Sunday, May 8, 2016

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

About 20 people joined me this Mother's Day morning for the monthly group bird walk on Lake Creek Trail. We started at the Braes Valley end of the trail at 7:30 and spent about two hours covering not even a mile of trail. The group was larger than usual probably because this is an exciting time to be birding in central Texas. Late April and early May is the peak of spring migration, so many species of birds are passing through the area that we only get to see now and in the fall. But the weather was against us. Most migrating birds have been taking advantage of the steady south winds to keep moving north, so not as many have been stopping to rest in patches of habitat like Lake Creek Trail. Still, we managed to find 39 species of birds and had a couple fun encounters.

Our best bird of the morning was one of the few migrants we saw -- an Olive-sided Flycatcher that posed for us on some wires over the creek near the footbridge. Everyone got good looks at this bird which is very similar to our year-round resident Eastern Phoebe. Two key differences Olive-sided Flycatcher has are a shorter tail that it doesn't pump, and distinct dark sides on its breast and belly which make it look like it's wearing a vest. My camera lens has been sent to Panasonic for repairs, so I couldn't take any photos, but here's an old photo of this species from Fall 2012, from almost the same spot. (Who knows, maybe it's the same bird!)

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Nearby on the footbridge we saw some fledgling Eastern Phoebes, so it was a great opportunity to compare.

A few other migrants we found were briefly seen Yellow Warblers, a heard-only Nashville Warbler, a high flying Great Blue Heron, and a heard-only Yellow-breasted Chat. The chat was in a dense patch of trees and brush near the footbridge. We enjoyed hearing it's song made of strange very different little phrases as it emanated from the bushes. I tried playing a recording back to it but it wouldn't come out to investigate. In the creek bed we enjoyed watching a hunting Snowy Egret. Unlike Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets which hunt while still or very slowly walking, Snowy Egrets actively walk and run chasing their prey. Sometimes it would use one of its feet to stir up the water and mud in front of it and watch for small animals that might emerge.

Despite the birds being slow it was a fun and pleasant morning. We won't have many more mornings this cool and comfortable before the summer! Here's our complete bird list.

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