Sunday, July 13, 2014

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Eight folks joined me this morning for the monthly group walk. We met in front of the Parmer Village pond and I photographed this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher while I waited for people to arrive.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

It was a fun morning! We ended up spending two and a half hours on the trail and recorded 35 species of birds. By the creek bed near the pond we enjoyed watching Western Kingbirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers chasing insects and themselves. As we made our way upstream we heard a Red-shouldered Hawk vocalizing but only got brief looks at it as it flew over the treetops. We also saw four American Crows react to its calls and briefly chase the hawk. As usual, when we reached the last dam on the creek we waited there awhile to see what might show up.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bird-A-Thon!

I led a short version of a Bird-A-Thon this morning on Lake Creek Trail for our local Travis Audubon Society. Six of us met at 7:30 AM at the west end of the trail and we spent the entire morning walking its 2.4 miles and seeing how many species of birds we could observe. We recorded 59 species! Here are some highlights.

We got to briefly see and hear a singing Brown Thrasher (probably the same bird observed on the last group bird walk). A Bronzed Cowbird made a brief appearance just beyond the footbridge. While we stood next to the creek bed we got great close looks at a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and two similar migrating shorebird species: Solitary Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs. Here are the shorebirds, both only seen here during migration. First the Solitary Sandpiper:

Solitary Sandpiper


Then the Lesser Yellowlegs (one of the four that flew in while we stood there):

Monday, April 7, 2014

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Five folks braved the cold and wet weather yesterday morning for the monthly bird walk. We started at the Braes Valley parking lot at 8:00 and spent two hours on the trail. During April and May, birding can be extra good right after a front comes through with some rain because birds on their way north will stop at available patches of habitat to wait for more favorable conditions. We got to see this phenomenon yesterday. Songbird migrants we found in the woods along the trail included Nashville Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Lincoln's Sparrows, a Great Crested Flycatcher, many Cedar Waxwings, and the first Eastern Wood-Pewees I've seen this year. It was too wet to risk taking my camera with me, so here's a Nashville Warbler I photographed in the neighborhood back in 2009:

Nashville Warbler

Some returning summer residents we found were Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, many Barn Swallows and a single Cliff Swallow, White-eyed Vireos, and a single male Bronzed Cowbird.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wind and Sun and Gnatcatchers

I spent a very enjoyable couple hours on Lake Creek Trail this morning. I got a late start (almost 10:00 AM) but ended up finding 44 species of birds including a few early spring migrants. At 11:00, I was pleased to see the sun emerge as the layer of clouds was blown away by the north wind:

Sun Emerging


One of the early migrating species I observed was Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. There were two individuals in the woods near the footbridge. These are a common north-bound migrating songbird in our neighborhood in the spring. Listen for their quiet, raspy call, and look for a tiny gray bird with a long tail with white outer tail feathers. Here's a photo of one I took on the trail about the same time of year back in 2009:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


I was excited to find a pair of Cooper's Hawks in the woods between Braes Valley and the footbridge. It looked like the same larger pale female and smaller male that nested here last summer. I don't think their nest was successful last year, so I hope they try again!

Here's my complete list of birds. Despite the wind it was a beautiful day out there!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

14 folks participated in this month's group walk. We met at the Parmer Village pond at 8:00 AM and spent about 2 hours birding Lake Creek Trail. What started as a mild, humid, overcast morning near 70 degrees, ended in the mid-40s with a bracing north wind. After the front hit (at exactly 8:43 AM) about half the group turned back and went home. The rest of us toughed it out and made it back to our cars at about 9:45, just before the rain started.

On Friday, Sue and Steve Whitmer saw a female Vermilion Flycatcher by the Parmer Village pond. This morning we couldn't find this locally rare bird. but we did see some other cool stuff. Near the last dam on the creek, just above the treetops, we saw two Barn Swallows heading north. These birds are summer residents in central Texas and most of north America, and they were the first Barn Swallows I've seen this year. Shortly afterwards we saw a group of three Great Blue Herons flying in the distance. In central Texas we have Great Blue Herons that are here all year long. But this species is also migratory. This time of year we always see increased numbers of these large birds on our creek because there are birds here from further south that on their way further north. Later we saw a group of five of these herons, and I got this photo of two of them:

Migrating Great Blue Herons


The creek had lots of ducks on it, which are also on their way north. We saw larger-than-average numbers of Gadwalls and American Wigeon, and I saw the first Blue-winged Teal that I've seen on the creek this winter. Other duck species included Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal. And several large Double-crested Cormorants flew over us while we were out. Despite cold and wet weather, we found 43 species of birds. Here's our complete list.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Six hardy folks joined me on this cold, wet, and windy morning for the monthly group walk. We started at the Braes Valley parking lot at 8:00 and spent a relatively short hour and forty five minutes on the trail. Temperatures started in the low 40s and actually descended into the mid 30s while we were out. Despite the weather and a low level of bird activity, we managed to make a few neat observations. Not too far down the trail we found a single male Downy Woodpecker at the top of a bare tree. With the overcast conditions, my photos of it came out very dark. So I decided to make a stark black-and-white silhouette out of one. I like the way it came out!

Downy Woodpecker Silhouette


Before we got to the footbridge we got good looks at a Red-shouldered Hawk across the creek and a Song Sparrow in the creek bed. Beyond the bridge we found Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, and nine Greater Yellowlegs in the creek. I always enjoy finding these shorebirds on our neighborhood creek because when I first started birding I was very surprised that birds like this could be found away from the coast. I'm especially excited to find such a large group of Greater Yellowlegs. For the last few years, during a few construction projects along the creek like Parmer Village, I stopped seeing these winter-resident birds in groups this large. I was lucky to see one flying up or down the creek during my walks. It's great to see that things have settled down enough for them to return in numbers I'd see six or seven years ago. Here's a photo showing seven of the nine Greater Yellowlegs:

Greater Yellowlegs Flock


Greater Yellowlegs can be distinguished from the very similar Lesser Yellowlegs by its relatively long bill. That bill is also sometimes slightly upturned, which you can see in the photo below. Lesser Yellowlegs has a shorter and very straight bill.

Greater Yellowlegs


Here's our complete bird list from the morning.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Storks? No, Pelicans!

Earlier this week I received a couple interesting reports about "storks" on the Parmer Village pond. Many people refer to the herons and egrets that are usually there as storks, so at first I assumed that's what was being seen. The only true stork in Texas, the Wood Stork, would be an outside possibility but very unlikely. And it didn't fit the description one observer gave me of the birds having a long yellow bill and a "pouch". Intriguing!

On Thursday evening (January 16), the mystery was solved. Parmer Village resident James Boroff emailed me photos of large white birds on the pond that his wife Seena Mathew had taken. James and Seena correctly identified these birds as American White Pelicans. Wow! I would never have expected pelicans to be using this small pond. I wonder what they're eating, since I doubt there are fish in there. (There are lots of fish in the nearby creek, but I don't think the pond is connected to the creek.) American White Pelicans are winter residents in Texas, mostly on the coast. But you can also find them in the Austin area during the winter, usually on much larger bodies of water. They are huge birds, with a nine-foot wingspan! My only other record of this species in our neighborhood was in April, 2008 when there was a spectacular fly-over during my monthly group walk. Here's my blog entry.

Here are Seena's Pelican photos:

American White Pelicans on Parmer Village Pond - 1


American White Pelicans on Parmer Village Pond - 2


American White Pelicans on Parmer Village Pond - 3


As many as three have been seen on the pond since Tuesday (January 14)!