I try to lead my neighborhood bird walks on the first Sunday of every month, and this month the first Sunday was New Year's Day. I decided to stick to that date and I was pleasantly surprised that 9 people joined me this morning! Finding birds on Lake Creek Trail with friends was a great way to start the new year. We started at the Parmer Village model homes and here are some highlights.
We got a great look at a Wilson's Snipe by the edge of the drainage pond which is often a difficult bird to see due to its skulking nature. In the pond were two American Coots, a Pied-billed Grebe, and a beautiful male Ring-necked Duck. Wild ducks are mostly winter birds for central Texas, and Lake Creek Trail hosts a wide variety of them. Many male wild ducks have stunningly colorful iridescent plumage, and we got some great looks at several different species in the clear morning light. In addition to the Ring-necked Duck we were treated to great scope views of an American Wigeon, several male Green-winged Teal, a Blue-winged Teal, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, and Lesser Scaup. Here's a photo of a male American Wigeon I took yesterday on the creek.
We tried to find marsh birds in the cattails near the Parmer Lane bridge but after playing recordings of several different species' calls, nothing responded. We did have great looks at a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Loggerhead Shrike nearby. Grassland sparrows are having a tough year in central Texas. The drought has left most areas of native grasses without many seeds or insects. On Lake Creek Trail this is evident in the grassy area beside the creek bed between the marsh and the last dam. In most winters Savannah Sparrows and Vesper Sparrows are pretty easy to find here, with a few others like Grasshopper Sparrows making an occasional appearance. But this winter it's mostly empty. We encountered only one Savannah Sparrow in this stretch.
We had much better luck with sparrows that prefer woods and low dense brush. Song Sparrows were relatively thick in the creek bed and near the last dam. We got a few decent looks at this species. Here's one I photographed yesterday eating poison ivy berries (an important food source for birds in the winter):
Other sparrows we encountered were Spotted Towhees, White-crowned Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and a few Lincoln's Sparrows.
A few more fun birds of the morning were two Greater Yellowlegs on the last dam, a female Belted Kingfisher that flew over a few times making its rattling call, bright Yellow-rumped Warblers in the morning sun, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and an almost hidden immature Red-tailed Hawk perched by the creek. Here is our complete species list. Happy New Year!