Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Has Arrived!

It's been a while since I blogged about what was going on around here.  I haven't had a lot of time to get out and go birding.  It's spring, though, so that will hopefully change soon.  I have seen a couple of spring migrants coming through. 

I've got a pair of Purple Martins that have come back after taking a year off.  They have been here consistently for the past two weeks.  I'm watching for them to start taking nesting material into the nest.  A pair of Eastern Bluebirds has built a nest in the nestbox outside of my bedroom window.  The nest is almost complete, and they should have eggs in the nest within a couple of weeks.  I have my sparrow spooker ready to install.  On Monday, a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites flew over the house heading north.  I didn't see one last year, so it was nice to see them again.  Hopefully I'll be able to get out on Monday to see if I can find any Northern Parulas, Black-and-white Warblers, Yellow-throated Warblers or other early migrants. 

I bought and installed a Barn Owl box.  I'm really hoping they find it and use it.  It would be great for rodent control around here.  It was one of the scariest things I've done in a long time!  Being up 13' on an extension ladder on a wobbly 4x4 post is not my idea of a good time!  But, it's done and it's ready for them to use! 

With all the rains recently, both ponds are completely full.  I installed a Prothonotary Warbler box at the new pond.  I'd love for them to use it!  That would be a lot of fun to get some good pictures with my BirdCam.

I am going to start filling my feeders in the woods again and maintaining a birdbath down there.  Hopefully I'll get some good pictures of migrants again this year.  I quit filling the feeders and birdbath because a raccoon kept getting to the feeders and knocking them down.  I have a BirdCam with a flash on it so maybe if it happens again, I'll be able to figure out how he is getting past the baffle.  I would love to get some more pictures of the migrants on the birdbath.  Hopefully we don't have the insane south winds like we had last year that blew many of the migrants right over us on their way north. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Property Bird #200 - Finally!

On Sunday, Nov. 27, I was sitting down at the new pond watching for a huge hog that has been down there.  I had backed the four wheeler up near the pond to try and get out of the strong north wind.  A Marsh Wren was hopping around in the cattails growing in the pond.  He gave me some great looks.  I wasn't sure if I had seen one before on the property.  I put it in my bird listing program, I ran a report and saw the number 200 on it.  So, eight years, three months and 24 days after we moved here, I finally saw my 200th property species.

Project FeederWatch week three was pretty much like the first two weeks.  I was able to add a Ruby-crowned Kinglet to the list of birds that come to the feeders.  There is one that is consistently on the Bark Butter log.  The Red-bellied Woodpeckers have found the Bark Butter as well.  I'm looking forward to the Pine Warblers and American Goldfinches coming.  According to my records, I should see Pine Warblers showing up next week.  The goldfinches should show up at my feeders within the next couple of weeks.   

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More Winter Birds

Today I had several Chipping Sparrows show up at my feeder. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet has begun visiting my Bark Butter feeder. I am still waiting on the Pine Warblers to show up. Yellow-rumped Warblers have visited my birdbath frequently today. It started off cool this morning but warmed up quickly through the day. The clouds were low and thick this morning an I heard several flocks of Snow Geese flying over. I was finally able to see some of them once the clouds broke. There were about twenty Eastern Bluebirds in my yard. Several of them must be migrants from northern areas.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Project FeederWatch Week 1

Project FeederWatch began for me on Sunday, Nov. 13.  If you don't know what PFW is, it is a project that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology sponsors where they ask people will feeders across the U.S. and Canada to record the highest number at a given time of all the species that come to anything the participants have put up for birds in their yard.  I watch my feeders, birdbath and brush pile for bird species.  Participants pick two consecutive days to watch their feeders as much as they can.  Then the reports are sent to Cornell where they compile them.  They are able to monitor the populations of individual species, watch how different species are spreading across the U.S. and Canada or how they are declining and get an idea of different migration patterns.  It's fun to know the information I get from my little spot is helping the scientists understand birds a little better. 

My first week of PFW was a good one.  Despite the birds not coming to the feeders in the same abundance as they did in the summer, I recorded 15 species.  That is the highest first week species count since I've been participating in 2009/2010.  The species were: Eurasian Collared-Dove (3), White-winged Dove (12), Mourning Dove (2), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2), Blue Jay (2), Carolina Chickadee (2), Carolina Wren (2), Northern Mockingbird (1), Yellow-rumped Warbler (1), Song Sparrow (1), Northern Cardinal (3), Red-winged Blackbird (2), Common Grackle (2), House Sparrow (6) and Brown Thrasher (1).

I was a little worried that my numbers were going to be down this year because my feeders in the woods are inactive.  I cannot keep the raccoons (I'm assuming it's raccoons) out of them.  I bought a BirdCam with a flash so I can put it down there at night to see how they're getting into the feeders to see if I can outsmart them.  So far the score is Raccoons - 5, Paul - 0.  Hopefully I can keep them out of the feeders and have them active as well to keep track of the birds visiting down in the woods.  

Rufous Hummingbird

On Sunday, November 6, I saw my first Rufous Hummingbird on my property, giving me 199 property species.  I was hoping she'd stick around for my first weekend of Project FeederWatch, but no luck.  Here are some pictures I got of her with my BirdCam.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Winter Migrants and Project FeederWatch

It's been a while since I wrote about anything happening on the property. Between the mosquitoes and being very busy, I didn't get out to see what was going on with fall migration this year on the property. But I did get to see some neat things that aren't terribly common on my property.

On September 17, I drove in from work and saw a flycatcher sitting at the top of a tree. I ran in and grabbed my binoculars and saw it was an Olive-sided Flycatcher. That was only the third sighting of one on the property. On October 8, I walked out to hear the first Eastern Phoebe of the season singing his name. A Great-crested Flycatcher was in the top of the hackberry tree in my backyard. A Crested Caracara flew over the house. That was the fourth sighting of a caracara. On November 3, I was driving down the driveway headed to work and a White-tailed Kite was flying over the yard. That was the second time I've seen one of them on the property. On November 4, a Brown Creeper began exploring the bark on a tallow tree in my backyard. That was only the third time I've seen one of them on the property. Then on November 6, I was sitting outside drinking my coffee while watching my feeders and a Rufous Hummingbird came up to my hummingbird feeders. That was the first time I've ever seen one on my property. That gives me 199 property species!

Winter residents are showing up. A Brown Thrasher visited my birdbath a few weeks ago. Yellow-rumped Warblers are eating the hackberries and visiting my birdbath with regularity. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet joined them in the hackberry tree looking for insects. Eastern Phoebes chase insects while announcing their presence with their "phoebe" call. Chipping Sparrows have begun visiting my feeder. I see Song Sparrows in the grassy areas of the pasture. I heard a Northern Flicker calling from the woods on Sunday morning. I love the fall season with all the birds that migrate into the area. It won't be long before the goldfinches show up at the feeders. House Wrens will show up soon. Pine Warblers will start visiting the suet in the coming weeks.

Project FeederWatch starts on November 13 for me. Sundays and Mondays will be my count days again this year. It looks like I'll be able to get off to a better start this year than I did last year. There are several birds visiting my feeders and birdbath already this year. Last year was pretty slow to start the season. Hopefully that will continue throughout the season.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Some South Texas Birding

On Saturday, June 25, I left early to travel to San Antonio to attend the Wild Birds Unlimited Annual Meeting. I traveled about 100 miles south of San Antonio to the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area about eight miles west of Artesia Springs. I arrived about 10:30 and had about three hours to go birding. My target bird was the Green Jay, but I knew that I would see several other species I'd never seen before. I pulled up to the office, stepped out of the car and saw a couple of Olive Sparrows hopping on the ground beneath a tree - life bird #1 of the day. Pretty quickly behind the sparrows, two Curve-billed Thrashers were, um, making sure of the continuance of their species, if you know what I mean - life bird #2 of the day. As I walked to the office, a Pyrrhuloxia flew toward a small pond. I had seen them before, but never this close. Being a Saturday, the office was closed. After a quick, unsuccessful search for a map, I walked back toward my car. A Cactus Wren flew to a small bush in front of me - life bird #3 for the day. Little did I know that by the end of my time there, I would be tired of seeing Cactus Wrens! I walked behind the office and found a couple of Bronzed Cowbirds - life bird #4 for me. I had seen a trail head on my way in so I decided to walk it. A Brown-headed Flycatcher flew into a tree and sang - life bird #5. Mockingbirds and cardinals were singing from various locations around the office. As I walked toward the trail, I had to walk toward the tree where I saw the Olive Sparrows. I saw a couple of Long-billed Thrashers chasing each other around the tree - life bird #6. Black-throated Sparrows were abundant on the trail. Those are really pretty birds. I had seen them in Junction a few years ago. Lark Sparrows flew from tree to tree as I walked along the trail. When I finished walking on the trail, a young lady who works at the WMA drove up and told me where my best chance to find Green Jays were. I drove about two miles to a campground used by hunters in the wintertime. The first bird I saw when I got out was a brilliant Vermilion Flycatcher. Brown-headed Flycatchers were more abundant at the campground. As I walked around the campground, an Audubon's Oriole flew into a tree on his way to a stock tank full of water - life bird #7. After deciding that there were no Green Jays at the campground, I got into my car and drove along the driving trail. About 3/4 of the way along the trail, four Cassin's Sparrows were foraging alongside the road - life bird #8. I finished the driving trail with just enough time to head to San Antonio to check into the hotel. I was disappointed that I didn't see a Green Jay, but I was excited to have eight new birds! I don't know the last time I added eight new birds to my list. It was exciting to see them as well as birds I don't get to see all the time. On my way to San Antonio, I stopped in Pearsall to get some gas and a male Bullock's Oriole flew into a tree near the station and sang.

Birds seen at the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area, 6/25/11: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Turkey Vulture, Crested Caracara, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Vermilion Flycatcher, *Brown-crested Flycatcher, Black-crested Titmouse, *Cactus Wren, Bewick's Wren, Northern Mockingbird, *Long-billed Thrasher, *Curve-billed Thrasher, *Olive Sparrow, *Cassin's Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Painted Bunting, *Bronzed Cowbird, *Audubon's Oriole

* = life bird