Sunday, October 12, 2008

Osprey and Monarch Butterflies

This morning I started birding from the new Parmer Village residential development. There's a small patch of marsh habitat on the creek near there and I wanted to see if any Marsh Wrens or Swamp Sparrows had returned to winter there yet. It was a slightly foggy morning and soon after I got out of my car I watch 2 Blue-winged Teal fly in and land on the Parmer Village drainage pond. These were the first ducks I've seen in the neighborhood this season. The variety and numbers of ducks on Lake Creek have decreased since all the nearby development in 2007, so I'm hoping more will return this winter. I did not find any Marsh Wrens or Swamp Sparrows, but I did find a few House Wrens and Lincoln's Sparrows. These are more common winter residents that also use marsh habitat but are not limited to it. In the same area were a male Wilson's Warbler and the first few Meadowlarks I've seen this season. (We get both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks here during the winter. Unfortunately I can only tell them apart by voice, and the ones I saw this morning were silent.)

Besides the Wilson's Warbler, I saw a few more south-bound migrating songbirds. I made my way upstream got brief looks at 2 Indigo Buntings and a Nashville Warbler along the way. Near the last dam I found 2 more, and 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in a small group. In the creek there was the first Pied-billed Grebe I've seen on the creek this season. And nearby I was excited to find and photograph this Osprey perched on a dead tree eating a fish it had caught. (I had seen the Osprey flying over the creek earlier carrying the fish, and I had hoped to find it perched like this.) Some other returning winter residents I found this morning were 2 Northern Flickers (heard only) and a single juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk which was making fast flights over the creek and scaring up the Starlings and Grackles.

Besides the birds, Monarch Butterflies are migrating south through our area right now. I saw dozens while I was out today, mostly in the woods along the new flood-control wall near the last dam. I got this picture of one:


Anonymous said...

My butterfly bushes are covered with Monarchs. I also have a ton of caterpillars in my fennel--but I think they are black swallowtails.

Annie in Austin said...

Love to read your posts Mikael - even if I don't always comment. Knowing you saw the osprey is very cool!

Do you think land development is the major factor in the decline in duck numbers, or is the ongoing drought part of the equation? Is Lake Creek pretty low right now?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Mikael Behrens said...

COM: That's nice to hear about the butterflies! If I remember correctly, Monarch caterpillars specialize in Milkweed.

Mikael Behrens said...

Annie: Thanks! About the decline in ducks, I'm just talking about very locally on Lake Creek in my neighborhood. I think this is because in 2007 there was lots of construction on the nearby Parmer Village development, the new county Lake Creek hike and bike trail, and some new buildings in the Amber Oaks corporate center. I think the increased noise, activity, and human presence kept the ducks away. The creek is spring-fed (I believe) and was not any lower than usual.

My hope is that with the construction mostly finished, more ducks will come back. But the new hike and bike trail is bringing more people to the spots that the ducks like (which in general is good and bad). So we'll just have to wait and see what happens this winter!