Saturday, March 6, 2010

200 Species!

Getting a late start this morning, I started birding Lake Creek Trail at the Parmer Village model homes at almost 9:00 AM and spent about 3 and a half hours on the trail. Last weekend I was in Port Aransas for their Whooping Crane Festival, so it had been a couple weeks since I've birded the neighborhood. And what a difference that 2 weeks made! I ended up finding 50 species, including 2 sparrow species that I had not yet seen in the neighborhood. They brought my neighborhood bird list up to 200 species that I have observed here since I started keeping records in 2006!

At the pond I found 4 Ring-necked Ducks which I have not seen in the neighborhood much this winter. And right by the parking lot was a Snowy Egret (above) exhibiting an interesting foraging behavior called "foot-stirring". It was slowly walking around and vibrating its foot with each step. I think this is to stir up the small animals in the mud which it hunts. I took this short video showing this interesting behavior:

By the Parmer Lane bridge there were at least 30 Cave Swallows flying around, the first I've seen this season. By the patch of marsh there I heard a Virginia Rail, heard a White-eyed Vireo; and saw a Marsh Wren, a Swamp Sparrow; and I got this photo of a Sedge Wren:

I ran into Barry Noret on the trail who reported a possible Le Conte's Sparrow nearby. I was excited because I have never seen one of these beautiful little sparrows in the neighborhood. We tried to find it again and were unsuccessful. But Barry's a keen observer, so even though he doesn't have much experience with this species I expected that he had seen one (or the similar Grasshopper Sparrow). He also saw 2 Eastern Bluebirds which are a great find for our neighborhood, and were life birds for Barry.

I went looking for the bluebirds and found myself scanning one of the soccer fields at the Town and Country complex. I estimated there were 74 American Pipits in the grass, along with Chipping Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Brown-headed Cowbirds. I did not find the bluebirds, and started making my way back.

The woods by the last dam were quite active with many Song Sparrows and Lincoln's Sparrows. I was most excited to see a single Harris's Sparrow. Gracen Duffield has seen (and photographed) this species in the neighborhood before, but I have not. It brought my neighborhood list up to 199 species, and I got this photo of it:

Continuing back, I walked through the tall grass alongside the sidewalk between the last dam and the marsh, hoping to flush the sparrow Barry had seen earlier. I did, and Barry was right! I watched this beautiful Le Conte's Sparrow for about 45 seconds on and near the erosion control fence by the sidewalk. I did not get a photo of it. Since this bird had already been flushed by Barry once and by me twice this morning, I didn't want to scare it out of the area by following it more. But that's OK. My neighborhood list had hit 200 species and I was thrilled. I still am!


Barry Noret said...

Mikael, Congrats on 200!

That little piece of land is an amazing habitat that all of us are lucky to have in our backyard. I would like to also add that I had the opportunity to watch a raccoon play in the mud in the marsh for about 20 minutes. Best I could tell it was trying to catch minnows or bugs. It was like a private episode of Animal Kingdom! :)

BTW - great photos and video! -Barry

Gracen Duffield said...

Congratulations on reaching 200!

Mikael Behrens said...

Thanks Barry and Gracen. I'm glad both of you are out there birding this trail as well. More enthusiastic sharp-eyed birders out there will give us a better picture of the bird life in this area!