Monday, October 15, 2012

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

The Birding on Broadmeade group walk was yesterday morning and when I got up at around 6:00, the weather radar was full of rain. But it looked like the rain would pass over us soon so I pushed the starting time back one hour, emailed everyone, and hoped for the best. I arrived at the Parmer Village demo homes at the original start time in case anyone didn't get the email and waited an hour. It turned out that pushing the start time back was unnecessary because it was cool, overcast, and breezy. I watched this Great Egret fly from the pond and perch in the trees on the other side of the creek soon after I arrived.

Great Egret Landing

In about an hour the sun was out and 12 people had arrived for the walk. It was a beautiful morning!
Around the pond I estimated there were 35 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. This species is a summer resident here and the ones that breed in Austin probably left a month ago. But the birds from further north are moving south through the area now, sometimes in large groups. It was a joy to see this beautiful species in large numbers. I never got tired of seeing their orange-pink sides flash in the morning light as they flew.

Soon after we made our way from the pond to the creek bed we watched a Belted Kingfisher fly in and hover over the pond. These year-round residents catch small aquatic insects or fish by diving into the water from a high perch. But when there's nothing to perch on, they'll hover over the water while looking for prey. Soon after the Kingfisher left, another fish eater flew in -- an Osprey! These dramatic black and white hawks also specialize in catching fish by diving for them, but they're much larger than Kingfishers and can catch much larger fish. (Sometimes you can get great views of them diving into our creek.) They are winter residents here, and this was the first one I've seen in the neighborhood since last winter. We happily watched the Osprey circle over the pond a few times before flying off, and Barry Noret took this great photo.

Osprey - 1

We made our way upstream and spent some time by the last dam, which was uncharacteristically slow. We got to see an Eastern Phoebe, a Spotted Sandpiper, and a Snowy Egret and Great Blue Heron perched next to each other high in a dead tree. Barry got this shot of part of the group standing on the dam. That's me in the center.

Group at the Last Dam

Continuing upstream, things were pretty quiet. But we did get a great look at this female Ladder-backed Woodpecker. This is a southwestern species that lives in central Texas all year long. (One of the neat things about being a birder in central Texas is that we're on the edge of many eastern and western bird ranges.)

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

We got as far as the first low water crossing in the Town and Country Playing Fields. We got some pretty good looks at 2 Clay-colored Sparrows and a Lincoln's Sparrow. The Clay-colored Sparrows are only here during migration. They winter further south and breed further north. (I saw them in the sagebrush last summer while visiting my relatives in Montana.) Lincoln's Sparrows are common winter residents here that are just starting to return.

The last highlight of the walk was watching a group of about 50 Turkey Vultures riding a thermal to gain altitude and then peel off heading south. Turkey Vultures are year-round residents here but many individuals that breed further north are passing through the area on their way further south, and they often migrate in large groups with hawks. There were a few hawks in the mix, but they were too far away to identify.

Here is our complete species list. And here are a few more photos. What a fun morning!

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