Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from April, 2008

April 26, 2008-Lakes Fort Phantom, Kirby, and Other Sites

These are the highlights of birding around Lake Fort Phantom, Lake Kirby, Oakwood Trails (State School), and Wildlife Trails (east of ACU). If anyone would like a complete list, we will happily e-mail one upon request.

Key: LFP: Lake Fort Phantom, LK: Lake Kirby, OT: Oakwood Trails, WT: Wildlife Trails

  • Eared Grebe: 6, LK
  • American White Pelican: 6, LFP
  • Great Egret: 3, LFP
  • Tri-colored Heron: 1, LFP
  • Snowy Egret: 1, LFP
  • White-faced Ibis: 3, LFP
  • Black-bellied Whistling-Duck: 2, LFP
  • Common Moorhen: 2, LK
  • Black-necked Stilt: 6, LFP
  • American Avocet: 4, LK
  • Semipalmated Plover: 1, LK
  • Solitary Sandpiper: 1, LFP
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 2 LFP and 4 LK
  • Willet: 8, LK
  • Western Sandpiper: 4, LFP
  • Least Sandpiper: 14, LFP
  • Wilson’s Phalarope: 3, LFP
  • Bonaparte’s Gull,: 2, LFP
  • Franklin’s Gull: 6, LFP
  • Forster’s Tern: 1, LFP and 4 LK
  • Downy Woodpecker: 1, OT
  • American Pipit: 8, LFP
  • Bell’s Vireo: 1, LFP
  • Yellow Warbler: 1, WT
  • Cassin’s Sparrow: 2, LK
  • Bronzed Cowbird: 1, LFP

Sightings by Lorie Black

April 26, 2008-Dyess AFB

Highlights:

  • Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Chihuahuan Ravens on nest
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Painted Bunting, FOS for Dyess

Complete List:

  • Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 2
  • Wild Turkey 1
  • Northern Bobwhite 4
  • Turkey Vulture 2
  • Mississippi Kite 1
  • Swainson’s Hawk 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk 1
  • Rock Pigeon 10
  • Mourning Dove 22
  • Greater Roadrunner 2
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird 2
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker 4
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher 2
  • Western Kingbird 15
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 25
  • Blue Jay 5
  • American Crow 2
  • Chihuahuan Raven 5, 2 Adults and 3 young in the nest.
  • Barn Swallow 4
  • Verdin 1
  • Cactus Wren X
  • Bewick’s Wren X
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
  • Eastern Bluebird 10
  • Northern Mockingbird 10
  • Curve-billed Thrasher 6
  • European Starling 20
  • Cedar Waxwing 1
  • Orange-crowned Warbler 1
  • Canyon Towhee 4
  • Cassin’s Sparrow 2
  • Clay-colored Sparrow 10
  • Lark Sparrow 5
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
  • White-crowned Sparrow 10
  • Northern Cardinal 1
  • Pyrrhuloxia 4
  • Painted Bunting 1
  • Common Grackle 8
  • Great-tailed Grackle 6
  • Brown-headed Cowbird 4
  • Bullock’s Oriole 2
  • House Finch 10
  • Pine Siskin 2

Sightings by Laura Packer, Dan Symonds

April 22, 2008-Waste Water

Highlights:

  • Green-winged Teal, 2
  • Blue-winged Teal, 50
  • Cinnamon Teal, 3
  • Northern Shoveler, 150
  • Lesser Scaup, 1
  • Ruddy Duck, 2
  • Eared Grebe in breeding plumage, 8
  • Snowy Egret, 8
  • White-faced Ibis, 10
  • Semipalmated Plover, 3 FOS
  • Black-necked Stilt, 26
  • American Avocet, 101
  • Wilson’s Snipe, 1
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper, 12
  • Pectoral Sandpiper, 1, FOS
  • Stilt Sandpiper, 3, FOS
  • Wilson’s Phalarope, 350
  • Marsh Wren, 2
  • Dickcissel, 2 FOS
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird, 2

Sightings by Lorie Black, Kathy Hampton, and Laura Packer. Complete list happily e-mailed if requested.

April 20, 2008-SeaBee Park

Dan Symonds had a very productive morning at Seebee Park, adding 5 to his life list (marked with an L). Black-necked Stilts and Wilson’s Phalarope are beautifully colored birds this time of year. Those birds marked with an X means they were present but uncounted.

Complete List:

  • Gadwall – 15
  • Blue-winged Teal – 18
  • Northern Shoveler – 10
  • Green-winged Teal – 2
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 1
  • American White Pelican – 4
  • Great Blue Heron – 4
  • Snowy Egret – 4
  • Cattle Egret – 2 (L)
  • Turkey Vulture – 4
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1
  • American Coot – 40
  • Killdeer – 5
  • Black-necked Stilt – 10 (L)
  • Spotted Sandpiper – 3
  • Greater Yellowlegs – 2
  • Upland Sandpiper – 2 (L)
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper – 15
  • Long-billed Dowitcher – 20
  • Wilson’s Phalarope – 5 (L)
  • Mourning Dove – 6
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker – 2
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 10
  • Purple Martin – X
  • Bank Swallow – X (L)
  • Cliff Swallow – X
  • Cave Swallow – X
  • Barn Swallow – X
  • Northern Mockingbird – 4
  • American Pipit – 35
  • Chipping Sparrow – X
  • Clay-colored Sparrow – X
  • Vesper Sparrow – X
  • Savannah Sparrow – X
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow – X
  • White-crowned Sparrow – X
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 16
  • Common Grackle – 10
  • Great-tailed Grackle – 8

Sightings by Dan Symonds

April 19, 2008-Lake Kirby

Highlights:

  • Semipalmated Sandpiper – 8
  • Western Sandpiper – 1
  • Nashville Warbler – 1 (FOS)
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird – 1

Complete List:

  • Mallard – 2
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 1
  • American White Pelican – 1
  • Double-crested Cormorant – 4
  • Great Blue Heron – 2
  • Snowy Egret – 2
  • Green Heron – 2
  • Turkey Vulture – 4
  • American Coot – 6
  • Killdeer – 6
  • Spotted Sandpiper – 2
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper – 8
  • Western Sandpiper – 1
  • Rock Pigeon – 10
  • Chimney Swift – 2
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird – 1
  • Western Kingbird – 1
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 5
  • Blue Jay – 4
  • Cactus Wren – 1
  • American Robin – 2
  • Northern Mockingbird – 8
  • European Starling – 2
  • Nashville Warbler – 1
  • Clay-colored Sparrow – 20
  • Field Sparrow – 5
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow – 2
  • White-crowned Sparrow – 4
  • Northern Cardinal – 4
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 30
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird – 1
  • Common Grackle – 4
  • Brown-headed Cowbird – 2

Sightings by Dan Symonds

April 18, 2008-Dyess AFB

Highlights of today’s birds:

  • Solitary Sandpiper: 1
  • Eastern Kingbird: 1, first of the season
  • Chihuahuan Ravens: 1 adult on nest, 5 nestlings
  • Bullock’s Orioles: 3, first of the season

Complete List:

  • Wild Turkey: 7
  • Northern Bobwhite: 3
  • Great Blue Heron: 1
  • Green Heron: 2
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk: 1
  • Swainson’s Hawk: 2, mom building another nest and relocating
  • Red-tailed Hawk: 1 on nest on water tower; nestling seen snuggled under her feathers
  • Killdeer: 1
  • Solitary Sandpiper, 1
  • Rock Pigeon: 2
  • Mourning Dove: several
  • Greater Roadrunner: 1
  • Chimney Swift: 4
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker: 1
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker: 1
  • Eastern Phoebe: 1
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher: 3
  • Western Kingbird: 3
  • Eastern Kingbird: 1
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher: 14
  • Loggerhead Shrike: 1
  • Blue Jay: 3
  • American Crow: 2
  • Chihuahuan Raven: 6 (see above for details)
  • Cliff Swallow: several hundred
  • Cave Swallow: several hundred
  • Barn Swallow: 2
  • Black-crested Titmouse: 3
  • Bewick’s Wren: 2
  • House Wren: 2
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet: 2
  • Eastern Bluebird: 2
  • American Robin: 6
  • Northern Mockingbird: 5
  • European Starling: present but uncounted
  • Orange-crowned Warbler: 1
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler: 3, 1 Audubon’s Warbler and 2 Myrtle’s Warblers
  • Cassin’s Sparrow: 3
  • Chipping Sparrow: 10
  • Clay-colored Sparrow: 250
  • Vesper Sparrow: 9
  • Lark Sparrow: 4
  • Grasshopper Sparrow: 1
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow: 8
  • White-crowned Sparrow: 37
  • Northern Cardinal: 3
  • Red-winged Blackbird: 18
  • Common Grackle: present but uncounted
  • Great-tailed Grackle: present but uncounted
  • Brown-headed Cowbird: present but uncounted
  • Bullock’s Oriole: 4
  • House Finch: 12
  • House Sparrow: present but uncounted

Sightings by LgPacker, at Mesquite Grove GC and WSA

Upland Sandpipers and Great Kiskadee in April

UPSA

During the first half of April, Upland Sandpipers fly into the Big Country, like this one seen off S. 27th at Oakwood Trails (Centennial Park). They are a difficult bird to photograph, because they seem to know just how far to land away from the camera. But I caught a couple of them taking a leisurely walk in the short grass, their favorite habitat, on Tuesday, April 8. Just four days earlier, Lorie first found 17 Upland Sandpipers on Boys Ranch Road. So keep your eyes open for these dove-sized birds with long necks and small heads.

GKIS

And then on Wednesday, April 9, while birding with another birder from New Jersey (hi Steve) in Will Hair Park, our “resident” Great Kiskadee called out from the creek bed. The New Jersey birder was ecstatic to get this bird on his life list and digiscoped; and I was ecstatic to record it in early April.

A few more pictures of these birds are in the Upland-Kiskadee Gallery; check it out!

Eagles, Bluebirds, and Bobcat

BAEA

John English sent me this majestic pose of a young Bald Eagle trying out its wings above its nest while holding onto a half eaten fish March 27, 2008. Young eagles do not become breeding adults until five years of age. This is also when they acquire the white feathers on their head and tail.

EABL

Also at the end of March John spent some time with a pair of Dyess bluebirds (above) and the resident bobcat (below) sauntered into view for a quick photo shoot. We think the bobcat looks nice and plump…pregnant female?

Bobcat

To see more of John’s photos, check out the Eagles, Bluebirds, and Bobcat photo album.

April 12, 2008-Abilene State Park and Dyess AFB

Saturday, April 12, found several of us out birding in various places. A group met at the Abilene State Park to work on the privacy fence for the blind and their highlights at the blind were:

Abilene State Park, Bird Blind:

  • Black-chinned Hummingbird – 2 males, 2 females
  • Common Raven – 3 in a kettle overhead
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch – 2
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 1
  • Summer Tanager – 1 brightly colored male
  • Pine Siskin – 36

At Dyess Air Force Base:

  • Gadwall 6
  • American Wigeon 5
  • Green-winged Teal 3
  • Redhead 1
  • Northern Bobwhite 2
  • Great Blue Heron 1
  • Turkey Vulture 11
  • Swainson’s Hawk 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk 3
  • Killdeer 2
  • Rock Pigeon 10
  • Mourning Dove 30
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
  • Belted Kingfisher 1
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker 6
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher 2
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 25
  • Blue Jay 5
  • Purple Martin 2
  • Barn Swallow 4
  • Bewick’s Wren 1
  • Eastern Bluebird 3
  • Northern Mockingbird 20
  • European Starling 15
  • Cedar Waxwing 30
  • Chipping Sparrow 2
  • Clay-colored Sparrow 2
  • Field Sparrow 2
  • Lark Sparrow 3
  • White-crowned Sparrow 15
  • Common Grackle 10
  • Great-tailed Grackle 25
  • Brown-headed Cowbird 5
  • House Finch 12
  • House Sparrow 5

Sightings at Abilene SP: Lorie Black, Kathy Hampton, Dolores & Steve Owens, Laura Packer, Heidi Trudell, Charline Wheeler, Esta Wigginton. DAFB sightings by Dan Symonds

Crested Caracara in Callahan County

Caracara

And yet another rare bird (for this area) has shown up in the Big Country: the Crested Caracara. On February 2, 2008, a friend reported seeing a caracara flying overhead on CR 283 on the county line of Callahan and Coleman. These types of sightings are hard to confirm; how does one chase a bird seen in the sky? Well, this past week the caracara was reported at roadkill on CR 283, just two miles south of Hwy. 36. This sighting was chase-able and that’s just what I and a friend did this morning. I was not able to obtain a photo but I did see the bird fly into the area. The photo used here is from John English and I believe he took this photo at Choke Canyon S.P. We watched the caracara harass a couple of Chihuahuan Ravens and soar with the Turkey Vultures for about ten minutes before disappearing again. Caracaras are found to the south of the Big Country in open habitats, typically grassland, prairie, pastures, or desert with scattered taller trees, shrubs, or cacti in which it nests. This sighting is well north of its normal range.

Anyway, just wanted to let all know that the Crested Caracara has been sighted in the Big Country, about 25 miles from Abilene. The roadkill is still in the area so there’s a good chance it will hang around this area for those that are interested in relocating the bird. The Birds of North America Online has this to say about the Crested Caracara:

The distinctive Crested Caracara “combines the raptorial instincts of the eagle with the base carrion-feeding habits of the vulture” (Hudson 1920). Called ignoble, miserable, and aggressive, yet also dashing, stately, and noble, this medium-sized raptor, with its bold black-and-white plumage pattern and bright yellow-orange face and legs, is easily recognizable as it perches conspicuously on a high point within its territory. In flight it can be distinguished by its regular, powerful wing-beats as it cruises low across the ground or just above the treetops. Known locally as the “Mexican buzzard” for its habit of scavenging alongside vultures, the Crested Caracara is an opportunist and is commonly seen walking about open fields and pastures, feeding on a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate prey, as well as on carrion. The name “caracara” is said to be of Guarani Indian origin, traro-traro, derived from the unusual rattling vocalization that the bird utters when agitated.