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

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