Sunday, October 4, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

We had a total of 15 people on this morning's monthly group walk. We spent almost 3 hours finding 39 species of birds on Lake Creek Trail, starting at the Parmer Village pond. Most of the birds we observed were only briefly seen or even heard-only., but an exception was Eastern Phoebe. There were many of these flycatchers up and down the trail, likely because the year-round residents were joined by south-bound migrants. Similarly, many Killdeers were present on the soccer fields.

Some of the briefly seen highlights:
  • a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flying across the trail near the last dam
  • a juvenile Sora briefly emerging from the reeds near the last dam
  • a small group of female Blue-winged Teal and a single Snowy Egret foraging in the shallow water of the creek bed
  • a distant Pied-billed Grebe diving and surfacing in the creek upstream of the second dam
  • several heard-only returning winter resident House Wrens, a few of which briefly flew across the trail in front of us
  • a brown female or juvenile male Indigo Bunting
  • two Cooper's Hawks in flight, one that dove at a perched White-winged Dove
The first songbird we got a good close look at was this female Downy Woodpecker:

Downy Woodpecker

And nearby we found this juvenile Green Heron hunting in the creek bed. Soon this summer-resident species will be gone for the winter.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Pond Watch

Five folks met me Saturday morning for the monthly Pond Watch migratory dragonfly observation. It was a bit warm, but a little cooler than in previous months. At the meeting spot by the Parmer Village pond there were a few Blue dashers in a tree. Here's one:

Blue Dasher

And in the same tree there were briefly a couple Citrine Forktails, our smallest damselfly. I finally got my camera to focus on this one:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

About ten folks joined me on Sunday morning for the monthly group walk. We started at the Braes Valley parking lot of Lake Creek Trail and covered about .7 miles in a couple hours. It was a warm but tolerable morning and we found 38 species of birds. I was hoping we'd find a few southbound migrating songbirds and we did! The most dramatic was a pair of Baltimore Orioles near the footbridge. Here's a distant photo I got of the male:

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Orioles pass through our neighborhood every spring and fall, but despite their bright colors they are easily missed. They are sneaky when they pass through and often stay hidden in the leaves of the upper canopy. You can increase your chances of finding one if you learn how to recognize their subtle blackbird-like calls.

Also near the footbridge we found couple female Orchard Orioles. I got this poor photo of one:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Pond Watch

Yesterday morning nine folks joined me for the second group Pond Watch on Lake Creek Trail. Like last month, we met at the Parmer Village pond and counted dragonflies between there and the last dam on the creek about a half mile away. One of the fun things about being a naturalist is seeing seasonal changes in new ways. And in just two monthly Pond Watch observations, dragonflies are showing the transition from summer to fall. Overall diversity was down; we found 15 species versus last month's 18. And numbers of non-migratory species were down too. This reflects the relatively short lifespan of adult dragonflies. They are mostly creatures of spring and summer.

But numbers of four of the five migratory species that Pond Watch tracks were up. I think this reflects  dragonflies from further north arriving here in central Texas on their way south. These four species (Wandering Glider, Spot-winged Glider, Common Green Darner, and Black Saddlebags) were all constantly flying, and the only one I was able to photograph was this Wandering Glider which hovered in one place long enough for me to get this shot:

Wandering Glider

A non-migratory species that we did not see last month was this dramatically marked Broad-striped Forceptail, a member of the clubtail family:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Due to schedule conflicts I had to cancel the monthly group walk for July, so I was glad to lead the August walk yesterday morning. Eight of us spent a surprisingly mild couple of hours finding 32 species of birds. We started at the Braes Vally parking lot and enjoyed a distant view of a first-year male Orchard Oriole. A couple of us also briefly spotted a Summer Tanager. Both of these species breed in central Texas, but I only see them in the neighborhood during migration -- these birds were on their way south.

We enjoyed clear morning sunlight on our way up the trail to the footbridge. The birds were pretty quiet, and once again we found some great dragonflies. There were several bright red Neon Skimmers, a few Widow Skimmers, Roseate Skimmers, and Comanche Skimmers, Eastern PondHawks, and this one which I did not recognize:

Gray-waisted Skimmer

When I got home I tentatively identified it as a Gray-waisted Skimmer, an uncommon species for Austin which has been found in nearby Yett Creek Park this summer. I was happy to have my identification verified by several local dragonfly authorities on iNaturalist. It was a lifer for me!

When we arrived at the footbridge we were treated to some cloud cover that made the rest of the walk unseasonably pleasant. What a treat it was to be outside in August and not sweating! We continued downstream through the playing fields. In the creek bed we got to see several American Rubyspot damselflies, one of the larger and more dramatic species. Here's one of them:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

First Birding on Broadmeade Group Pond Watch

This morning eight folks joined me for the first Birding on Broadmeade group Pond Watch. Pond Watch is a citizen science project to monitor migratory dragonflies. I've been participating in this project by myself on the last dam of Lake Creek sporadically for a couple years, but like many citizen science projects, the more people participate the better. The main barrier to participating in Pond Watch is learning how to identify the five species of migratory dragonflies that it tracks. Everything else is pretty darn easy. So I decided to start a new monthly group walk that concentrates on teaching people how to identify these fives species of dragonflies. The five species are:

  • Black Saddlebags
  • Wandering Glider
  • Spot-winged Glider
  • Common Green Darner
  • Variegated Meadowhawk

Recognizing them is tricky.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Snakes Catching Fishes

I spent yesterday morning observing dragonflies on the Parmer Village end of Lake Creek Trail. Starting at the Parmer Village pond I eventually worked my way to the last dam on the creek. With recent rains, the creek was high enough that water was spilling over the dam. Our creek is loaded with water snakes in the Nerodia genus, mostly Blotched Water Snakes. (These are all non-venomous. I have yet to find a venomous snake anywhere in our neighborhood.) As I scanned the shallow water pouring over the dam, I saw this Blotched Water Snake maneuvering around the base of the dam, right where the slope stops:

Fishing Blotched Water Snakes - 1

It came to a rest with only its head extending above the bottom of the slope: