Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chickadees and a few Migrants

I'm taking this week off since the last few days of April and first few days of May are usually the peak of spring bird migration in central Texas. I started out my vacation spending a long weekend down on the coast in Port Aransas where I found some great migrating warblers and vireos at a hot birding spot there called Paradise Pond. Sunday I participated in The Great Texas Birding Classic, in the Big Sit division on Port Aransas' "Spoonbill" team. We found 106 species and had a great time.

But I was also glad to get home and start birding the neighborhood again. This morning I walked one of my usual routes from my house to the end of Meadowheath, and then north onto the floodplain property to the new hike-and-bike trail parking lot. Things were a little slow among the houses, although I saw more Carolina Chickadees than usual. I ran into 3 or 4 family groups on Stillforest and Meadowheath with the juveniles still following the parents around and begging for food. (Here's a picture of a chickadee I got in my backyard about a month ago.) I also found a lingering Ruby-crowned Kinglet on Meadowheath. These little birds are leaving us for the summer so that might have been the last one I see until fall.

When I crossed the new footbridge onto the floodplain property things picked up a bit. At the bridge an Orchard Oriole flew over, the first one I've seen in the neighborhood this year. Nearby I found 2 Philadelphia Vireos, unusual north-bound migrants for the area and a first-ever for my neighborhood list. Near the end of Briar Hollow there was a Yellow-breasted Chat singing and I finally got a quick look at it. And in a patch of willow trees by the creek I found the first Painted Bunting I've seen in the neighborhood this year -- an all-green female. I was sad to see 3 house cats (1 with a collar) on the flood plain property while I was out. Cats are a leading cause of bird deaths, and it's especially discouraging to see the cats out and hunting during this sensitive time when birds are already stressed from migration. There are lots of good reasons to keep cats indoors, both for the sake of the birds and for the sake of the cats.

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