Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from March, 2009

March Birding Madness: County Firsts!

The last week of March has revealed some incredibly out-of-range birds in the Big Country.  What is likely a Taylor County first is this Hooded Oriole, showing up at a nectar feeder at a northeast Abilene residence on March 24, 2009:

hoor-closeup-web-img_1158Photo by LgPacker

Hooded Orioles are normally found along the Rio Grande, in southern Arizona, in California and in Mexico.

A couple of days later Lorie found this Anhinga at Lake Fort Phantom at the outflow area establishing a Jones’ County first record:

anhinga_crPhoto by Lorie Black

Anhingas are aquatic birds normally found east of us along the Gulf Coast, along freshwater streams and ponds.  They spend considerable time in the water, body submerged with only the neck, face, and bill visible.  When not swimming the bird sunbathes on branches overhanging water as seen in the above photo.  The oriole, on the other hand, is associated with much drier habitat.  Why a waterlogged species and a desert dweller were seen days apart is anyone’s guess.  Perhaps their breeding hormones or the crazy weather patterns of late caused them to fly a little further than they had anticipated.

While not rare for our area, White-breasted Nuthatches are very uncommon in the Big Country.  They are more of an Eastern species.  But this one was found and photographed by Lorie at Oakwood Trails the first of March.


Another bird hard to see (because it is nocturnal) is this Common Poorwill.

copo-ht-pict6208_webThought to be roadkill, Heidi pulled over and picked it off the road only to find out it was alive!  A quick trip to the Abilene Zoo’s Rehabilitation center brought it back to full health and it was released the next day.  Can’t find its eye or beak?  Here’s a closeup to help you figure it out.

To see more oriole, poorwill, and other bird photos from our members, go to our March Birding Madness Gallery.  Dan has wonderful pictures of a Fox Sparrow, Lorie has more pictures, John recorded a field trip to Cedar Gap Farm, and Laura has one or two also.  Speaking of Laura, the only poster to this site until now, BCAS is now happy to announce she has two new backups, Dan and Lorie.  They will be adding their birding knowledge and expertise to this site.  Blogging goodness slowed the first of this year when Laura had to take time off to battle cancer.  She appears to be winning the battle and thanks everyone for their many thoughts and prayers.

April Events

Thursday, April 2, 2009: General Meeting

Eleanor (Ellie) Hamby will speak at our April meeting at 7:00 PM at the Rose Park Senior Activity Center.


Ellie Hamby will present Journey to Galapogos. Ellie has been photographing people and wildlife all over the world for many years. Her specialty is capturing the faces of people and particularly the Tonga’s of Southern Zambia. She has had solo exhibitions of her photography in the United States and Africa and does numerous speaking engagements concerning her photography. Her photos have been on the cover of magazines and she has had extensive newspaper coverage in Zambia and the USA of her photography.

eh-marine-iguana_webA Marine Iguana suns himself on the beach. Photo by Ellie Hamby

Her late husband, Kelly, and she traveled to over 70 countries and lived in Zambia, Africa for six years. She always travels with her camera at her side, relying on her camera and her sense of capturing, through the lens.  For more information and to see her photos of people, go to:

eh-blue-footed-booby_webBlue-footed Booby, by Ellie Hamby

The Galapagos Islands are beautiful islands and they are famed for their  biodiversity and for their vast number of endemic species. You will enjoy Ellie’s pictures and stories, so please come and bring a friend!

Saturday, April 4, 2009:  Star Party at the Abilene State Park

On Saturday, April 4th, there will be a Star Party at the Abilene State Park sponsored by Big Country Astronomy and the Friends of Abilene State Park. The event will run from sunset to midnight: Come and go or come and stay! There will be several telescopes, plus monitors, to explore the skies. This will be part of the local celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.

March 28, 2009 – Lake Kirby


  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • Western Sandpiper
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Forster’s Tern
  • Tree Swallow
  • Lark Bunting

Complete List:

  • Gadwall  – 28
  • American Wigeon – 2
  • Mallard – 4
  • Blue-winged Teal – 9
  • Northern Shoveler – 15
  • Green-winged Teal – 4
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 2
  • Eared Grebe – 1
  • American White Pelican – 40
  • Double-crested Cormorant –  8
  • Great Blue Heron –  3
  • Turkey Vulture – 1
  • Common Moorhen – 1
  • American Coot – 200
  • Black-bellied Plover – 1
  • Killdeer – 12
  • Black-necked Stilt – 1
  • Spotted Sandpiper – 1
  • Greater Yellowlegs – 4
  • Western Sandpiper – 6
  • Least Sandpiper – 53
  • Long-billed Dowitcher – 25
  • Bonaparte’s Gull –  5
  • Franklin’s Gull – 5
  • Ring-billed Gull – 41
  • Forster’s Tern – 12
  • Rock Pigeon – 20
  • Mourning Dove –  8
  • Tree Swallow – 1
  • Barn Swallow – 75
  • Bewick’s Wren – 1
  • Northern Mockingbird – 4
  • Curve-billed Thrasher – 1
  • American Pipit – 1
  • Orange-crowned Warbler – 4
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – 10
  • Chipping Sparrow –  8
  • Clay-colored Sparrow – 20
  • Vesper Sparrow – 7
  • Lark Bunting – 10
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow – 1
  • White-crowned Sparrow –  6
  • Northern Cardinal – 2
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 100
  • Common Grackle –  52
  • Great-tailed Grackle –  12

Sightings by Lorie Black, Kathy Hampton, Dan Symonds, Charline Wheeler, and Linda White