Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from October, 2008

Late October, 2008

It is our passion to highlight the avian populations of the Big Country, to chronicle their annual migratory movements or to highlight avian behavior. This week’s post covers both situations. With the strongest of cold fronts moving into the Big Country this fall,

Kirby_sun_rays

I captured the frontal passage at Lake Kirby (above). While the cold wind blew, a juvenile Osprey was dining on his morning’s catch:

OSPR

When the cold front’s gusty wind knocked it off its perch, what do you think it did?

Lorie found some unusual ducks floating out at Ft. Phantom Lake October 24, 2008:

Egyptian_Geese

Do you know what they are? Do you have any ideas as to their origin? We have an idea, take a look here.

New member Joe Thompson sent in a photo of a moody American White Pelican wintering at Kirby Lake, October 19, 2008:

Pelicans

Several hundred stopped by mid-October and it will be interesting to see how many will hang around as winter sets in.

To find out the latest in Big Country bird news, check out the Late October Gallery. You’ll discover what the Osprey did when the cold front blew it off its perch, see a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk wintering in the area, and meet a contortionist robin. And don’t forget to check out the Sightings for a complete list of what has been seen recently. If you have an interesting photo you’d like to share with us, drop us a note.

October 25, 2008 – Fort Griffin Field Trip

Highlights:

  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, numbers are dwindling fast
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Song Sparrow, FOS
  • A good mix of wintering sparrows (see complete list below)

Complete List:

  • Wild Turkey – 26
  • Neotropic Cormorant – 3
  • Great Blue Heron – 1
  • Turkey Vulture – 1
  • Northern Harrier – 1
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
  • Red-shouldered Hawk – 2
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 3
  • American Kestrel – 3
  • Killdeer – 1
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove – 8
  • Mourning Dove – 42
  • White-winged Dove – 1
  • Belted Kingfisher – 1
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – 1
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 3
  • Northern Flicker – 2, yellow and red-shafted form
  • Eastern Phoebe – 2
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 7
  • Loggerhead Shrike – 2
  • Blue Jay – 1
  • American Crow – 1
  • Common Raven – 1
  • Carolina Chickadee – 1
  • Black-crested Titmouse – 3
  • Carolina Wren – 1
  • Bewick’s Wren – 1
  • House Wren – 1
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 6
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 1
  • Eastern Bluebird – 4
  • American Robin – 1
  • European Starling – 12
  • Orange-crowned Warbler – 1
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – 4
  • Spotted Towhee – 2
  • Vesper Sparrow – 8
  • Lark Sparrow – 1
  • Song Sparrow – 1
  • Lincoln’s sparrow – 2
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 4
  • Eastern Meadowlark – 110
  • Western Meadowlark – 48
  • Great-tailed Grackle – 10
  • Brown-headed Cowbird – 1
  • House Sparrow – 35

Sightings by Kathy Hampton, Bill Hughes, Diane Martin, Laura Packer, Dan Symonds, Charline Wheeler, Esta Wiginton. Birds seen along CR 351 and 283 are also included in this list.

October 24, 2008 – Lake Kirby and S. Taylor County

Lake Kirby

Highlights:

  • Common Loon
  • Duck species
  • Horned Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Wilson’s Snipe

Complete List:

  • Gadwall – 2
  • Blue-winged Teal – 4
  • Northern Shoveler – 5
  • Redhead – 4
  • Ring-necked Duck – 4
  • Ruddy Duck – 2
  • Common Loon – 1
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 5
  • Horned Grebe – 1
  • Eared Grebe – 20
  • American White Pelican – 30
  • Double-crested Cormorant – 22
  • Great Blue Heron – 5
  • Great Egret – 6
  • Snowy Egret – 5
  • Cattle Egret – 5
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1
  • Common Moorhen – 1
  • American Coot – 70
  • Killdeer – 3
  • Greater Yellowlegs – 3
  • Wilson’s Snipe – 5
  • Ring-billed Gull – 20
  • Belted Kingfisher – 2
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 25
  • Common Grackle – 2
  • Great-tailed Grackle – 2
  • House Sparrow – 30

Sightings by Lorie Black and Dan Symonds

Southern Taylor County

Highlights:

  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Loggerhead Shrike feeding young (late nesting by this species)
  • Canyon Wren
  • Western Bluebird, FOS
  • Brown Thrasher – 2
  • Pine Siskin, FOS

Complete List:

  • Green-winged Teal – 8
  • Mallard – 11
  • Northern Bobwhite – 5 coveys heard
  • Black Vulture – 5
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 4
  • American Kestrel – 4
  • Rock Pigeon – 18
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove – 7
  • Mourning Dove – 49
  • White-winged Dove – 14
  • Great Horned Owl – 2
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker – 1
  • Say’s Phoebe – 1, along CR 353
  • Loggerhead Shrike – 6
  • Western Scrub-Jay – 2
  • Chihuahuan Raven – 2
  • Carolina Chickadee – 2
  • Black-crested Titmouse – 3
  • Canyon Wren – 1, CR 351
  • Carolina Wren – 1
  • House Wren – 1
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1
  • Eastern Bluebird – 2
  • Western Bluebird – 18, CR 351 near Hwy 89
  • Northern Mockingbird – 14
  • Brown Thrasher – 2
  • European Starling – 3
  • Orange-crowned Warbler – 3
  • Spotted Towhee – 9
  • Vesper Sparrow – 11
  • Savannah Sparrow – 4
  • White-crowned Sparrow – 48
  • Northern Cardinal – 4
  • Pyrrhuloxia – 1
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 8
  • Western Meadowlark – 81
  • Great-tailed Grackle – 12
  • Brown-headed Cowbird – 6
  • House Finch – 2
  • Pine Siskin – 104, FOS, CR 351
  • Lesser Goldfinch – 2
  • House Sparrow – 10

Sightings by LgPacker along Taylor County Roads 350, 351, 89, FM 1235, Hwy 277, CR 707, 314, 283, 290(Butterfield School Road), 277, 353, 126, but not necessarily in this order.

October 19, 2008 – Dyess AFB, NE

Complete List:

  • Northern Bobwhite – 1
  • Great Blue Heron – 1
  • Red-shouldered Hawk – 1
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 3
  • American Kestrel – 2
  • Killdeer – 3
  • Rock Pigeon – 54
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove – 1
  • Mourning Dove – 15
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker – 3
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker – 2
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 21
  • Blue Jay – 7
  • American Crow – 2
  • Bewick’s Wren – 1
  • Eastern Bluebird – 5
  • American Robin – 2
  • Northern Mockingbird – 12
  • Curve-billed Thrasher – 3
  • European Starling – 24
  • Orange-crowned Warbler – 1
  • Clay-colored Sparrow – 4
  • Lark Sparrow – 2
  • White-crowned Sparrow – 2
  • Dark-eyed Junco – 1
  • Northern Cardinal – 2
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 2
  • Common Grackle – 6
  • Great-tailed Grackle – 8
  • Brown-headed Cowbird – 2
  • House Finch – 25
  • House Sparrow – 5

Sightings by Dan Symonds

October 18, 2008 – Southern Taylor County

Highlights:

  • Bushtits
  • And the returning winter species, see list.

Semi-complete List
(complete for species seen, but not complete quantities)

  • Double-crested Cormorant – 20
  • Great Blue Heron – 1
  • Black Vulture – 2
  • Turkey Vulture – 2
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 3 (one was a very dark morph)
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove – 2
  • White-winged Dove – 2
  • Mourning Dove – 4
  • Greater Roadrunner – 1
  • Northern Flicker – 3, red-shafted; 1 yellow-shafted
  • Eastern Phoebe – 1
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 2
  • Loggerhead Shrike – 2
  • Blue Jay – 2
  • Western Scrub-Jay – 2
  • Common Raven – 2
  • Carolina Chickadee – 2
  • Bushtit – 6
  • Bewick’s Wren – 1 (chasing the intruding House Wren)
  • House Wren – 1 (running from the resident Bewick’s)
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1
  • Orange-crowned Warbler – 1
  • Spotted Towhee – 1
  • Canyon Towhee – 1
  • Field Sparrow – 1
  • Vesper Sparrow – 3
  • White-crowned Sparrow – 8
  • Northern Cardinal – 5
  • Pyrrhuloxia – 1
  • Meadowlark species – 3
  • American Goldfinch – 1 (seen overhead)
  • House Sparrow – 12

Mammals:

  • Coyote – 1, in a fresh cut field, no doubt looking for displaced rodents
  • Hog-nosed Skunk – 1, argued with a vehicle and lost. But since I’ve never seen one, I had to take its picture. Don’t worry…no blood shows

Sightings by LgPacker and HT. Roads traveled: CR 613, 207, 196, 195, 194, 186, 184, and not necessarily in that order.

October 18, 2008 – Lake Abilene

Highlights:

  • The ducks are here! See complete list below.
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Eastern Wood-Peewee

Complete List:

  • Wood Duck – 3
  • Gadwall – 10
  • American Wigeon – 10
  • Blue-winged Teal – 15
  • Northern Shoveler – 10
  • Northern Pintail – 2
  • Redhead – 10
  • Ruddy Duck – 2
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 5
  • Double-crested Cormorant – 15
  • Great Blue Heron – 3
  • Black Vulture – 45
  • Turkey Vulture – 10
  • Red-shouldered Hawk – 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1
  • American Kestrel – 1
  • American Coot – 75
  • Mourning Dove – 4
  • Belted Kingfisher – 3
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 2
  • Northern Flicker – 2
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher – 1
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee – 1
  • Eastern Phoebe – 2
  • White-eyed Vireo – 1
  • Blue Jay – 8
  • Carolina Chickadee – 2
  • Carolina Wren – 2
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 2
  • Northern Mockingbird – 2
  • Common Yellowthroat – 4
  • Spotted Towhee – 1
  • Northern Cardinal – 8
  • Eastern Meadowlark – 4

Sightings by Dan Symonds

Site Fidelity in October

Last year (2007) at Dyess AFB, TX, a beautiful white morph Red-tailed Hawk decided to overwinter on base:

RTHA

Last Friday (October 17, 2008) I photo’d another white morph Red-tail. If it is the same hawk that hung out last year, it is showing site fidelity. With birds, site fidelity is when they complete their migration for hundreds or thousands of miles they not only return to the same area, but they will return to the same tree and branch, as if it were their home.

Another bird behavior I observed while on base happened with the Eastern Bluebirds. They were checking out nestboxes:

EABL

All the nestboxes on base have been relocated to telescoping eight-foot poles in an effort to thwart predation. Several bluebirds were already inspecting their potential new summer homes. One pair of bluebirds, however, was defending their previous nestbox! This is spring nesting behavior. Were some bluebirds just playing house? or actually getting a head start in the house hunting department?

And one last bird seen last week almost stumped me as to its identity. Do you know who this sleeping beauty is?

asleep

To find out the mystery bird’s ID and see the pictures of the white morph Red-tail and Eastern Bluebirds house hunting, check out the Site Fidelity Gallery. Feel free to tell me if I have mis-identified the sparrow!

Blind Sightings

I bet you thought I was never going to post again. Uh…me to! But here I am to let you know what happens when you throw up a portable blind and watch the birds on the move in the Big Country. Warblers began their migration at the end of September and I caught a few in all their digital beauty:

NAWA.jpg

John caught a flicker arriving for the winter:

NOFL

and Kim caught more than feathers.

bobcats

Without blind assistance Dan caught a migrant at a local pond catching a meal:

OSPR

and Lorie caught a sapsucker settling in at the Abilene State Park:

YBSA

I’ve thrown a bunch of pictures into the Blind Sightings Gallery and I know you’ll enjoy them! And thank you, members for sending your pictures our way. If you have seen something we didn’t catch slipping into the Big Country, drop us a note and let us know what you found.

October 12, 2008 – Lake Kirby

Highlights:

  • American White Pelican – 250. They have really taken over!
  • American Avocet – 9

Complete List:

  • Mallard (Domestic type) – 4
  • Blue-winged Teal – 4
  • Northern Shoveler – 10
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 3
  • American White Pelican – 250
  • Double-crested Cormorant – 6
  • Great Blue Heron – 17
  • Great Egret – 27
  • Snowy Egret – 40
  • Turkey Vulture – 2
  • Northern Harrier – 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1
  • American Coot – 300
  • Killdeer – 9
  • American Avocet – 9
  • Spotted Sandpiper – 1
  • Greater Yellowlegs – 1
  • Mourning Dove – 6
  • Belted Kingfisher – 1
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 2
  • White-crowned Sparrow – 4
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 150
  • Great-tailed Grackle – 12
  • House Finch – 4

Sightings by Dan Symonds

October 11, 2008 – Abilene State Park

Highlight:

Complete List:

  • Great Blue Heron – 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk – 1
  • American Kestrel – 1 on FM89
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 1 on FM89
  • Black Vulture – 3
  • Turkey Vulture – 15
  • Belted Kingfisher – 1
  • Eastern Phoebe – 2
  • Blue Jay – 5
  • Black-crested Titmouse – 10
  • Carolina Chickadee – 5
  • American Robin – 7
  • Northern Flicker – 2 heard
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
  • Northern Cardinal – 3

Sightings by Big Country Audubon members and friends: Linda Beyer, Lorie Black, John English, Benji Jamison, Bera Johnson, Vance McCracken, Teresa Taylor, and Charline Wheeler