Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from January, 2008

William L. Hohman to Speak February 7, 2008


Join us February 7, 2008 for our general meeting when Dr. William L. Hohman, Wildlife Biologist of the Fort Worth USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Services will present a program on Bird Responses to Grassland and Wetland Restorations in the Northern Plains. He’ll focus on restorations accomplished under USDA conservation programs.

Dr. Hohman serves as the agency’s expert in wildlife assessments and documenting agency progress in meeting its goals for wildlife. He has nationwide responsibility for the development and delivery of science-based products that advance conservation of natural resources on private lands. His clients are agencies and groups that monitor government performance, agricultural policy makers, program managers, planners, and field staffs as well as conservation partners.

Dr. Hohman received his Ph.D. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN; his MS in Zoology from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND; and his undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences from St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. In addition to managing a field station on the Iowa State University campus, Dr. Hohman also was Collaborating Assistant Professor (1998-2006) in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University where he taught Restoration Ecology, Wildlife in Agriculture, and Natural Resources Ecology and Management Orientation. From 1988 to 2001 he was Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries at Louisiana State University where he taught Ecology and Management of Waterfowl.

Current Scientific and Professional Memberships: American Ornithologists’ Union, Association of Field Ornithologists, Cooper Ornithological Society, Louisiana Biologists Association, Society of Wetland Scientists, Society for Ecological Restoration, Wildlife Society, and Wilson Ornithological Society.

Please join us February 7, 2008, 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.

January 27, 2008-Area Sightings

Abilene State Park

Best bird(s)

  • Wood Ducks between the pool and the picnic area

Complete List:

  • Wood Duck: 4
  • Wild Turkey: 1
  • Great Blue Heron: 1
  • Black Vulture: 18
  • Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove: 2
  • Mourning Dove: 10
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker: 2
  • Downy Woodpecker: 1
  • Northern Flicker: 1
  • Blue Jay: 10
  • Chihuahuan Raven: 2
  • Carolina Chickadee: 15
  • Black-crested Titmouse: 5
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch: 5
  • Carolina Wren: 1
  • Marsh Wren: 1
  • American Robin: 25
  • Northern Mockingbird: 1
  • European Starling: 5
  • Cedar Waxwing: 30
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler: 23
  • Spotted Towhee: 1
  • Chipping Sparrow: 10
  • Field Sparrow: 3
  • Savannah Sparrow: 1
  • White-throated Sparrow: 2
  • Northern Cardinal: 7
  • Red-winged Blackbird : 3
  • House Finch: 5
  • Pine Siskin: 19
  • American Goldfinch: 10
  • House Sparrow: 1

Sightings by Dan Symonds

Lake Fort Phantom

Best bird(s):

  • White-faced Ibis and Greater Scaup. Also, all the Wilson’s Snipe (12) were in the same flock, the largest flock of WISN that I have ever seen. Got a few year birds and a number of county birds.

Complete List:

  • Mallard: 2
  • Northern Shoveler: 50
  • Northern Pintail: 10
  • Green-winged Teal 80
  • Redhead: 24
  • Ring-necked Duck: 20
  • Greater Scaup: 7
  • Bufflehead: 3
  • Pied-billed Grebe: 10
  • Eared Grebe: 1
  • American White Pelican: 1
  • Double-crested Cormorant: 150
  • Great Blue Heron: 2
  • Great Egret: 2
  • Snowy Egret: 3
  • White-faced Ibis: 5
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk: 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk: 2
  • American Coot: 1200
  • Killdeer: 7
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 1
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 1
  • Least Sandpiper: 50
  • Wilson’s Snipe: 12
  • Bonaparte’s Gull: 1
  • Ring-billed Gull: 150
  • Forster’s Tern: 1
  • Mourning Dove: 6
  • Belted Kingfisher: 4
  • Northern Flicker: 1
  • Loggerhead Shrike: 1
  • Bewick’s Wren: 1
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet: 1
  • Northern Mockingbird: 6
  • Curve-billed Thrasher: 1
  • European Starling: 10
  • Spotted Towhee: 1
  • Field Sparrow: 3
  • Vesper Sparrow: 8
  • White-crowned Sparrow: 6
  • Northern Cardinal: 2
  • Red-winged Blackbird: 18
  • Great-tailed Grackle: 20
  • American Goldfinch: 2
  • House Sparrow: 4

Sightings by Cole Wild

January 26, 2008-Waste Water Treatment Plant

  • Snow Goose: 1
  • Mallard: 10
  • Blue-winged Teal: 10
  • Cinnamon Teal: 2
  • Northern Shoveler: 175
  • Northern Pintail: 100
  • Green-winged Teal: 30
  • Bufflehead: 1
  • Ruddy Duck: 2
  • Northern Harrier: 2
  • Red-tailed Hawk: 1
  • American Kestrel: 1
  • Sora: 1
  • American Coot: 100
  • Killdeer: 3
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 1
  • Lesser Yellowlegs: 2
  • Least Sandpiper: 12
  • Pectoral Sandpiper: 1
  • Short-billed Dowitcher: 1
  • Long-billed Dowitcher: 7
  • Ring-billed Gull: 20
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove: 1
  • Greater Roadrunner: 1
  • Northern Mockingbird: 1
  • European Starling: 10
  • Vesper Sparrow: 3
  • Song Sparrow: 2
  • White-crowned Sparrow: 20
  • Red-winged Blackbird: 120
  • Eastern Meadowlark: 15
  • Great-tailed Grackle: 10

Sightings by Heidi Trudell and Cole Wild

How to Remain Friends While Rarity Chasing

During the Robert Lee CBC conducted by the Midland Naturalists on Saturday, December 15, an adult Golden-crowned Sparrow was located in a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows not far from the town (see below).

GCSP Erik Breden

This news spread like wildfire in the birding community and soon I was plotting a rarity chase. Commitments were first met, then schedules rearranged, and travel plans were finalized three days later. I had called Kathy to see if she could go with me but her physical therapy regime couldn’t be altered. “That’s OK’” I stated. “Just call me later tonight if you can get free;” and I think I mumbled something about leaving town late to accommodate her PT.

The phone didn’t ring that night so I assumed I was free to head south after an early-morning appointment. About forty minutes out of town the cell phone rang. It was Kathy; “I’ve just finished physical therapy and I’m now ready to chase that sparrow.” Oh no! I guiltily confessed to skipping town without her. A brief reply and a quick hang-up left me wondering if I had strained our friendship. But as I drove on my remorse slowly changed to anticipation; a life bird was waiting! I’d deal with the guilt later.

I arrived at the site and waited a couple of hours without seeing much of anything. To feed my birder’s appetite, I drove elsewhere around Lake Spence. Say’s Phoebe, Lark Buntings (below),


a Cassin’s Sparrow, and Black-throated Sparrows (below)


whetted my appetite. But the thought of seeing a life bird soon drove me back to the original stake-out site. Before long I saw movement in the shrub, raised the bins and there it was! A quick flash of wings and a golden-yellow crown bordered by two black areas was all I had time to see before the bird dropped back down into the shrub. I waited breathlessly for a few minutes but after another two hours of staring at empty brush, I turned the key in the truck and headed for home. The 90 minute ride home gave me plenty of time to contemplate how miscommunications are not a good thing when it comes to maintaining friendships.

That evening before retiring, the phone rang. I cringed when I saw caller ID; it was Kathy. “Hello, friend,” said the cheerful familiar voice. “I’ve rearranged my PT from the morning and moved it to the afternoon so we can chase that sparrow.” Immediately I knew I was forgiven; I also knew I’d be driving back to Robert Lee and watching the sun rise on a familiar patch of brush. But like a bad rerun, we fruitlessly waited for over an hour without seeing any movement. Needing to stretch the legs, I exited the truck and walked stiffly up and down the county road. Then I raised my bins to see what was moving under a tree and found the Golden-crowned Sparrow! “It’s here! The Golden-crowned Sparrow is under the tree,” I shouted excitedly. Running back to the truck, I grabbed the scope and set it on the bird! Kathy got out of the truck; walked as fast as her new hip would allow and we watched it for over 5 minutes, taking in every glorious detail. Several times its head was awash with sunlight, illuminating its brilliant yellow crown. Beyond satisfied, we discussed the next birding adventure since it was still early in the morning and more rarities had been reported in West Texas, specifically around Lake Balmorhea and Fort Davis. Like gamblers, we surmised that if we were lucky in spotting the Golden-crowned Sparrow, we’d be lucky with the next rarities.

We excitedly planned, we plotted, and we figured the mileage and ETA. We were confident we could do this! Of course we’d have to spend the night and the fact we didn’t have overnight bags didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. “We’ll stop and pick up toiletries and sleep in our clothes;” I announced. But slowly it dawned on Kathy, “I don’t have my prescription medications with me,” she confessed. Then I realized I didn’t have a needed prescription medication with me, either. “Bummer, getting older sure removes the spontaneity in life;” I bemoaned. But Kathy quickly consoled, “We just need to be smarter. Next time we’re rarity chasing, we’ll carry our medications with us so we can continue to be impulsive.” We both got a good chuckle over her solution.

Now when I look at my life list and see the checkmark next to Golden-crowned Sparrow I will always remember how my slip of memory and impatience created two trips to Robert Lee.

More pictures of our Robert Lee trip are in the Robert Lee Gallery. As a final follow-up, I took yet a third trip to Robert Lee but this time with other club members. Some enjoyed adding the Golden-crowned Sparrow to their life list and you can see our sightings here.

January 19, 2008-Lake Colorado City SP

Best bird(s) of the day:

  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Eared Grebe
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Horned Lark
  • Bushtit

Complete List:

  • American Wigeon: 6
  • Gadwall: 8
  • Mallard: 6
  • Northern Shoveler: 6
  • Ring-necked Duck: 6
  • Lesser Scaup: 5
  • Common Goldeneye: 4
  • Bufflehead: 6
  • Hooded Merganser: 3
  • Pied-billed Grebe: 2
  • Eared Grebe: 12
  • American White Pelican: 100
  • Double-crested Cormorant: 75
  • Great Blue Heron: 7
  • Great Egret: 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk: 12
  • American Kestrel: 15
  • American Coot: 100
  • Sandhill Crane: 50
  • Killdeer: 1
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 1
  • Ring-billed Gull: 150
  • Bonaparte’s Gull: 45
  • Rock Pigeon: 35
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove: 1
  • Mourning Dove: 12
  • Greater Roadrunner: 1
  • Great Horned Owl: 2
  • Belted Kingfisher: 2
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker: 2
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker: 1
  • Eastern Phoebe: 2
  • Loggerhead Shrike: 2
  • Chihuahuan Raven: 2
  • Horned Lark: 50
  • Bushtit: 12
  • Cactus Wren: 1
  • House Wren: 1
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet: 1
  • Northern Mockingbird: 6
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • European Starling
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler: 2
  • Canyon Towhee: 2
  • Vesper Sparrow: 10
  • Lark Bunting: 15
  • Savannah Sparrow: 5
  • Song Sparrow: 1
  • White-crowned Sparrow: 4
  • Northern Cardinal: 4
  • Pyrrhuloxia: 2
  • Western Meadowlark: 24
  • Great-tailed Grackle: 35
  • House Sparrow: 10

Sightings by: Tom and Toni Dolan, Kathy Hampton, Laura Packer, Dan Symonds. Numbers are estimates only

Field Trip: Lake Colorado City, January 19, 2008


Join us for our field trip to Lake Colorado City State Park, Saturday, January 19, 2008. We will leave from the What-a-Burger at South 1st and Pioneer at 7:30a.m. Come earlier to order breakfast and carpool. Dress for the weather, bring water, snacks, and money for lunch. CCSP charges an entrance fee but several of us have a TPWD pass and it will cover your entrance fee if you’re in the same car with us. Some target species are Western and Clark’s Grebe, wintering duck species, and Western and Mountain Bluebirds.

To see pictures of Lake Colorado City State Park and learn more about this birding place, visit the Lake Colorado City S.P. link.

January 13, 2008-Area Highlights

Will Hair

  • Great Kiskadee – 1

SeaBee Park

  • Great Egret – 2
  • White-faced Ibis – 17
  • Redhead – 75
  • Ring-necked Duck – 19
  • Lesser Scaup – 4

Lake Ft Phantom Hill

  • Greater Yellowlegs – 2
  • Least Sandpiper – 12
  • Forster’s Tern – 1

Kirby Lake

  • Am White Pelican – 25
  • Eared Grebe – 25
  • Hooded Merganser – 8
  • Common Moorhen – 1
  • Cactus Wren – 1

Sightings by Lorie Black

I Love Bluebirds


Eastern Bluebirds are loved for their brilliant plumage, their tameness, and their preference for nesting boxes. Many people view bluebirds as a symbol of representing all that is good in the world. I think I’ll have to agree. Bluebirds make me happy and I wanted to share some happiness with you today.

January 12, 2007-Dyess AFB

  • Wild Turkey: 15
  • Great Blue Heron: 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk: 1
  • Merlin: 1
  • Ring-billed Gull: 5
  • Rock Pigeon: 5
  • Mourning Dove: 6
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker: 4
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker: 3
  • Blue Jay: 4
  • American Crow: 2
  • Black-crested Titmouse: 1
  • Eastern Bluebird: 5
  • Northern Mockingbird: 10
  • European Starling: 25
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler: 1
  • Canyon Towhee: 2
  • White-crowned Sparrow: 5
  • Northern Cardinal: 5
  • Pyrrhuloxia: 1
  • Eastern Meadowlark: 3
  • Common Grackle: 1
  • Great-tailed Grackle: 9
  • House Finch: 22
  • Pine Siskin: 1

Sightings by Dan Symonds in the hospital/fishing pond/picnic areas

January 8-10, 2008 Area Highlights

Here are some area highlights:

Wastewater, January 8:

  • Cinnamon Teal: 3
  • Pectoral Sandpiper: 1
  • Dunlin: 1

Sightings by Heidi Trudell and Laura Packer

Dyess AFB, January 9

  • Eastern Towhee: 1

Sightings by Laura Packer

Willhair Park, January 10

  • Great Kiskadee: heard around 9:20ish as it called approximately eight times. It kept calling “dee, dee” but I never saw it.

Sightings by LgPacker