Sunday, March 5, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Only two people joined me on a very soggy group bird walk this morning. A very light rain came and went just often enough to eventually soak my jacket and hat despite rarely being enough for me to open my umbrella. Despite the cool and wet weather, the three of us spent about two hours on Lake Creek Trail and found 35 species of birds.

Our year-round residents are singing up a storm. Northern Cardinal and Carolina Wren songs were almost constant during our walk. Some of our winter residents like Ruby-crowned Kinglets are starting to sing too, before they fly north to their breeding grounds. I even heard a tiny bit of song from a Blue-headed Vireo that we were lucky enough to see.

Near the footbridge we heard and then saw a returning summer resident, a White-eyed Vireo. Soon their quick song will be common on this part of the trail but this one was the first I've heard this season. Here's a photo of one I took on the trail back in April 2012:

White-eyed Vireo


Along the creek we were treated to a pretty close view of a Snowy Egret, and then a small group of Greater Yellowlegs a little further downstream. Before we turned around another returning summer resident, a Barn Swallow, flew down the creek.

Here's our complete bird list.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Feeding More Bird Species

Sometimes people ask me about feeding birds and I have very little information to offer. I've never been very interested in having bird feeders in my yard, partly because I assumed that seeds were the only thing you feed birds. And the bird species that come to seed feeders are only a few of the species in the area. But recently my friend Chuck Sexton told me about feeders he makes out of partial tree limbs that attract most of the other songbirds like warblers, kinglets, woodpeckers, and wrens! It's a bit ambitious, but if you'd like to attract and feed a greater diversity of birds in your yard, I encourage you to give this a try. Here's a picture of the finished product with a Carolina Chickadee feeding on it:


And here's Chuck's email he sent me describing these different feeders and the mix they contain, along with a couple more pictures.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Better late then never, here are a few highlights from the Birding on Broadmeade group walk a week ago on 2/5/2017. Starting at 8:00 AM, 9 people joined me at the Parmer Village end of Lake Creek Trail. We spent over 2.5 hours covering about 1 mile of the trail in mild overcast weather.

  • While we were waiting at the Parmer Village pond, a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew by. Then a Crested Caracara flew by and landed first on top of a house, and then in the trees across the creek. A few of us got good looks at it through my spotting scope.
  • Many flocks of American Robins flew over us the whole time. My estimated total was 750 individual birds.
  • Everyone got close looks at this Northern Mockingbird eating the bright red berries off of a Possum Haw (Ilex decidua) bush.
    Northern Mockingbird and Possumhaw
  • At the end of the walk back at the Parmer Village pond, we watched a Double-crested Cormorant swallow a large sunfish. How did fish get in that pond? Is it stocked? Is it connected with Lake Creek?
    Double-crested Cormorant with Sunfish
Here's our complete bird list.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Two Ice Observations

Friday and Saturday nights were two of our rare Austin area hard freezes, with the temperature getting down into the low 20s. (As I write this on Wednesday evening it's already back up in the 70s!) On Sunday morning I birded the east half of Lake Creek Trail and made a couple fun observations involving ice.

By the pond formed by the last dam on Lake Creek I ran into Steven McDonald and we remarked on a very thin layer of ice covering over half of the water's surface. Steven spotted a Yellow-rumped Warbler hopping (and occasionally sliding) around on it, very actively foraging. Later we spotted another, along with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Common Yellowthroat, all hopping around on the ice. I've never seen this before and really enjoyed watching them. I'm guessing these birds were foraging for insects, although I wish I knew for sure since it seems like it would be too cold to find any. All of these birds weigh about half an ounce, light enough for this very thin layer of ice to support them. Here are a few photos I got of the original Yellow-rumped Warbler on the ice:

Yellow-rumped Warbler on Ice - 2


Yellow-rumped Warbler on Ice - 1


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

The first Sunday of the month turned out to be the first day of 2017, and I was pleased that 14 people got up early on New Year's Morning to meet at the Braes Valley parking lot of Lake Creek Trail and join me for the monthly group walk. It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful morning with the sun mostly out and lots of bird activity. It was so pleasant and so much fun we spent over 3 hours on the trail and found 46 species of birds.

We found one rarity, a wintering Gray Catbird spotted by Barry Noret in the dense brush between the side trail that goes to Holbrook Street and the parking lot. Only a few of us got a brief look at this skulking species and no one got photos. This is a common wintering bird on the Texas coast but not many winter in Austin. They look like a smaller and darker version of a mockingbird without the white patches, and they like to stay hidden.

Otherwise, this month's walk featured some great close looks at some common winter songbird species. Near the footbridge we found an Orange-crowned Warbler, and then two Ruby-crowned Kinglets. One of the kinglets foraged especially close to us, and we got to see its ruby crown a few times.

We saw so many birds flycatching this morning! While not obvious at first, there were many insects in the air, especially over the creek. Most of them were small mayflies, flying in an up-and-down pattern. Warblers, kinglets, phoebes, and most dramatically I thought, Cedar Waxwings were catching them out of the air, sometimes changing direction 180 degrees in their flights. After we crossed the footbridge we had an amazing encounter with 30 to 40 Cedar Waxwings in the ash trees along the creek's bank that landed right above and around us. A few times we watched groups of them make flycatching forays out to the middle of the creek and then come back, flashing their yellow tail tips in beautiful morning light. Here are a couple, the first showing their red wing feathers that give them their "waxwing" name:

Cedar Waxwing - 2


Monday, December 12, 2016

Golden-crowned Kinglet

At about 10:00 on this beautiful clear and cool morning, I spent a little over an hour birding our streets. You'd think that you would always find more birds on Lake Creek Trail than on our streets. But in Forest North Estates we have so many mature native trees, that there are a few species of birds that are more easily found in the tree canopy between and sometimes over our houses. In fact in the winter, often you can find wonderful mixed-species foraging flocks of songbirds all foraging for insects in slightly different ways. I was pleased to find one of these flocks this morning near Cedarhurst and Broadmeade.

The flock had year-round residents Carolina Chickadees, Black-crested Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Downy Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. It also had winter residents Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and a single Golden-crowned Kinglet. I've heard a few Golden-crowned Kinglets on my morning jogs during the past few weeks, but this is the first good look I've gotten of one this season. I got these two so-so photos:

Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1


Golden-crowned Kinglet - 2


Here's my complete bird list.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Only two intrepid birders joined me on this cold and wet morning to see what birds we could find on the east half of Lake Creek Trail. We met at 8:00 AM by the Parmer Village pond. Despite the weather predictions, I didn't cancel this morning's monthly group walk and I'm glad I didn't, since rain stayed south of us until we got back to the cars at around 10:00. While I waited and wondered if anyone would show up this morning, I watched a Great Egret in the pond and this Red-tailed Hawk up on a cell phone tower:

Red-tailed Hawk on cell tower


Before we left the pond we saw the first wild ducks I've seen in the neighborhood this season. A couple small groups of Gadwall and then a larger group of Northern Shovelers flew over. Some of them landed in the pond for a brief stay. They took flight again before we started walking. On our way up the creek bed to the last dam, we heard and saw House Wrens, Song Sparrows, Lincoln's Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and an Orange-crowned Warbler, all recently returned winter residents.

The highlight of the morning was birding the patch of woods just north of the last dam.