • Dickcissel, 3
  • Bullock’s Oriole, 1
  • Baltimore Oriole, 1
  • House Finch, 7
  • House Sparrow, 52

Sightings by LgPacker in the Mesquite shrub and grassland areas around the cantonment area.

September 11, 2007 – DAFB

It was cool, windy, and drizzly this morning. Just the type of weather to lure in the migrants. The highlight of the morning was a beautiful yellow singing Bell’s Vireo. A couple of first of season (FOS) birds were seen, too.

Complete list:

  • Black-bellied Whistling Duck, 1
  • Great Blue Heron, 1
  • Green Heron, 1
  • Turkey Vulture, 1 perched
  • Swainson’s Hawk, 1 (the resident juvenile)
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Killdeer, 2
  • Spotted Sandpiper, 1
  • Rock Pigeon, 6
  • White-winged Dove, 8
  • Mourning Dove, 15
  • Belted Kingfisher, 1 (last one seen was in April)
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 5
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher, 1
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 53
  • American Crow, 2
  • Barn Swallow, 2
  • UnID’d swallows, 53
  • Black-crested Titmouse, 2
  • Bewick’s Wren, 2
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 2 (FOS)
  • Eastern Bluebird, 4
  • American Robin, 4
  • Northern Mockingbird, 2
  • Curve-billed Thrasher, 2 (one was a juvenile)
  • Orange-crowned Warbler, 1
  • Nashville Warbler, 1
  • Yellow Warbler, 1
  • Chipping Sparrow, 1 (FOS)
  • Northern Cardinal, 3
  • Painted Bunting, 1
  • Dickcissel, 1 (heard only)
  • Orchard Oriole, 1
  • Bullock’s Oriole, 1
  • Baltimore Oriole, 1
  • House Finch, 5

Sightings by LgPacker at Mesquite Grove GC

Annual Meeting a Success!

Heidi

Nothing brings a group together like humor. Upon popular demand the Unusual Bird Sightings presentation has been reproduced. Any resemblance to actual persons is strictly accidental. No birds were harmed in the making of this presentation; I don’t know about the people.

If you don’t see your likeness here; it is only a matter of time before the club president immortalizes your image.

Yawn! Where’s the Action?

STFL

The beginning of September’s birding has been a little too slow and quiet even for this avid birder’s tastes. It’s hard to top two weeks’ birding in Big Bend last month and I got distracted by club activities, family matters, and football. However a little time spent outdoors quickly rekindled the birding enthusiasm and a very cooperative Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (above) gave me an intimate look at how birds maintain their feathers for flight.

NOMO

Speaking of feathers, some birds defy identification by sporting all-white tails. Don sent me a picture of a bird he photographed at the lake; it didn’t match up to any in the field guides. Do you know what this bird is?

To solve this bird’s anonymity and to see more preening action click on Flycatcher Preens Gallery. And by the way, if you thought the flycatcher was yawning; you’d be wrong. This action is called…. Oh, just go to the pictures to find out!