Sunday, March 29, 2020

Group Walks Suspended but Spring Continues

It's probably not a surprise to anyone that I will not be leading the monthly group walks until it becomes safe to gather again. As we all shelter in place from the corona virus pandemic, it's nice to see more people in the neighborhood spending time outside. And the recent beautiful weather and observing seasonal changes in wildlife make the underlying stress of the pandemic a tiny bit more bearable.

In no particular order, here are some exciting things I or others have observed in the neighborhood in the past week or two:
  • Helen Mastrangelo found a Louisiana Waterthrush on Lake Creek Trail on March 22. Steven McDonald posted a photograph of it here. We only have a handful of observations of this early migrating warbler on the trail during its narrow migration window.
  • Yesterday Steven McDonald found a female Vermilion Flycatcher on the trail, a southwestern species that uncommonly wanders into central Texas this time of year.
  • Craig Browning chased the Vermilion Flycatcher and found two Couch's Kingbirds on the trail, a south-Texas species that only rarely finds its way up to Austin.
  • Yesterday a returning summer resident Broad-winged Hawk soared low and vocalized over my backyard as I Skyped a couple friends.
  • Northbound migrating songbirds seen on the trail lately include Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Grasshopper Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Nashville Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, and Black-throated Green Warbler.
  • Returning summer resident birds seen on the trail lately include Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White-eyed Vireo, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
It makes me so happy to think about the birding community we now have around Lake Creek Trail. We will never know all the birds that use the habitat along the trail, but the birding community does a remarkable job documenting many of them on eBird here. Check it now and then to see how many birds and people watching them are out there!

Today was an absolutely beautiful morning. I spent all of it on the east half of Lake Creek Trail and I was excited to find increasing numbers and diversity of dragonflies and damselflies! The highlight of the morning was finding this male Great Pondhawk in the woods near the last dam on the creek. It's a species I've only ever seen once before on the trail and that was back in 2014:

Great Pondhawk

Other dragonflies I was happy to find include this Blue Dasher:

Blue Dasher

this Common Whitetail:

Common Whitetail

this Eastern Pondhawk:

Eastern Pondhawk - 2

and this Variegated Meadowhawk:

Variegated Meadowhawk

A couple out walking their dog spotted this small Diamondback Watersnake. Look at those red eyes!

Diamondback Watersnake

Here's my complete bird list on eBird for the morning.

And here are more photos on Flickr.

Stay safe out there everyone. I look forward to the day when we can safely have group bird walks again, whenever that may be!

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