Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from January, 2009

February Announcements

February 5, 2009: General Meeting, 7 pm

sooty-tern-webSooty Tern

Strangers to the Ground:  The Birds of Tern Island, Hawaii

presented by Matthew York

Matthew York is a graduate of Baylor University.  He did his Masters’ work for Sul Ross State University concentrating on life ecology of Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) in the Davis Mountains, Texas.

In addition to having an interest in birds as far back as he can remember, he has served as an Avian Wildlife Biologist with several species and organizations.  These include work with Golden-cheeked Warblers (Dendroica chrysoparia) for The Nature Conservancy at Fort Hood,  Seabird Field Assistant at Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge on Tern Island Field Station with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

rescue-of-hawaiian-green-sea-turtle-webMatt rescues a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Tern Island

This past year he served as Avian Field Biologist with the Institute for Wildlife Studies.  There, he was a part of the San Clemente Island Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus mearnsi)  Recovery and Monitoring Project.  This endangered subspecies is found only on San Clemente Island, the southernmost member of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.  Recently moving back to Texas to be closer to home and loved ones, he will be working for Texas A&M analyzing habitat characteristics, nesting locations, and presence or absence of the Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapilla) in portions of central Texas.

Please join us February 5, 2009, 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.

laysan-albatrossl-black-footed-albatross-dance-webA Laysan Albatross (l) saunters past a pair of Black-footed Albatrosses during their bonding dance on Tern Island

Note: February field trips and other activities will be added as soon as they are confirmed.

January 29, 2009 – Lake Ft. Phantom Area

Sea Bee Park:

Highlights:

  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Northern Pintail
  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Great Egret
  • Snowy Egret
  • Vermilion Flycatcher, first-year male

Complete List:

  • Gadwall – 7
  • Cinnamon Teal – 1
  • Northern Shoveler – 35
  • Northern Pintail – 6
  • Green-winged Teal – 55
  • Bufflehead – 12
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 5
  • Neotropic Cormorant – 1
  • Double-crested Cormorant – 10
  • Great Blue Heron – 6
  • Great Egret – 1
  • Snowy Egret – 2
  • Northern Harrier – 4
  • American Kestrel – 2
  • American Coot – 237
  • Killdeer – 1
  • Greater Yellowlegs – 1
  • Wilson’s Snipe – 1
  • Belted Kingfisher – 1
  • Northern Flicker – 1
  • Vermilion Flycatcher – 1
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1
  • Savannah Sparrow – 3
  • meadowlark sp. – 20

Lake Fort Phantom:

Comlete List:

  • Mallard – 2
  • Northern Shoveler – 105
  • Northern Pintail – 3
  • Green-winged Teal – 75
  • Ring-necked Duck – 4
  • Bufflehead – 6
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 6
  • Double-crested Cormorant – 350
  • Great Blue Heron – 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 8
  • American Kestrel – 1
  • American Coot – 250
  • Least Sandpiper – 12
  • Wilson’s Snipe – 1
  • Ring-billed Gull – 25
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove – 3
  • Mourning Dove – 25
  • Inca Dove – 14
  • Belted Kingfisher – 3
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker – 1
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker – 1
  • Eastern Phoebe – 1
  • Loggerhead Shrike – 1
  • Chihuahuan Raven – 1
  • Northern Mockingbird – 5
  • European Starling – 13
  • American Pipit – 1
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – 1
  • Vesper Sparrow – 1
  • Savannah Sparrow – 1
  • Song Sparrow – 1
  • White-crowned Sparrow – 16
  • Northern Cardinal – 3
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 1
  • meadowlark sp. – 35
  • Brown-headed Cowbird – 5
  • American Goldfinch – 10
  • House Sparrow – 9

Wildlife Trails

Complete list:

  • Canvasback – 2
  • Ring-necked Duck – 1
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 2
  • Great Blue Heron – 2
  • Great Egret – 1
  • Mourning Dove – 66
  • American Robin – 1
  • meadowlark species – 35
  • Great-tailed Grackle – 10

Sightings by Kathy Hampton and Laura Packer

January 17, 2009 – Haskell County Field Trip

Big Country Audubon’s Wild Goose Chase to Haskell County was attended by Carolyn Wiggins, Charline Wheeler, Linda Beyer and Dan Symonds.  Winchester Lake, where we had captured the awesome video for the membership meeting in November, was dry. However, we were still able to see hundreds of geese feeding in fields and flying in large flocks around the area.

Complete List:

  • Greater White-fronted Goose  –   604
  • Snow Goose   –  50
  • Canada Goose  –   420
  • Duck sp.- 8
  • Double-crested Cormorant  –   5
  • Great Blue Heron   –  1
  • Northern Harrier  –   10
  • Red-tailed Hawk  –   18
  • American Kestrel  –   28
  • Sandhill Crane  –  23
  • Rock Pigeon  –   2
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove  –   3
  • Mourning Dove  –   160
  • Loggerhead Shrike  –   4
  • Northern Mockingbird  –   3
  • European Starling  –   154
  • Vesper Sparrow  –   43
  • Lark Bunting  –   10
  • Savannah Sparrow  –   8
  • White-crowned Sparrow  –  65
  • Northern Cardinal  –   2
  • Red-winged Blackbird   –  460
  • meadowlark sp.  –   590
  • Common Grackle  –   370
  • Great-tailed Grackle  –   130
  • Brown-headed Cowbird  –   410
  • House Sparrow  –   44

Carolyn’s sightings:

  • Gold Eagle – 1
  • White Buffalo  –   1

(If you have to ask for an explanation, then you didn’t go on the field trip!)

A Dove and a Pelican

Two bird occurrences made news here at BCAS this past week:  First, the rare sighting of a Ruddy Ground-Dove was reported in Tom Green County:

rugd-img_0986web

Kudos to Don (who’s identity will remain protected); he found the bird in his backyard hanging out with the Inca Doves.  Also, over at Ocellated, there are some excellent first photos of this rare sighting.  This dove is from Mexico.  If you look in a field guide, you might find a drawing of the bird, but you won’t find its range map because only a few confirmed records have been found in extreme southern Texas, near the Rio Grande River. And yes, technically the dove is not in the Big Country.  But it’s just one county away!  Near enough to chase! And that’s what I did this past weekend.

There were eight of us in Don’s backyard on a stakeout.  Me, Randy, Jay, Amy, Bob and wife from San Angelo, and Heidi and Matt.  Now Heidi and Matt did not come with us.  Heidi just happened to call as we were driving towards San Angelo and found out there was a Ruddy Ground-Dove in the area.  I remember Heidi said something like, “What?  You left town on a rarity chase and didn’t tell me?”  Oops…I thought I had.  Oops…I thought you read Texbirds.  Um, Heidi, I guess I was sneaking out of town without letting you know.  And then I reminded her of how I almost derailed Kathy’s and my friendship by rarity chasing a certain Golden-crowned Sparrow a year ago without telling her.  Oh, man, I get a little too focused…oops.  So anyway, she and Matt race on down to San Angelo; they get to the place about 45 minutes after we got there; and around 3:05, everyone gets really good looks at the little dove sitting in a tree:

rugd-branch-img_0818web

Heidi’s still my friend, I have a new lifer, and all is right with the world. What more could I ask?

Glad you asked.  Back in mid-December, David reported a wing-tagged American White Pelican at Nelson Pond:

awpe-tag-img_0606

Not only did it have a wing tag, it was also banded:

awpe-leg-band-img_0558web

If you find a tagged or banded bird, please report it to http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/. This is the web site of the North American Bird Banding Program.  There are instructions there on how to report your sighting (or  call 1-800-327-BAND). I reported the sighting at their web site and last week I received a letter stating the bird was banded at the Blackfoot Reservoir, 4 miles southwest of Henry, Caribou County, Idaho!  The pelican was banded in 2008 when it was too young to fly.  So it’s not even a year old.  I always wondered where our northern visitors were coming from and now I know one came from the Blackfoot Reservoir! I think it’s enjoying hanging out with the Resident-Rehabbed (years-ago) pelican which has not migrated since its release back to the “wild.”  Hmmm…will the resident pelican take off in the spring with its new-found friend or will it create another slacker like itself?  The drama continues!

awpe-643-web-img_0569Baby Blackfoot (foreground) frolics with Resident-Rehabbed Pelican at Nelson Park, mid-December, 2008.

January 15, 2009 – Lake Kirby

Highlight:

Common Goldeneye,  female

Complete List (fairly standard winter sightings):

  • Gadwall  –   32
  • Mallard   –  12
  • Northern Shoveler  –   12
  • Green-winged Teal  –   35
  • Common Goldeneye  –   1
  • Ruddy Duck  –   2
  • Pied-billed Grebe  –   9
  • Eared Grebe  –   55
  • Double-crested Cormorant  –   27
  • Great Blue Heron  –   2
  • Red-tailed Hawk  –   1
  • American Coot –    40
  • Spotted Sandpiper  –   2
  • Wilson’s Snipe  –   1
  • Ring-billed Gull  –   23
  • Rock Pigeon  –   22
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker  –   2
  • Downy Woodpecker  –   1
  • Northern Flicker  –   1
  • Carolina Wren  –   1
  • House Wren  –   1
  • Marsh Wren  –   2
  • Northern Mockingbird  –   1
  • Orange-crowned Warbler  –   1
  • Savannah Sparrow  –   2
  • Song Sparrow   –  2
  • White-crowned Sparrow  –   35
  • Dark-eyed Junco  –   2
  • Northern Cardinal   –  6
  • Red-winged Blackbird   –  1
  • meadowlark sp.  –   8
  • House Sparrow  –   1

Sightings by LgPacker

The Patches Are Here!

pabu

The long-awaited Painted Bunting patches are now here!  They are very handsome and even more striking than the above photo depicts.  One will look awesome on your birding vest; two will look stereoscopic on your hat; and three will look ridiculous plastered to your day pack – but who am I to comment on your style of club spirit.

The patches are only $6.00 a piece.  If you’d like one, two, or more, please contact us with your name, snail mail address, and how many patches you want.  Then send your check (addressed to Big Country Audubon)  to:

Big Country Audubon Society

P.O. Box 569

Abilene, Texas 79604

We will get your patches to you as fast as the US Post Office operates, around five to seven working days.  If you want your patches yesterday, call me (I’m in the phone book) or our hotline at 325-691-8981 and we can arrange a time for you to come over and pick them up.  If you are a patient birder, we will have the patches at our February 5 meeting for your purchase.

Proceeds from these patches will support the Club’s activities and they are a great way to promote our Club.  Don’t let them all fly away before you get yours!

January 10, 2009 – Area Sightings

Abilene State Park

Highlights:

  • Wood Duck
  • Brown Creeper

Complete list:

  • Wood Duck – 2
  • Great Blue Heron – 2
  • Black Vulture – 6
  • Red-shouldered Hawk – 1
  • Mourning Dove – 2
  • Downy Woodpecker – 1
  • Eastern Phoebe – 1
  • Blue Jay – 2
  • Carolina Chickadee – 7
  • Black-crested Titmouse – 11
  • Brown Creeper – 1
  • Carolina Wren – 5
  • Bewick’s Wren – 1
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 3
  • Western Bluebird – 5
  • American Robin – 15
  • Northern Mockingbird – 1
  • Cedar Waxwing – 2
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – 5
  • Spotted Towhee – 2
  • Song Sparrow – 1
  • White-crowned Sparrow – 11
  • Dark-eyed Junco – 21
  • Northern Cardinal – 13
  • meadowlark sp. – 11
  • Pine Siskin – 11
  • American Goldfinch – 10

Lake Fort Phantom Highlights:

  • Common Merganser – west side boat dock
  • Mountain Bluebirds – East Lake Road

NE Abilene Highlights:

  • Lesser Goldfinches, coming to feeders at residences’ houses
  • Greater Scaup, I-20 pond

Sightings by Lorie Black, Kathy Hampton, Laura Packer, Dan Symonds

What Happened in December?

Nothing happens in the bird world in December, right?  Besides we’re too busy with holidays, CBCs (I did three!),  shopping, baking, and entertaining.  But while we were sleeping and waking and running, some of you noticed the birds and sent us photos.

A lingering Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was found at the wastewater treatment plant in Jones County on December 5:

stfl-img_0219-webIt set the latest “last-seen-in-the-fall” record for the Big Country.

Another flycatcher, the Great Kiskadee, was found December 29 behind a private residence along Cedar Creek in northeast Abilene:

gkis-jpacker_081229_8809webThis makes the “third-consecutive-year” record we’ve found this large Valley resident in the Big Country.

And the charm (third flycatcher) was this young Vermilion Flycatcher seen at SeaBee Park on the very first day of the new year:

vefl-ldb-jan-1-2009webEither this is the latest record or earliest record we have for Vermilion Flycatcher.  I don’t know…I’m confused.

And a little orange hummingbird braved the chill December air in Jones County:

ruhu-img_0260webRufous Hummingbird

Our usual winter residents have been seen in the usual places on fences:

ssha-mg_2586webSharp-shinned Hawk

in the brush:

webl-mg_4132webWestern Bluebird

and coming to the watering hole:

fosp-dsc_0441webFox Sparrow

But wait!  We have other birds that stepped in front of our cameras and in front of our cars   (It’s not gory; Heidi found an excellent specimen.)  I’ve put their pictures up at the December 2008 Gallery.  I even caught that  jolly-bearded, red-suited guy stopping by to grab a treat!

Thanks to those that sent in photos this past month!

January, 2009 Calendar

Board Meeting: Tuesday, January 13, 2009  – 7:00 pm. Board meeting at MezAmiz Coffee Shop on South 7th.  Come early (6:30pm) to order dinner.  All members are welcome.

geese-webimg_9693

Field Trip: Saturday, January 17, 2009 – 7:30 am. Wild Goose Chase in Haskell County!  We’ll carpool from the Towne Crier on Business 20, leaving at 7:45 am.  Come earlier to enjoy their breakfast buffet.  Our target species are geese (Greater White-fronted, Canada, Snow, and Ross’s), hawks and falcons.  There’s a possibility we could see a Brant, too!

eabl-f-checks-box

Wildlife Landscape Conference:  Saturday, January 24, 2009 – 8:30 am. In the Extension Conference Room at the Taylor County Extension Center.  Sponsored by the Big Country Master Naturalists, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and AgriLIFE Extension.  Topics covered will be Gardening for Wildlife, Hummingbird Habitats, Attracting Bluebirds, Managing Nestboxes, Backyard and Landowner Certification, Wildlife Exemption Requirements, and much more!  Registration is $15 and this includes a box lunch.  For more information please contact Taylor County Extension Office, 1982 Lytle Way, Abilene, TX 79602, Phone: 325-672-6048, or e-mail Taylor-tx@tamu.edu for more information.

February meeting:  February 5, 2009: to be announced

January 6, 2009 – SeaBee Park

Highlight:

  • Vermilion Flycatcher, 1 young male found Jan 1 and still present
  • White-faced Ibis – 1 juvenile

Complete List:

  • Gadwall – 10
  • Northern Shoveler – 52
  • Northern Pintail – 1
  • Green-winged Teal – 14
  • Bufflehead – 4
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 3
  • Snowy Egret – 2
  • White-faced Ibis – 1
  • Northern Harrier –  1
  • American Coot – 100
  • Greater Yellowlegs – 4
  • Ring-billed Gull – 2
  • Northern Flicker – 1
  • Eastern Phoebe –  1
  • Vermilion Flycatcher – 1
  • Eastern Bluebird – 6
  • Northern Mockingbird – 4
  • European Starling – 2
  • meadowlark species – 52

Sightings by Dan Symonds