Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Round Rock / Pflugerville CBC

Saturday, December 28 2019, was the first ever Round Rock / Pflugerville Christmas Bird Count (CBC). I was excited when in 2018 I learned that Andrew Dickinson was creating and organizing this new CBC because it would include our neighborhood and Lake Creek Trail. Christmas Bird Counts are the longest-running citizen science project, started over 100 years ago and organized by the National Audubon Society. The basic idea is that an organizer defines a circle on a map with a 15 mile diameter and registers it with National Audubon. On one day between December 14 and January 5, the organizer gets as many birders as they can to count birds in as much of the circle as possible. This data along with distance covered and time spent by the birders, is reported to National Audubon where it is compiled and used in conservation research.

Here's the circle that Andrew defined, centered on I35 between Round Rock and Pflugerville:

Round Rock-Pflugerville CBC Circle

I and 3 other birders covered Area 6: Helen Mastrangelo, Stephen McDonald, and Barry Noret. In the morning Helen, Steven and Barry covered Lake Creek Trail and I walked about 3.5 miles of our neighborhood streets and the marshy area between Forest North Elementary and Highway 620. We met for lunch at Jardin Corona, compared notes, and made a plan for the afternoon. Helen and I birded the drainage pond on Pond Springs, Springwoods Park, Robinson Park, and the road leading up to 7700 Parmer Corporate Center. (7700 Parmer wouldn't give us permission to go onto their property.) Steven and Barry covered a drainage pond on 620 and Tanglewood Park. Then Steven, Barry and I covered the eBird hotspot, McNeil Merriltown Road.

Area 6 is interesting in that the west half has lots of good suburban neighborhood habitat including Lake Creek Trail, but the west half of mostly Robinson Ranch private property. (My limited efforts to contact someone with the ranch to ask permission to access it didn't pan out. Maybe next year!) Saturday was also a rainy overcast day. Rain in the afternoon limited both bird activity and our activity. We finished up about 3:30 PM. At 6:00 PM I joined Andrew and other folks who had participated in the count for dinner at Rudy's BBQ. Many CBCs have a dinner at the end of the day to share stories and what species were observed.

My Area 6 team found 65 species, including Merlin, Grasshopper Sparrow, Common Grackle, and Spotted Towhee.

Here's our complete list compiled into a single eBird checklist.

As of today with only one area not yet reporting, the species total is 111. Here's Andrew's compilation spreadsheet.

Due to the threat of rain all day, I rarely had my camera with me. The only bird photo I took was this Red-shouldered Hawk that Barry and I found near Forest North Elementary. We got to watch it catch and gulp down a small snake in the Lake Creek creek bed.

Red-shouldered Hawk

I participate in 4 or 5 CBCs every year. They offer fun opportunities to see places and birds you don't normally see, and to contribute to a great scientific cause. But they also usually involve getting up at a crazy-early time and driving for sometimes hours in the pre-dawn dark to the circle. So it was a great treat participating in this new local CBC when I could wake up at my usual time and start birding as soon as I walked out of the house with no driving at all! Here I am literally Birding on Broadmeade (near Meadowheath) during the count:

CBC Selfie

1 comment:

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