Monday, September 4, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Yesterday 18 people joined me for the monthly group walk on Lake Creek Trail. We met at the Braes Valley parking lot at 7:30 AM and spent over two and a half hours looking for birds on just the first half mile of trail. We ended up finding 39 species of birds. One of my goals was to find some fall migrants and we got a promising start by finding a female Wilson's Warbler foraging in the tall ragweed in the northwest corner of the parking lot. Most of us got good looks at this cooperative little yellow bird.

After the Wilson's Warbler, fall migrants were few and far between. We heard a few Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Dickcissels, and we briefly heard and saw a Baltimore Oriole. In the playing fields at the first creek crossing, 9 Least Sandpipers flew in from downstream and landed in a soccer field on the north side of the creek. We crossed the creek and walked up the north bank just enough to watch the sandpipers at eye-level as they foraged for insects in the mowed grass. Some Least Sandpipers are winter residents here on our creek, so these particular birds might be here all winter or they might be just passing through on their way further south.

Least Sandpiper

Our most exciting observation of the morning was unexpectedly emotional as well. Before the Least Sandpipers flew in we were on the south side of the creek and spotted a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the dense brush of the creek bed. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are declining in number because of habitat loss, and I see and hear fewer of them than I used to years ago. So I was very happy that we found this one. I got this poor photo showing its yellow bill and reddish-brown wing patches:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

About a dozen people joined me this morning for the group walk. We met at 7:30 at the Parmer Village end of the trail, and we were very lucky to enjoy overcast skies and a nice breeze for the entire walk. After covering about a mile of trail in a little under 3 hours, we found 41 species of birds. The most unexpected and fun bird observation we made was this family of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks which was in the pond formed by the penultimate dam on the creek. This is the first time I've seen any evidence of any duck species breeding on Lake Creek Trail. Most of the wild ducks we see here are only here in the Winter. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are one of the few year-round resident ducks in central Texas.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck Family - 1

Monday, July 3, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Six people joined me yesterday morning for the monthly group bird walk on Lake Creek Trail. We met at the Braes Valley parking lot and spent almost 3 hours covering just about half a mile of trail. (I often joke that birding is not good exercise!) Often we kept seeing birds just standing in one place. Right where the power lines cross the creek we stopped to look at dragonflies in the tall grass. I was excited to find this female Gray-waisted Skimmer, a species near the northern edge of its range here in Austin, and one I've only seen once before on Lake Creek Trail:

Gray-waisted Skimmer Female - 2

While we were looking at this dragonfly and a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly, the birds seemed like they were taking turns to fly up and perch on the wire above the creek for us to see them.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

On Sunday morning about a dozen people joined me at the Parmer Village end of Lake Creek Trail for the monthly group bird walk. We got started at 7:30 and spent about 3 hours finding 40 species of birds. Spring migration is winding down and the birds have changed their priorities to reproduction. We saw lots of evidence of this on our walk. The most exciting for me was hearing and then seeing a singing male Painted Bunting! As we walked upstream in the creek bed beside the trail we started hearing a Painted Bunting song ahead of us. It continued from the same area near the last dam on the creek. And when we reached the dam we were rewarded with great looks at this small colorful bird singing. I've never had a group get such good looks at this species on Lake Creek Trail. Here's a photo I got:

Painted Bunting

On last year's June walk we also heard and saw a singing Painted Bunting, but it was a first-year male that was all green. (The males don't get their multi-colored plumage until their second year.) Who knows, maybe this was the same bird!

Some young birds we saw included juvenile Northern Mockingbirds and Northern Cardinals.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Beautiful cool weather and being in the peak of spring migration right now were probably the two factors that made this month's group walk on Lake Creek Trail the largest in awhile. Over 20 folks met me at 7:30 this morning and we spent over 2.5 hours covering about half a mile of the trail, from the Braes Valley parking lot downstream to the second low water crossing in the Town and Country playing fields. We ended up finding just a few northbound spring migrants:
  • a stunning male Yellow Warbler at the tip top of a hackberry tree
  • at least two Wilson's Warblers
  • three Least Flycatchers
  • a heard-only Yellow-breasted Chat
  • a briefly seen Gray Catbird
  • a heard and then seen male Mourning Warbler
  • an Indigo Bunting
  • a beautiful Mississippi Kite
  • and about a dozen Least Sandpipers
I didn't get many photos this morning since I was busy leading the larger than average group. But I did get this shot of the Mississippi Kite:

Mississippi Kite

Another fun observation was of a Common Buckeye butterfly sunning itself on the layer of algae on the surface of the water in the creek. It was a common butterfly in an uncommon setting:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Despite a tornado watch and being surrounded rain, seven folks joined me for the monthly bird walk on Lake Creek Trail. We met at the Braes Valley trail head and spent about an hour and a half on the trail and finding 24 species of birds. With rain imminent, I didn't want to risk bringing my camera along so I didn't get any photos from the group walk. But here are some highlights.

We could just barely see a Red-shouldered Hawk was still sitting on the nest near the parking lot. I hope we see it again next month.

We got to hear a House Wren singing near where the trail cuts to Briar Hollow Drive. Winter species like this one usually don't sing while they're hear. (We mostly just hear their various calls.) But this time of year they sometimes sing before heading north. It's always a treat to hear it.

Two newly returned summer species we saw were Chimney Swifts twittering in the sky and a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in bright breeding colors on the creek bed just east of the footbridge.

Despite loud crowds cheering for baseball games on both sides of the creek, we watched about 50 Least Sandpipers foraging in the creek bed on their way north.

The weather became our focus on the way back. We felt the temperature drop substantially as we went west back over the footbridge. And back at the parking lot my phone beeped with a tornado warning! We skipped lunch and departed, and the storm arrived minutes later.

Here's our complete bird list.

That same afternoon the sun came out and it was gorgeous! I returned to the trail and ran into Helen Mastrangelo who was also on the morning walk. We found 41 species of birds including my first Black-chinned Hummingbirds of the season and some great looks at a migrating Osprey. Here are some photos from the afternoon. And here's our afternoon bird list.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Winter to Summer

It had been three weeks since I've birded Lake Creek Trail, so this morning I spent a couple hours starting at the Braes Valley trailhead and making my way to the eastern-most creek crossing. It was exciting to see signs of transitioning seasons from winter to summer. There were increased numbers of some winter-resident birds like Lincoln's Sparrows and Cedar Waxwings. Here are a couple photos I took of a few of about 100 Cedar waxwings perched in the top of a willow tree:

Cedar Waxwings in Willow Tree - 2

Cedar Waxwings in Willow Tree - 3