Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ruts and Ducks

I birded the neighborhood for about 4 hours this morning, starting at Parmer Village. I spent about an hour in the marshy area near the Parmer Lane bridge. This area is intriguing to me since it's the only habitat of this kind in the neighborhood. Unfortunately it's also one of the remaining areas along the creek where people are still riding ATVs. They come in by the bridge and this picture shows a rut left by one. This marshy area is the only place I've found Marsh Wrens (but not this morning), and it could potentially have some other interesting species hidden in the reeds. This morning I found many Swamp Sparrows, Lincoln's Sparrows, and Song Sparrows. I got this picture of one of the Song Sparrows.

Another place ATVs are getting in is by the new flood control wall near Saddlebrook Trail. I've emailed a couple people in Williamson County asking if we can block access with boulders, like we have at other points along the creek. Hopefully I'll hear back from them soon. A small tributary creek goes along this wall and joins Lake Creek. It's a good place to find birds and this morning I got this picture of an Orange-crowned Warbler there. It's the first picture of an Orange-crowned Warbler I've gotten that actually shows a trace of its orange crown.

I was happy to find 5 species of ducks this morning. In the past year or 2 ducks have gotten much less common during winter on the creek. I think this is because of the recent Parmer Village and Lake Creek Trail construction projects. Now that those are mostly complete, I am hoping to see more ducks again. In the Parmer Village drainage pond there were American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, and Gadwall. On the creek I found 7 Green-winged Teal, which were in beautiful plumage. But I was afraid I'd scare them away if I got close enough to take a good picture. I did get this decent picture of Northern Shovelers a little farther upstream.

Shortly after I took this picture an Osprey flew over, and both the teal and these shovelers were spooked and flew off.


Anonymous said...

I was up on the other end this morning and noticed it looked like the creek bed had been recently mowed. There were very muddy ruts which must have been full of wonderful food! The yellow rumped warblers, juncos, gold finches were having a feast in the mud! It was a blast watching them as they also fought the wind. This area is an amazing habitat!

Thanks, Back Yard Birder

Mikael Behrens said...

Yes, Williamson County mows the creek and the trail, but I don't know if they follow a strict schedule or not. The Yellow-rumped Warblers seem to be appearing in larger groups these days. Maybe they are preparing to return north.

Doug S said...

Hi Mikael, thought I would check out your blog.

That's frustrating about the ATVs. I hope you can get the access blocked. They are wildly popular up here and can really ruin a hike in the mountains (where I've actually seen an elk startling close) with all the noise and spooking of the wildlife.

My wife's sister rescues raptors down in Arizona (they are rehabilitating four hawks, a falcon, and an owl at present) and her boyfriend runs the raptor show and training program at the Sonora Desert Museum. We went this Christmas--I think you'd like it. The Harris Hawks hunt in groups, which is fascinating.

Mikael Behrens said...

Hi Doug,

I think ATV use will eventually stop here, as the area continues to transition from rural to suburban. I learned that a neighbor who lives by one of the access points calls the police every time he hears or sees them. And as more people use the hike-and-bike trail, more people will see when it is illegally used.

Wow, raptor rehab! Neat stuff, it must be fun to visit her.

Aaron DaMommio said...

I think, Doug, that you and Mikael are tragically blind to the danger that raptors pose.

Mikael Behrens said...

Remember, back before the movie Jurassic Park came out, when the word raptor just meant hawk?

Marilyn Kircus said...

I saw my first black chinned hummer yesterday and then found a barn swallow back in its nest last night.

So a few hummer feeders are up and the mud is ready for nest repair.

Not to send the grackles and brown headed cowbirds on their way....

Marilyn Kircus

Mikael Behrens said...

Ah yes, hummingbird feeders. I should probably dust mine off and boil up some sugar water soon!